Thursday, January 23, 2020

France: Is St Anne basilica compound used as a staging ground for ideological and theological attacks on Jewish sovereignty in Israel?

"An Open Letter to Emmanuel Macron, President of France" by Dexter Van Zile  @ The Times of Israel:
[…] Yusef Daher, runs the Jerusalem Inter Church Center (JICC) whose office is located in St. Anne’s compound. While he’s there, Daher enjoys the protection of French sovereignty, which you so ardently defended.

In the past, Daher has portrayed legitimate Israeli security measures at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher as a huge act of oppression against Christians worldwide. For example, Daher has unfairly portrayed Israeli efforts to prevent a stampede outside the church as an evil act against Christians in Jerusalem. […]

I don’t mean to add to your headaches, but given that you just defended French sovereignty over St. Anne’s in the Old City of Jerusalem, I feel compelled to ask you some questions about how France administers the property. The central issue is this: Why does France allow its sovereign territory in Jerusalem to be used by the JICC, which is led by Daher, as a staging ground for ideological and theological attacks on Jewish sovereignty in Israel? If you pardon the expression, that doesn’t seem ... kosher.

I raised this question with the folks in France’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 2018 and no one got back to me.

I even asked officials from the White Fathers, the Catholic religious order that operates St. Anne’s. They were pretty tight-lipped, but the one thing they did say is that St. Anne’s Monastery enjoys diplomatic protection, “just like an embassy.”

So, here is the relevant text of an email that I sent to the folks in France’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs in an email sent, interestingly enough, on June 6, 2018:
I am currently writing an article about an organization called the Ecumenical Accompaniment Program in Palestine/Israel (EAPPI). EAPPI is an institution of the World Council of Churches (WCC) that sends activists into Israel and the West Bank. The organization has come under increasing scrutiny and criticism from a number of institutions and commentators in Israel and elsewhere for its tendency to promote anti-Israel propaganda both in the Holy Land and in the home country of EAPPI activists.

EAPPI is closely affiliated with another WCC institution — the Jerusalem Interchurch Center — whose general secretary, a Palestinian Christian by the name of Yusef Daher, has posted ugly anti-Israel propaganda on his Facebook page.

I write to you because EAPPI is currently headquartered in the Church of St. Anne’s, a basilica located in Jerusalem’s Old City. The church, which is currently operated by the White Fathers, an order of Catholic missionaries, is located on French property given to France by the Ottoman Empire in the 1850s. The Ottoman Empire gave France the property out of gratitude for assistance given during the Crimean War. I also believe that the JICC is located in the same property. (I was at the property on Sunday, June 3, 2018 and saw that a French flag flies over the property.)

I am currently asking both the World Council of Churches and the White Fathers questions about the presence of the EAPPI and the JICC on the property of the Basilica, but I also need some information from the French government. My questions are: 
1. Is the property in question sovereign French territory? (If yes, does this confer any special diplomatic protection to the operations of the EAPPI and JICC?) I ask this question, because the language I see in articles indicates that the property is “owned” by the French government, but “entrusted” to the White Fathers.

2. Am I correct in my belief that the JICC is also headquartered in St. Anne’s?

3. Who made the decision to allow EAPPI and JICC to put their headquarters on the property?

4. Did the French Government or anyone in the French diplomatic corps agree to allowing EAPPI and JICC to put their offices on the property or was this decision made exclusively by the White Fathers?

5. Is anyone in the French government or diplomatic corps concerned about the use of French property to house organizations that promote anti-Zionist propaganda. [Sic]

6. What would happen if the shoe were on the other foot and Israeli-owned property in France was used to de-legitimize France? (I know that this is a challenging question, but it seems like a reasonable one to ask.)
I don’t mean to be a nudge, Mr. President, but in light of your ardent defense of French sovereignty over St. Anne’s, these questions seem perfectly reasonable to ask. 
I hear tell that lot of Jews are leaving France and it just doesn’t seem right to help make their lives more difficult in their new home.
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