Israel slams award to ‘anti-Semitic’ pastor

Rev. Mitri Raheb honored by former German president despite ‘racist statements’.

MITRI RAHEB 390 (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
BERLIN – Israeli Embassy representatives expressed dismay with the decision of a German media NGO and former German president Roman Herzog to honor the Bethlehem- based Rev. Mitri Raheb, because of what they term his efforts to delegitimize the Jewish state’s existence.
Israeli diplomatic sources in Berlin told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday that “Raheb is connected to a document – ‘Cairo Palestine’ – that defines Israel as an Apartheid state and calls for a boycott of Israel. It is an extremist and racist document which does not contribute to reconciliation and peace between the Palestinians and Israelis. We regret that one of its authors is receiving acknowledgment in Germany.”
Last week, the Jerusalem-based NGO Monitor and the Simon Wiesenthal Center sharply criticized The Media Control, the German NGO responsible for the award, and Herzog’s decision to deliver a keynote speech in Raheb’s honor in late February.
According to the Wiesenthal Center, “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.”
German-Israeli friendship groups urged Herzog, who served as president of Germany from 1994-1999, to reconsider his participation at the event honoring Raheb. In an early February letter from the German-Israeli friendship society (or DIG) in Freiburg, its representative Andrea Lauser noted that Herzog’s life motto was “Truth and Clarity,” and expressed hope “that you follow this motto in connection with Dr. Raheb.”
DIG Freiburg said that Raheb had made “racist statements about Israel and Jews” and that his anti-Israel comments contradicted the message of the German media prize for “Alternatives to Violence and Radicalization.” As such, the letter stated, it made no sense that Raheb had been chosen for the award.
The letter also cited Herzog’s speech at the Bergen- Belsen extermination camp in Poland in 1995, in which he said the “history of failure began not after the [Nazis’] seizure of power in 1933,” but long before. He also said in that speech that the “danger of totalitarianism is always present – and not only in Germany, but in the entire world” – a statement that DIG said showed Raheb’s views represented a fascist outlook.
The Rhein-Neckar/Mannheim DIG appears to be the first group to have called for Herzog to pull the plug on his participation because of Raheb’s stance on Israel. In a late January letter to the former president, the group described Raheb as “a prominent Palestinian Christian who delegitimizes the Jewish people and fights the existence of the State of Israel.”
Post e-mails and telephone calls to Herzog were not immediately returned.
Herzog has so far refused to issue responses to the growing German and international criticism of his decision to honor Raheb.
The Media Control group, which awarded the prize to Raheb because his “acts are a symbol of humanity,” defended the award in an e-mail to the Post.
“The German Media prize [has worked] 20 years for neutrality, balance and peace. And that is why [former prime minister] Yitzhak Rabin and [President] Shimon Peres were honored,” wrote Karlheinz Kögel, the founder of the Medien prize. He added that he has “generously supported the Peres Center for Peace.”
“In this year, we will make sure that the [award ceremony] event supports the coming peace process,” he continued. “The prize ceremony will not be misused for one-sided statements.”