- Trócaire, founded in 1973 by Irish Catholic bishops, is the official overseas development agency of the Catholic Church in Ireland. Funders include Irish Aid (Government of Ireland), which has budgeted €116 million to Trócaire between 2007 and 2011.
- In its programs related to the Arab-Israeli conflict, Trócaire displays a consistent bias, including the “campaign on the illegal Wall” and “Exile Remembered: Israel, Palestine, and the Nakba – 60 years on,” marking the “750,000 people…made homeless during the foundation of the Israeli state.” Trócaire’s website also refers to the “nakba or catastrophe – the start of a process of dispossession which continues today.”
- Trócaire’s NGO partners in the region include Badil, B’Tselem, HaMoked, the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR), Zochrot, and Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP).
- Trócaire often engages in political campaigning to influence European policy and public opinion. During the Gaza operation, Trócaire called for “the suspension of EU-Israel Association Agreement.”
- Trócaire officials make statements about international law that do not reflect expertise or objectivity. On the Gaza violence, Director Justin Kilcullen declared: “In the last seven years 17 Israeli civilians have died in Israel from homemade rocket attacks by Palestinian militants. Israel’s response to this is massively disproportionate and a clear violation of international law.” Whether an attack is disproportionate hinges on its relation to military necessity, not past casualty comparisons, and the right to self-defense is explicitly guaranteed under international law.
- Eóin Murray, Trócaire Palestine Programme Officer and former coordinator of the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign, erased the context of terror and accuses Israel of racism in an item on his blog: “[s]ettlers are allowed to do as they please but Palestinians are prevented from doing anything, on the basis of their ethnicity…[This is] systematic oppression and domination by one racial group over another to maintain a regime.”
Trócaire, founded in 1973 by Irish Catholic bishops, is the official overseas development agency of the Catholic Church in Ireland. The organization claims two objectives – to support development projects outside Ireland and to “inform the Irish public about the root causes of poverty and injustice and mobilise the public to bring about global change.” Trócaire works with local partner organizations, claiming to assist the local population to “write their own destiny,” as opposed to having solutions “imposed” upon them. Trócaire claims to address “poverty,” “climate change,” “emergency relief,” “HIV/AIDS,” “gender equality,” “human rights,” and “injustice” in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East.
Trócaire began operating in the Middle East in 2002. Its website claims the “key challenges” in the region include “Intensified conflict,” the “Separation Barrier,” and the “Refugee Crisis”. Trócaire’s plan to address these issues includes:
- “supporting local human rights activists in Israel/OPT”;1
- “monitoring and raising awareness on human rights abuses”;
- “creating a space for dialogue between advocates for peace on both sides of the conflict.”
In practice, Trócaire’s program reflects a strong bias that can be seen as fueling the conflict, rather than promoting these worthy goals. Several of its NGO partners – Badil, HaMoked, and the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) – often erase the context of terror and minimize violations of Israeli human rights. Furthermore, Trócaire’s alleged monitoring of “abuses” leads to the repetition of the Palestinian narrative. The heightened rhetoric and activity, such as support for boycotts and sanctions, often promoted by Trocaire’s partner NGOs inflame the conflict.
Trócaire receives most of its funding from the Irish public and the Irish government (via Irish Aid). In 2007-8, Trócaire’s total income was €59.5 million. Trócaire is one of the main charities in Ireland, commanding, “roughly 40% market share of annual private donations by the Irish public towards Third World aid,” according to an evaluation conducted by Irish Aid (€33.1 million in 2007-8).
In 2007-8 Trócaire was given €21.8 million by Irish Aid. In April 2007, as part of the Multi Annual Programming Scheme (MAPS), which provides predictable funding over a set number of years for more far-reaching programs, Irish Aid announced a five year agreement that will grant Trócaire €116 million between 2007 and 2011. According to Irish Aid, this funding “marks a new and important stage in the relationship between Irish Aid and Trócaire. The scale of the agreement is indicative of the importance that Irish Aid attaches to the work of Trócaire.” In addition to this general support, Irish Aid has also provided grants for specific projects, such as the February 2007 pledge of €11.4 million, designated for Palestinian Refugees.
