Christian Peacemaker Teams: Anti-Israel campaigning under the guise of ´peacemaking´
By NGO Monitor
January 10, 2008
- CPT states that it "places violence-reduction teams in crisis situations and militarized areas around the world at the invitation of local peace and human rights workers."
- In contrast, CPT partners with ISM, ICAHD, Sabeel and others in promoting the Durban Strategy of boycotts, divestment, and identification of Israel as the new apartheid South Africa.
- Speaker's bureau promotes its highly one-sided and politicized approach to the conflict, which ignores Palestinian terrorism in order to demonize Israeli actions and delegitmize its right to self defense.
- A CPT speaker addressed the February 2006 'Israeli Apartheid Conference' at the University of Toronto with a speech entitled “Al-Khalil (Hebron): The Effects of Apartheid on a West Bank City.”
NGO Monitor's correspondence with CPT on this report
"Correspondence between Alwyn Knight, member of Christian Peacemaker Teams and Ardie Geldman, resident of Efrat."
"Interfaith Peace Builders/AFSC Delegations “Misunderstanding the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict”
As NGO Monitor has reported in the past, the Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) 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 other Christian groups. This report focuses on CPT's activities related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, in the last two years (fall 2005 – fall 2007), and supplies updated funding information, analysis of CPT publications, and information on the group's partnerships with other NGOs.
Sources of funding (updated):
According to its website, CPT is funded primarily through donations from members of affiliated churches based in the USA and the UK. According to its most recent financial report (for 2006), CPT received donations from individuals totaling $610,700; and $409,500 from Canadian and American sources described as "congregations, grants, and delegations," which includes the Mennonite Church Canada, Mennonite Church USA, and others.
CPT’s stated mandate and “peace-makers” delegations:
CPT states that it "places violence-reduction teams in crisis situations and militarized areas around the world at the invitation of local peace and human rights workers." The official purpose of these delegations is "to understand conflict through visits with grassroots leaders, community members, church and human rights workers, legislators and officials," "encourage individuals and communities experiencing violence," and "challenge violations of human rights." CPT runs short-term (7-14 day) tours by “conflict resolution team” delegations to Palestinian population centers, as well as longer-term “peacemaker teams” based in these areas. According to the CPT website, delegation team-members, when "not on project site live […] in their home communities and are available for short-term organizing, speaking, training, or other peace work."
While CPT is active in six countries (Columbia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda, Canada, Northern Iraq, and the United States) in addition to Israel and the Palestinian territories, the group's heavy focus on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is evident in the relative number of CPT delegation teams sent to the region. 7 out of 11 Christian Peacemaker Teams delegations scheduled for the period of November 2007-November 2008 are to "Palestine/Israel".
CPT’s involvement in the Durban Strategy:
CPT continues to play an active role in the international NGO campaign to delegitimize Israel by identifying it with apartheid South Africa and promoting boycotts and divestment (the "Durban Strategy"). The CPT delegation in Hebron hosted “solidarity visits” in the March 2006 "global advocacy week concerning the situation in Palestine and Israel." Led by Palestinian Christian NGO Sabeel and the Joint Advocacy initiative of the East Jerusalem YMCA, this advocacy week claimed to "alleviate Palestinian suffering," but focused all criticism on Israel, and included meetings with biased and politicized NGOs such as ICAHD. CPT's website offers readers links to publications by the 'Stop the Apartheid Wall' anti-Israel campaign. In 2007, CPT joined with the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), in its "Olive Harvest Campaign." ISM's activities endanger the lives of foreign 'peace volunteers,' and sabotage important security measures. (In March 2003 Israeli troops captured a senior Islamic Jihad member hiding in an ISM office in Jenin).
CPT members regularly appear in forums which promote the Durban Strategy, facilitated by the NGO's "Speakers Bureau". Nathan Bender, a CPT speaker, addressed the February 2006 'Israeli Apartheid Conference' at the University of Toronto on the subject of “Al-Khalil (Hebron): The Effects of Apartheid on a West Bank City.” Other speeches dealt with topics including “South Africa & Israel: the Apartheid Connection” and “The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine and the Right of Return.” Kathleen Kern, another member of CPT's Speakers Bureau, wrote in a CPT report, “Israels [sic] treatment of its Arab population is a form of apartheid, plain and simple.”
