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August 10, 2011

EAPPI's Narcissistic Grandstanding

EAPPI Volunteer copy.jpg
The WCC's Ecumenical Accompaniment Program in Palestine Israel (EAPPI) provides its activists with attractive vests that are sure to impress the folks back home.

Last week, the Presbyterian Church (USA) published an article about the World Council of Churches' Ecumenical Accompaniment Program in Palestine Israel. CAMERA responded to the article, originally produced by Ecumenical News International, with a letter to The Layman, published by the Presbyterian Lay Committee.

The letter is republished below the jump.

EAPPI assails and demonizes the Jewish state
Posted Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Last week, the Presbyterian Church (USA) published an article produced by Ecumenical News International (ENI) about the Ecumenical Accompaniment Program in Palestine Israel (EAPPI). The article misinforms Presbyterians about the nature of the EAPPI. The organization, founded by the World Council of Churches in 2002, does not qualify as a peacemaking organization, but is in fact a centerpiece of the WCC’s decades-long campaign to assail and demonize the Jewish state at the behest of the Middle East Council of Churches and church leaders in Jerusalem.

EAPPI materials do not provide an accurate map of the Arab-Israeli conflict, but excite the imaginations of its supporters and activists with a mythology that portrays innocent Palestinians suffering under the lash of the uniquely evil Jewish state.

The EAPPI is quite selective about whose violence it confronts. The organization does not confront all violence in the Arab-Israeli conflict, but merely confronts Israeli settlers and soldiers – without drawing attention to or confronting Palestinian terrorism.

Look at EAPPI materials for yourself (they are readily available at the WCC’s website) and you will see hardly any reference to Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad or Hezbollah. Like most other peacemaking organizations, Islamist violence and the theology used to justify this violence is a taboo subject for the EAPPI. It is simply not talked about. For the EAPPI, the cause of the Arab-Israeli conflict is rooted solely in the occupation, which itself is rooted in the evils of Zionism.

The security barrier – which has undeniable impacts on Palestinians – is depicted in EAPPI materials as a bit of Mordor straight out of Tolkein’s trilogy. Nowhere does the EAPPI acknowledge the terrorism that preceded its construction. After reading EAPPI materials about the barrier, one is left with the impression that the Israeli people and their leaders are monsters who decided to build a barrier out of a desire to make Palestinians suffer, not to protect themselves for acts of terror.

There is a troubling narcissism about the manner in which the EAPPI has approached its so-called peacemaking work. The EAPPI has turned the tragic geography of the Arab-Israeli conflict into a theme park where wealthy Westerners can act out heroic, self-aggrandizing fantasies and post the videos on the Internet for [their] friends to see when they return home.

The group’s website pictures EAPPI activists standing heroically with rustic and beleaguered Palestinians who are waiting in line at checkpoints, watching forlornly as their homes are being demolished or recovering from the effects of tear gas launched by Israeli soldiers at peaceful protests. For some reason, Israeli suffering has not found its way into the EAPPI narrative about the Arab-Israeli conflict, possibly because such suffering would upstage the heroism of the group’s activists.

Ultimately, the EAPPI’s focus is not on the underlying realities of the Arab-Israeli conflict, but on the putative moral and intellectual superiority of EAPPI activists.

This is not peacemaking, but grandstanding.

Dexter Van Zile, Christian media analyst
Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America

Posted by dvz at August 10, 2011 11:30 AM

Comments

Dexter- have you ever met a member of EAPPI's team or any of their volunteers?

Posted by: Madeleine at August 11, 2011 07:54 AM

Dexter I really like and appreciate your desire for fairness and accuracy, which I share. I also appreciate the challenge you are putting to us who have participated in the EAPPI programme. It is very important to me that I am chalenged and made to think deeply about the effects of what I do. I have looked into my heart to see if any of what you say resonates. I think my motivation as a Jewish person who has long felt Palestinians are denied justice, was to find out for myself something of the situation and to contribute what i could. In the presentations i give I really try to counter any anti-Israel sentiment, by trying to show what the motivations and feelings are that lie behind the many and varied positions that Israelis take. They are by no means a homogenous group, as niether are the Palestinians. I do go along with the EAPPI position that although we really must try not to take sides in the conflict, we cannot be neautral on issues of international humanitarian law, which the majority of the international community sees Israel as having flouted. The occupation is a terrible burden for everyone in the region. i spoke to soldiers, ordinary Israelis, as well as many Palestinians of different political persuasions, icluding a member of Hamas, and no one benefits, everyone loses. My main emotion is not condemnation of any side, but of sadness, that as human beings we continue to think that war, cruelty, hatred and suspcicion are the way to solve our problems. I don't think my presence in the West Bank achieved a great deal, but what i hope is that i showed the possibility of love as a way forward. A Christian message i think