Additionally, Trócaire receives funding (Annual Report, p.24) from the EU; in 2007-8 the EU provided €1,399,693. The UK government also gives to Trócaire through DFID. Christian Aid, an NGO that engages in a highly politicized approach to the Arab-Israeli conflict, donated €16,666 to Trocaire in 2007-8.
In 2007-8, Trócaire budgeted (p.42) €747,747 for two “Middle East – Regional” programs: €692,613 for an overtly political “human rights programme” working with Palestinian, Israeli and international NGOs “to secure the implementation of international law and an end to Israeli occupation of Palestinian land,” and €55,134 for an emergency “relief and recovery assistance” program in Lebanon and Gaza. Beyond mentioning that the “human rights program”‘ was “undertaken at both grassroots and international levels,” NGO Monitor was unable to find additional information about these projects on Trocaire’s website or in its Annual Report. This lack of transparency makes it impossible to evaluate whether this project is consistent with Trócaire’s mandate or the objectives of its government funders.
In addition to the 2007-8 “human rights programme [to] end  Israeli occupation of Palestinian land,” in 2005-6, Trócaire funded the following projects:
- Protecting the Rights of Palestinians in East Jerusalem and campaigning against Israel’s closure policy (€35,000)
- Reconstruction of homes demolished in violation of international humanitarian law (€10,000)
- Legal aid to defend the rights of Palestinians to freedom of movement (€10,000)
- Legal and humanitarian assistance to families in the South Hebron Hills (€18,679)
- Monitoring human rights violations in Palestine/Israel and raising awareness in Ireland (€7,000)
- Advocacy campaign for a nuclear-free Middle East (€500)
- Promotion of peace in communities in Palestine (€8,671)
- Evaluating the impact of community-based refugee networks (€6,119)
The disproportionate focus on alleged violations of Palestinian rights and the use of international legal terminology reflected in the project titles is representative of Trócaire’s approach to the Arab-Israeli conflict. Further analysis was not possible given the limited project details available to NGO Monitor.
In March 2008, Trócaire joined other British NGOs in publishing “The Gaza Strip: A Humanitarian Implosion.” This report repeats standard NGO condemnations of Israeli policy on Gaza and distorts international law. The authors demonstrate a strong bias by alleging that Israeli policy “constitutes a collective punishment against ordinary men, women and children” and is “illegal under international humanitarian law.” The NGOs also echo claims contained in a PLO legal “opinion” that Gaza is “occupied,” and that Israel is “bound by their obligations under international humanitarian and human rights law to ensure the welfare of the Palestinian population.” These arguments discount Israel’s total military and civilian withdrawal from Gaza in August 2005, the use of this territory to wage war against Israel, the exploitation of the civilian population by Hamas including the commandeering of humanitarian aid to commit attacks on Israeli population centers, and the complexities of international humanitarian law.
Also in March 2008, Trócaire issued a press release condemning the Palestinian terror attack at the Merkaz HaRav yeshiva (religious school). While Trócaire denounced the “horrific attack,” the statement engaged in immoral equivalence by comparing the intentional murder of children at the Jerusalem school with a report that: “[s]imultaneously over 50 Palestinian civilians, including 27 children were killed in Gaza last weekend.” (The number of civilians killed is disputed and the report ignores Hamas’ routine practice of employing human shields in order to maximize Palestinian casualties.)
In contrast to the numerous tendentious accusations directed at Israel in the “Humanitarian Implosion” report, when the Gaza YMCA was attacked by armed militants in February 2008, Trócaire’s press release stated, “the Hamas authorities have serious questions to answer in relation to the failure to prevent and investigate such attacks.” Trócaire invokes a measure of Hamas responsibility for the violent situation in Gaza, but appears to reserve the primary and intense condemnations for Israel.
Promoting the “Nakba” narrative
On the 60th anniversary of Israel’s establishment, Trócaire sponsored an evening of music and poetry: “Exile Remembered: Israel, Palestine, and the Nakba – 60 years on”. In advertising the event, Trocaire remarks that “Palestinians refer to this anniversary as the nakba (catastrophe) – when 400 villages were destroyed and 750,000 people were made homeless during the foundation of the Israeli state.” Trócaire further asserts on its website that the “nakba or catastrophe – [was] the start of a process of dispossession which continues today.” By employing the term “nakba,” Trócaire repeats the Palestinian narrative. This rhetoric is not conducive for dialogue with most Jewish Israelis.
