By: Aryeh Savir
A year after the World Council of Churches (WCC) announced it had pulled its “ecumenical accompaniers” from Hebron due to “security concerns” the activists were again spotted in the city.
Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI) activists, sent by the WCC to Israel to “monitor” and “report human rights abuses,” were documented in Hebron on Monday working in the area at which violent riots were taking place.
Hebron residents said that the foreign activists were seen documenting IDF soldiers and Border Police officers who were operating to fend off the rioters in the area of the disturbances.
WCC general secretary Rev. Dr. Olav Fykse Tveit stated a year ago that the “intensified harassment of WCC’s programme” caused it to pull the accompaniers.
“The WCC accompaniers are currently prevented from fulfilling their role as peaceful protective presence for residents in Hebron,” said Tveit.
This latest incident in Hebron occurred just days after the Legal Forum for a Zionist and Democratic Israel and the DMU Project filed a complaint with the Jerusalem Police against the WCC alleging that it has engaged in several illegal activities and is acting against the State of Israel.
The WCC is an international organization with over 500 million members that openly declares its support for the BDS (Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions).
According to the complaint, the WCC has been running the EAPPI, its flagship project in Israel which has brought some 1,800 volunteers over the past 15 years to Judea and Samaria 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.”
The program involves some 25-30 participants known as Ecumenical Accompaniers who operate on the ground for periods of three months, during which they work with fringe political anti-Israel organizations such as Be’Tselem and Breaking the Silence. EAPPI’s “extensive advocacy” includes sharing “first-hand experiences to open the eyes of their communities, churches and governments to the realities of occupation.”
The police complaint alleges that the EAPPI activists have engaged in espionage against the State of Israel. For years, EAPPI activists have been documenting IDF training, security activities such as checkpoints and arrests, and have publicly released the information.
The organization’s activists regularly take part in disturbances and violent protests within closed military zones and occasionally harm IDF soldiers and police officers.