11 March 2005
With relations between Christian Aid and supporters of Israel having come under a good deal of strain in recent times, the charity’s director, Dr Daleep Mukarji, sets out his organisation’s position in relation to Israel and the Palestinians.
Christian Aid’s purpose is to challenge the scandal of poverty – and its causes. This is why we fight for the rights of dalits, the outcast community in India. It is why we work in Brazil with the landless and why we work in Africa to end conflicts.
These are all examples of systems and situations that make and keep people poor.
In fact, it is why Christian Aid started in the first place, in 1945 – as a response of the churches here to the horrors and trauma faced by European refugees. Help was given then, as it is today, on the strict basis of need — not creed. Many of those we worked with, and for, of course, were Jewish.
Today, we remain true to this principle. We work to tackle poverty – whoever is affected by it.
That is why we work in occupied Palestinian territories, where we have witnessed the humanitarian crisis behind the headlines: malnutrition, poverty and despair.
any people in the Gaza Strip are now living on an average of less than around £1 a day and, in some parts of Gaza, unemployment is topping 80 per cent.
Movement for Palestinians between towns and villages remains severely restricted. Mili-tary checkpoints and roadblocks make life a constant struggle. The new separation barrier and ever-expanding settlements in the West Bank make free movement all but impossible – cutting farmers off from their land and effectively locking many Palestinians into an open prison.
Suicide bombings and missile attacks by Palestinian terrorists have deprived Israelis of a feeling of safety. We know from Israeli colleagues the fear they feel going about their daily lives. Today, travelling by bus or picking up children from school is a trauma.
Christian Aid unreservedly condemns the suicide bombings and attacks on Israeli civilians by Palestinians, as do our partners in both the occupied territories and Israel.
Israel’s right to recognition and safety for all its citizens, as well as the right to independent economic development, is not in question. Christian Aid believes that the Palestinian people should be afforded these rights as well.
Our work in Israel and the occupied territories has led some to question our intentions and even to accuse us of bias bordering on anti-Semitism, or, at the very least, contributing to it.
We believe we need to speak out on how some of the actions of the government of Israel have contributed to the poverty, suffering, unemployment and destruction of Palestinian society and infrastructure. We also believe the Palestinian Authority, with its history of corruption, has not tackled poverty and has also consistently violated human rights standards.
Palestinians have themselves called for reform of their Authority. Both parties must be held accountable for their violations of human rights and international law.
Last year, Neville Nagler, the then director general of the Board of Deputies, kindly wrote to Christian Aid to say: “I am perfectly happy to confirm that the Board of Deputies has never challenged the integrity of Christian Aid in regard to its views over Israel. We do not necessarily agree with Christian Aid’s approach but we have never sought to suggest that Christian Aid is motivated by anti-Semitism.”
We have criticised Israeli government policies in the past and will continue to do so as we see fit – just as we criticise other governments whose polices cause suffering and poverty, including our own, here in the UK.
We cannot just be a fire-fighting relief agency that ignores the causes of poverty. Thus, Christian Aid urges European states, particularly the UK and Ireland, to work for a just and lasting peace. It calls on the international community to address the causes of Palestinian poverty.
With the election of Mahmoud Abbas and the renewed efforts by both sides to move towards negotiations, we hope we are entering a new phase in the Middle East. We must not be complacent. The removal of settlements from Gaza is welcome – but must not be accompanied by a consolidation of settlements in the West Bank. One of the reasons the optimism of Oslo turned sour was because of the doubling of the number of settlers and the entrenchment of Palestinian poverty.
It is incumbent upon all of us, Christian, Jewish or Muslim, to do all within our power to ensure that a peace is achieved based on justice and respect for all. To do otherwise would be another blow against a land we all hold dear.
13 March 2005
The Jewish Chronicle
25 Furnival Street
Daleep Mukharji’s defence of Christian Aid presents a very limited version of his organisation’s obsessive political campaign against Israel. But an analysis of these ostensibly charitable activities cannot ignore the massive "Child of Bethlehem" Christmas campaign, which drew upon sensitive religious symbolism for a biased attack on Israeli policy. And only a few weeks ago, an expensive advertisement appeared on the front page of The Guardian which condemned Israel’s security barrier, while erasing Palestinian terror from the picture. Contrary to Dr. Mukharji’s claims, NGO Monitor (www.ngo-monitor.org), has shown how Christian Aid consistently uses its considerable resources to attack Israel in campaigns, reports, press releases and advertisements.
Furthermore, in defending these activities in the Jewish Chronicle, Mukarji pays lip service to denouncing terror and corruption within the Palestinian Authority. But elsewhere, Christian Aid ignores Palestinian responsibility for their situation, which even the World Bank has acknowledged is a result of far more than just Israeli policies. Christian Aid even went as far as to criticize the London conference on Palestinian reform saying that it did not do enough to ‘end Israeli occupation’. Mukarji claims to be working to tackle poverty – but the reality is that Christian Aid’s leadership is far more concerned with promoting its political agenda. These activities undermine the assertions that CA is a humanitarian organisation.
In summary, Dr. Daleep Mukarji’s very partial justification cannot divert attention away from his organisation’s consistent anti-Israel political agenda.
Managing Editor, NGO Monitor (www.ngo-monitor.org)
Dr Daleep Mukarji’s spirited defence of Christian Aid (“Our Enemy is Poverty,” JC, March 11) should have mentioned its recent “campaigns” intended to convince us that Palestinian poverty is entirely the fault of the Israeli government.
The statistic that Palestinians subsist on £1 a day derives not from Christian Aid but from the World Bank — which concluded that the poverty in the region is due to a combination of closures and appalling corruption on the part of the Palestinian Authority.
Corruption starts at the top. Last year, when everyone (including Al Jazeera) had accepted that Yasir Arafat was swindling his people, Christian Aid still took delegations to visit and honour this man — who kept his people in poverty.
As a Christian, it saddens me that money donated to this organisation in good faith should be deflected into simplistic political posturing instead of being used to benefit the Palestinians themselves.
According to Hazon Yeshaya, a wonderful charity that runs soup kitchens in Jerusalem and elsewhere, one in five Israeli children goes to bed hungry. Hazon Yeshaya gives them their only hot meal of the day. So how exactly does Christian Aid work to alleviate such poverty in Israel itself? Its website clearly shows who it considers its Israeli “partners” — political activists and not poverty-relief agencies. How much more beneficial it would be if Christian Aid decided to redirect the 10 per cent of its donations it uses for such divisive “political” campaigns into actually alleviating poverty.