A leading Christian charity was accused this week of launching a “politicised and biased” anti-Israel Christmas appeal.

Christian and Jewish critics rebuked Christian Aid for focusing on the case of a seven-year-old Bethlehem girl, who lost an eye during a clash between Israeli soldiers and Palestinians. The charity, its critics claim, has hardly mentioned Israeli child victims of Palestinian terror.

In an article headlined, “Child of Bethlehem,” designed to be placed in church magazines, the charity said that the girl, Jessica Safar, had been hit in the eye by shrapnel “from a bullet fired by Israeli soldiers.”

Getting to the hospital “meant passing a checkpoint guarded by the Israeli Army. It was closed and the family waited in desperation.” This, it continued, was “an everyday misery for thousands of Palestinians on their way to work, education or hospital.”

The story should be included in Christmas services, said the charity’s website. It also offered supporters a poster of the injured girl and a star carrying her portrait as a Christmas decoration. “It’s a reminder of Bethlehem and an invitation to pray for peace and justice this Christmas,” said the charity.

Board of Deputies director general Neville Nagler described the charity’s stance as “completely unbalanced and unhelpful when people are hoping for peace in the Middle East. They seem to have an obsession with the Palestinians and fail to do justice to the complexities of the situation and the suffering of kids all over the world.”

The minister of a Christian congregation in Wales, the Rev Mike Fryer, said he had been in Israel and visited a 10-year-old Israeli child who had lost his sight and all of his family in a terrorist attack. “They [Christian Aid] take no account of the plight of such children,” he declared.

A Christian Aid spokesperson said it had chosen the Bethlehem incident because of the special place the town had in the Christmas story. However, she said that the charity was fully aware of the suffering of Israeli children and that its officials had visited an Israeli family who had lost their daughter in a terror attack.

NGO Monitor Response

The Editor
The Jewish Chronicle
25 Furnival Street

19 December 2004

Dear Sir,

Christian Aid’s "Child of Bethlehem" campaign (Campaign sparks anger, JC, 17 Dec.) is but a continuation of this organisation’s anti-Israel politicised agenda, as analysed in detail by NGO Monitor. In contrast to claims to be a charitable and humanitarian organisation, CA’s rhetoric displays a deep hostility towards Israel, while all but ignoring Palestinian terrorism. At the same time, this charity superpower continues to fund and lend legitimacy to a variety of Palestinian policitised partner organisations such as Physicians for Human Rights – Israel, Ittijah and the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, which pursue overtly anti-Israel ideologies.

NGO Monitor has repeatedly attempted to engage in constructive dialogue with Christian Aid in order to separate political agendas from legitimate charitable activities, but has been met with little response. Indeed, the "Child of Bethlehem" represents a dangerous new development, employing religious imagery and symbolism. The leaders of CA apparently fail to understand the damage resulting from exploiting a charitable facade as a political weapon.

Yours faithfully,

Simon Plosker Managing Editor, NGO Monitor