The “Illegal Wall”
In 2007, a “campaigning dimension” (p. 11) was added to Trócaire’s work, involving twelve activists sent to the West Bank and Jerusalem who, upon their return, promoted Trocaire’s campaign on the “illegal Wall” organizing talks, events and media coverage. They also initiated the “This Wall Must Fall” petition “urging the Israeli government to implement all the recommendations of the International Court of Justice in 2004, including the removal of the wall.” According to the petition’s webpage, “[w]hen people sign the online petition a hole will appear in a virtual wall, symbolising the goal of demolishing the actual wall and replacing it with genuine negotiations over Palestinian land.” The campaign slogan was “[w]alls don’t build peace – people do.” Trócaire marked the “UN International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People” by presenting the petition to MP Mark Durcan, which was later presented to the Irish Minister of Foreign Affairs Dermot Ahem TD. Trocaire’s webpage, “Trócaire campaigns to knock the wall” reports the organization “is also asking the Irish and UK governments to ensure the implementation of the International Court of Justice’s decision on the wall” even though this decision was an advisory opinion without binding legal effect. The page also makes no mention of the unequivocal effectiveness of the security barrier in preventing Palestinian suicide bombings aimed at Israeli civilians.
Badil “Call to Action”
Trócaire joined (as an “international partner”) the powerful Palestinian NGO known as Badil in its “Call to Action,” a plan to implement the Durban Strategy for international isolation of Israel. The plan calls for supporting the “boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS)” movement, as well as encouraging “journalists to organize a targeted campaign to expose the lies of AIPAC and the Anti-Defamation League and to expose the Jewish and Zionist community’s double standards regarding Nakba & Occupation.” The strategy includes attempts to “rais[e] awareness of the Palestinian Nakba and the right of return among the Jewish public in Israel,” including a “3rd Right of Return conference in Israel.”
Human Rights Summer Camp
In 2008, the Trócaire summer camp for youth interested in human rights collaborated with Schools Across Borders to facilitate a workshop on the “Israeli-Palestinian conflict” focusing on the “Separation Wall/Security Fence.” The participants created a “replica of the Israeli wall in Occupied Palestinian Territory” which they put up in Dublin after the camp. Slogans were written on the wall such as “destroy the wall to build the future.”
Olive Tree Christmas Campaign
As part of its 2008 “Global Gift” Campaign, Trócaire offered “the gift of an olive tree” to be donated to Palestinian olive farmers. The webpage describing the gift profiles a Palestinian olive farmer and claims that “[i]n 2002 the Israeli army came onto his land and bulldozed 200 of his olive trees. They built a huge military fence, cutting him off from most of his farm.” The description neglects to mention that where the security barrier route necessitated the removal of trees, they were replanted and farmers were compensated for the damages.
Opposition to EU-Israel Association Agreement
Trócaire was a signatory to the Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions (COHRE)-initiated letter insisting that the EU-Israel Association Agreement be “conditional upon Israel’s compliance with international human rights standards and international humanitarian law.”
COHRE has blamed Israel for “widespread denial of economic, social and cultural rights” and for “collective punishment” of the Palestinians. During the Gaza war, Trócaire again protested the agreement with a downloadable petition calling for people to support “the suspension of EU-Israel Association Agreement until such time as a human rights monitoring body is set up to oversee it under Article 2 of the Agreement.”
The Gaza War
During the 2009 Gaza war, Trócaire issued 11 statements about the violence, in addition to its four statements released in 2008 mostly attacking Israeli policy. In addition to these “news items” posted on its website, Trócaire held events, provided materials for “taking action,” and Trócaire officials made public statements (examples below). Trócaire’s increased activity during the war and the nature of their statements reveal a tendentious perspective on the conflict, contextualizing the fighting in terms of “occupation” and the “siege,” and erasing Hamas terrorism and its use of human shields.
