(January 17, 2019 / JNS) Dear Dr. Olav Fykse Tveit,
I am writing in connection to the World Council of Churches (WCC) response on Jan. 14 to NGO Monitor’s publication, “EAPPI: The World Council of Churches’ Training Camp for Anti-Israel Advocacy.” The statement, particularly regarding anti-Semitism, was highly unsatisfactory and highlighted the WCC’s moral failures.
In our research report, we note that “significant problems with EAPPI, as laid out in this report, should be seen in light of the anti-Semitism and demonization that emerges from EAPPI’s parent body (World Council of Churches), partners and affiliated staff.”
Indeed, the WCC has sought to deflect its own deficiencies by minimizing the significance of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) working definition of antisemitism, referring to it as a “non-legally binding working definition.” This internationally recognized standard is the result of painstaking work by leading academics and experts, and the EU parliament passed a 2017 resolution calling on member states to adopt it. Other governments have endorsed the IHRA terms of reference, begging the question as to why the WCC has not.
Moreover, the use of narrow technical arguments to excuse anti-Semitism is incongruous with the image that the WCC projects as a religious organization operating on the basis of moral imperative and conviction. Surely, you do not believe that racism, xenophobia, sexism and other social ills are acceptable in the absence of “legally binding” definitions.
You also claim that the WCC “expects all nations to respect and apply international human rights and humanitarian law and principles,” but your organization clearly singles out the Jewish state for unique condemnation, which is a blatant form of anti-Semitism. Your organization questions the right of the Jewish people to self-determination and sovereignty—a clear violation of the IHRA guidelines. One salient example: In 2017, the WCC encouraged member churches to “read and share” a letter that called on the United Kingdom to apologize for the 1917 Balfour Declaration, denouncing it as “unjust and unlawful,” and as paving the way for “the concept of an ethno-religious state—the very same thing our region is suffering today.” This is Palestinian rejectionist propaganda, to which the WCC contributes.
The WCC response to the NGO Monitor research report on EAPPI also conveniently ignores other provisions of the IHRA definition, specifically “drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis.” We note multiple instances in which both you personally and EAPPI participants have employed such rhetoric, including when you compared “50 years of occupation” in the West Bank to the Nazi takeover of Norway.
As our detailed research shows, the EAPPI program, which has no parallel in any other conflict zone and is clearly designed for demonization of Israel, reflects the WCC’s hostility towards Israel and the Jewish people. If your institution is genuinely interested in peace and dialogue, it must start by ending this anti-Semitic behavior.
We hope that you and the WCC will respond substantively and constructively to our publication. A good place to start would be the adoption, implementation and internalization of the IHRA definition.
Professor Gerald Steinberg, President, NGO Monitor