These days, France is not a particularly good place to be a Jew. The country that gave us the Dreyfus Trial in 1894 and the round up of Jews at the Vélodrome d'Hiver in 1942 has been the scene of some terrible acts of violence against Jews in the 21st Century. In 2006, the world witnessed the murder of Ilan Halimi, the Toulouse and Montaban killings in 2012, and anti-Jewish riots in 2014. In 2015, the world witnessed the Hypercacher massacre and in 2017 the murder of Sarah Halimi. All this violence bespeaks of a breakdown in French society, a breakdown that is causing many Jews to leave the country and immigrate to Israel.
Once French-born Jews make it to Israel, France’s fecklessness follows them. In particular, France provides diplomatic cover to anti-Israel activists affiliated with the World Council of Churches (WCC), an ecumenical Christian institution with a sad history of being soft on Communism and more recently, jihadism, going so far as to obstruct efforts to address antisemitism at the UN’s anti-racism conference in Durban in 2001.
In particular, the French government provides diplomatic cover to the Ecumenical Accompaniment Program in Palestine/Israel (EAPPI) in the compound of St. Anne’s Church located in the Muslim Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem. The property was given to France by the Ottoman Empire to the French government in 1856 in gratitude for assistance given during the Crimean War. The church is managed by The Missionaries of Africa, sometimes called “The White Fathers,” a Catholic missionary organization established in 1868 with the goal of converting Arabs to Christianity.
Behind a stone wall and a sign telling people to keep out is a parking lot and a group of office buildings that houses the EAPPI and another WCC-supported institution, the Jerusalem Interchurch Center (JICC). By virtue of its presence in the St. Anne’s compound, EAPPI enjoys diplomatic refuge from Israeli law enforcement. Because the church is the property of the French state, Israeli police cannot enter into the property without permission from the French government. To underscore French sovereignty over the site, a French flag flies over the property.
French protection for EAPPI at St. Anne’s Church came under public scrutiny in 2016 when the Christian Empowerment Council (CEC) wrote a letter to the French Ambassador to Israel about the protection afforded to the activist organization.
“I think that the fact their office is in the area under the auspices of the French government is serious and represents inappropriate relations between friendly nations,” The Jerusalem Post quoted CEC’s leader, Father Gabriel Naddaf, as saying. “The French government should take them out of the compound under its territory immediately and without delay and to stop assisting the organization, which is operating illegally.”
Apparently, no one in France’s diplomatic corps wants to talk about who made the decision to allow the EAPPI to take up residence at St. Anne’s in Jerusalem — nor does anyone in the religious community that manages the site. Email inquiries to the Missionaries to Africa in Jerusalem and to French diplomats in Washington, Tel Aviv and Jerusalem yielded no response. An official working for Missionaries of Africa in Washington, D.C. referred all inquiries back to the monastery in Jerusalem, which had already failed to respond to inquiries.
Why Does It Matter?
In order to understand why EAPPI’s presence at St. Anne’s is so controversial, it’s necessary to know something about the organization’s background.
Established by the World Council of Churches during the Second Intifada at the request of the Heads of Churches in Jerusalem, EAPPI sends activists into Israel from around the world ostensibly to stand in solidarity with Palestinians during confrontations with Israeli soldiers and with Israeli civilians who live in communities in the West Bank.
The stated goal is to reduce violence and human suffering. According to NGO Monitor, an organization that documents the role non-profits play in the propaganda war against Israel, funding for EAPPI is provided by a number of sources, including the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Canadian government (through UNICEF) and the Catholic Agency for Overseas Development.
EAPPI has come under intense criticism (some of it written by this writer) from groups like the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting, NGO Monitor and others who accuse the organization’s activists of using the confrontations between Israelis and Palestinians as opportunities to obtain images of Israelis behaving badly and then using these images to broadcast an anti-Zionist propaganda to Christians throughout the world.
For example, in 2012, the Jewish Chronicle in England reported that, “Jon Benjamin, chief executive of the Board of Deputies, said that the EAPPI motion helped to create a climate of hostility towards Israel within the Church of England.” Benjamin stated that “The EAPPI narrative is based on the experience of volunteers who spend several months living alongside Palestinians in the Territories, but less than a day in Israel, and then return to address audiences who know little or nothing about the reality of everyday life for those on both sides of the conflict.”
