Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI)
- Funded by the World Council of Churches (WCC). EAPPI does not release financial details regarding the project, reflecting a lack of transparency and accountability.
- In 2015, WCC granted $1.5 million to EAPPI. Of this, $1 million was spent on Ecumenical Accompaniers from Austria, Australia, Germany, Switzerland, Denmark, Great Britain, Ireland, Norway, Sweden, Finland, and the United States, and in partnership with United Nations bodies.
- In 2016, EAPPI received 225,000 Swiss Francs (CHF) from HEKS.
- In 2014, the Swedish-Norwegian branch of EAPPI requested $1.5 million from the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA-OPT).
- EAPPI was founded in 2002 by the Geneva-based World Council of Churches (WCC) and is considered to be the WCC’s flagship project on the Arab-Israeli conflict.
- EAPPI is not a registered organization in Israel or abroad. The program brings international activists to the West Bank through the use of tourist visas.
- The stated mission is to “witness life under occupation, engage with local Palestinians and Israelis pursuing a just peace, to change the international community’s involvement in the conflict, urging them to act against injustice in the region.” As one activist claimed, “My team and I are here to shed light on this ongoing violation of human rights by standing in solidarity with our Palestinian host and by giving voice to their lived experience of oppression and abuse. The light of hope is kept shining through this public witness and presence on the ground”.
- EAPPI’s advocacy goal is to “make a change,” and specifically to “work for concrete change, both here and on the ground and back in our home countries.” The organization furthers that, “We share our eyewitness testimonies with faith leaders, decision makers, media, civil society, and business officials, so that they change public policy toward ending the Israeli occupation and achieving peace in Israel and Palestine.” (emphasis added)
- Since 2002, EAPPI has brought 1,800 “Ecumenical Accompanier” volunteers/activists to Israel for periods of three-months at a time. These activists receive training prior to their arrival, which includes an overview of the program itself, methods for coping with the army and police, and different ways of surpassing Israeli airport security and customs officials in order to successfully enter the country.
- Volunteers are based in Yanoun, Tulkarm, Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Hebron and Jayyous. EAPPI claims that participants in the program “offer a protective presence to vulnerable communities, monitoring and reporting human rights abuses…to create conditions for a just peace.” Often, however, these activities instigate confrontations with Israeli settlers and the Israeli army.
Demonization of Israel
- EAPPI rhetoric includes accusations of “apartheid,” “collective punishment,” “war crimes,” and “Bantustans”; supporting a Palestinian “right of return”; and promoting the Kairos Palestine document that calls for BDS against Israel, denies the Jewish historical connection to Israel in theological terms, and rationalizes, justifies, and trivializes terrorism, calling it “legal resistance.”
- EAPPI participates in activities commemorating the Palestinian “Nakba” (catastrophe), and during their 3-month tours the program is focused exclusively on the Palestinian narrative. They have essentially no contact with Israeli society and are shielded from any evidence of terrorism, as a blog post on July 14, 2015 states, “This ongoing struggle includes repeated violence and destruction from adjacent Israeli settlers that includes demolitions of homes and agricultural structures, poisoning of wells, cutting of olive trees, and physical violence against the residents including stoning and gunfire.”
- In response to criticism regarding its politicized advocacy, EAPPI claims to have adjusted their program to include “Israeli voices.” In reality, these “voices” are none other than radical political NGOs that reinforce the EAPPI narrative.
- EAPPI’s core publication, “Faith Under Occupation,” jointly published with WCC and the Jerusalem Inter-Church Centre (2012), places sole blame on Israel for the difficulties faced by Christians in the Holy Land. It also seeks to “disprove” what it calls “unfounded Israeli and Christian Zionist propaganda that Palestinian Christians are depopulating due to Muslim fundamentalism in Palestinian society.” This document also contains a list of recommendations titled “50 Ways to Action for Peace and Justice,” including:
- “Practice using a clear and unambiguous vocabulary including language protesting apartheid and colonization.”
- “Strengthen network working on sanctions and suspension of US aid to Israel.”
- “Challenge Israel in local and international courts. (If you are a lawyer, donate your time and initiate cases).”
- “Join the campaigns for economic boycotts…join or initiate a campaign for cultural and academic boycott.”
- “Challenge the Zionist attempts to doctor Wikipedia.”
- “Engage in civil disobedience actions.”
- “Develop close working relationships with progressive parties and groups in your country.”
- “Reach out to Christian religious leaders and ask them to act based on the Kairos Palestine document.”
- A publication entitled “40 Years of Occupation” included an article advocating illegal and inflammatory activities – such as hacking government websites – to “end the occupation.” [This document, Issue 6 of EAPPI’s Chain Reaction magazine, was removed from EAPPI’s website at the beginning of July 2012.]