Analysis of recent CPT publications:
CPT's long-term presence in Hebron leads the NGO's "Campaign for Secure Dwellings", which according to the CPT website, consists of “a network of congregations in North America and Europe working to end the Israeli military occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip." CPT coordinates the program in cooperation with the Palestinian Land Defense Committee, Rabbis for Human Rights, and the Israeli Committee Against Home Demolitions (ICAHD). Despite claiming to provide "a violence-reduction presence with street patrols," CPT delegations in Hebron consistently highlight Palestinian victimization using evocative language, while erasing the context of terror from their reports. In this, CPT has become a party to the conflict.
Tales from Hebron
CPT's winter 2006 summary report on its work in the West Bank – 'Palestine: Still Under Occupation' offers so-called eye-witness testimony, emotionally charged anecdotes, and blanket condemnation of the Israeli army (IDF), with no mention of terrorism. In a piece entitled, “Strangers in my Home,” the IDF search of a Palestinian home is depicted as an “invasion,” and in another CPT member's report, Israeli soldiers are vilified:
"Today I will walk the streets of Hebron and witness young Palestinian men being detained for hours. I will hear Israeli soldiers spew hatred towards 'Arabs'. I will listen to the stories of Palestinian families whose homes have been invaded, their possessions thrown about, their men beaten or imprisoned."
Neither the introduction to this report, nor any of the five CPT member stories, acknowledge the context of terrorism, including, for example, an attack in the Hebron area in 2005, and the arrests in Hebron in January 2006 (the specific period which the CPT report refers to) of 5 members of a Hamas cell responsible for the murder of 6 Israelis. This context does not excuse improper IDF actions, but CPT's distorted portrayal of the situation in Hebron delegitimizes Israel's right to self-defense.
An October 2007 CPT article again ignores the terrorist threat in Hebron and denies any Palestinian responsibility or agency in the conflict. The author condemns the Israeli soldiers for ordering Palestinian shopkeepers to stop selling toy guns, and for confiscating them from children. She comments that "it would be even less dangerous if [the soldier] were not walking in a Palestinian area with a real gun.” In the United States, CPT launched its "Violence is not Child's Play" campaign to urge Church and community groups to join in “challenging retail stores that market violent toys and games to children.” Yet in Hebron the Peacemakers ignore the real dangers to children in a complex conflict zone (2 Palestinian children were killed in January 2005 and July 2007, when soldiers mistook their toy guns for real ones), and the widespread indoctrination of Palestinian children into a culture of violence, in order to condemn Israeli actions.
Reliance on the reporting of other politicized NGOs
CPT publications frequently cite and rely on the data and reports of other highly politicized NGOs that lack credibility. A spring 2007 CPT report – ‘At-Tuwani: Seven Homes Demolished’ – uses Israel Coalition Against House Demolitions (ICAHD). EU-funded ICAHD claims, like CPT, to be “a non-violent, direct-action group.” However, as NGO Monitor has documented, ICAHD advances a highly one-sided view of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and actively promotes the “Durban strategy” (for a refutation of ICAHD's claims see Justus Weiner, "Illegal Construction in Jerusalem"). Other reports by CPT rely on research from B'Tselem, a group whose political bias and distortions have been documented in detail by NGO Monitor. In addition, on its website CPT lists as a partner the NGO Applied Research Institute Jerusalem (ARIJ), an organization which campaigns for divestment from Israel and publishes highly politicized reports which demonize Israel. CPT also reports working with Ta'ayush, an NGO that uses apartheid language in its criticism of Israel.
CPT delegations claim to provide a "non violent peacemaking" presence in Hebron, but their public statements reveal their highly one-sided and politicized approach. Facilitated by CPT publications and the speakers bureau, they selectively report their experiences in order to delegitimize Israeli actions and erase any Palestinian responsibility.