An undeniable anti-Israel slant pervades EAPPI’s “peacemaking” activism. At one point, EAPPI published an editorial in its now defunct magazine, "Chain Reaction," calling for a one-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict (which would have meant the elimination of the Jewish state) and another article that called on supporters to break the law by hacking government websites. (This call to hack government websites can be seen on page 25 of the magazine archived by NGO Monitor here.)
The article did not say exactly what countries should have their websites hacked, but the context made it clear that the article was encouraging people to hack Israeli government sites.
It is simply astonishing that the EAPPI program, established and maintained by the World Council of Churches no less, actively encouraged people to engage in cyber-warfare against the Jewish state. But it did
To its credit, the WCC has since removed the entire of the issue of the magazine from its website. (This fact is documented by NGO Monitor in a screenshot showing that issue six of the publication was removed from the WCC's online library of the publication.)
Despite its undeniable anti-Israel slant, EAPPI describes itself in pretty benign terms on its website, declaring that it maintains “a continuous presence of 25-30 Ecumenical Accompaniers on the ground” and that these EAs serve for three months at a time. According to the EAPPI’s website, there are two teams of WCC staffers, one in Geneva and another in Jerusalem, that oversee the program. Since the beginning of the program, about 1,800 activists have participated in the program, many of whom “keep involved and interested in working toward a just peace in Palestine and Israel.”
In practical terms, this means ignoring issues of anti-Jewish or anti-Israel incitement in Palestinian society while focusing intensely on Israel’s alleged misdeeds.
Broadcasting this narrative is a huge part of the EAPPI agenda. Applicants who want to serve as EAPPI activists are asked to tell the WCC how skilled they are with the use of digital and video cameras and at transferring photos and other data between devices. Moreover, they are asked if they belong to church-related, ecumenical, faith-based or civil society networks that can be used to “assist in advocacy work during and after” their service as accompaniers.
When their service in Israel and the West Bank is over, EAs go home and engage in a lot of anti-Israel activism, reports Itai Reuveni, a researcher with NGO-Monitor. Their audiences believe them because they can say, “I was there,” Reuveni reports.
Behavior in Israel
Israelis have long been concerned about EAPPI’s activism outside of the Holy Land, but in recent years, there has been increased attention devoted to the organization’s actions inside the state. One Israeli activist, who has asked to remain anonymous to prevent his identity from being ascertained by Palestinians who may seek to harm or intimidate him, began shadowing EAs in 2015 after witnessing their behavior near his home in the West Bank in 2015.
He asserts that EAPPI activists do not tell the truth to security officials about their intended activities when they enter the country. Moreover, he claims that EAPPI activists ignore Palestinian violence during confrontations in the West Bank.
EAPPI activists ignore this Palestinian violence, he concludes, because such acts do not fit in with their goal of gathering images of Israelis behaving badly to be deployed in anti-Israel campaigns for use back home. It’s hard to argue with the Israeli observer about this issue. Condemnations of Palestinian violence are few and far between in WCC and EAPPI messaging about the Israel-Palestinian conflict.
Activists from the organization, the source asserts, engage in political activism in violation of the terms of the tourist visas they use to get into the country. Israelis also complain that the organization’s activists affiliate with radical groups such as International Solidarity Movement (ISM), Anarchists Against the Wall and Ta’ayoush, organizations that promote Palestinian propaganda, give Palestinian leaders a pass for their misdeeds, and thereby make it harder to achieve peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians.
He also reports that EAPPI activists sometimes disobey Israeli law by going into closed military areas in an attempt to prevent confrontations between Israelis and EAPPI activists.
In light of the concerns raised by this Israeli who has been closely monitoring the actions of EAPPI activists in Israel for the past few years and by researchers at NGO-Monitor, this writer, a researcher from the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA) who has written regularly for The Jerusalem Journal, concluded it was necessary to present these concerns to the WCC itself and seek a response. To that end, he sent a lengthy email asking for a response to Marianne Ejdersten, WCC’s director of Communications on June 5, 2018.
