Christian Aids Myopic Coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict Continues
Summary: Christian Aid, heavily subsidized by the Irish and UK governments, has been criticized for promoting a sharp pro-Palestinian position in its “charitable” activities, and abetting the conflict. In two June 2007 reports, it repeats this pattern. Christian Aid relies on the claims of highly politicized NGOs lacking credibility such as Al-Haq, Palestinian NGO Network, the Palestinian Agricultural Relief Committees, and the Palestinian Center for Human Rights. The organization minimizes terrorism and Palestinian responsibility for violence and corruption. As in the past, this NGO selectively applies international legal terminology such as “war crimes” and “collective punishment” and reinforces these accusations with highly emotive, yet unverifiable anecdotal accounts. These practices constitute a violation of Christian Aid’s stated position of being an "impartial" group working toward peace and the alleviation of poverty. This one-sided political agenda is entirely inconsistent with the status of a registered charity and raises questions regarding substantial increased funding for the organization by Irish Aid. 
As NGO Monitor has previously reported, Christian Aid (UK) has a history of one-sided reporting on the Arab-Israeli conflict, minimizing Palestinian terrorism and corruption that necessitates Israeli security measures. Such skewed reporting is consistent with Christian Aid’s extensive involvement in anti-Israel political campaigns, as well as close links with radical partner NGO’s such as ICAHD, the Alternative Information Center, and Sabeel and the role of these groups in the divestment campaigns—activities NGO Monitor has detailed. Two June 2007 reports, widely distributed in churches and other public venues− Israel & Palestine: a Question of Viability, and Lifelines – A Call to End the 40-year Occupation of Palestine − are the most recent examples of Christian Aid’s biased agenda.
Questionable Sources, Radical Partners
Both publications rely extensively on the research and testimony of a number of anti-Israeli NGOs. In the introductory section of the Israel & Palestine: a Question of Viability policy report, as well in the first main section, "Facts on the Ground," Christian Aid bases its arguments on claims made by the Palestinian NGO Network (PNGO), a group which helped author many documents for the infamous Durban 2001 conference. This publication also repeats statements by the Palestinian Agricultural Relief Committees (PARC), which supports the Durban strategy, including academic boycott and divestment campaigns against Israel. The report cites the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) (p. 8) regarding the closures of Gaza border crossings. PCHR has in the past called for "the imposition of comprehensive arms, oil, economic and trade sanctions and embargoes (with the exception of medical food and other humanitarian supplies), the downgrading or suspension of diplomatic relations" with Israel, and has asked the UN "to exclude Israel from all UN-sponsored conferences and organizations." In addition, PCHR promotes the academic boycott of Israel. By repeating the claims and agendas of these Palestinian political NGOs, Christian Aid is promoting their objectives.
Lifelines – A Call to End the 40-year Occupation of Palestine consists mainly of a number of what Christian Aid calls "case studies" or "lifelines". These short pieces are based on stories told by individual Palestinians and anecdotal evidence stressing alleged Israeli human rights abuses and "illegal" Israeli government policies. One such "lifeline" piece relies on the claims of Palestinian NGO, Al-Haq—an active participant in the 2001 Durban Conference—whose General Director, Shawan Jabarin, has been linked to the PFLP terror organization. Statements by B’Tselem—whose research and reporting NGO Monitor has shown to lack credibility and accuracy—is also cited.
Moral Equivalency and Omission of the Context of Terror
In the summary of Israel & Palestine: a Question of Viability, the authors claim to examine “why the world has made so little progress in ending the conflict." Typical of Christian Aid, however, is the lack of any substantive discussion of Palestinian corruption, violence, or factional infighting. In addition, the words "terror" and "terrorism" are not found in the report. Mention of attacks on Israeli civilians comes only at the very end of the body of the report, before the summary and conclusion.
In a section entitled "An end to impunity," (p.7) the report creates a moral equivalence between Palestinian terrorism and Israeli responses in self-defense. While the report notes that "The Quartet powers, including the European Union, rightly condemn any violence as counterproductive to peace" and "correctly call upon the Palestinian Authority to do everything within its power to confront militant groups and bring about an end to attacks on Israel," it immediately goes on to criticize Israel for its "military actions that cause civilian deaths," for which, the report claims, "Israel is rarely held to account." Immediately following this statement, and in contrast to the muted criticism of the Palestinian Authority, Israel is harshly criticized for a broad range of offenses: "Israel continues to expand settlements, impose closure and build the separation barrier on Palestinian land with impunity, thus threatening a population already struggling to cope with extreme poverty and underemployment" (p.7, emphasis added). Thus, in the only section of the report which alludes to the ongoing Palestinian terror campaign, it is Israel alone who is condemned for acting "with impunity." This one-sided reporting undermines claims to "impartiality" (p.7). In addition, Christian Aid’s latest reports once again misrepresent Israel’s separation barrier by completely ignoring the precipitous decline in terror attacks following the barrier’s construction, and the many lives saved as a result.
This pattern of reporting in Christian Aid is also reflected in the “background material” on the conflict on the website. A section entitled "The maths of occupation" makes no mention of terror attacks, and is limited to giving a body count of Palestinian and Israelis killed since 2000. While both Israeli civilians and Israeli security personnel are listed, no distinction is made between Palestinian civilians and Palestinians terrorists. Moreover, the section claims "For ordinary Palestinians, this humanitarian crisis is just as fundamental to the conflict as the F-16s and suicide bombers that make the news."
Manipulative Use of International Legal Terminology and Reliance on Anecdotal Accounts
Throughout both of the new reports, Christian Aid, as in the past, selectively applies international legal terminology such as “war crimes,” “collective punishment,” "siege," and “violations of international law” when referring to Israel without sufficient legal analysis. The use of such terms belies Christian Aid’s claim of impartiality.
Another strategy employed by the organization is to utilize unverified personal anecdotes and emotive terminology as well as revisionist history to reinforce alleged international legal claims. One example is found in the Lifelines report. Gaza resident Ali Koulab describes the “fleeing” of his home in 1948 (during the Arab invasion of Israel – a point expunged from the narrative) as follows:
"I was a builder at the time when the occupiers came. I have no papers to my house – I lost them. We thought we were only leaving our homes for a couple of days so we even left the key in the door, and the door open." (p.12)
This vignette presents Christian Aid’s implicit support for the "right of return"—a highly contentious position and a major obstacle to compromise, while failing to provide the reader with all of the relevant background information. In another example from A Question of Viability report, Israel is held responsible for allegedly turning Gaza into a "huge prison," (p.9), yet there is no mention, for instance, of the fact that Egypt has maintained tight controls on its border with Gaza for decades.
Silence on Hamas
As with earlier Christian Aid publications, the role of Hamas in terror and incitement is not reflected in Christian Aid’s reporting. There is no mention of Hamas’ refusal to recognize Israel or to denounce violence and terror. This omission is consistent with Christian Aid’s practice of minimizing Palestinian rejectionism, violence, incitement, and corruption in its reporting.
Christian Aid’s practice of blaming Israel for Palestinian hardship and for relieving Palestinians from responsibility for their own fate is incompatible with its objective of impartiality. This one-sided political agenda is entirely inconsistent with the status of a registered charity and raises questions regarding substantial increased funding for the organization by Irish Aid.
1. On March 8, 2007, Irish Aid announced a new 5-year partnership with Christian Aid, increasing funding from €7 million to €17 million.