The "season of goodwill" is also the time for extensive charitable campaigns, and Christian Aid is one of the major organizations active in this area. This winter, its Christmas appeal was based on the theme of "Child of Bethlehem", featuring the story of a seven-year-old Palestinian child, who has lost an eye, allegedly as a result of Israeli security actions within the city. Pictures of this child and descriptions of her plight are prominently displayed in underground stations and elsewhere, and sympathetic Brits are opening their hearts and their cheque books with donations to Christian Aid.
The main problem with such campaigns, however, is the political bias that they not only reflect but actually promote. Charitable activities to alleviate suffering are very noble; efforts to merge charitable themes with controversial political campaigns are not. Victims of the bitter Arab-Israeli conflict are found on both sides – more than 1,000 Israelis have been killed by Palestinian terror attacks over the past four years. Yet Christian Aid, which used a similar political theme last year ("Peace under siege") chooses consistently to emphasize only one side, that of the Palestinian cause, while contributing to the vilification of Israel.
And this year, very poignant religious symbolism has been added, drawing upon the emotive attachment of Christians to the birthplace of Jesus. This campaign marks a dangerous departure, adding Christian scripture and religious symbolism to the ingredients of the volatile cocktail of-anti-Israel propaganda that is being promoted widely under the guise of humanitarian assistance.
Boasting an income of nearly £60m, including donations from governmental sources such as the department for international development, Christian Aid’s political and ideological influence is not to be taken lightly. In its activities related to this conflict, Christian Aid repeats an entirely pro-Palestinian version of history. Similarly, when Christian Aid organizes tours for MPs and VIPs, the route is also one-sided. Spending most of their time in the company of "Palestinian activists", with little or no contact with, or explanation of Israeli actions to halt terrorism, MPs such as Oona King and Jenny Tonge return with a simplistic view of the conflict. A Christian Aid press release of May 28 stated this visit was designed "to enable politicians to see for themselves the everyday experiences of both Palestinians and Israelis". However, the Israeli side is missing – reinforcing a highly simplistic and distorted political view. Surely, this is not consistent with the mission of a major charity.
Christian Aid’s contribution to the demonization of Israel extends to its periodic publications. These consistently repeat the distorted Palestinian version of history elevating the 1967 war which resulted in "the occupation" to a prime cause, rather than the result, of the much longer Arab effort to "wipe Israel off the map". An October 2004 report, "Facts on the ground: The end of the two-state solution," is blatantly partisan and focuses on issues entirely outside of this group’s competence.
Christian Aid’s political emphasis is also reflected in its Pressureworks website, aimed at the younger population, which promotes the slogans of the radical anti-globalization movement. Claiming that "Osama bin Laden refers to US support of the Israelis as one of the main reasons for his 9/11 attack on the world trade center", Christian Aid Implores web surfers to write to their MPs and the foreign secretary to call for an end to Israel’s security barrier and for the EU to take "appropriate measures" if Israel does not dismantle settlements. Nowhere in Christian Aid’s standard letter is there recognition of Palestinian terrorism.
As a religious charity Christian Aid’s position on terrorism and its attempt to equate perpetrator and victim are also highly disturbing. In a press release dated 30 January 2004, this organization declared: "Ten Israelis were killed and more than 50 injured yesterday when a suicide bomber struck close to Ariel Sharon’s residence in Jerusalem. Hours before, eight Palestinians were killed during an Israeli incursion into a suburb of Gaza City." The Israeli civilians killed in a deliberate and murderous act of terrorism are no different from the Palestinian terrorists.
Christian Aid’s political objectives and bias are also reflected in its regional partners. Examples include the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, which played a prominent role in the demonization of Israel during the Durban conference on racism in September 2001. Other Christian Aid partners have demonstrated a clear anti-Israel political agenda, including Adalah, Physicians for Human Rights – Israel, the Union of Palestinian Medical Committees, and Palestine Monitor, which was found to be closely associated with justification of terror.
It goes without saying that humanitarian organizations can contribute a great deal to alleviating the suffering of Palestinians and Israelis. But when organizations such as Christian Aid join the attack to vilify Israel, they lose credibility and undermine the very causes that they claim to promote. Such blatant and biased political campaigns undermine the message of "goodwill to all men (and women)".