Summary: In December 2005 NGO Monitor published a comprehensive update on Christian Aid (CA). It detailed extensive involvement in anti-Israel political campaigns, close links with radical partner NGO’s such as ICAHD the influence of Bishop Gladwin, Chair of the Board of Trustees of Christian Aid and patron of UK Friends of Sabeel, and the role in the divestment campaign.
An agreement between Christian Aid and the UK Chief Rabbi in the same month was seen to signal a change in this NGO’s political role. Following highly controversial campaigns, such as the 2004 " Child of Bethlehem" Christmas appeal, representatives of Christian Aid assured the Chief Rabbi that it "is taking seriously its responsibility to not cause offence to the Jewish community."
However, as the following report demonstrates, there has been little evidence of change in Christian’s Aid’s approach, or abuse of its charitable status to promote a radical political agenda. While the volume of anti-Israel material going far beyond legitimate criticism has decreased in the past year, publications continue to portray an extreme one-sided view that ignores Palestinian corruption and terrorism, and demonizes Israel. The links between Hamas, which took power following elections in January, and terrorism, are largely erased, as is the commitment to the destruction of Israel. At the same time, CA’s cooperation with the discredited NGO known as Sabeel and other groups, promotes the framework for divestment and the wider pro-Palestinian agenda. These activities exacerbate conflict and ignore the "root causes" of poverty that CA claims to tackle.
In January 2006, following Palestinian elections, Hamas became the dominant power in the PA, but the role of this group in terror and incitement was not reflected in Christian Aid’s biased reporting and ideologically determined analysis. On February 3, 2006 Christian Aid’s press release entitled "Aid cuts will hit Palestinians" claimed that "Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories is the main cause of Palestinian poverty. While aid is a necessary lifeline for the Palestinians, it can only address the symptoms of the occupation rather than bring about a lasting solution to poverty." As in the past, there was no mention of the history of Palestinian rejectionism, violence, incitement, corruption in the PA or the role of Hamas in terror attacks.
Christian Aid used a further press release in February 2006, to again demonize Israel. This release reported on one of Christian Aid’s project’s in the region – a handicraft cooperative. However it’s title, " We even left our key in the door," and the first 3 of 11 paragraphs repeated Palestinian refugee claims. The Palestinian interviewed in this report describes the 1948 Israeli army as "the occupiers," ignoring the historical record and rejecting the legitimacy of the Jewish State even within pre-1967 borders. Yet Christian Aid uncritically published his words as supposedly informative background to the conflict, thereby becoming an active party in support of the biased Palestinian narrative.
In May, Christian Aid produced a briefing paper for submission to the UK parliament, and a press release opposing the EU and UK decision to freeze funding to the Hamas-led PA. The release stated that "Christian Aid squarely accuses the Israeli government of a policy of collective punishment against Palestinian civilians, which is illegal under international law and grossly immoral by any measure of decent, humane behaviour." In addition to abusing the rhetoric of international law and morality, there was no mention that Hamas is a terrorist organization. The April 28 briefing paper expresses ‘horror" at the Tel Aviv suicide bombing, yet it erases the distinction between terrorism and legitimate defense when it also condemns "Israel’s military response…[which] has gone largely unchallenged by the international community." The paper repeats the Palestinian NGO claim that Gaza is still occupied and accuses Israel of "a policy of collective punishment," despite Israel’s "legitimate security fears."
The first of three "Action requests" at the end of the briefing paper asks the EU and UK governments for concrete steps to ensure "Israel’s compliance with International Law." The other two call for an acknowledgement that "insecurity and poverty" has been caused by both sides, and call on the UK and EU to resume aid to the PA. Again there is no acknowledgement of Hamas’ role in terror, even when Christian Aid demands foreign government funding and that Israel transfer Palestinian tax revenues ("up to $60m per month") to the PA.
