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Defend the EAPPI Programme

The EAPPI programme is under very real threat.  It is a major target of The Board of Deputies and EAPPI’s administrators are showing signs of wobbling.

The Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel is an initiative of  The World Council  of Churches.  It is administered in the UK by Quaker Peace and Social Witness. It is an ecumenical Christian enterprise and various Churches and other Christian organisations are affiliated to it.  

The programme describes its vision as thus

The Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI) brings internationals to the West Bank to experience life under occupation.  Ecumenical Accompaniers (EAs) provide protective presence to vulnerable communities, monitor and report human rights abuses and support Palestinians and Israelis working together for peace.

EAPPI seeks to provide up-to-date, reliable information on the occupation. When EAs return home, they campaign for a just and peaceful resolution to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict through an end to the occupation, respect for international law and implementation of UN resolutions.

EAPPI supports local and international efforts to end the occupation, bringing a just and peaceful resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, based on international law and relevant United Nations resolutions.

It describes its objectives as thus…..

While the programme’s mission is to accompany Palestinians and Israelis in non-violent actions and concerted advocacy efforts to end the occupation, some of its detailed objectives are to:

Participate in the daily life and work of Palestinian and Israeli civil society, Churches and Christian communities.  For example, we take part in the annual olive harvest, meet and learn from the experiences of Israeli activists in Jerusalem, Haifa and Sderot, and regularly attend church services in Jerusalem, Nablus and Bethlehem.

Be visibly present in vulnerable communities, locations or events, e.g. near Israeli settlements and the wall/fence, schools and homes, fields & orchards.

Actively listen to local people’s experiences and give voice to peoples’ daily suffering under occupation and write or speak about these experiences in their reports and public speaking engagements.

Monitor the conduct of Israeli soldiers and settlers (e.g. at checkpoints and other barriers and during demonstrations and other military actions) and contact relevant organizations and authorities to request intervention.

Engage in non-violent ways with perpetrators of human rights abuses.

Produce high quality, first-hand written materials, testimonies and analysis.

Report on violations of human rights and international humanitarian law that EAs witness and document and use these reports to inform governments and intergovernmental bodies and press them to take action.

Engage with the media locally, nationally and internationally.

Be part of international advocacy and networking activities that highlight the human rights situation in the Occupied Territories.

You will not be surprised to learn that the Hasbarafiosi hate it. A recurring theme of their complaints is that the accompaniers (EAs) spend little time in Israel. They presumably think that in order to get an authentic experience of the Chinese occupation of Tibet you would have to spend an inordinate amount of time in Beijing.

While they have moaned and groaned about the programme for a long time they were stung into urgent and frenzied action when it was learned before last year’s General Synod, that there was to be a motion before the Synod, that would affiliate the Church of England with it.  They were completely beside themselves and launched an intense, unpleasant and ill-mannered campaign against Synod members, Synod sources tell us.

Naturally, the CCJ  were called in to head the blackmail campaign, and once again we were treated to the unedifying spectacle of “Christians“ doing the Board’s dirty work and trying to bully other Christians on its behalf. Prior to the Synod, the Board published on its website a call to action, encouraging  people to write to the Bishop of Manchester as chair of the CCJ (yes it is HE again), expressing their concern.  McCulloch, of course,  did his masters bidding and led the anti- motion arguments.

Bishop Nigel McCulloch

In the event the motion (to affiliate) was passed overwhelmingly, among the key factors, it seems, was:

The then Arcbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams stating that EAPPI was not anti-Israel.

Many Synod members were put off by what was described as “over lobbying”, a point acknowledged by McCulloch, himself.  This is code for “many members did not take kindly to the attempts to bully and blackmail them.”

Now it was a case of let the whining, crying histrionic melodrama begin.

It would be tedious to describe the reaction in detail, there was so much of it.  But a taster…

Jewish chronicle headlines included….

Church of England sticks two fingers up at the Jewish community”

Jonathan Arkush embarked on a whole series of self-pitying sobs.

The Board said …

The Jewish community is dismayed by the decision…

The Synod has ridden rough shod over the Jewish  community …”

And then the inevitable “price tag“ blackmail, accusing the Synod of

“…choosing an inflammatory, partisan programme at the expense of its interfaith relations.

Hasbarafia bloggers, notably at Harry’s Place (recommended by the EDL), busied themselves digging up dirt on EAPPI and individual EA’s.

We don’t even scratch the surface here.  It went on and on and on, ad nauseam.

Eventually, they recovered their composure, as they always do.

The strategy became “if we can’t kill it, we will control it”.  The usual stuff.   These highly plausible, urbane  smoothies of the Board went on a charm offensive, wearing pained expressions that leave you in no doubt as to the depth and intensity of their hurt. They once again became the peace makers, healing and restoring the inter-faith relations that the Christians had  so willfully destroyed.  Dialogue, engagement, common ground, joint enterprise.  The threats and the blackmail are still there but gradually became more implicit than explicit. The theme, as always is ” constructive engagement and dialogue “. How someone is expected to constructively engage on the subject of Israel/Palestine with a body that forbids itself ANY  criticism of Israel and is unable to accept the words ” the well being of all the people of the region” ( Board Plenary January 19th 2011 ), remains a mystery.

