THE World Council of Churches (WCC) has rebutted accusations that its Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI) “embodies anti-Semitism”.
The accusations are made in a report, EAPPI: The World Council of Churches’ Training Camp for Anti-Israel Advocacy, published last month by the Jerusalem-based NGO Monitor, which describes itself as an “independent and nonpartisan research institute dedicated to promoting transparency and accountability of NGOs claiming human rights agendas, primarily in the context of the Arab-Israeli conflict”.
The EAPPI sends “ecumenical accompaniers” (EAs), who “aim to offer a protective presence to vulnerable communities, monitoring and reporting human-rights abuses”, its website says.
In 2012, the General Synod approved a Private Member’s Motion endorsing the work of EAPPI, despite objections from Jewish groups who said that EAPPI was biased and anti-Israeli (News, 13 July 2012). The Archbishop of Canterbury said in 2013 that he wished he had voted against the motion, rather than abstaining, since it did not adequately reflect the “complexity” in the region (News, 28 March 2013).
The report by NGO Monitor says: “The World Council of Churches does not run similar activities [to EAPPI] in other conflict zones. By singling out Israel, EAPPI embodies antisemitism, as defined in the International Holocaust Remembrance Association’s working definition.
“Despite marketing itself as a human rights and protection program, EAPPI places significant emphasis on political advocacy before, during, and after the trip. When volunteers return to their home countries and churches, they engage anti-Israel advocacy such as BDS (boycott, divestment, and sanction) campaigns comparing Israel to apartheid South Africa and Nazi Germany.”
It calls on governments that donate to the EAPPI to “act immediately to broadly reevaluate funding to EAPPI, in order to ensure that these funds are not misused to promote antisemitism, BDS, and lawfare, and/or to fuel the conflict”.
In a statement issued on 14 January, the WCC described the report as “misleading”. It said: “The form of the EAPPI programme as an accompanying presence is a response to a specific call from WCC’s member churches in the region. EAPPI was established to respond to concerns that are, sadly, specific to the region. A similar methodology has been in practice in the context of conflict and widespread human rights violations in Colombia.”
It went on: “Since its founding assembly in 1948, the WCC has denounced antisemitism as a sin against God and humanity, and the WCC strongly maintains that position.”
The WCC did “not promote boycotts based on nationality in this or any other context”, it said. “Nor does WCC promote economic measures against Israel. It does however have a longstanding policy position in favour of boycotting goods and services from settlements (considered internationally as illegal) in the occupied Palestinian territories.”
It also denied suggestions that it was solely focused on Israel-Palestine, citing “geographical focuses” in countries such as Syria, Iraq, and South Sudan.
The WCC issued a further statement on 29 January, in response to “continuing accusations” of anti-Semitism, which it said that its “condemnation of antisemitism is clear and categorical”.
It disputed, however, the International Holocaust Remembrance Association’s definition of anti-Semitism. “Its vague and inclusive formulation unfortunately tends towards assisting those who would portray any criticism of Israeli government policies as being motivated by antisemitism,” it said.