Christian Aid’s June 28 publication is an emotive news report entitled "Gaza invasion targets civilian infrastructure", published after the June 25 terrorist cross border attack, that killed two Israeli soldiers and led to the kidnapping of a third. Again erasing the context, Christian Aid condemned Israel’s "military invasion and siege on a civilian population," making no mention of terrorism (expect in a subtitle referring to "militants") and blaming the "humanitarian crisis" entirely on Israel. In the report, William Bell, Christian Aid’s senior policy officer responsible for Israel and the Palestinian territories, stated "the message to the civilian population of Gaza could not be clearer – collective punishment is part of Israel’s military strategy." This statement abused the concept of "collective punishment", euphemistically referred to the kidnapping as a "capture", while Israeli actions were characterized as "attacks" and "invasion." This report illustrates Christian’s Aid’s extreme bias and politicization: it also ignores ongoing Palestinian violence including rocket attacks on Israeli southern towns, yet demonizes legitimate Israeli self-defense.
CA’s continuing response to the Israeli actions in Gaza further reveals its bias. Ignoring other humanitarian crises around the world, the photograph on the main page of the CA website on July 11 depicts a Palestinian boy collecting water after the "bombing of the power station in the Gaza Strip." One of four articles on this page is entitled "Gaza ‘in fear’ after Israeli incursion," and this July 5 press release describes how children are "traumatized" due to Israeli military actions and "two small houses collapsed as a result of the sonic booms". The release concludes by repeating the Swiss government’s biased claim that "there was ‘no doubt’ Israel has not taken the necessary precautions required of it under international law to protect the Palestinian civilian population". Christian Aid’s advice to "Take Action" is to "ask your MP to condemn attacks against Palestinian civilians." Although the "Take Action" page does include a statement "unequivocally condemn[ing] missile attacks against Israeli civilians and the fear and despair they cause in population centres such as Sderot and Ashkelon," the title mentions only Israeli "attacks" on Palestinians, as does a Christian Aid submission to the UK parliament. The effect is to reinforce the image of Israel as the aggressor, ignore Palestinian terrorists who use civilian areas to launch illegal attacks, and manipulate the rhetoric of international law to demonize Israel.
Christian Aid continues to promote organizations and events that advance a clear political agenda, consistently blaming Israel for the ongoing conflict and ignoring Palestinian terror and rejectionism.
In March 2006, Christian Aid joined with Sabeel, the Middle East Forum of Churches Together in Britain and Ireland (CTBI), the Joint Advocacy Initiative (JAI) of the East Jerusalem YMCA, Pax Christi and others in a World Council of Churches "International Church Action for Peace in Palestine and Israel advocacy initiative". A statement made by "Church leaders" in Jerusalem promoted the Palestinian narrative, implied that Israeli actions are the root cause of violence in the region and absolved the Palestinians of any responsibility. Rev. Riah Abu el Assal, Anglican bishop in Jerusalem who led the call for divestment, addressed an event in London’s Westminster Central Hall. This forum was organized by CTBI and Christian Aid, and the Rt. Rev Michael Langrish, Bishop of Exeter said "this is not a one off, but part of a strategy of awareness in our churches." The worldwide advocacy week also included trips to the "holy land" involving"solidarity visits with Christian Peacemaker Teams in Hebron," a "settlement tour with ICAHD" and an opportunity to "witnes[s] the destruction in Jenin Refugee Camp".
Christian Aid’s political campaigns against Israel have also included joining with Pax Christi to help organize Palestine Solidarity Campaign’s demonstration "against the Israeli occupation of Palestine." Baroness Jenny Tonge of the House of Lords and British MP Jeremy Corbyn were among those who addressed the London rally of an estimated 20,000 people on May 22. A mock-up of the security barrier and a large banner with the words "Stop Starving Palestinians, End Israel’s Occupation and Recognize Palestinian Democracy" was the backdrop for the speakers.
