Summary: The Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) program is a central element in the anti-Israel divestment campaign. Behind claims to support peace through non-violence, CPT activities promote extremist Palestinian positions. Through cooperation with radical groups such as Sabeel and EAPPI, CPT-sponsored visits to the region highlight Palestinian victimization while erasing and the impact of terror from the itinerary. Similarly, CPT publications use language to demonize .
The Christian Peacemaker Teams program was founded in Chicago in 1986, as an initiative of the Mennonite Central Committee Peace Section, the Church of the Brethren Office of Peace and Justice, and similar groups. The CPT describes itself as being “a nonviolent alternative to war and other forms of lethal inter-group conflict” and aims to promote “nonviolent institutions, skills and training for intervention in conflict situations.”
CPT is funded primarily through donations from members of affiliated churches based in Cleveland, Chicago, northern Indiana, the upper Midwest (Minnesota, Iowa, and Wisconsin), Winnipeg, Ontario, and the UK. In 2004, donations totaled over $800,000.
CPT activities are based on short-term (7-14 day) visits by “conflict resolution teams” to Palestinian centers, both to provide “practical guidance to warring parties”, and to “link communities experiencing violence with concerned individuals, churches and groups.” One method is through creating a forum for “social change through listening, public witness, prayer vigils, dialogue.”
The CPT also funds longer-term “peacemaker teams” based in these areas. These individuals return to their home churches periodically, where they are active politically in ”organizing, speaking, training, or other peace work within their community.” CPT claims that, this activity serves to “advance the cause of lasting peace by giving skilled, courageous support to peacemakers working locally in situations of conflict.”
CPT activities related to the Arab-Israeli conflict began in 1992, in parallel with delegations sent to Haiti and Iraq. CPT “violence reduction workers” visited Palestinian towns, in close coordination with political leaders, such as the mayor of Hebron. (Israelis were largely ignored, making peace-related activities impossible.)
The number of CPT missions in support of Palestinians has grown steadily, and now, consists of half the worldwide CPT activity in this period. Ten such visits are scheduled for 2005-06, including one in coordination with the United Church of Canada and one with a Franciscan group.
Reflecting this disproportionate emphasis on the Palestinian cause, the CPT UK website provides the contact information for six “peacemaker team” members who are available for speaking engagements and comment on world affairs. Of these, five had spent most of their time in contact with Palestinian groups.
CPT publications also reflected a consistent pro-Palestinian agenda, in sharp contrast the CPT mission statement related to nonviolent conflict resolution. An article published by the Global Ministries, documenting the January 2003 CPT Ohio Conference, reflects this bias and hostility towards Israel. While repeatedly condemning Israeli government policies, there is no mention of the Palestinian terror campaign, and the hundreds of murdered Israelis.
Similarly, the Holy Land Christian Ecumenical Foundation (HCEF) website includes an article entitled “A Christian Peacemaker Team Member Views the Arab Israeli Conflict”, (Link has expired) urging CPT activists “to protect Palestinians under assault from settlers trying to extend their illegal domains, while diffident IDF soldiers stand by and let them.” Repeating the standard pro-Palestinian narrative that erases the historical context, the writer also characterizes the Palestinian people as suffering from the “cynical cruelty of the occupation”. And a June 2005 article on “Promoting Peace in Palestine” in a Gladwin (Michigan) newspaper describes a CPT tour by members of the Beaverton Church of the Brethren, reflecting the one-sided agenda of support for the Palestinian agenda, and condemnation of Israel.
In the same way, CPT’s website, including a detailed section on Hebron with photographs, consistently presents Palestinians as victims, while implicitly denying Israelis the right to self-defense against terror.
The one-sided political agenda is further highlighted in CPT’s cooperative activities with other NGOs. These allied NGOs include the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI), which employs such terms as “apartheid” and “war crimes” to describe Israeli activities. (The EAPPI has relationships with several other extremist pro-Palestinian groups such as the Alternative Information Center, the Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center, and PENGON.)
In summary, the evidence demonstrates the vast gap between CPT’s claims to work for peace “through non-violent means” and its biased political agenda. CPT’s strident advocacy is part of the NGO-led divestment campaign designed to promote demonization and isolation of Israel in the framework of the on-going political conflict.
The Christian Peacemaker Congress VIII, to be held in Indianapolis from September 8 to 11, 2005, provides an opportunity to restore the universal moral principles of human rights and to return CPT to its declared mission of seeking peace.