Ejdersten responded to these questions with an email on June 8, 2018 and stated that if there were any more questions, she would answer them. A series of follow-up questions (which presented evidence and claims that served to contradict statements made in response to the first round of questions) were sent on June 11.
Ejdersten initially agreed to answer these questions, but on June 13, Peter Prove, Director of the WCC’s Commission of the Churches on International Affairs sent an email saying that WCC staff was too busy preparing for an upcoming meeting of the WCC’s Central Committee to be able to invest the time necessary to respond to the queries. “I suggest that you publish with the information you already have from us,” he wrote.
After this, this writer obtained numerous images and some videos that document persistent interactions between EAPPI activists and a particularly aggressive Palestinian Activist, Hasan Breijieh. In 2016, Breijieh wrote a poem lauding the potential slaughter of Israelis (more about him below). Subsequent emails were sent in an effort to elicit a response from the WCC. The emails were sent on June 14, 2018 and a few hours after they were sent, the WCC said it was looking into the issue. When and if the WCC responds to these concerns, the organization's response will be posted.
WCC's Response: An Overview
For its part, the WCC indicates that if EAPPI activists do violate Israeli law by going into closed military areas, they do so without the knowledge of the WCC-EAPPI staffers in Geneva. The WCC also says that its activists are instructed to speak truthfully to immigration officials upon entering Israel and that, “Ecumenical accompaniers do not engage in political activism, and are advised to avoid and withdraw from any confrontation, whether with IDF personnel, border patrol officers or anyone else.”
The WCC adds that its involvement with groups like ISM and others are incidental and limited to locations “where both EAPPI and ISM are present.”
The assertion that EAs do not engage in political activism while in Israel appear to be contradicted by the numerous images on the internet of EAPPI activists protesting alongside the Israeli group Women in Black at its protests in Jerusalem. One EAPPI activist has bragged about protesting alongside Women in Black declaring in her personal blog in 2012, “Each week EAs [Ecumenical Accompaniers] demonstrate in West Jerusalem with Women in Black, an Israeli women’s anti-occupation group.”
It’s not a one-time thing. The Jerusalem Journal has obtained photos of EAPPI activists protesting with Women in Black as late as 2016.
The WCC’s denial that EAs engage in political activism in Israel, despite readily available evidence to the contrary, indicates that, at the very least, the left hand (at WCC’s headquarters in Geneva) does not know what the right (in the Holy Land) is doing.
It raises a question: Just how much oversight does the WCC provide the EAPPI program?
This and other questions were put to the WCC in the second round of queries mentioned above, but unfortunately, the organization would not answer them.
Exposed to Yusef Daher
Local churches that support EAPPI recruit, vet volunteers and train them for a few days and tell them how to get into the country before sending them to the Holy Land, reports Itai Reuveni, a researcher from NGO Monitor who pays close attention to the organziation. Reuveni reports that EAPPI activists do not come as a group into Israel, but as individuals who then connect with the folks at the Jerusalem Interchurch Center (JICC) led by Palestinian Christian Yusef Daher.
EAPPI’s website describes the JICC as a “partner” and lists Daher as an ex-officio member of the “Local Reference Group” that “provides guidance, advice and support” to the EAPPI program.
Daher’s involvement with EAPPI is simply astonishing. Daher is an undeniably problematic figure, having, on a number of occasions, posted images on Facebook that valorize Palestinian violence against Israelis. (For documentation of these images, see this article here.)
In one Facebook posting, Daher invoked the prayers of Palestinian Christian terrorist George Habash who led the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), the group responsible for the 1972 Lod Airport Massacre which resulted in the death of 27 tourists.
Given his polemics, Daher is simply not the person reasonable people would want involved with a program ostensibly dedicated to “promoting a just peace” between Israelis and Palestinians, but the EAPPI openly acknowledges his involvement with its “peace” activism.
