Pilgrims in Disguise – Anti-Israeli Tourism

February 5, 2019

9 min read

From time to time we hear in the Israeli news, of some BDS activist who was caught at Ben-Gurion International Airport in an attempt to enter Israel, because of their involvement in BDS activity.

In some cases, the activists are being deported back, and in some cases not, as the famous instance of BDS activist Lara al-Qassem will certainly indicate. In most of the other cases it is about activists and anarchists who enter the country on tourist visas, deceive the authorities, and engage in activities that are illegal for those holding such visas.

The in-depth report published last week by NGO Monitor – a non-governmental organization based in Jerusalem, which analyzes and reports on the output of the international NGO community – points to the massive stir of the World Council of Churches (WCC) in Israel. The WCC has helped ‘Sabeel’ organization promote the Kairos document, which expresses support for BDS and the Palestinian Liberation Theology,  which combines the antisemitic Replacement Theology in it.

More than that, the WCC supports its flagship program EAPPI, which is its long arm for stirring trouble in Israeli. Not only in Judea and Samaria as many might think, but also in Jerusalem and the Negev Bedouin issue; accusing Israel of persecuting the Christians, supporting the Nakba campaign, supporting a campaign of the refusal of military service in Israel, participation in illegal construction, documentation and collection intelligence on IDF soldiers, demonstrations in Jerusalem, Khan al-Ahmar, etc.

The gloomy picture presented by NGO-MONITOR is intensified by the fact that the EAPPI program operated unopposed in Israel from 2002, until the publication of a well-publicized report and a campaign launched by Father Gabriel Naddaf from Nazareth in 2016. Naddaf accused them of “distorting Christianity to promote an extremist agenda.”

Wearing their beige vests with the program logo on the front and back, the program activists appear as members of an official organization or as a news agency. From many conversations I held, I found that this was a deliberate impression that many officers in the IDF, the police and the Border Police bought. The official visibility and overt activity managed to misrepresent their illegal activities and ridicule the security forces and the law enforcement agencies who thought them to be members of some aid organization or a news agency. If they were seldom questioned, their answer was that they were tourists, pilgrims, peace and human rights activists. Thus they were left alone to continue what today we know as an illegal activity

The situation began to change in 2016. NGO Monitor’s research and the report published by the Christian Empowerment Council in 2016 completes the DMU (an organization that monitors WCC actions in Israel) project, which documented the EAPPI tourists on the ground and exposed other and dangerous aspects of their sophisticated activities.

A review of NGO Monitor’s report points to the involvement of EAPPI and the WCC in promoting BDS and antisemitism around the world. An examination of DMU materials will indicate activities on the ground that include supporting terrorism; monitoring the activities of the security forces and documenting soldiers and police; and the granting of a tailwind to disturbances and rioting inside Jewish towns and on main roads over Judea and Samaria.

One of the EAPPI’s teams, is the Yanoun team operates in the mountainous area of Samaria and the Jordan Valley. On April 30, 2011, an article published on the ISM website entitled “VISIT TO AWARTA” was tweeted by the Yanoun team.  This is from the article: “This is one of the many reasons why we are very convinced that the whole story about the killing of a settler family (Fogel Family A.B) by two teenagers from the village of Awarta is a lie. But the killing of these settlers set stage for a ransacking of the village by the colonizing army of the state of Israel”.

Over the years, these EAPPI illegal tourists did not stop only with these declarations but graduated to active participation. On June 30, 2016, the funeral of 13-year-old Hallel Yaffa Ariel, who was stabbed to death by a Palestinian terrorist took place in Hebron. The road where the funeral procession was held, was closed to other traffic. During the funeral procession, EAPPI illegal tourists arrived, harassed the soldiers and the security guards and accused them of closing the funeral route to Arab traffic.

After an attempt to lynch Jewish children near the town of Migdalim by Palestinians residents of Qusra village in December 2017, IDF forces were operating in the area.  Violent rioting took place then in Qusra; a vehicle carrying EAPPI activists who left the area of the riots in the village, was photographed by DMU project.

If these examples are not enough, information from a senior source indicates that tourists from EAPPI visited the Palestinian village of Kubar.  There they visited the family of the terrorist who murdered the Solomon family in Halamish. This visit took place only few a few days after the murder. The question arises whether this was only “moral” support or did the illegal tourists from EAPPI also provide financial or any other kind of support to the terrorist family?

During the funeral procession of Hallel Ariel in Hebron. (Credit: DMU Project)


The EAPPI team at the exit from the riots in the village of Qusra in Samaria. (Credit: DMU Project)

The NGO Monitor report points to a project carried out by EAPPI activists with financial support from UNICEF. In the framework of the project called UNICEF “Safe Schools”, these illegal tourists stand next to Palestinian schools and escort and help students to cross the road. This presents them with a veneer of respectability, but it could also be defined as aiding terrorism.

Anyone traveling along Route 356 that connects the Jewish communities of East Gush Etzion (Judea) to the western part of Gush Etzion will pass three Arab schools. Two are located on the main road in Khirbat a-Dir near the Arab town Tuqu’. The third school “Al Minya” is located not far from there, about 500 meters south of Amos junction. These schools are the sites of riots and stone throwing at Israeli cars, which in many cases led to damage to property and body.