- EAPPI posted a statement in support of the skewed conclusions of the Goldstone report, expressing concern that “there could be a resolution that dilutes the intent and scope of the Goldstone report.” It claimed that “During the Gaza War, civilians on both sides suffered and yet atrocities were significantly higher among the Palestinian population…The people of Gaza have suffered enough, and they deserve a respite in the knowledge that the perpetrators of indiscriminate violence against them will be brought to book.”
- Regularly engages in international advocacy, lobbying the European Union to impose sanctions on Israel and encouraging churches worldwide to increase “advocacy that might affect their countries’ foreign policy in the Middle East.” In 2013, sought to block the Horizon 2020 program, a mutually beneficial agreement aimed at promoting EU-Israel partnerships in scientific research.
- EAPPI is a partner for the South Africa Team for “Israeli Apartheid Week,” which is “made up of 25 members stretched across South Africa.”
Examples of Activists’ Activities upon Return to Their Home Countries
- Upon returning to their home countries, many EAPPI activists use their experience in the West Bank to promote anti-Israel campaigns, including promoting BDS (boycott, divestment, and sanctions).
- In July 2012, Vivian Wineman, President of the UK Jewish Board of Deputies, referred to EAPPI as “inflammatory and partisan…its graduates return with simplistic and radical perspectives. Members of Jewish communities across the country have suffered harassment and abuse at EAPPI meetings.”
- According to the UK Jewish Board of Deputies, EAPPI “helped to create a climate of hostility towards Israel within the Church of England.” Furthermore, “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.”
- In December 2016, WCC associate general secretary Prof. Dr. Isabel Phiri was denied entry to Israel on the basis of her role in EAPPI and BDS campaigns. According to Interior Minister Aryeh Deri, “Granting an entry permit to activists such as Phiri would in effect reinforce the wrongful activities she and her peers are advancing.”
- In a public May 2016 event held in London, an EAPPI activist made antisemitic comments, referring to the ”Jewish lobby” in America, accusing Israel of planting knives beside the bodies of Palestinian terrorists, and promoting BDS and other forms of demonization.
- A South African EAPPI activist who had participated in the program twice advocated for targeting the Israeli banking system, calling for “SWIFT [international banking network] sanctions against Israel.” He stated that, “If we can develop the momentum of sanctions against Israeli banks then all the power of the Israeli military becomes irrelevant … that’s really the basis to support the BDS program… without access to SWIFT…. the whole economy would quickly collapse…Israel should comply with the nonproliferation treaty and abandon its nuclear weapons … release the political prisoners … end the occupation … Apply human rights for all within the area [Israel and Palestine] … The right of return of Palestinian refugees … the time has come to say that the victims of…the Holocaust have now become the perpetrators.”
- In 2014, EAPPI and Finn Church Aid traveled to major university campuses in Finland, alleging that Israel victimizes and discriminates against the Palestinian population and “vindictively persecutes” Palestinian children.
- In 2013, members of EAPPI attended the 10th WCC General Assembly in Busan, South Korea, where EAPPI prepared a “façade designed as the separation wall” through which participants were forced to enter. A former EAPPI observer, disguised as an Israeli soldier, guarded the entrance, forbidding Palestinians to enter. The demonstration ended with a chant of “The wall must fall. The wall must fall” and a symbolic tearing down of the wall.
- In May 2012, FinnChurchAid and EAPPI launched a campaign to “mark products from the settlements to tell their true origin…The settlements are a key obstacle to peace in the Middle East. In addition to the serious human rights abuses.”
- EAPPI partners with various UN bodies, including UNICEF and UNRWA. In 2013, EAPPI and UNICEF began a project for Palestinian children “who must pass through military checkpoints or face the risk of harassment and violence from Israeli settlers and soldiers.”
- The activists cooperate with political NGOs operating in the West Bank, such as B’Tselem, Rabbis for Human Rights, Machsom Watch, Jerusalem Legal Aid and Human Rights Center (JLAC), Wi’am- the Palestinian Conflict Resolution Center, and the Alternative Tourism Group. One EAPPI activist claimed that during his activity at the checkpoints “we also worked with Israeli peace groups like Breaking the Silence and New Profile.”
- EAPPI appears to work with Ma’an Development Center.
- EAPPI also partners with HEKS. According to HEKS’ website, “HEKS and its partners are helping to protect the civilian population as well as human rights advocates and peace activists, for example, through accompaniment by international human rights observers under the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI).”
- Member of Association of International Development Agencies (AIDA), along with American Friends Service Committee, Caritas, Catholic Relief Services, DanChurchAid, Medical Aid for Palestinians, Oxfam Novib, Norwegian Refugee Council, and others. Many of these NGOs are active in BDS and lawfare campaigns, and utilize the Durban strategy to demonize and isolate Israel in the international arena.
All Articles about Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI)
- Church group that sends volunteers to the West Bank to witness life under occupation Sandy Rushty, The Jewish Chronicle, May 27, 2016
- When to be ecumenical - and when not Noru Tsalic, The Times of Israel, June 15, 2014
- What are you hiding? NGOs, funding and websites Naftali Balanson, Jerusalem Post, August 6, 2012