Sadly, there are indications that some EAs have followed Daher’s example of using ugly polemics to demonize Israel. In 2016, the Jewish Chronicle reported on a public presentation offered by two former EAPPI activists in England. At the presentation, a former EA complained of a “Jewish lobby” while another EA promoted the website of “If Americans Knew,” a group so hostile to Jews and Israel that Jewish Voice for Peace announced in 2015 that it would not work with it or its founder, Sara Weir, because of its affiliations with openly antisemitic groups in the United States.
In response to concerns about rhetoric like this, Ejdersten responds that the “WCC does not tolerate hate speech by participants in the EAPPI program nor in WCC social media channels. Legitimate criticism of certain policies and practices by the government of Israel and its agents cannot be equated with hate speech.”
An 'Anti-Normalization Group'
“I regard the EAPPI as an anti-normalization group,” reports the Israeli activist who has been monitoring the group’s behavior since 2015. “They work with anarchists.”
The same source declares that the organization’s activists come into Israel on tourist visas, fail to honestly inform customs officials as to why they are entering the country and then engage in political activism and confrontations with Israeli soldiers, police officers and even private security companies—all in direct violation of Israeli law regarding tourist visas, says the source.
“The volunteers simply lie when they come to Israel,” he says, adding that some volunteers have overstayed their three-month visas and other times, they would go into Jordan for a few days and come back into the country on a new tourist visa. “I don’t think that happens much any more, but from 2002 to 2016, they operated freely,” he said.
In response, Ejdersten, wrote in the June 8, 2018 email that her organization “seeks a just peace in Israel and Palestine—founded on respect for equal human rights for all, both Israelis and Palestinians—as an essential basis for normalization in the region. WCC does not work with anarchists.”
And in response to the allegation that EAPPI activists do not tell the truth to Israeli officials when entering the country, Ejdersten stated, “WCC’s strong advice for all new participants in the EAPPI program is to answer honestly and precisely any specific questions put to them by Israeli border patrol officials.”
As for volunteers overstaying their visas, if it does happen, it is without WCC’s knowledge or approval, Ejdersten wrote. “WCC has no knowledge of any Ecumenical Accompaniers having stayed in Israel beyond the period stipulated in their visas (or any approved extensions thereof). If there has been any such incident, it occurred without the knowledge and against the principles and practices of the EAPPI program.”
The issue of activists associated with EAPPI using tourists visas to engage in political activism has been a growing point of conflict between the WCC and Israel.
In December 2016, Isabel Phiri, Associate General Secretary for the WCC, was denied entry into Israel. Haaretz reported that the written explanation given to Phiri for the decision was that she was refused entry “to prevent illegal immigration.” The same article reports that a spokesperson for Israel’s Public Security Minister stated that her denial was based on her role in promoting anti-Israel boycotts.
The United Methodist Church, following the WCC’s lead, declared that Israel’s decision to deny Phiri entrance into the country “had strong overtones of racism and was based, according to the WCC, on incorrect and unreliable information.” (Phiri hails from Malawi.)
When asked if Israel’s refusal to allow Phiri into the country had anything to do with allegations that the EAPPI activists were “not telling the truth when they come into Israel,” Ejdersten replied: “That allegation was raised during the interrogation of Dr. Phiri, and refuted.”
The issue has not gone away. In January 2018, Haaretz reported that an employee from a Norwegian aid group was denied access to Israel on the grounds that she “requested visas from volunteers under false pretenses.” A newspaper in Norway reported that the employee was affiliated with EAPPI.
Because of events like this, some Israelis regard EAPPI with great suspicion. “The whole organization is premised on denying Israel’s right to control its borders,” says the activist who has been monitoring EAPPI’s actions since 2015.
Ejdersten says that’s not the case. “WCC acknowledges the right of every sovereign nation to determine who may enter its borders. At the same time, we reserve the right to challenge any denial of entry that is based on a false factual premise or on discriminatory groups contrary to international human rights law.”
EAPPI Not Alone
The issue of what Christian “peace” activists should say to Israeli immigration officials upon entering the Holy Land has been an issue for at least one other Christian organization.
In February 2012, the organizers of the Christ at the Checkpoint Conference (CATC), an anti-Zionist event sponsored by Bethlehem Bible College and which takes places every even-numbered year, instructed attendees to be less than forthcoming with Israeli officials at Ben Gurion Airport.