Those traveling on Route 60 in the Benjamin Region between the villages of As-Sawiya and Luban e-Sharkiya will also encounter two schools; of which there are occasional riots and stone-throwing incidents. On some days during the week, usually in the morning between seven and eight and at around noon, one can notice the illegal tourists of EAPPI who are standing near these schools as part of the project for “safe schools.” In the past, these tourists used to openly stand with cameras. However, in the last 2 years or so, most will be with mobile devices or cameras in their bags. They lurk, so that as soon as rioting begins, they pull out the cameras and document the IDF soldiers chasing the students who throw the stones, and thus they have winning photos. They will only show a one-sided picture, the evil IDF soldiers running after poor students.

NGO-Monitor note that this project is also operated by Christian Peacemaker Teams – CPT. Their offices are in Chicago and Toronto and operate like EAPPI, but mainly focus on Hebron and Mount Hebron. Active cooperation and transition between these programs is common.

The EAPPI activists cooperate with a number of organizations as reflected in the report, as well as taking a passive part in the disturbances and violations of a closed military zone, in cooperation with other organizations not mentioned in the report. Among them Ta’ayush, Anarchists against the Wall, and Palestinian National Committee Against the Wall and Settlements. Several times in the past they have been documented by DMU project in Gush Etzion in disturbances along with Hasan Breijieh, who was previously presented in media as “a Palestinian activist and spokesperson for the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). PFLP is a Terror organization. In Hebron, cooperation of EAPPI and TIPH was documented as well.

Cooperation with TIPH in Hebron, (Credit: DMU Project)


In Gush Etzion. Together with Hasan Breijieh and Kobi Snitz of Anarchists Against the Wall. (Credit: DMU Project)

As many initiatives before,  also exposing the real face of WCC and EAPPI have grown from the bottom, from the citizens and third sector. The exposure of the EAPPI activity to decision makers and the public in Israel, led by Father Gabriel Naddaf at that time head of the Christian Empowerment Council, the DMU project and NGO Monitor previous research, led various authorities in Israel to address this illegal activity. The measures taken by these organizations and by the authorities damaged the EAPPI program, reduced the volume of activity, reduced anti-Israeli publications and disrupted the freedom of action they enjoyed under the guise of an official organization, as their own responses would attest.

However EAPPI are still around Judea and Samaria illegally documenting military activity, entering Jewish communities areas on Saturdays and cause provocations. Although not as freely as in the past but are still in Jerusalem too. In the Old City of Jerusalem, where they allow themselves to monitor the borders police officers in the Old City’s gates and the security at the gates of the Western Wall entrances. They even walk around the Western Wall wearing their vests. The main reason for this is the large number of authorities involved. when there are multiple authorities, there is sometimes a lack of synchronization.

At the Western Wall. (Credit: DMU Project)

It is not for nothing that their offices moved a few years ago from an open side street in the Christian Quarter of the Old City Jerusalem to a closed area in The Church of Saint Anne, located in the Muslim Quarter near the Lions’ Gate. This Catholic church is under the sovereign territory of the French government, which thus sponsors and protects their illegal activities. The Israeli Foreign Ministry seems to be impotent in the face of this provocation.

It is important to note that there were also specific successes in blocking entry to Israel or in the deportation of tourists from EAPPI (as well as others). Some of them used to go to Jordan after their three-month tourist visa was over, and return for another three-month round. Others returned to their countries of origin and returned to Israel for the second and third rounds of EAPPI within a few months or years. But so far, this is a specific, not a systemic treatment against this illegal program.

As NGO-Monitor reports: “EAPPI does not have “formal legal registration within the country of operations [Israel],” but rather a “locally registered nongovernmental organization acts as custodian” for the program. Specifically, EAPPI operates out of the Jerusalem Inter Church Center’s (JIC) office. According to EAPPI’s website, JIC, headed by Yusef Daher , also provides “guidance and coordination with the local churches.”

At the same time, the Illegal EAPPI tourists activists who come to the three months program, do not exist from nothing, money is involve here. The program also employs Israelis, Palestinians from Bethlehem and various managers from abroad, since it is not a registered and recognized organization and because they are aware of their illegal activities. some of the workers from abroad receive work permits by belonging to other recognized organizations.

In addition to the recommendations of the NGO Monitor report, the issue of entry into Israel and the deportation of illegal tourists from it must also be addressed.

Adv. Yotam Eyal from the Legal Forum elaborates on this issue: “”One of the basic parameters of state sovereignty is the right to determine who will enter it; this is agreed among all the countries of the world, which state will give up its right to decide whether or not to enter it? From this understanding, in each state, entry visas are defined for each of them. The state determines criteria that will be given to those who meet them, and therefore, of course, the visa can be revoked for those who do not meet them.

The State of Israel has established several types of visas when the most common visa is a tourist visa granted to a person wishing to visit the country for up to several months, since a tourist visa is the easiest visa to obtain, most foreign activists enter using this visa, as tourists.

Apart from tourist visas, there are several types of visas: work (paid and not paid), religion, studies. It is quite clear to all reasonable people and according to any legal logic that if there is a visa for a certain thing and a special visa is required for it, it means that this activity does not enter the general tourist visa, and therefore the implementation of the activity is a breach of the visa and a reason for its negation. In order to avoid special monitoring and questioning, EAPPI activists usually enter the visa despite the fact that the WCC organization is a religious organization and despite the fact that they come to work for the organization (even if not for a fee). Thus, already by entering Israel they are violating the visa terms.”


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