Former German president to honor anti-Semitic pastor

Decision provokes outrage among Israeli and American NGOs; Wiesenthal Center associate dean: ‘Pastor Raheb uses theological garb to demonize the Jewish people.’

Roman Herzog (photo credit: REUTERS)
Roman Herzog
(photo credit: REUTERS)
BERLIN – Roman Herzog, the president of the Federal Republic of Germany from 1994 to 1999, is slated to deliver a speech next week in honor of Reverend Mitri Raheb, a fiercely anti-Israel Palestinian Lutheran leader in Bethlehem who has argued that Jews have no right to be present in Israel.
The decision by Herzog and Media Control, a German NGO, to praise Raheb has sparked criticism from US and Israeli NGOs. In a statement on Sunday, the Simon Wiesenthal Center urged Herzog to cancel his keynote address at the event.
According to a letter sent to Herzog from the center’s associate dean, Rabbi Abraham Cooper, “Pastor Raheb consistently has used theological garb to cover an extremist political agenda to demonize the Jewish people.”
Media Control, the German group, justified the award to Raheb because his “acts are a symbol of humanity.”
The Wiesenthal Center, however, wrote, “In speeches given to various religious symposia and church summits (including the infamous 2004 US Presbyterian assembly that approved a boycott and divestment campaign against Israel), Raheb promoted a ‘Palestinian Theology’ that purports that Jews are not the Chosen People and therefore have no right to the Holy Land.”
According to the Wiesenthal Center, Raheb said in a March 2010 address that “actually, the Palestinian Christians are the only ones in the world that, when they speak about their forefathers, they mean their actual forefathers, and also the forefathers in the faith… So, that is the reality of the peoples of the land. Again, they aren’t Israel. This experience I’m talking about, it’s only the Palestinians who understand this, because Israel represents Rome… It was our forefathers to whom the revelation was given.”
A representative from the Roman Herzog Institute in Germany referred a Jerusalem Post query to Herzog’s office in the city of Heilbronn.
Phone calls were not immediately returned on Sunday.
In an e-mail to the Post on Sunday, Nina Meyer, a representative from Media Control, said that no one was available on Sunday to respond to queries.
The Jerusalem-based watchdog group NGO Monitor told the Post, “Raheb’s leadership positions with these immoral and anti-Semitic NGOs should cause the prize organizers to reconsider their award decision.”
According to NGO Monitor, “The Rev. Dr. Mitri Raheb represents the antithesis of building peace and mutual understanding in the Middle East. He is a board member of Kairos Palestine, whose guiding document calls for BDS [boycotts, divestment and sanctions] against Israel, advances the Christian theological doctrine of supercessionism and denies the Jewish historical connection to Israel. The document also ignores the extreme harassment and violence committed against Palestinian Christians by Palestinian Muslims.”
The organization added that “Raheb is a board member of ICCO, an intermediary funding channel for the Dutch government. As part of its support of radical projects related to the Arab-Israeli conflict, ICCO funds the anti-Semitic Electronic Intifada, which supports BDS and repeatedly uses anti-Semitic rhetoric that demonizes Israel. ICCO also funds Badil, an NGO also involved with anti-Semitic incidents, as well as demonizing language such as: ‘Israel’s colonial apartheid regime,’ ‘state-sponsored racism’ and ‘systematic ethnic cleansing.’”
Both Badil and ICCO had their funds slashed because of their opposition to the Jewish state.
“It is an outrage that the organizers of the German Media Prize would bestow their highest honor on a religious bigot who is re-introducing Replacement Theology to delegitimize the Jewish people and its right to pursue its spiritual and national destiny,” said Rabbi Cooper.
Reverend Raheb did not return a Post e-mail query. Speaking from Raheb’s phone number in Bethlehem, a man who identified himself as Sharadi told the Post that Raheb was in Jordan and not reachable on Sunday.