Dexter Van Zile

What Did NGO Monitor Get Wrong? (Hint: Nothing!)

An activist from the World Council of Church’s Ecumenical Accompaniment Program leads attendees of the Christ at the Checkpoint Conference a tour of of Israel’s security barrier in Bethlehem in 2012. (Photo: Dexter Van Zile)

The Middle East Council of Churches (MECC), which represents beleaguered Christian communities located in Muslim-majority countries throughout the region, recently came to the defense of the World Council of Churches, accusing an unnamed Zionist group of defaming the organization’s activists who operate in the Holy Land under the aegis of the Ecumenical Accompaniment Program in Palestine Israel (EAPPI).

The communique was issued by the MECC’s executive committee, which met in Lebanon in late January. The communique declared that “participants condemn the unfair and vicious attack on the Ecumenical Accompaniment Program in Occupied Palestine led by one of the Zionist institutions.”

The level of contempt the MECC has for Israel and Israelis is pretty obvious. The MECC’s executive committee can’t even bring itself to name the organization in question, nor can it even mention the Jewish state — Israel — by name in its communique.

It’s disgusting. It’s as if the bishops and patriarchs in charge of the MECC are taking their cue from Arab extremists in the Middle East who still dream of destroying the “Zionist entity” in their midst. Somebody needs to tell the folks who run the MECC that the Middle Ages called and they want their antisemitism back.

Despite the MECC’s refusal to name the “Zionist institution” in question, it’s pretty clear that the unnamed “Zionist institution” is NGO Monitor which recently issued a damning and authoritative report on EAPPI. The report details how the organization serves as a training camp for anti-Israel advocacy. In particular, the report states that “EAPPI places significant emphasis on political advocacy before, during, and after the trip. When volunteers return to their home countries and churches, they engage in anti-Israel advocacy, such as BDS (boycott, divestment, and sanctions) campaigns and comparing Israel to apartheid South Africa and Nazi Germany.”

This is indisputable. NGO Monitor got it exactly right.

EAPPI is one of two bureaucracies (the other being the Palestine-Israel Ecumenical Forum, or PIEF) established by the WCC to promote anti-Israel propaganda to people outside the Middle East. One activist who visited the Holy Land under the guise of EAPPI peacemaking returned to South Africa to tell his fellow Christians that “the time has come to say that the victims of the Holocaust have now become the perpetrators.” The report also documents how European governments provide substantial funding to EAPPI programing in the Holy Land, which is also indisputable.

The interesting thing about the MECC’s attack is that it does not provide one iota of evidence that any of what has been said about EAPPI is wrong. Neither has the World Council of Churches which oversees the program. Yes, the WCC issued a vague statement declaring that it was opposed to antisemitism and violence and wants peace, but the fact remains: EAPPI activists hobnob on a regular basis with Palestinian extremists who use human rights rhetoric as a cover for their intent to deprive the Jewish people of their sovereign state.

One Palestinian extremist who basks in the attention of EAPPI activists is Hasan Breijieh, a spokesperson for the PFLP who has been caught on video harassing Jews outside their homes on Shabbat and who has written a poem that invokes the ghost of William Wallace in a pretty obvious attempt to instill the fear of being murdered in their sleep into the hearts and minds of Israeli Jews living in the West Bank.

Breijieh, by the way, is a spokesman for the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), an organization that has organized numerous terror attacks against civilians over the past few decades, including the Lod Airport Massacre. Despite all this, Breijieh’s Facebook page is filled with photos of EAPPI activists who visit him.

One interesting thought experiment for EAPPI and its supporters to engage in is to ask if they would affiliate with Jewish organizations that openly advocate for the murder of Palestinians because of where they live. If the answer is “no” — and it should be — then the question is why would they affiliate with Palestinians who advocate the murder and expulsion of Jews in the West Bank? Because that’s what EAPPI activists have done and it shows in the rhetoric they use when they return to their home countries from the Holy land.

NGO Monitor isn’t the only organization that has scrutinized EAPPI to good effect. Im Tirzu’s efforts to record EAPPI activists on video was one of the factors that led to the organization’s recent decision to beat a retreat from Hebron. And another organization, DMU, has been bird-dogging EAPPI activists for years. DMU activist Amit Barak has been particularly effective in documenting and publicizing the connections between Hasan Breijieh and his fans in the EAPPI.

Welcome to Foucault’s panopticon, folks! How’s the view?

“Cosplay” is the best word to describe EAPPI activism in the West Bank. For the uninitiated, “cosplay” describes the practice of dressing up as your favorite fictional character in a book or movie. You see people engage in copslay at science fiction conventions where fans dress up as their favorite character in Star Trek or Star Wars or the Harry Potter series. Engaging in acts of fandom at a science fiction convention is one thing but walking into an environment where anti-Jewish incitement is broadcast on a regular basis and showering Palestinian extremists like Hasan Breijieh with affection is another thing altogether.

It’s a bad thing to do, but EAPPI activists did it more than once. And yet for one reason or another, the well-robed bishops and patriarchs associated with the Middle East Council of Churches have seen fit to defend the organization.

Are they real bishops, or are they playing dress-up too?

About the Author
Dexter Van Zile is the Managing Editor of Focus on Western Islamism (FWI), established by the Middle East Forum in 2022.
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