Posted by: sue beardon at August 12, 2011 07:16 AM

Madeleine: you betray your uninformed state when you say that you have "long felt that the Palestinians are denied justice." Don't you know that, to the Arabs, the slogan "Justice for the Palestinians" has always meant the destruction of the state of Israel? Also, are you really unaware that, in 1967, Israel gained control of the remaining part of the Land of Israel as the direct result of a DEFENSIVE war? Too, the Arabs are quite open (in Arabic) about their ambition to destroy Israel and to kill every Jew, everywhere. Do you really think that showing love to such as those is "the way forward"? In reality, it's just another form of cruelty.

Posted by: David J., Long Island, NY at August 14, 2011 12:16 AM

Dexter,
As an Ecumenical Accompanier (EA) who was based in the 'Jersualem team' - tasked with working and supporting Israeli peace and human rights organisations - I couldn't disagree more with what you have written.

My own experiences of living and working in Jerusalem and spending time in the Occupied Palestinian territory can be summed up as follows:
+ Israel's long and often brutal military occupation of Palestine (that is what we are talking about after all)is not doing the Palestinian or Israeli people any good.
+ Israel's occupation of Palestine has led to the improvishment and widespread human rights violations of the Palestinian people (the lady from South Africa who was in our Jerusalem team made the obvious links with Apartheid South Africa)
+ A growing number of Israeli's recognise the damage the occupation is doing to everyone - and for me this is probably the only glimmer of light that i took away from a rather depressing and sad time living in Jerusalem.

By the way - if the seperation barrier/security wall is purely about security - why wasn't it built on 1967 green line?

Perhaps it might be an idea to visit Israel and the Occupied Palestinian territory before you next write anything on the this siutation, rather than just re-gurgitating Fox News.

DVZ Responds:

I have a number of responses to offer, but the most salient are these:

1. I have visited the West Bank and Israel a number of times. I've been to Hebron and Ramallah and Bethlehem. I just spent a week in Bethlehem at the Christ at the Checkpoint Conference. I have seen the anti-Semitic imagery on the walls of the Ibdaa Cultural Center at the Deheishe Refugee Camp. I've seen the incitement painted on the security barrier. Has the EAPPI encouraged the people responsible for displaying these hateful images to remove them and replace them with more peaceful imagery? I think not.

2. The notion that the Palestinians are impoverished does not square with what Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salaam Fayyad said at the recent Christ at the Checkpoint Conference. He said the Palestinian economy is growing, but that the growth is uneven. The economy in Gaza he said is suffering because it is under "siege. " These things happen when you launch rockets into a neighboring state.

But the fact is, the economy in the West Bank is growing. A few months ago, I saw credible reports that tourism is increasing.

3. The security barrier is a blessing. There are Israelis alive today who would not be if the security barrier and checkpoints were not in place. Just recently an Israeli soldier was able to block the passage of weapons into Israel at a checkpoint.

4. The security barriers and the checkpoint are also a tragedy. They are a tragic response to the Second Intifada, which for some folks is a distant memory, but not for the people who lost limbs and loved ones to suicide bombers.

5. I have wept for the men who are forced to wait in line to get through the checkpoint. Yes, I have. But the fact remains, the Israelis are not the only people responsible for the construction of that barrier and the checkpoints. The men (and women) who are inconvenienced and distressed by the barrier are captive to one of the most irresponsible and corrupt elites to have ever walked the face of the earth. These elites bear a huge measure of responsibility for the construction of that barrier and the men and women who go through the checkpoints bear the brunt of their leaders' stupidity. But the EAPPI doesn't challenge this stupidity. This is well documented. Take a look at the brochures the organization has published. If you can show one article that shows the culpability of the Palestinian leaders in an comprehensive way, I'd be shocked.

6. Volunteers from the EAPPI have the phone numbers of the Israeli officials responsible for managing the checkpoints on your cell phones, n'est-ce pas? Je crois oui. That's what I was told when I went on a tour of the checkpoints with EAPPI earlier this month. The fact is, when there are problems at the checkpoint, EAPPI can call up Israeli officials and advocate for the men and women at the checkpoint.

In light of that, I have a favor to ask. Can you please call the folks from Hamas and tell them to do a better job stopping rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip? And how about Palestinian Islamic Jihad? Can you call them, too?

Thanks so much for your comment.

