Groups ask Germany to cancel award to Palestinian

Christian, Jewish organizations ask that anti-Israel Palestinian Lutheran pastor be disqualified for Media Control prize.

By BENJAMIN WEINTHAL JERUSALEM POST CORRESPONDENT
February 21, 2012 04:34
3 minute read.
MITRI RAHEB

MITRI RAHEB 390. (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

 
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BERLIN – Christian and Jewish organizations called on the German issuers of the Media Control prize to disqualify the anti-Israel Palestinian Lutheran pastor who is set to receive it.

Karlheinz Kögel, the founder of the prize, wrote in an email to The Jerusalem Post on Friday that a “deep conflict has unfolded and we do not want to boost it.”

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His group has “received hundreds of protest emails,”he added.

Bethlehem-based pastor Mitri Raheb is slated to receive the humanitarian prize on Thursday in the southwestern German city of Baden-Baden.

Raheb supports the controversial Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement targeting the Jewish state, and has rejected the right of the Jewish people to live in Israel.

According to the Jewish NGO B’nai B’rith, Raheb said at the 2010 Christ at the Checkpoint Conference – an overtly anti-Israel gathering – that “Israel represents Rome of the Bible, not the people of the land,” asserting that he has a DNA link to King David and Jesus. But, he said, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu does not have this link and “will get nothing, because Netanyahu comes from an eastern European tribe who converted to Judaism in the Middle Ages.”

Daniel S. Mariaschin, B’nai B’rith International’s executive vice president, told the Post that “Mitri Raheb’s words and deeds are a real-time example of the demonization of Israel with the intention of delegitimizing Israel. This should be enough to disqualify him from receiving the prize and should in fact make him the subject of criticism, instead of the recipient of a prestigious award.”

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“We have appealed to organizing leader Karlheinz Kögel to withdraw any tribute to Raheb. And if the committee doesn’t withdraw the prize, we are urging former German president Roman Herzog to not participate in the event,” Mariaschin added.

A spokeswoman for Herzog told the Post last week that he will not issue a statement before the prize ceremony and plans to attend, adding that he will honor all recipients of the prize.

The German Coordinating Council of Societies for Christian and Jewish Cooperation slammed Herzog’s decision to praise Raheb. The pastor “revives hostile stereotypes toward Jews” and argues Jesus was Palestinian and not a Jew, the organization wrote in a letter last week.

Raheb advocates that Palestine should replace Israel, according to the Christian- Jewish group. Against this background, his “Palestinian liberation theology must be clearly designated as anti- Semitism.” The letter also noted that Raheb’s statements recall the anti-Jewish tone of the Nazi period.

Deidre Berger, head of the Berlin-based office of the American Jewish Committee, said last week that “Dr. Raheb is known for his radical theology, which is racist and partially anti-Semitic.”

Berger wrote Herzog and the Media-Control NGO a letter, demanding that both Herzog and the German group distance themselves from Raheb’s hostile statements toward Jews and Israel.

“He denies one of the main pillars of Germany’s foreign policy, namely, the recognition of Israel’s right to exist,” she said.

Israeli diplomats in Berlin expressed displeasure with the award to Raheb.

Reinhold Robbe, head of the German-Israeli Friendship Society, also objected last week to the decision to honor Raheb.

“He is not a promoter of peace,” Robbe said.

Raheb responded to the accusations last week in an interview with the daily Frankfurter Rundschau, titled “Media prize for enemy of the Jews or promoter of piece?” “Those are, of course, defamatory statements. These people toss terms around without being able to prove anything. They do not want to objectively discuss things. Most of the accusations are not coming from Jews, but rather from Christian Zionists. They do not want a Palestinian to receive a prize in Germany,” Raheb said.

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