Since 1992, the German concern Media Control has awarded an annual prize, known as "Deutscher Medienpreis." According to the company website, it is given "to a person who had outstanding importance in the media during the past year." Remarkably, the list of yearly awardees has mostly lived up to that ambitious description, including many illustrious and deserving personalities. Until this year, that is.
Four awardees were named for the 2011 prize in a press announcement on January 13, 2012. While three seem to be meritorious enough, the fourth is a Palestinian pastor who has devoted all his theological energies to delegitimizing the State of Israel. No, he does not just oppose "the occupation." He maintains that Israel is a foreign European body that lacks his own DNA connection to the people of the Bible. Moreover, Media Control has lined up a former President of Germany, Prof. Roman Herzog, to come and praise him.
Part of the problem may be that for this year, the twentieth anniversary of the prize, Media Control decided to abandon its previous winning formula. According to that press announcement: "For the jubilee of the Media Prize, this tradition is being broken in order to honor personalities who are quiet peacemakers and whose activity takes place without great media attention." In other words, people whom we do not know much about and who may not have done anything of note recently.
Lutheran Pastor Mitri Raheb of Bethlehem, however, is by no means an unknown character in Germany. He has published books there and he has given countless speeches in churches and church-related institutions. On February 19 next, he is scheduled to preach in the Berliner Dom, the principal Protestant church in Berlin, and to deliver a keynote lecture in the afternoon at another major church, the French Dom. Very handy for the award ceremony of the Media Prize on February 24.
To give a taste of his theology, we shall give an extract from a speech that he held in Bethlehem in March 2010. For nearly two years, anyone in the world with a computer, including the people of Media Control, has been able to read this speech and even to listen to it.
Said Mitri Raheb: "Actually, Israel represents Rome of the Bible, not the people of the land. And this is not only because I'm a Palestinian. I'm sure if we were to do a DNA test between David, who was a Bethlehemite, and Jesus, born in Bethlehem, and Mitri, born just across the street from where Jesus was born, I'm sure the DNA will show that there is a trace. While, if you put King David, Jesus and Netanyahu, you will get nothing, because Netanyahu comes from an East European tribe who converted to Judaism in the Middle Ages."
And he continued in this vein. I have written about Raheb's speech in another article, which is available in German. The article was even published in Germany last December by the official "Circle of Friends" in Baden that promotes good relations between German Protestants and the Jewish people (Freundeskreis Kirche und Israel in Baden e.V.). Media Control and its prize-awarding jury should have known about this major aspect of Raheb. Yet his citation for the prize, according to the press announcement, is for being a "quiet peacemaker" who "stands for understanding between Christian, Muslims and Jews" and is "the alternative to violence and radicalization."
Let us paraphrase this citation in words that do not disguise the reality. Raheb is a noisy denier of the very legitimacy of the State of Israel, which he seeks to undermine not by physical violence but by a radical theology that awakes enthusiasm among Christians, Muslims and even a handful of Jews who long to see Israel vanish from the map.
Whereas the Nazis spoke of "race" and "blood," Raheb is modern enough to speak of "DNA," but what is the difference? It is not just that for the Nazis Jews did not belong in Germany because their blood was non-Aryan, whereas for Raheb they do not belong anywhere near him because he thinks their DNA is European. The difference is also that Prof. Roman Herzog represents the new Germany that arose from the ruins of Nazism, yet he is slated to come along on February 24 and praise such a person. A former German president will be praising the man who delegitimizes an elected prime minister for having the wrong DNA.
Prof. Herzog has been placed in an embarrassing position by the decision of Media Control's jury. Since he is doubtless asked to deliver such speeches on many occasions, one cannot expect him personally to research everyone he is supposed to talk about. But the embarrassment goes further. He is also the patron of the Roman Herzog Institute in Munich, created by friends who cherish his ideals. Praise of DNA-theologian Raheb will not bring much honor to that institute nor, for that matter, to Media Control itself.
German-speaking Christians have already begun writing to Prof. Herzog to warn him about what he has got into. We await the response of international Jewish organizations.