In an email sent to conference registrants, a conference organizer wrote: “For your information, when you arrive at the Ben Gurion Airport and you are asked about the reason for your visit, DO NOT mention the conference or Bethlehem. Only say that you are here to see the holy sites or that you here on a Christian pilgrimage. Do not give more information than asked for.” (Emphasis added.)
At the 2018 CATC conference, an organizer announced that the author of the email, a long-time activist from the United States affiliated with the United Methodist Church, had not been allowed back into the country to help Bethlehem Bible College prepare for the conference. No details were given as to why. An email inquiry to CATC conference spokesperson Munther Isaac received no response.
Bystanders to Palestinian Violence and Harassment
The Israeli source who started observing EAPPI activists after seeing them in action in an Arab village close to his home in the West Bank asserts that the organization’s bias can be seen in how its activists respond to Arab violence against Israelis.
“We have a road from our village that goes to Efrat,” he says, adding that the road crosses through the Arab village of Tuqu’ which has two schools near the road where EAPPI activists sometimes gather. Students from the schools sometimes throw rocks at Israeli motorists who drive through the village and these incidents of rock-throwing prompt the IDF to chase and arrest the students.
“And sometimes they shoot tear gas in order to get the students away from the main road so they will not hit the cars,” he said.
EAPPI activists do not document the stone throwing by young Palestinians, but start recording and taking pictures only when the IDF springs into action to defend Israeli motorists, the source said. “They show soldiers arresting, shooting tear gas and running after pupils, but they don’t show the rock throwing or the cars being hit,” he says. “They just show one side of the story. That’s pure propaganda.”
“The project of escorting students is not something bad at all,” the activist says. “But they use the project as a pretext to promote anti-Israel propaganda.”
The WCC’s response to this allegation does not contradict the underlying concern that EAs act as a bystander to Palestinian violence against Israelis even while documenting Israeli use of force. In the June 8, 2018 email, Ejdersten wrote: “Participants in the EAPPI program do not encourage or condone violent actions by anyone. On the contrary, a key purpose of the program is to help reduce violence. Ecumenical Accompaniers are advised to treat any incidents of stone-throwing as a security concern (i.e. to withdraw from the situation) and, if possible and safe to do so, to ask those responsible to refrain from such actions.”
Shabbat Confrontations and ISM
EAPPI activists cooperate with anarchist groups such as the International Solidarity Movement and sometimes enter into Jewish communities in the West Bank on Shabbat in hopes of provoking confrontations with Israeli Jews on their holy day, the Israeli critic of the organization reports.
“People that present themselves as Christian believers come in on the holy day to provoke,” he said. “I don’t see how the churches can accept this.”
When asked if the WCC has gotten any complaints from its member churches about the EAPPI program, Ejdersten responded, “WCC has no knowledge of any specific complaints about the program’s purpose. The program is a response to an invitation in 2002 from WCC member churches and partners in the region.”
Ejdersten wrote that the Shabbat confrontations do not happen and would not be condoned by the WCC. “Ecumenical Accompaniers do not seek or provoke confrontations with anyone on Shabbat or any other day,” she wrote. “Any such actions would not be condoned by the leadership of the program or of the WCC.”
The Israeli source is adamant that EAs have engaged in the confrontations he described. “Between April and May 2016, they came five times—Shabbat after Shabbat,” he said, adding that after the first few confrontations, the IDF declared the communities where EAs were protesting as closed military areas in an effort to prevent violent confrontations between the accompaniers and people who live nearby.
If EAs do go into closed military areas, the WCC doesn’t know about it, it says in reponse. “WCC has no knowledge or information concerning alleged entry by Ecumenical Accompaniers into closed military areas, and would not condone any such action. Ecumenical Accompaniers are instructed to obey orders from the military, and entering any area known to be a closed military area is therefore precluded,” Ejdersten wrote. “Ecumenical Accompaniers are further instructed to withdraw from any area declared on an ad hoc basis to be a closed military area.”
