The launch of Christian Aid’s 2004 Christmas campaign appeal once again highlights the biased political agenda of this powerful organization regarding the Middle East conflict. Drawing upon powerful Christian imagery and symbolism, Christian Aid headlined its appeal "Child of Bethlehem", concentrating on the story of a seven-year old Palestinian girl living in Bethlehem who was "hit in the eye by shrapnel from a bullet fired by Israeli soldiers." In keeping with previous reports, as analyzed by NGO Monitor, Christian Aid’s focus on sympathy for this child in large subway advertisements and elsewhere erases the context and the dilemmas posed by Israel’s right to defend itself against Palestinian terror.
While Christian Aid operates in over 50 countries, it has chosen to headline this particular case for its Christmas appeal. It is impossible to ignore the emotions that images of a child from Bethlehem conjure among Christians during the Christmas period. It is also clear that Christian Aid has, in a subtle way, linked the suffering of Palestinian Christian children with that of Jesus, who was born in Bethlehem, and to centuries of anti-Semitism and blood libels against the Jewish people.
Indeed, Christian Aid is planning to distribute an 18-page brochure to churches for use as a religious resource to promote this Christmas appeal. The brochure is described as containing "Worship resources which make connections between the Bethlehem of Christ’s birth and the contemporary situation in the Middle East". The brochure acknowledges that "Attacks on Israeli citizens by Palestinians, unreservedly condemned by Christian Aid, continue to impede efforts to build peace". Despite this, Christian Aid has never released any detailed report or campaign focused on the brutality of Palestinian terrorism, demonstrating that this is a secondary issue, at best, on Christian Aid’s pro-Palestinian agenda. Christian Aid continues to promote a highly simplistic and biased "solution to Palestinian poverty" based on "an end to military occupation…" Such a sweeping political claim that places the entire blame on Israel is incorrect, as illustrated by the Arab terrorism and aggression that preceded the "occupation", and clearly outside the professional competence of a charitable organization. The brochure also alleges that Israel’s security barrier and other measures have harmed the Palestinian population, without mentioning the terror that led to these measures.
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.
In another example, Christian Aid has also attempted to engage with the younger generation with the recent launch of its "Pressureworks" website. The website, while promoting Christian Aid in the background, makes no secret of its support for what are regarded as radical causes allied to the anti-globalization movement, describing itself as "direct and fast moving campaigning action for the wired and fired up". The prominence of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is evident from the large photograph of Jerusalem’s Har Homa neighborhood seen behind barbed wire, which dominates the website’s homepage. Drawing attention to Christian Aid’s highly politicized and misleading report "Facts on the ground: The end of the two-state solution?", Pressureworks urges its readers to "Take action now!"(Link has expired) by contacting their MPs and Foreign Office ministers. For this purpose the standard letter condemns Israeli security policies, settlements, the security barrier and "the presence of overwhelming Israeli military force in Palestinian civilian areas, [which] threatens people in the region and beyond." Calling for the dismantling of all settlements, the letter urges the European Union to "take appropriate measures if Israel fails to comply". Nowhere is there a call for Palestinians to put an end to terrorism.
Pressureworks asks "What’s wrong?" in the Middle East, stating 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 Centre", thus attributing the rise of international terrorism to the US and Israel. Pressureworks also features an article on water shortages in the Palestinian areas, relying upon the testimony of the highly politicized Christian Aid partner Palestine Monitor. Unsubstantiated allegations are made accusing Israeli settlers of attacking water tankers and preventing them from getting to Palestinians in need and that "Israeli soldiers have shot and punctured rain-water tanks on the roofs of Palestinian homes."
Christian Aid’s promotion of its anti-Israel agenda is continuing through the organization’s attempt to broaden its appeal beyond its traditional Christian supporters and into the youth market and its ‘trendy’ political causes, thus spreading the demonization of Israel to a new generation. With its Christmas campaign, Christian Aid is acting irresponsibly by mixing religion with its brand of anti-Israel politics, in order to further its own biased agenda.