“Anyone who does not recognize the Jewish people and the State of Israel — and their right to exist — is guilty of anti-Semitism.”
Pope Francis I, May 28, 2015
This NGO Monitor report relates to Catholic aid charity funding for non-governmental organizations (NGOs) operating in Israel and the Palestinian Authority, specifically to groups whose activities contribute to political campaigns that demonize and delegitimize the State of Israel.
During his May 2014 visit to the Middle East, Pope Francis I explicitly called for peace between Israelis and Palestinians. His laying a wreath at the tomb of Theodore Herzl sent a powerful and clear message of the Vatican’s recognition of the right of the Jewish people to sovereign equality in a state of their own. The Pontiff’s invitation to the Presidents of Israel, Shimon Peres, and the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, to meet at the Vatican underscores the Pontiff’s wish to see a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Our detailed analysis demonstrates that, in many cases, NGOs funded by Catholic aid charities participate in international boycotts, divestments and sanctions (BDS) campaigns to isolate Israel diplomatically, economically, culturally, and militarily. Leaders of the BDS movement are on record overtly calling for the destruction of the State of Israel (see Appendix IX). As such, in stark contradiction to the Pope’s message, a number of the NGOs receiving Catholic funding openly call for the dismantlement of the State of Israel. Such a position veers the Church away from the peacemaker role of reconciling adversaries by becoming a participant in the conflict.
Further, most of the Catholic aid charities discussed in this report receive a major proportion of their total annual operating budgets from government frameworks in Europe, the United States, and Canada. A portion of these tax-payer funds are meant to be distributed by the Catholic aid societies to humanitarian NGOs around the world for purposes of alleviating human suffering and providing assistance to those in need. In some instances, however, some Catholic aid charities allocate these taxpayer funds to NGOs that enflame conflict, dehumanize Israelis, and delegitimize Israel.
1. NGO Monitor analyzed Catholic charity funding for NGOs claiming to promote peace and human rights in the Arab-Israeli conflict. We document how funds provided by ten Catholic aid societies are often used for highly politicized purposes, including activities that, contrary to the Vatican’s declared goals, intensify the conflict and undermine genuine efforts for peace.
2. The period studied is 2008 – 2014. We determined that an estimated €7.4 million 1 (approximately $10.1 million) was allocated to some 37 highly politicized NGOs as described above.
3. Due to a marked lack of transparency, a complete picture of the flow of funds from Catholic aid societies to politicized NGOs cannot be presented. Funding decision-making processes are unknown outside the aid agencies. Often, various Catholic aid agencies are listed by beneficiary NGOs as donors, but funding amounts are not available on the grantee’s or Catholic charities’ websites.
4. While Catholic aid agencies receive taxpayer funds, they are not accountable to them. Taxpayers are unable to assess the criteria, if any, used to evaluate the competency and effectiveness of the NGO recipients, and whether their taxes are being used appropriately.
5. Most of the Catholic aid agencies in this study are members of Caritas Internationalis. Others, such as Broederlijk Delen (Belgium), Misereor (Germany), and Pax (Netherlands), are independent of the Caritas Internationalis network.
6. With 164 chapters around the world, Caritas Internationalis is headquartered in Rome and comes under Pontifical jurisdiction. These chapters are country-based, and the activities on which they focus vary. Projects respond to both domestic and international needs such as emergency aid, support for immigrants and women, climate change, and “peace and reconciliation.” When it comes to the latter, Caritas chapters range from supporting projects with a strictly humanitarian focus to involving themselves in complex and controversial political issues embedded in the Arab-Israeli conflict.