Enter Hasan Breijieh
Again, the Israeli source is adamant that the WCC has got it wrong about these confrontations and presented to this writer a video of one of the confrontations to confirm his story. The video shows Palestinian activist Hasan Breijieh, leaning into the personal space of the Israeli recording the encounter. Off to one side, are two EAPPI activists and behind Breijieh stands Kobe Snitz head of Anarchists Against the Wall, (one of the groups that Ejdersten says EAPPI activists do not work with.)
In case there is any doubt about the authenticity of the video, Breijieh himself posted a video on his Facebook page of an ugly confrontation between Palestinians (including Breijieh) and Israelis living in the West Bank on May 7, 2016.
During the confrontation, which takes place with EAPPI activists standing nearby, Breijieh yelled at Israelis, telling them to leave their land. “You are illegal here,” he screamed at an Israeli who came out to document his presence near his home. At no point during the video did an EAPPI activist seek to calm things down as Breijieh screamed at the Israeli.
At this point, it seems reasonable to ask, "Where is Jesus in all of this?" The WCC is, after all, ostensibly a Christian organization. Would Jesus stand in solidarity with a man who antagonizes and demonizes Jews the way Breijieh has or would he confront him over his hate and hostility? Are the EAs truly witnessing to the love of Christ as they "accompany" Breijieh as he screams at Israeli Jews? The EAS who accompany Breijieh cannot honestly describe themselves as "fools for Christ." They are fools for a violent national cause whose leaders have turned down numerous offers of statehood and who have deployed Jew-hatred as a way to stay in power. The EAs are definitely not fools for Christ. They are fools for grievance, hate and terror.
The willingness of the EAs to accompany Breijieh on his anti-Israel forays into peoples' communitiies become even more scandalous after a cursory examination of Breijieh’s writings which indicates he is simply not the type of person Christian peacemakers should have anything to do with. In 2015, he wrote a poem titled “Why the Shyness In Your Face?” The poem, which can be seen on Facebook here, is accompanied by a photo of Breijieh confronting an Israeli soldier with an impassive look on his face. The poem begins with “What do you do here, you idiot???” It continues:
"Why this shyness on your face???
Your place is not here !!!
You came from behind the seas !!!!
It was possible to be a student at the University
Or Doctor in Hospital
Or any function respectable
But you chose to be a coward terrorist……….
thinks the ghost of William Wallace will pay some people a short visit this night…”
Taken in context, the reference to William Wallace seems to convey the hope that the target of Breijieh’s polemics will be murdered sometime in the near future. These is not the rhetoric of a non-violent activist for the Palestinian cause, but of what can more accurately be called a "war activist," or someone who tells a story to incite and/or legitimize violence in a conflict setting. Before readers dismiss this appelation out of hand, they have one embarassing fact to address: Counterpunch, a far-left publication, has described Breijieh as a spokesperson for the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, which has been designated as a terrorist organization by the U.S. State Department.
Why are EAPPI activists associating with such a man? He openly incites violence against Israelis and yet WCC activists are accompanying him as he walks into Israeli communities on their Sabbath.
These are not the actions of a legitimate Christian peace organization.
Breijieh’s involvement with EAPPI activists is not incidental. If you look at Breijiehs’ Facebook page, you’ll see numerous photos of him posing with EAPPI activists.
The Israeli source provides some more context about the first time he saw the group of Palestinians being accompanied into their community by WCC volunteers:
“The first time we saw them, my wife saw them through the kitchen window. She saw someone holding a pickaxe. ‘Who’s working on Shabbat?’ she said. “They bring the pickaxes to claim the land is theirs to work.”
During the five confrontations that took place, EAPPI activists were present every time, the source said.
No Connection to ISM, Says WCC
In response to the allegation that EAs affiliate with radical groups in Israel, Edjerston stated in the previously mentioned email that “EAPPI does not work with any organizations or individuals that promote violent extremism.” And, she added, “EAPPI has no formal working relationship with the International Solidarity Movement (ISM). Any contact with ISM is generally incidental, in locations where both EAPPI and ISM are present. According to our information, ISM proclaims a commitment to non-violence in its work.”
On this last point, that “ISM proclaims a commitment to non-violence in its work,” it is fair to say the WCC is being obtuse.