Sincerely,

Dexter Van Zile

Posted by: John at April 12, 2012 08:10 AM

"Children In Military Custody" A recent UK report by a UK delegation of lawyers to investigate Palestinian children in Israeli prisons found that 5-700 Palestinian children as young as 12 yrs old were detained in Israeli prisons. Abuses included waiting up to 3months for access to lawyers,solitary confinement, sleep deprivation, blindfolding, being made to kneel or lie face-down on prison cell floors with hands tied by plastic cuffs in a stress position, being made to sign confessions written in Hebrew, not allowed visits from parents etc etc. This is not
WCC reporting, but the UK Government which is absolutely not pro-Palestinian. Sir Robert Aitken, a senior British CONSERVATIVE MEP, wrote a report after going to Gaza with a EU Delegation, which was damning in it's description of the living conditions of Palestinians brought about by the Israeli siege and imprisonment of it's inhabitants. This report was not from the WCC but a very conservative body of people. Get real Darren and open your eyes to 60 yrs of tyranny against the Palestinian people.

Posted by: Anne Helen Candlin at June 27, 2012 06:10 AM

60 years of tyranny..... Hahaha
Get real for Gods sake. 60 years ago the so called occupied territories didnt belong to Israel. And if history has not changed there were no Palestinian state. So if you talk about tyranny 60 years ago maybe U should turn your anger towards other states but Israel.

Posted by: Ben at January 15, 2013 12:08 PM

Hi Dexter, I find your comments interesting , but your tone is disturbing. I am South African, non white, lived under Apartheid etc. I joined the EAPPI progrAmme in 2004 and stayed for two years.
One of the reasons the program works more in the West Bank is that we were invited by Palestinian church leaders to come and see, not take sides. Also Israelis told us many times that they do not need accompaniment cos they are the occupier. I also had many discussions with soldiers at checkpoints and the majority commented that they did not like what they had to do to Palestinians but had no choice or say and some could not wait for their military service period to end so that they could leave the. Country.
It is a pity that you did not go deeper in the country to the rural areas where people are suffering even more. They have checkpoints at the border of their farms where 18 year olds decide whether a farmer can go to work or not. You see Dexter, there is a logic to this madness... After three years if a farmer did not go and tend to his land it defers back to government (Israeli) and that is how land is taken from families who have 100's of years legacies on these lands. The EAs monitor these gates and attempt to negotiate with soldiers or the commanders to allow Palestinians to go to the land or in urban situations work, university, hospital or school.
Dexter I have witnessed an old man suffer a heart attack and die at a checkpoint, pregnant women on their way to hospital gave birth at checkpoints as soldiers refused them passage or deliberately delayed them. You see Dexter, these soldiers are young and bored and have the power in their hands ie the gun and sometime the cut of the turnstile while someone is in it for the laugh but also to frustrate people.
The wall also have a twofold purpose, one security and the.other land grab. Families have been separated by the wall because it does not only separate Palestinians and Israelis but also Palestinians from each other.
Of course I concur with you concerning corruption and people suffering as a result. When Israeli Zionists came to Palestine and forced them from the land with any means possible and displaced millions of families it was not called terrorism. Palestinian freedom fighters are called terrorists because they are protecting what is theirs. By the way I abhor violence and will criticize anyone who perpetrates it but will be careful about name calling.
We are fortunate to live freely and instead of adding fuel should see how we can work together with those less fortunate then us.
With regards to articles written by the Accompaniers, their brief is simple, write what you witness, anyone writing a piece is tempted to also give their personal views, the same as you have done. Don't shoot the messenger, but at least you have started a conversation spanning over a few years now. Maybe you should consider joining the EAPPI program you might like working with the Jerusallem team who works more with Israelis and help steer a more balanced reporting on the conflict.
Thanks for allowing and tolerating me in your space, the same way as we humans should be more tolerant of each other. What a better place this world would be. In Peace!

[DVZ: Thanks for your note. I think the WCC has been particularly irresponsible in its peacemaking activism. It has directed a huge amount of criticism at Israel, but at other states and actors in the region, not so much. I think EAPPI is part of the problem, along with the Palestine Israel Ecumenical Forum. The WCC is willing to condemn or assess Israeli behavior in theological terms, and oftentimes uses the lens of the Holy Land and the Israelite prophets to give an added "oomf" to its critique. But it gives Arabs and Muslims a pass. At one point, the EAPPI encouraged activists to hack government websites, and in the context, it was clear the intended target was Israel.

I find that astonishing.

The recent statement that came out of the WCC meeting in Lebanon is another case in point.

Also, the notion that EAs are called not to take sides simply does not jive with reality. The EAPPI's materials are clearly partisan against Israel and have been for years. Even a cursory examination of the organization's materials websites demonstrates this.

Again, thanks for your comment.]

Posted by: Hermina at June 5, 2013 04:17 PM

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