Church Of England Divestment and Involvment With Sabeel
On 6th February, the Church of England Synod voted for "morally responsible investment (MRI)" in the "Palestinian occupied territories." Christian Aid’s Chair, Bishop Gladwin has been extremely vocal in promoting and then defending this vote for divestment, which is part of an international campaign to delegitimize Israel. Gladwin’s positions in Christian Aid, on the Synod and as patron of UK friends of Sabeel seem to make him the conduit of radical NGO pressure on the Anglican Church. Sabeel is the extremist Palestinian NGO that is leading the international campaign for MRI, and is also one of Christian Aid’s partner NGOs. Sabeel’s divestment campaign in the US Presbyterian Church was rejected in a June 2006 vote that repealed its 2004 resolution. However, Christian Aid’s close cooperation with Sabeel has continued.
After the UK Church’s divestment vote, the Church’s Ethical Investment Advisory Group (EIAG) decided not to follow the Synod’s decision, and Gladwin’s ally, Rev. Stephen Sizer (Vice Chair of Friends of Sabeel UK) led the protest to this verdict.  Rev. Sizer, a major proponent of "replacement theology" regularly refers to Israel as " apartheid"and is part of the Sabeel UK leadeership. The close ties between Sabeel, Christian Aid, Gladwin and Sizer undermine Christian Aid attempts to present a neutral approach to the conflict.
Christian Aid Partner NGOs
On its website, CA lists the following NGO "partners": Adalah, Alternative Information Center (AIC), B’Tselem, EAPPI, ICAHD, Ittijah, PARC, PCHR, PHR-I, Sabeel, UPMRC, YMCA East Jerusalem and others. The relationship between these NGOs and Christian Aid is unclear, although both the Alternative Information Center and PCHR include Christian Aid as a donor in their financial statements. NGO Monitor has documented in detail the radical bias and politicized approach of a number of these NGOs.
For example, PCHR regularly uses human rights terminology to promote an extremist political agenda. In a press release of June 29<, PCHR condemned Israel’s detention of Hamas officials and called a Hamas gunman killed by an Israeli strike, "a resistance man." The political agenda of the Alternative Information Center is apparent from its homepage headline on July 10: " Israel is Committing War Crimes in Gaza with Impunity: High Time for Boycott!" Christian Aid’s "partnership" with such NGOs, including its financial support of their work contradicts any claim to a constructive approach to the conflict.
Previous NGO Monitor analyses documented how Christian Aid’s youth website, pressureworks.org focuses disproportionately on the Israeli-Arab conflict, demonizes Israel and promotes the campaigns of radical NGOs such as ICAHD.
In its May 2006 "Story" entitled " Looking for a peaceful settlement" Pressureworks continues this trend in its selective and politicized portrayal of the situation, including a number of factual inaccuracies.
It describes the establishment of Kfar Etzion: "Thirty nine years ago a small group of Israelis decided to build their homes on the site of Kfar Etzion…Kfar Etzion and the settlements that followed it were all built on Palestinian territory occupied by Israel since the 1967 Six Day War." This description erases the fact that Kfar Etzion was a pre-state Jewish settlement founded in 1934, that was destroyed and its inhabitants massacred in 1948. In its determination to portrays settlements as the "key" cause of Palestinian poverty, Pressureworks overlooks internal corruption and denies Palestinians any responsibility for their situation. It completely erases the context of terrorism as even the separation barrier is characterized as a step to "protect these settlements," ( ignoring the barrier’s success at preventing terrorist attacks inside the Green Line). The result is a highly biased and inaccurate depiction, which selectively uses International Human Rights Law to demonize and delegitimize Israel.
Christian Aid has continued its highly biased and politicized approach to the Arab-Israeli conflict, despite pledges to change in December 2005. Its publications still erase Palestinian responsibility, ignore terrorism and demonize Israel. Officials support extremist political campaigns and have close links with the main proponents of divestment. Christian Aid’s stated mission is to " strive for a new world transformed by an end to poverty and [to] campaign to change the rules that keep people poor." It is unclear how pursuing political campaigns that place the blame for the conflict entirely on Israel as an aggressor state, and remove any Palestinian responsibility for improvement, will achieve this end.
1. See " The Radicals behind the Anglican Church," Sarah Mandel, Jerusalem Post, February 26, 2006.