Christian Aid: Anti-Israel Message Continues with Less Intensity
SUMMARY: NGO Monitor has documented Christian Aid’s disproportionate focus and biased approach to Israel and its pattern of erasing the context of terrorism. The organization, that claims to "further charitable purposes, which relieve or combat malnutrition, hunger, disease, sickness or distress throughout the world", promotes its political agenda under the guise of humanitarian aims. These activities provide support and legitimacy to political campaigns such as the divestment effort.
The beginning of 2005 saw a reduction in the intensity of Christian Aid’s anti-Israel campaigning – after its 2004 Christmas appeal, "Child of Bethlehem", was widely criticized for its very biased approach and showing an insensitivity to anti-Semitic themes. The charity published two articles early in 2005 on Israeli-Palestinian issues: "Parents’ Circle – Hijacking the conflict with peace" in February and "If people are shooting at you every day, you don’t worry about rotten teeth" in March. Although the latter presented a stereotypical portrayal of Israelis as aggressors and Palestinians as victims, these pieces focused on humanitarian issues in the context of the conflict, a positive change from Christian Aid’s aggressive political campaigning. Despite a somewhat lower public profile, during 2005 (to date) the charity has not changed its political agenda on the Middle East.
The unbalanced and extremist political filters were evident in a March website posting entitled "A House Divided" consisting of a video and report on the effect of the security barrier on a Palestinian woman and her family. Although the article briefly states that "Israel has an absolute right to defend its citizens from attack", this did not balance the clearly biased parting words of the woman in the video that there is "nothing about security here". The main thrust of the piece that the barrier is responsible for "two of the underlying causes of Palestinian poverty", (reduced access to land and restrictions on their freedom of movement) negates any responsibility on the part of the Palestinian leadership.
April saw the publication of a "news" article, "Israeli strikes cost British tax payers millions", where Christian Aid claims that Israeli actions in Gaza and the West Bank have destroyed £16m worth of EU-sponsored infrastructure. The charity completely ignores the context of conflict and Palestinian terror campaign in its analysis, and claims – in the face of all the evidence to the contrary — that "the military strikes… have done nothing to provide security for Israelis". In August, the "news" article entitled "Sharon confirms fears of further Israeli expansion in the West Bank" is a further example of an ostensibly humanitarian organization involved in biased political campaigning.
The continued prominence of Israel on the Christian Aid website shows the charity’s preoccupation with this issue. Of five recent world emergencies, the Tsunami (that killed tens of thousands of people) is followed by the "Middle East", including 3 articles on Iraq, 9 on Israel, Gaza and the West Bank and none on Egypt or Lebanon. All the archive links at the side of the page are to Christian Aid publications on Israel and the territories, many of which have previously been analyzed by NGO-monitor and found to be inaccurate and politically biased. The website is also used as a platform for the charity’s extremist Palestinian partners. "On the streets of Gaza", published in August, is written by Raji Sourani, Director of the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights. PCHR core anti-Israel political objectives are reflected in many of its activities. Similarly, this article makes little pretence at humanitarian concerns, and pushes its extremist political agenda, arguing that “’disengagement’ means that the suffering of the occupation will continue".
Christian Aid also provides support and is directly linked to Sabeel, a Palestinian NGO leading the anti-Israel divestment campaign and similar activities. Indeed, two prominent members of Christian Aid’s leadership provide legitimacy and support for Sabeel’s activities in the UK.
The obsession with the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, at the expense of other much more urgent humanitarian causes, is also reflected in Christian Aid’s youth activism website, pressureworks.org. Pressureworks has three "focus" articles on major world issues: HIV/Aids, World Debt and Israel, with the latter taking the headline spot. The project "Soft Focus, Hard Cell" aims to "document daily experiences in the OPT" through mobile phone photography. However, it has in fact provided another forum for political propaganda by anti-Israel campaigners such as ICAHD and the Palestinian Medical Relief Society. The descriptions of the photos completely erase the context of conflict, thus eradicating any credibility of this already subjective exercise. Photos depict "Abu Sneineh’s destroyed house", "Israeli soldiers and members of the Christian Peacemaker Team escort[ing] children from school in Al-Twani, to protect them from settlers" and "This is Hassan…. his landlord has raised his rent, presumably in order to get him out; probably to make way for the settlers". In a section entitled "what you can do", Christian Aid promotes ICAHD activities, another partner organization that justifies terrorism and promotes "apartheid" rhetoric. And in its July story, "Knocked down and Locked out" written by the Action Advocacy Office for ICAHD, pressureworks.org effectively acts as a political mouthpiece for ICAHD campaigning.
Christian Aid’s extensive political activities go beyond words and videos. In July, the charity held a "retreat conference on Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories". Supposedly a time for prayer and education about the conflict, the list of invited speakers demonstrate the harsh agenda:
- Graham Sparkes, head of "Faith and Unity" at the Baptist Union and is involved in the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI) that supports "nonviolent resistance" to "end the occupation", including "monitoring and reporting violations of human rights and international humanitarian law".
- Sarah Malian, communications officer for the Middle East at Christian Aid (this office has been leading the public relations aspect of the attacks on Israeli legitimacy)
- Pat Rantisi who lives in Ramallah, is connected to Sabeel
- Richard Burden MP, chair of the All Party Britain-Palestine Group in Parliament.
This serves as yet another example of bias and ideologically-based campaigning.
Taken together, these examples of Christian Aid’s activities to date in 2005 demonstrate the continued emphasis on anti-Israel propaganda campaigns and its blatant bias.