Dec 07- Jan 08: NGO Monitor Correspondence with Christian Peacemaker Teams, December 2007 - January 2008 [UPDATED]
In December 2007, NGO Monitor sent its draft report on the Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT), to the NGO for a response. CPT responded that it "does not agree with the views that you express in your report about our work. You ….ignored other articles we published such as ones about our visit to Sderot and about the Israeli army’s provision of water to Palestinian residents of Wadi Ghroos." However CPT failed to provide these reports to NGO Monitor when requested. The following is the email correspondence with CPT (To view the latest portion of the correspondence, which took place after the publication of NGO Monitor’s report, click here.):
December 25, 2007
Dear Mr. Pritchard
NGO Monitor’s mission is to promote critical debate and accountability of human rights NGOs in the Arab-Israeli conflict. In many cases, established humanitarian NGOs produce reports and conduct campaigns that stand in contradiction to their own mission statements claiming to uphold universal human rights values. The aim of NGO Monitor is to provide information and analysis, in order to challenge such interpretations and the perceptions that have been built up, by fostering a comprehensive debate on critical issues.
As part of this mission, NGO Monitor has recently completed a report on Christian Peacemaker Teams’ activities in Israel and the Palestinian Territories. As per your request, we are sending you a draft of this report (attached as WORD document here), and would appreciate it if you would read it and offer any comments or criticisms you might have. The report’s publication date is set for December 31, 2007; we would like to publish a CPT response at the same time.
Thank you for your consideration.
Dear Gerald Steinberg,
Thank you for your email and the copy of the Draft Report about Christian
Peacemaker Teams work in Israel/Palestine.
Christian Peacemaker Teams does not agree with the views that you express in your
report about our work. You have been highly selective in your reporting and have,
for example, ignored other articles we published such as ones about our visit to
Sderot and about the Israeli army’s provision of water to Palestinian residents of
CPT attempts to be attentive to the truth held by every party to a conflict. To that
end we regularly meet with and advocate for both Palestinians and Israelis facing
violence in the current situation.
However, we respect your right to hold your own opinions on this.
Christian Peacemaker Teams
January 1, 2008
Dear Mr. Pritchard,
NGO Monitor’s primary goal is to promote critical debate, and we appreciate your taking the time to review our report and to respond to us.
You mention articles that CPT has published concerning your visit to Sderot, as well as the Israeli army’s provision of water to Palestinian residents of Wadi Ghroos. I was not able to find these on your website. If you could forward them to us so that we can consider them for the report, we would appreciate it.
In addition to your concerns about these omissions, are there specific factual errors or disagreements which you have with our reporting on CPT’s activities and programs?
If there might perhaps be the possibility for you or a representative from CPT to meet with us in our offices in Jerusalem, or at a convenient location in Jerusalem, to discuss the issues raised in the report face to face, we would be eager to do so. Please tell me if this possibility interests you.
Response from CPT received after publication of report, and NGO Monitor’s reply
January 10, 2008
The links to the articles mentioned are http://www.cpt.org/cptnet/2007/09/17/hebron-water-israeli-army and http://www.cpt.org/cptnet/2007/08/31/sderot-reflection-where-rockets-still-fall. I hope these are of interest.
Christian Peacemaker Teams
Dear Mr. Pritchard,
Thank you for responding and for the links to these CPT reports, which we have read with interest, and which were not posted when we did our research. The two articles differ considerably in substance and tone. My comments are as follows:
"Hebron: Water from the Israeli Army" (Sept. 14, 2007).,
"…CPT had learned [from an authoritative source with the Hebron Land Defense Committee-a Palestinian organization] that, earlier in the year, Israel had diverted most of the West Bank water supply from the Bethlehem area to an Israeli settlement bloc, known as Gush Etzion, and from there on to Israel."
This statement actually demonstrates the anti-Israel bias that we found in much of CPT’s reporting, as documented in NGO Monitor’s analysis. It is unfortunate that, rather than treating the question of water distribution and usage in the West Bank in all its complexities, CPT instead repeated unsubstantiated claims by the Hebron Land Defense Committee, whose credibility would be questioned by any neutral observer. In contrast, CPT cites it as an "authoritative source" and the result is a distorted report, which is inconsistent with constructive dialogue and peace-building.
We also note that a member of CPT, Alwyn Knight, participated in a written exchange on this complex issue (water in the West Bank) with Ardie Geldman, an Israeli resident of Efrat, following a CPT delegation’s visit to this community. This correspondence began on Sept. 24, 2007, shortly after the publication of this CPT report, and also repeated claims by NGOs whose credibility is very low. NGO Monitor posted the exchange in full, and we will encourage and welcome similar exchanges via blogs, email, and elsewhere that provide balance, context and dialogue that has been absent in CPT’s activities.
Regarding ‘Sderot Reflection: Where rockets still fall’ (August 31, 2007): CPT is to be commended for sending a delegation to Sderot to document rocket attacks against Israeli civilians. It is unfortunate, however, that this otherwise constructive report included this conclusion:
"Please remember the children growing up in Sderot. And their anxious parents and grandparents. And of course their neighbours on the other side of the Gaza border, whose despair and powerlessness directs those rockets. They all cry out for our prayerful understanding."
This statement is inconsistent with CPT’s primary commitment to non-violence, and demonstrates the same tendency to excuse terrorists from responsibility that we found in other CPT reports, as documented in NGO Monitor’s analysis.
CPT’s website FAQ section ("Palestine" page)
In addition, I would draw your attention to the Frequently Asked Questions on the website "Palestine" page, which was also not posted on your site when we did our research.
Are all Hamas Muslims suicide bombers?
Hamas is a religious renewal movement in Islam that was initially supported by Israel as a way to balance Fatah. Hamas also has major social service programs in the refugee camps. There is a small military wing of Hamas.
This is yet another example of CPT’s selective approach to the condemnation of violence. The answer omits the fact that Hamas’ Charter (including all its "wings") advocates the destruction of the State of Israel through armed struggle, and that Hamas is continually involved in terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians.
Another FAQ is as follows:
What do the Christian churches in Palestine think about the situation?
Christian churches in Palestine are peopled by Palestinians who are occupied people, too. Many have fled to Europe or the US to escape a deplorable situation. They would like other Christians to hear their voice
This description ignores ongoing persecution of Palestinian Christians by the Palestinian Authority (see examples here and here). As Justus Weiner points out in his 2005 study, Human Rights of Christians in Palestinian Society,
"…Their plight is, in part, attributable to the adoption of Muslim religious law (Sharia) in the Constitution of the Palestinian Authority. Moreover, the Christians have been abandoned by their religious leaders who, instead of protecting them, have chosen to curry favor with the Palestinian leadership."
Once more CPT has presented a flawed, misleading picture that demonizes Israel.
Maintaining an open dialogue
As stated in earlier correspondence, NGO Monitor’s mission is to promote critical debate and accountability of human rights NGOs in the Arab-Israeli conflict. To further this goal, we hope to have an open channel of communication with NGOs. While we stand behind our criticism of CPT’s activities and reporting, we welcome a continued dialogue between us.