Progressive Christians and Anti-Israel Activism: The Strange Case of EAPPI UK and Ireland

Jonathan Campbell

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter in a book

Abstract

This paper provides a preliminary analysis of the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI), a body created by the World Council of Churches in 2002, and more particularly of EAPPI’s programme in the UK and Ireland (EAPPI-UKI). The latter is run by the Religious Society of Friends (also known as the Quakers), with support from a range of more mainstream churches and organisations (e.g. Baptist Union of Great Britain, Christian Aid, Church of Scotland, Methodist Church, Scottish Episcopal Church, and Trocaire).
The stated aim of EAPPI-UKI is “to accompany Palestinians and Israelis in their nonviolent actions and concerted advocacy efforts to end the [Israeli] occupation” so that peace can be achieved. To that end, it sends volunteers called Ecumenical Accompaniers (EAs) to the West Bank and East Jerusalem to spend three months acting as human rights observers and providing a protective presence to vulnerable Palestinians. Afterwards, EAs return home to describe their experiences to local church groups and to engage in advocacy work with religious leaders and politicians. According to its website, EAPPI-UKI recruits about twenty EAs per year, with 160 in total so far having gone through the scheme. And despite its organizational location within the Quakers, EAPPI-UKI accepts people as EAs regardless of religious commitment (or lack thereof). Indeed, the whole programme appears on the surface to have little overt connection to religious ideology.
A somewhat different picture emerges, however, from closer scrutiny of EAPPI-UKI’s published materials (i.e. its website, Facebook account, and blogs), the content of talks given by its returning EAs, and its parent bodies (WCC and EAPPI). More particularly, the organisation’s exclusive focus on exposing Israeli shortcomings (sometimes accurately but often inaccurately) to the exclusion of any other factor suggests EAPPI-UKI is best viewed in the broader context of the anti-Israel ideology increasingly noticeable among progressive Christians in Europe and North America since the turn of the millennium.
A further apparent incongruity also renders EAPPI-UKI a potentially fruitful focus for analysis: on the on hand, given the paucity of religious language at the public-facing level, considerable overlap exists between EAPPI-UKI and secular forms of contemporary anti-Zionism (e.g. Palestine Solidarity Campaign); on the other hand, given its undoubted links with more overtly Christian organisations (e.g. WCC and Sabeel), EAPPI-UKI appears to be equally comfortable with a more theologised approach to the alleged crimes of Israel (and only Israel).
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationUnity and Diversity in Contemporary Antisemitism
Subtitle of host publicationThe Bristol-Sheffield Hallam Colloquium on Contemporary Antisemitism
PublisherAcademic Studies Press
Publication statusIn preparation - 2018

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