Honorable Ronald Dermer, Israeli Ambassador to the U.S.
As Presbyterian members of the worldwide Christian community and, particularly, as members of the World Council of Churches (WCC), I am writing to express our profound displeasure over the indignities visited upon our WCC Associate General Secretary, Prof. Dr. Isabel Phiri, at the Ben Gurion International Airport on December 5, 2016.
Dr. Phiri arrived in Israel as part of a WCC delegation sent to consult with our church partners in Jerusalem and those involved in our Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI). The mandate for EAPPI derives from a request from church leaders in Jerusalem in 2002 to wit, “We would respectfully request protection of all people in order to assist in the reestablishment of mutual trust and security for Israelis and Palestinians. Further, we would call on all peace-loving people from around the world to come and join us in a manifestation for just peace.” This initiative is well-known among Israelis and Palestinians and has served the cause of peace well.
Notwithstanding these facts, Dr. Phiri was apprehended, interrogated, falsely charged under “Prevention of illegal immigration considerations,” deported, and forced to return to Geneva, where she resides. Some reports indicated that she was also falsely accused of complicity with the “BDS movement,” with which she has nothing to do.
Her deportation stands in contrast with the experience of the other four members of the WCC delegation who had arrived somewhat earlier. They went through the usual security procedures at Ben Gurion International Airport and were allowed to proceed without hindrance. It is notable that Dr. Phiri was the only African member of the delegation.
In filing our complaint over the treatment of Dr. Phiri, we urge more care in dealing with Christian leaders who come in the name of a just peace for both Israelis and Palestinians. It has long been the policy of our Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) to support every effort to create a peaceful and just outcome for both Israelis and Palestinians, marked by self-determination and security for all who are involved.
We expect to continue to support and work with our Christian partners in Israel and Palestine and we trust that in the future, those who come in the name of such a vision will be treated with more respect than Dr. Phiri received.
The Reverend Dr. J. Herbert Nelson, II
Stated Clerk of the General Assembly
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)