While ISM’s leaders have stated that while their organization does not engage in violence, it also says the Palestinian national movement must use “any means necessary” and that “The
In any event, EAPPI has promoted ISM to its global audience. In 2012, it published a lengthy article by anti-Zionist activist Mazin Qumsiyeh that called on people to join the International Solidarity movement and to join or promote academic, cultural and economic boycotts against Israel. (See Item 8 on page 84 of Qumsiyeh's article.)
The vests worn by EAPPI activists give them a false credibility when dealing with IDF and Israeli police that they do not deserve, the Israeli critic of EAPPI says. “It’s the vests that give them an official look, but they’re just tourists,” he said.
The WCC’s Ejdersten states that “extensive codes of conduct govern the work of the EAPPI program.” She then provided a list of eight fundamental principles that are expressed in these codes of conduct. The eight principles are as follows:
- We believe in a just and lasting settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through peaceful means and the end of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank including East Jerusalem and Gaza.
- We are committed to principles of nonviolence.
- We do not take sides in this conflict and we do not discriminate against anyone but we are not neutral in terms of principles of human rights and international humanitarian law.
- We are committed to the principle and practice of promoting human rights through our work.
- Our primary motivation is the alleviation of human suffering.
- Our engagement in this conflict is conditional upon an invitation to engage by local actors such as the Churches, church-related organizations, Palestinian civil society and Israeli peace organizations.
- We are committed to working in collaboration and in complementary ways with individuals, organizations, governments and other institutions which can contribute to the prevention and resolution of conflict and which work on human rights.
- We make no discrimination on grounds of nationality, race, class or gender, sexual orientation, age, or religious, cultural and or political beliefs.
A close examination of these principles reveal they are not directly related to the behavior of accompaniers themselves and provide little if any guidance as to what type of behavior people can expect from EAPPI activists in the field.
“I think in some ways they feel they are superior and come here to teach us how to behave,” the previously quoted Israeli activist asserts.
Ejdersten responds that “This is a description of one person’s perception of an alleged attitude imputed to Ecumenical Accompaniers in general. No specific action is alleged in which WCC could respond. Ecumenical Accompaniers do not seek to respond or provoke confrontations with anyone. Any such actions would not be condoned by the leadership of the program or of the WCC.”
By supporting EAPPI, Ejdersten says, the WCC does not mean to harm “relations between Christians and Jews in Israel or anywhere else. On the contrary WCC has a long-term commitment to and engagement in dialogue between Christians and Jews.” Moreover, the WCC has no interest in harming Israel, she says. “On the contrary, WCC has repeatedly affirmed Israel’s right to exist, at the same time advocating for an end to the 1967 occupation of the occupied Palestinian territories. We believe that an end to the occupation and implementation of the two-state solution will help ensure the future of Israel as a democratic Jewish state, as well as respecting the right of Palestinians to self-determination.”
Rhetoric like this is not going to assuage EAPPI’s critics in Israel who have started to inform their fellow Israelis about the group’s antics in the Holy Land.
Israeli officials have traditionally been reluctant to detain or deport EAPPI activists because of their association with the World Council of Churches, NGO’s Reuveni adds. “You cannot touch them because the WCC is recognized as a church,” he added. “Imagine if the Chief Rabbinate sent activists wearing a uniform with the Star of David to the Vatican to take photos of the Pope's Swiss Guard as they were guarding the Vatican. The outcry would be enormous. They are effectively sending Christian missionaries to see what the Jews are doing.”
All this brings us back to France’s willingness to allow EAPPI to use St. Anne’s Church as its headquarters.
By allowing EAPPI to take up residence at St. Anne’s Church, France is providing diplomatic cover to an organization that apparently facilitates the violation of Israeli law regarding who it lets cross its borders. This same organization facilitates and gives cover to the harassment of Israeli Jews by Palestinians in the West Bank. In other words, France, a country that can’t project sovereign power and authority into growing sections of its own territory, is giving aid and comfort to Palestinian efforts to undermine the sovereignty of the Jewish homeland.
That doesn’t seem right. Not one bit.
Dexter Van Zile is Christian Media Analyst for the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (camera.org). His opinions are his own.