Of course, the Board are not always so keen on dialogue and increased understanding.  In January 2011, certain Jewish Leadership Council people planned to visit the West Bank themselves, to talk to the PA and NGOs working on the ground there.  They planned to take Board president Wineman along for the ride.  An eminently sensible idea, one would have thought.  Look and learn.

The plan was mentioned to deputies at a plenary, and all hell broke loose.  The overwhelming opinion of the Deputies was that it was not the function of the Board to interfere in the affairs of the State of Israel.  (This was the self-same “Bloody Sunday” plenary, at which the Board rejected the two state solution and the idea of  “the well-being of all the people of the region”).

“It is none of our business……..” it was said. ( Jerry Lewis )

Yes, you read that correctly.

The plan was ditched after, as he himself acknowledges, Wineman  sought the opinion of his masters and minders at the Israeli embassy and got the thumbs down.

When questioned about this the Embassy declined to comment.

So not only do the Board wish to prevent the EA’s from  looking and learning about what is really going on in the territories they FORBID  themselves from doing so.

Once the crisis was over, the hasborafia quickly rediscovered that Israel/Palestine WAS their business after all, and recently the JLC made it to Israel and the territories, leading and presumably funding a delegation of UK Christian Zionists.  As well as speaking to Israeli Jews  they also spoke to some Palestinians that presumably the Israeli Embassy had ok’d.  They even managed to dig out a Christian Zionist Baptist minister to tell us how God had promised the Jews the land.

An Anglican “Friend of Israel” , Fran Waddams (who is part of the rabid infestation on Cranmer’s blog, posting as “Ariadne” ), then wrote a pathetic, embarrassing open letter to Archbishop Welby, which is little more than an attack on the EAPPI programme and a Christian Zionist call to arms.  It is excruciating, but on the assumption that you are over the age of consent, we publish the text in an appendix below.

The Board, represented by the usual tag team of Wineman and Natan Levy, embarked on a still continuing series of meetings with the Quakers, at which the Board seek to secure influence and a measure of control over the programme.

The Quakers seem to have wilted somewhat under the pressure, and have agreed to “improve”  the programme by arranging for the EAs to spend more  time in Haifa ” to experience the suffering of Israeli’s”. In what sense the suffering of the people of Haifa is greater than the suffering of the people of Halifax remains to be explained. They were backed up on this one by some hastily recruited Rabbi’s in particular Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner. In accordance with what seems to be a stick and carrot approach, Janner- Klausner rewarded the Quakers by gracing them with her presence, along with Board vice-president Laura Marks, at this year’s sessions of Britain Yearly Meeting. Marks afterwards gushed about how wonderful it all was.

So far, nothing too serious, but then in announcing this “improvement”, the  Board President, Vivian Wineman, made comments that we can only describe as chilling.

“While this is welcome, it is but a very small step. There is much more to be done.“  

“…a tentative first step.”

Wineman goes on to tell us that they demand from EAPPI (yes, demand) “a rigorous process by which their speakers can be held to account” (by the BoD, presumably).

He requires that the EAs “contribute to a useful and constructive dialogue about the Middle East”.  This, from a man who heads an organisation whose idea of “constructive dialogue about the Middle East” is a self-proclaimed and continuously reiterated policy of “no criticism of Israel”.

Tentative first steps?  So there are to be further steps?  What does all of this mean? What are these further steps?

Natan Levy tells us.

Rabbi Natan Levy

Natan Levy is hired by the Board as an Inter-faith Consultant.  At least that is the title. In reality, he is a kind of  hired gun.  It was Levy, aided by Marcelle “screen shot“ Palmer,  who “authored”,  in the sense of put together, the CDM  complaint against Revd. Stephen Sizer.  Levy published a disgraceful article in the Times of Israel  in which he dismissed returning EAs as nothing more than a bunch of useful idiots and liars.  He goes on to invite us to get behind a Board campaign to have all EAs put their presentations before a committee which will evaluate the presentation’s suitability before it is taken on the road.  The presentations of the EAs are already vetted by the Quaker administrators of the programme.  Apparently, they are no longer to be trusted, and the BoD is campaigning for an arrangement more conducive  to its political agenda.

So who would constitute this committee and who would sit on it?  In line with its well established strategy, they would presumably hope to stack it out with their own Christian Zionist allies and CCJ lackeys and thereby, control the programme by proxy.  The “coincidence” is not lost on us that Vivian Wineman has managed to obtain the position of Co-President of the Interfaith Network and that the other Co-President is the President of Churches Together in Britain and Ireland, the overseers of the EAPPI programme.  Shudder.

