Caritas Internationalis (“Caritas”), a self-described “Catholic agency for overseas aid and development,” devotes much of its activities to being an outspoken cheerleader of the Palestinian cause, while there are few Israeli responses to Palestinian terror that does not “appall,” “affront,” “shock,” or “deeply concern” its sensibilities.
Caritas was founded as a local organization in Freiburg, Germany, in 1897. National Caritas organizations in Switzerland (1901) and the United States (1910) soon followed. In December 1951, the first constitutive General Assembly of Caritas Internationalis took place with founding members coming from 13 national organizations. Today, operating out of its Vatican City headquarters, Caritas consists of a confederation of 154 Catholic relief, development, and social service organizations working in 198 countries and territories. (On its web site, Catholic Charities, the American affiliate, does not credit Caritas in any of its own projects in “Jerusalem, the West Bank, and Gaza.”)
Caritas’ mission statement speaks of building “a better world, especially for the poor and oppressed.” While these various organizations are autonomous and carry out local activities independently, in the event of an emergency or other major circumstances, the international organization, joined by other local organizations, stands ready to help. Based on the “social teachings of the church,” Caritas’ mandate includes integral development, emergency relief, advocacy, peace building, respect for human rights, and support for proper stewardship of the planet’s environment and resources. Additionally, Caritas works to promote the “globalization of solidarity” through advocacy. The primary purpose is to have an effect on policy makers at the local, national, regional, and international levels. Its current advocacy issues relate to Israel and the Palestinians (Caritas uses the term, “Palestine”), Iraqi sanctions (Not only does Caritas disapprove of American efforts to effect regime change in Iraq; it opposes existing UN sanctions, too.), the United Nations Conference on Financing for Development, Sierra Leone, Third World debt, and international trade.
Throughout 2002, Caritas Internationalis and its regional daughter organizations, such as Caritas Australia and Caritas Jerusalem, issued many press releases, letters, statements, and position papers strongly condemning Israel while highlighting the Palestinians as innocent victims of a brutal military campaign. Moreover, Caritas proudly promoted its “solutions” for the conflict and called for Israel to abandon land for the sake of “peace.” No mention was made as to how Israel may defend itself from the Palestinian leadership, Hamas, and Islamic Jihad, who remain uninterested in living in peace with the Israeli people.
The organization’s mantra, repeated frequently, reads: “As long as the illegal occupation of Palestine continues there will be no peace…. [T]he occupation – not terrorism – is the root cause of the problem.” The organization blames the Palestinians’ economic and societal woes, such as the dire unemployment levels and underdeveloped infrastructure, on the “military occupation of the Palestinian territories and the policies associated with it.” Similarly, an ongoing Caritas program aimed at influencing a peace settlement between Israel and the Palestinians is titled: “End the Occupation: For Peace in the Holy Land.” Both the local and visiting Caritas representatives claim to be affronted by the closed roads, security checkpoints, and imposed blockades. It “sounds humanitarian alarms” and make accusations of children and women being randomly shot, the “showering of missiles on civilian areas and tanks causing widespread terror,” and the “harassment, physical abuse and humiliation of Palestinians of all ages.” The workers also bemoan the Israel Defense Forces’ meticulous scrutiny even of human rights and aid organizations.
Caritas currently hosts a “Campaign on Palestine” that includes a special “Task Force on Palestine” purported to: “focus on the human face to suffering as a result of the policy of closure. After illustrating the impact on health, education, work, water and other areas, it will call for the abolishment of this policy of sealing off the Occupied Territories, the immediate lifting of the ongoing economic and social blockade (closure), and, ultimately, the implementation of the United Nations resolutions on Palestine.” Caritas Jerusalem and the Catholic Agency for Overseas Development (CAFOD), the English and Welsh arm of Caritas, are guiding the campaign. Although the campaign seeks to provide assistance for the Palestinian civilians, Caritas falls short in providing a viable solution. Caritas should turn its attention on the suicide bombings, the popular support of extremist groups, and Yasser Arafat’s unwillingness to stop the terrorism, but instead its prescription is a continuous demand of an immediate end to the occupation and an international monitoring presence in the West Bank and Gaza.
As part of its crusade to bring peace to the Holy Land, Caritas has sponsored several fact-finding missions and many aid distribution tours to the “occupied territories.” Not surprisingly, having been guided along on their visit by their Palestinian hosts, the journeyers return eager to report on the utter brutality of the Israeli military against innocent Palestinians. The following is a quote taken from an Eyewitness Report on Jenin:
One walks quite differently in such a space. A comparison to Ground Zero in New York is automatic as you sense yourself at Ground Jenin. What destruction! What forces have combated each other here! What devastation to families, friends, futures! What happened here? What really happened here?
http://www.carod.org.uk/news/ palestine_eyewitnessjenin.shtml (Link has expired)
To compare the horrific terrorist attacks of September 11 with Israel’s attempts to defend its citizens from an organized campaign of violence against men, women, children, and infants is outrageous. In Jenin Israel demonstrated that it goes to unprecedented lengths to avoid civilian casualties – and 23 soldiers were killed as a result. Instead of launching strikes from the safety of the skies to destroy the architects of numerous homicide bombings against Israelis, the IDF relied upon house-to-house combat. Instead, Caritas continues to rage against the “massacre” in Jenin, even after a UN fact-finding team and body reported that no such atrocity took place and the Palestinian reports of 500 dead were exaggerated tenfold. A statement by Caritas New Zealand argued:
A state that does not safeguard the inviolable rights of the human person but which also takes human lives accused are just as abhorrent as the action of Palestinian suicide bombers…. The word ‘terrorist’ has become a label, used to justify retaliatory acts of terror. In an occupied land, has the Israeli force over recent weeks, or indeed since 1967, inspired any less terror than the Palestinian suicide bombers whom they seek to destroy? Across the world, governments, organizations, and individuals are calling upon Israel to step back from its path of escalation and destruction. http://www.caritas.org/nz/world/Palestine/ Bishop_Statement_Palestine.htm (Link has expired)
Another delegation visited Jerusalem, the West Bank, and Gaza to judge the situation and report back to the friends and followers of Caritas. In Message from Jerusalem they reported:
We wish to express our shock and sadness at the humiliating treatment of the Palestinian people at the hands of the Israeli Government. We experienced the gross violations of human rights, summary curfews, the erection of barbed wire fences around Palestinian villages, severely curtailing the free movement of people and economic and social life, and now the building of a wall, higher and longer than the Berlin Wall, and the division of the West Bank and Gaza into what were described to us as ‘bantustans’ with daily permits needed to go from one section to another. Indeed, the analogy with apartheid was often evoked. The delegation condemns the collective punishment of a whole people to avenge the violence of a minority of extremists. http://www.caritas.org.nz/world/Palestine/ jerusalem_statement.htm (Link has expired)
Caritas represents Israel as an evil state directing an unjust war against an innocent people. Not only does Caritas morph the actions and motivations of an Israeli democracy into a malicious aggressor, the organization alternatively ignores the complicity in terror of the authoritarian Palestinian leadership, its organizations, or other groups operating in the West Bank and Gaza, or blames the Israelis, the victims, for provoking such attacks.
Until it demonstrates basic elements of accuracy and fairness, diplomats, media, and other distinguished individuals must afford Caritas no credibility in remarking on the violence in and around Israel.