7. The ten charities2 covered in this report are:
I. Caritas Internationalis and the following Caritas members:
II. Catholic Agency for Overseas Development (U.K. – Caritas member)
III. Catholic Relief Services (U.S. – Caritas member)
IV. Cordaid (Netherlands – Caritas member)
V. Development and Peace/Développement et Paix (Canada – Caritas member)
VI. Secours Catholique (France – Caritas member)
VII. Trócaire (Ireland – Caritas member)
The remaining three are:
I. Broederlijk Delen (Belgium)
II. Misereor (Germany)
III. Pax (Netherlands)
8. All these aid societies, to varying degrees, fund a range of NGOs engaged in highly politicized and biased activities in the Arab-Israeli conflict. Of these, four stand out for their consistent funding and promotion of the political war against Israel:
i. Trócaire (Caritas Ireland): Trócaire funds NGOs that support BDS, including Badil and ICAHD. In the period studied, NGO Monitor was able to discover an estimated €573,000 that Trócaire donated to these and similar NGOs (most funding data is unavailable). In September 2013, Trócaire was a co-sponsor of the “International Right of Return Conference,” which featured speakers from these groups and was organized by Zochrot. The conference focused on the logistical and demographic reality of a complete return of all Palestinian refugees from the 1948 Arab-Israel war and their descendants to modern Israel, leading to a single bi-national state. This would necessarily mean that Israel, as the national homeland of the Jewish people, would cease to exist. In 2013 Trócaire received €18.5 million from Irish Aid, the Irish government’s assistance program for developing countries. The UK government contributed to Trócaire a grant of €5.2 million, and the EU/ECHO contributed to Trócaire €3.6 million.
ii. Broederlijk Delen (Belgium): Most of the NGOs receiving Broederlijk Delen funds participate in global political warfare campaigns against Israel. These NGOs support BDS efforts, and many oppose a two-state framework for resolving the conflict. Broederlijk Delen beneficiaries include, but are not limited to, Zochrot, Badil, and Coalition of Women for Peace. In the period studied, Broederlijk Delen granted €913,000 to these and similar NGOs (some funding data is unavailable). Broederlijk Delen was listed as a co-sponsor of the above mentioned 2013 “International Right of Return Conference.” Broederlijk Delen has been granted millions of euros from the Belgian government, receiving €3.6 million in 2012.
iii. Cordaid (Caritas Netherlands): Most of the NGOs receiving Cordaid funds participate in global political warfare campaigns against Israel, supporting BDS efforts and opposing a two-state solution. In the period studied, Cordaid provided an estimated €1.1 million to these NGOs (some funding data is unavailable). Cordaid joined a coalition of 22 European NGOs in producing the monograph “Trading Away Peace: How Europe Helps Sustain Illegal Israeli Settlements.” The report repeats the BDS agenda, calling on the EU and national governments to wage political warfare against Israel through various forms of economic sanctions. Cordaid has been granted millions of euros from the Dutch government, receiving €69.9 million in 2012.
iv. Misereor (Germany): Most of the NGOs receiving Misereor funds participate in global political warfare campaigns against Israel, some supporting BDS and opposing a two-state solution. In the period studied, NGO Monitor was able to discover an estimated €337,530 that Misereor donated to such NGOs (much funding data is unavailable). Misereor was also listed as a co-sponsor of the above mentioned 2013 “International Right of Return Conference,” organized by Zochrot. Misereor contributed an aggregate of ?393,282 (approximately €83,000 ) to Zochrot in 2011 – 2012. Misereor has been granted millions of euros from the German government, receiving €116.6 million in 2012.
The Vatican has a unique opportunity to act as a peacemaker in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. As Christians who care about the Holy Land and the peoples and faiths living there, the Church holds a genuine potential for positive influence in the Middle East.
A substantial amount of funds provided by Catholic aid agencies, however, is working at cross-purposes to the peacemaking role of the Church. Many of the NGOs receiving these funds are acting against peace in that they actively work toward the goal of dismantling the State of Israel.
In the interest of furthering the prospects of peace between Israelis and Palestinians, and on the basis of the detailed analysis provided in this report, NGO Monitor urges the Vatican to review its policies regarding the funding of NGOs active in the Arab-Israeli conflict. Specifically, NGO Monitor counsels the Vatican to
1. formulate explicit criteria that should be met by all NGOs seeking funding from Catholic aid agencies. These criteria would disallow funding to NGOs that engage in demonization, BDS, and other anti-Israel activities, which are contrary to and incompatible with the message of peace and reconciliation conveyed by the Pontiff during his historic visit to Israel, the Palestinian Authority, and Jordan.
2. communicate these mandatory criteria to those Catholic aid agencies involved in funding such NGOs;
3. dissuade Catholic aid agencies from participating in BDS and other delegitimizing campaigns against Israel;
4. increase transparency significantly in the reporting of funding for all NGOs active in the Arab-Israeli conflict.