B’nai B’rith International sent a letter to organizers of the Deutscher Medienpreis (German media prize) cautioning that the Rev. Dr. Mitri Raheb, a Palestinian pastor of the Evangelical Lutheran Christmas Church in Bethlehem, should be reconsidered as a recipient of the 2011 prize, which is scheduled to be awarded Feb. 24 in Germany. Raheb has a longstanding reputation for promoting anti-Israel theology and narratives.
In the letter, also sent to former German President Roman Herzog, who is slated to make this year’s presentation, B’nai B’rith International Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin wrote: “B’nai B’rith is profoundly committed to bridge-building, not least in the Middle East, and particularly to relations between Christians and Jews. However, Dr. Raheb is distinguished by an extensive record of highly offensive statements that, any positive work notwithstanding, make him ill-suited to receive the endorsement implied by a prestigious German honor that has been bestowed on the likes of Helmut Kohl, Hillary Clinton, Rudolph Giuliani, Angela Merkel and the Dalai Lama. Experts have seen in Dr. Raheb’s views an echo of the widely eschewed replacement theology maintaining that Christians have superseded Jews in the Divine plan and have inherited God’s promises to Jews.”
According to the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land, the prize is awarded to “individuals who show exceptional performance, leadership qualities, and visionary work.”
At the 2010 “Christ at the Checkpoint” conference—an overtly anti-Israel gathering—Raheb said that “Israel represents Rome of the Bible, not the people of the land,” asserting that he would have a DNA link to King David and to Jesus, but that with Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “you will get nothing, because Netanyahu comes from an East European tribe who converted to Judaism in the Middle Ages.” Despite this, Deutscher Medienpreis had said it was honoring Raheb’s path as “the alternative to violence and radicalization.”
B’nai B’rith’s letter notes that Raheb’s public assertions “represent delegitimization of Israel through denying or trivializing Jews’ historic roots in the land of Israel. This conflicts squarely with modern Christian abandonment of teachings of contempt for Jews’ faith convictions and rights as a people, and stands firmly in the way of regional reconciliation. Needless to say, such an approach would not be tolerated if directed at Palestinians.”
B’nai B’rith appeals to organizing leader Karlheinz Koegel to withdraw any tribute to Raheb and urges Herzog to not participate in the event.
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