Commentary by Rivka Hecht, NGO Monitor
Despite its self-styled role as a prophetic voice, the World Council of Churches (WCC) again displayed its bias against Israel. Last week, September 21-27, WCC observed its fourth annual “World Week for Peace in Palestine Israel” (WWPPI), organized by WCC’s Palestine Israel Ecumenical Forum (PIEF).
Last week’s theme was “Let My People Go” and, based on the input of many highly politicized non-governmental organizations (NGOs), called for the release of all Palestinian “political prisoners” held by Israel. This, in WCC’s definition, includes those convicted of murder and other acts of terrorism against civilians.
How is this call consistent with a prophetic voice? Why was WCC promoting an event purporting to encourage reconciliation that instead degrades the rule of law and rewards violence?
These problems have infected the materials prepared for WWPPI. As part of the effort to reach “policy-makers, community groups, and local parishes,” WCC published several resources that reveal the one-sided and inaccurate premise upon which the event was built. The content of these resources provides a quintessential example of how WCC promotes theologically-based arguments to condemn Israel. These materials include a dossier, “Palestinian Prisoners: A Question of Conscience,” and a program booklet, “Let My People Go”; both severely minimize the threat terrorism poses to civilians and human rights.
Sending a message of indifference to Israeli terror victims and bereaved families, the publications first reference a leading anti-Israel NGO, Addameer, to suggest that all Palestinians in Israeli jails have been “arrested in relation to the occupation” and are therefore “political prisoners.” The dossier then demands the release of prisoners, without excluding those who committed violent crimes against civilians: “Addameer accordingly demands that all administrative detainees held on account of their political views or their activities carried out in resistance to the occupation be released promptly and unconditionally;” and broadly calls for the “release of Palestinians unjustly detained….the deliverance of all who are bound by the shackles of conflict, violence, injustice, mistrust and prejudice.”
Based on this flawed and offensive premise, WCC identifies prisoner releases as “achievements.” This blatantly ignores the serious threat to human rights and the rule of law posed by the prisoners’ release. Indeed, some of the prisoners freed in the 2011 Gilad Shalit prisoner exchange have carried out additional terror attacks against Israeli civilians.
A recent painful example is the June 2014 kidnappings and murders of the three Israeli teens, Gilad Sha’ar, Eyal Yifrah, and Naftali Frenkel, orchestrated by the terroristsAbed a-Rahman Ghaminat and Mahmoud Kawasme. Both were released in the Gilad Shalit prisoner exchange. Their terror acts, coupled with terror attacks from Gaza,provoked the large-scale Hamas-Israel conflict this summer and resulted in suffering on both sides. This, needless to say, is the opposite of the “peace” supposedly promoted by WCC.
Likewise, the words “terrorism” and “terrorist” appear minimally in the WCC dossier, and always in the context of belittling Israel’s self-defense against terror. “Violence” is used in both the dossier and the program booklet, but only in reference to Israel’s alleged treatment of prisoners. There is never any discussion relating to the violence committed by terrorists, which led to their being convicted and imprisoned.
The erasure of terrorism against Israel goes even further. The dossier’s cover image features a photograph of a young girl standing outside a prison fence and next to a poster of prison hunger striker Mohamad Musa Khader Adnan. The logo of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) can be seen clearly on the poster. Adnan is reportedly a leader within the PIJ, known for its radical terrorist activities. Ironically, this key detail – Adnan’s association with a terror group and the implications for policies of detention – is not mentioned anywhere in the dossier, despite its presence on the cover.
The misinformation provided by WCC is made possible through the distorted reality portrayed by many one-sided, political NGOs that partner with WCC and PIEF. The claims and allegations inevitably originate with groups such as Addameer, Breaking the Silence, Defence for Children International- Palestine (DCI-PS), Physicians for Human Rights-Israel (PHR-I) and New Profile. These NGOs, funded by European governments, call for “an end to the illegal Israeli occupation of Palestine,” promote narratives that reject the legitimacy of the Jewish State, and make legal and factual claims without the necessary expertise or access to objective and independent facts. These “facts” are then widely accepted as truth, and reproduced at events such as the WWPPI, despite their distortions and fabrications.
WCC describes itself as a “prophetic voice” that “speaks truth to power.” But, speaking truth to power first requires having the truth. WCC has failed to fearlessly speak the simple truth that terror attacks on Israeli civilians are unspeakably immoral acts. The WCC’s disguising of terrorists as “political prisoners” is an affront to the victims and to morality, and releasing terrorists fuels conflict and undermines peace. These missing truths in the WCC’s witness, amount to nothing more than false prophecy.
Rivka Hecht is a 2013-2014 Research Fellow at NGO Monitor (www.ngo-monitor.org) in Jerusalem, Israel. Rivka holds a Juris Doctor (JD) degree from the University of Melbourne and is an Australian qualified Lawyer. Rivka has also worked and studied in areas of conventional and alternative medicine, as well as education, in various jurisdictions, including Australia, USA and Israel.