The entire object is to question and impugn the integrity and truthfulness of the returning EAs, another exercise in extending the BoD’s internal policy of OMERTA onto the rest of us as far as they possibly can.  The BoD regard themselves as Israeli proxies in the UK, an extension of the Israeli embassy ” as treasurer Laurence Brass acknowledges, and the transparency that the returning EAs bring to the issue, has to be muddied.

One hopes that the administrators/overseers of the programme would never let its independence be compromised in this way.  Of course, if they prove to be unable to maintain this independence, the question of whether they remain the right people to run it would have to be asked.

Appendix

Dear Archbishop Justin,

I toured the Holy Land, together with Christian leaders of other organizations, on a visit organized by the UK Jewish Leadership Council just a few days before you last month, and read your reflections on your own visit to the region wondering whether you would be as attentive and impartial as you were at a meeting a few years ago at which I spoke and you were chair.

It’s heartening that you support the rights of all people in the region “to peace, security, and justice.”

The issues you touch on also arose on our three days of visits and meetings with Israelis, both Jewish and Arab, and Palestinians, and some questions sprang to mind as I read your piece.

You were shocked at the contrast between west Jerusalem and Ramallah.

Next time you visit, would you ask Palestinian leaders why there is such a contrast?  The Palestinian Authority has received billions of dollars in aid.  Where, exactly, has this money gone?  It doesn’t appear to have gone into infrastructure, public buildings and utilities, nor created Palestinian jobs nor gone onto Palestinian tables. It might really help our understanding if we knew the answers to this question.

Palestinians may find passing through IDF checkpoints inconvenient, or even humiliating.

But air travelers of every nationality accept the indignity of intrusive security searches, understanding that there are those who would blow airliners out of the sky if measures were not taken to stop them.

Israel’s security fence and checkpoints exist for the same reason. They were put into place only after dozens of murders and hundreds of mutilations caused by Palestinian suicide bombers who drove unhindered into Israel to carry out their missions. Several people loaded with explosives have been stopped at checkpoints over the years. Every week the Israel Defense Forces intercepts weapons and explosives and prevents indiscriminate death and mutilation of Palestinians and Israelis alike. Israel’s security measures save lives.

One young Palestinian woman has written that “most Palestinian Christians and peace-loving Muslims acknowledge (privately) that the wall was built as a direct response to suicide bombers from within the Palestinian community.”

However unwilling the Ecumenical Accompaniers Programme for Palestine and Israel (EAPPI) is to believe it, it is a fact that the number of terror attacks, which reached epidemic proportions by 2003, has dwindled to almost nothing.

Like us, you were alarmed by the danger with which the citizens of Sderot live daily. It’s one thing to read dispassionately the few reports that appear in the UK media, quite another to be on the spot, wondering whether the nearest bomb shelter (at every bus stop) could be reached within the 15 seconds between the Red Alert and the missile exploding. The morning after our visit, terrorists were lobbing missiles toward Israel.

They missed this time.  But missing was not the intention, and it didn’t stop Sderot’s parents having to make agonizing decisions on whether they had time to get all their children to shelter in time.

Then we met young IDF soldiers, amazed that British Christians wanted to show appreciation for their dangerous work.  Most Christians they encounter are scrutinizing their behavior for faults as they work at checkpoints or try to prevent violence at demonstrations.

These Christians seem indifferent to the dangers they face as they try to distinguish between peaceful Palestinians and those smuggling explosives or weapons.

Finally, we had the privilege of visiting Baptist Pastor Naim Khoury in Bethlehem.  Brought up to believe that the Jewish Scriptures were irrelevant, he began to read them for himself as a 17-year-old.  He has discovered that the whole Bible is God’s Word, not just the New Testament and as a result insists that Palestinian Christians are obliged to love all their neighbors, Muslim and Jew.

He also learned that God has given the Jewish people a right to live in the Holy Land.  Pastor Khoury does not endorse all that the Israeli government does.  Nevertheless, he insists that Jews’ right to live unhindered on the land promised to them by the God is clearly set out in the Bible.

As a result of his courage, Pastor Khoury is shunned by fellow Christians, his church has had its right to conduct official marriages and baptisms withdrawn by the Palestinian Authority, his church has been bombed 14 times, and he was once shot.  Nevertheless, his Arab congregation numbers in the hundreds, the largest in the Territories.  What an irony.

The conflict between Israel and the Palestinians is complex.

It is about land and it is about justice.  And your question is excellent – what constitutes a “just solution.”  There are many voices that you won’t hear by sticking to “official” channels.  The truths told by the “other voices” are out there, but so often those voices have to be sought out.

They’re worth listening to.

They really are.

Links to other websites

From time to time this website may also include links to other websites. These links are provided for your convenience to provide further information. They do not signify that we endorse the website(s). We have no responsibility for the content of the linked website(s).

If it works for the Board of Deputies, it’ll work for us.  ~Editor

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