Summary: NGO Monitor notes that Christian Aid has compromised its noble aim of seeking to eradicate poverty and combating injustice. It has aligned itself with organizations with a blatantly ideological and political agenda, in flagrant contravention of its own mission statement and that of its partners. As this analysis demonstrates in detail, for Christian Aid to uphold its own principles, it needs to review its relationship with anti-Israel partner organizations and remove the biased rhetoric on its website and its official publications.
Christian Aid goes to great length to demonstrate financial transparency. Its website proudly declares;
"Out of every pound we receive, 75p is spent on tackling poverty on behalf of the poorest people in the world; 11p is spent on campaigning and education, to change the structures of inequality that keep people poor; 12p is spent on fundraising; 2p is spent on administration.”1
NGO Monitor has no indication of corruption or financial mismanagement in Christian Aid. What we are concerned about is moral corruption and Christian Aid’s apparent naivety regarding the ideological work of some of its own partner organizations. The fact that the members of this organization ignore the complexity and sensitivity of the Arab-Israeli conflict and the core causes of poverty in the Middle East, while promoting anti-Israel propaganda, contradicts the claims of being a neutral humanitarian organization.
Christian Aid’s support for anti-Israel groups violates its constitution, which includes the following goals and principles:
- "To further charitable purposes which relieve or combat malnutrition, hunger, disease, sickness or distress throughout the world.
- To further charitable purposes which advance or assist such other charitable work as may be carried on by or with the support or approval of the British Council of Churches.”2
" inspired by the dream of a new earth where all people can secure a better and more just future. Christian Aid’s purpose is to expose the scandal of poverty and to contribute to its eradication. The organisation strives to be prophetic, challenging the systems and processes that work against the interests of those who are poor or marginalised.”3
The Middle East is a region stricken by intolerable levels of suffering and Christian Aid has admirably taken upon itself the task of making a difference. Since the 1950s, it has invested considerable resources in becoming one of the largest funding sources for NGOs in this region. In the financial year ending in 2000, some £1,193,000 was invested in projects in the Middle East with 31 partner organizations. In addition, the Organization distributes some $80 million annually to projects in 60 of the world’s poorest countries. Well over 20% of Christian Aid’s financing comes from governmental organizations and the rest comes from the general public through fundraising appeals and legacies.
However, as NGO Monitor continues to reveal, the exponential growth of NGOs has progressed with little transparency and scrutiny. While some organizations can justifiably claim credit for rescuing destitute families and creating economic opportunities, far too many exploit the goodwill of funding organizations to engage in ideological activities, often endorsing or even encouraging Palestinian violence and terrorism. Annual reports of many Middle Eastern NGOs talk of lofty aims and noble principles, but the everyday working agenda of many of these NGOs tells a very different tale, as detailed below. Well meaning individuals, foundations and trusts have poured hundreds of millions of dollars and an immense amount of goodwill into the latter group of organizations. NGO Monitor has evidence that several Christian Aid partners also falls into this category and for this reason, the Charity needs to undertake a serious review of its alliances in the Middle East.
Troublesome Relationships with Partner Organizations
NGO Monitor has been closely monitoring the work of NGOs operating in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and pre-1967 Israel and has found that several partner organizations of Christian Aid promote strong ideological agendas. Examples include Law and PCHR in addition to PHR-Israel and the East Jerusalem YMCA. These organizations have shown a blinkered approach to the conflict, more interested in participating in ritual condemnations of Israel than in implementing the objectives in their mission statements.
Christian Aid not only contributes funds, but also legitimacy and logistical support to such organizations. Its name is used to raise more funds and the long-term consequences are counter-productive to achieving peace in the region and are counter-productive to the goal of eradicating poverty. Instead, the support from Christian Aid helps to promote anti-Israel political agendas which, as many analysts have noted, is the modern version of anti-Semitism.
To clarify, this is not to say that every one of Christian Aid’s partner organization is problematic. The work of the Galilee Society, was praised by NGO Monitor as an example of how an Arab-run organization can further the well-being of its community and refrain from partisan political campaigning. The Tamer Institute that promotes community education in the Middle East is another positive organization supported by Christian Aid. However, in many other cases, Christian Aid needs to be more far discriminatory and critical in its approach to partners.
Christian Aid does make an attempt to present both sides of the equation, but this attempt is half-hearted and is heavily influenced by the work of its partner organizations. As well as criticizing Israel, Christian Aid came out against the arrest of Khaider Ghanem by the Palestinian Authority. Their report however relies on Betselem, one of Christian Aid’s main partners. Khaider Ghanem is an employee of Betselem, and an exceptional case. Had Christian Aid and Betselem protested consistently in response to human rights abuses by the Palestinian Authority, these protests would have been more credible.
Examples of Anti-Israel Rhetoric from Christian Aid
Christian Aid’s agenda includes "challenging the systems and processes that work against the interests of those who are poor or marginalized." In relation to the Arab-Israeli conflict at least, however, Christian Aid substitutes a deep hostility towards Israel for serious analysis. For example, the Organization puts the burden of guilt on Israel for the decrease in tourism to Palestinian areas and the general collapse of the Palestinian economy, while failing to mention that the terror and violence that led to this crisis and to economic difficulties in Israel as well, was initiated by the Palestinian Authority in September 2000.
Below is a quote from Christian Aid’s website:
"The violence of Palestinian suicide bombings and Israeli helicopter gunships has dominated the media for years. Behind the headlines and the television images is another sort of violence: the violence of the dramatic plunge by ordinary Palestinians into extreme poverty. This is the story that is not heard: the relentless, incremental slide into lives dominated by shortages of food, ill-health, lack of freedom of movement and rising levels of malnutrition.
This poverty stems from the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Israeli government actions such as closure and land confiscation impoverish Palestinians, violating international law."
In blaming "Israeli occupation" for these conditions, without acknowledging the Israeli efforts throughout the Oslo negotiation process beginning in 1993, to reach a peaceful resolution, Christian Aid is repeating the myths and slogans that feed the Palestinian violence. This is a political judgment, which is not supported by the detailed understanding of the history of the past decade, and suggests a dark and hidden anti-Israel ideological agenda. As a charitable and humanitarian organization, and not an ideological group, Christian Aid should be very careful to avoid taking a strong political stand, particularly when this position is not supported by the plain evidence.
Towards the bottom of the article, the authors have included the following simple sentence, "Additionally, the Palestinian Authority has failed to tackle poverty and has consistently violated human rights." This is an entirely inadequate response to the immorality of the suicide bombings that are continuing, and which lead to the closures and the hardship. In addition, the failure to call the Palestinian Authority to account for the gross corruption and embezzlement from international donors is striking. It seems strange that an organization which has vowed to pursue the perpetrators of poverty, ignores the disappearance of large sums of aid money designated for the local Palestinian population.
In Christian Aid’s own words,
"Christian Aid’s essential belief is summed up in the statement ‘We believe in life before death’, now part of the Christian Aid logo.”4
It is therefore surprising that Christian Aid continues to support organizations that do not share its goals of putting life before death. Some of its partner organizations have crossed the boundaries of humanitarian work into the realm of excusing terror and promoting its perpetrators, as shown in the analyses published by NGO Monitor.
If Christian Aid does not review its support and donations network, then it is compromising its own reputation and its own goals. Impartiality is impossible, but presenting the whole range of reasons behind Palestinian poverty is an imperative for Christian Aid. There are hundreds of NGOs striving to alleviate suffering of civilians in the Arab-Israeli conflict, and there is absolutely no need to chose to work with the most ideological and anti-Israel groups. The leaders of Christian Aid must act quickly and decisively if they wish to avoid being seen as a partisan ideological group, rather than as a leading humanitarian NGO.
1. Source: http://www.christian-aid.org.uk/aboutca/faq.htm
2. Source: http://www.charity-commission.gov.uk/registeredcharities/showcharity.asp?remchar=&chyno=258003
3. Source: http://www.christian-aid.org.uk/aboutca/who/who.htm
4. Source http://www.christian-aid.org.uk/aboutca/who/history.htm