A Trócaire press release claimed that “[a]fter almost two years of siege, civilians inside Gaza are trapped, traumatised and terrified in an area half the size of county Wexford.” Trócaire director, Justin Kilcullen stated that “Israel says it is defending itself from Palestinian aggression. But Israel is an occupying power controlling the lives of another people. In the last seven years 17 Israeli civilians have died in Israel from homemade rocket attacks by Palestinian militants. Israel’s response to this is massively disproportionate and a clear violation of international law.” Kilcullen’s fails to mention the thousands of Israelis wounded by these attacks (more than 450 in 2008 alone) and the tens of thousands experiencing trauma and psychological problems. His reference to the rockets as “homemade” ignores the masses of Iranian-made grad and Katyshua missiles smuggled by Hamas to intentionally target major Israeli population centers. Kilcullen further states that “[a]n immediate cease-fire is essential. But Israel must change their position on Hamas who won a legitimate election in 2006.” The release, however, does not call on Hamas to change its position to recognize Israel nor does it call on the terrorist organization to amend its charter which openly calls for genocide against Jews.
A flyer published by Trócaire among its resources for “taking action” declares, “Israel is still keeping the tiny coastal strip under complete siege.” “Testimonies” on the Trócaire website only includes “survivors” from Gaza, whereas no Israeli voices are presented. Finally, an article entitled “The awful truth about Gaza” claims that “[t]he past ten days have been the bloodiest and most violent in the history of Israel’s 42 year occupation of Palestinian lands.”
Trócaire claims on its website that “[o]ur programmes are carried out with partner organisations so local people drive the whole process and, in turn, their own development” and that “[i]t’s our partnership approach that really makes us different.” Some of Trócaire’s partners in the region are the most radical NGOs operating in the Arab-Israeli conflict.
Badil – In 2005-2006 Trócaire gave €50,000 to Badil (p.64). Badil campaigns for the so-called Palestinian “right of return”. Badil participated in the 2001 Durban Conference, and was active in the attempt to implement the “Durban Strategy” by calling on the international community to “impose a policy of complete and total isolation of Israel as an apartheid state.” During the Gaza fighting, Badil (along with Al-Haq and Adalah) condemned Israel before the UN Human Rights Council for “the willful killing of civilians and the extensive destruction of civilian property” and “widespread and systematic attack directed against a civilian population bringing them to the level of crimes against humanity.” Moreover, at a January 20, 2009 Intersessional Working Group meeting, Badil reportedly introduced the “atrocities taking place in Gaza” in an attempt to include the Palestinian people on a “list of victims of racial discrimination.”
Open Bethlehem – According to Open Bethlehem’s website, Trócaire was the sole sponsor of the 2007 “fact finding tours” which have hosted delegations of international politicians, religious and community leaders, and journalists. The fact-finding program, according to Open Bethlehem, “focuses on the Wall.” Open Bethlehem blames the “Israeli-built wall” for “an unprecedented wave of emigration, particularly among the city’s Christians,” ignoring the targeting of Christians by Muslim extremists and Palestinian terror.
HaMoked – In 2006, HaMoked received €10,000 from Trócaire (information received from the Israeli Registry of Non-Profits). HaMoked is an Israeli NGO which claims to assist Palestinians who are “subjected to the Israeli occupation which causes severe and ongoing violation of their rights.” A 2007 HaMoked report utilized “questionable methodology” and a “lack of verifiable sources.” In 2006, Israeli State Prosecutor Nira Mashraki argued that HaMoked’s work to defend human rights was seriously compromised by its one-sided approach, arguing that “the organization’s self-presentation as ‘a human rights organization’ has no basis in reality and is designed to mislead.”
B’Tselem – In 2007, Trócaire donated €35,000 to B’Tselem (information received from the Israeli Registry of Non-Profits). B’Tselem “endeavors to document and educate the Israeli public and policymakers about human rights violations in the Occupied Territories.” However, B’Tselem focuses almost exclusively on alleged Israeli violations, minimizing the context of the Israeli security situation and intra-Palestinian violence. In addition, B’Tselem’s credibility has been repeatedly challenged by independent researchers in terms of methodology, accuracy, and unverifiable sources.
Zochrot – Trócaire began supporting Zochrot in 2007, including funding for a video project on villages from 1948. Zochrot’s stated mission is to “raise awareness” among Israelis of the “Palestinian Nakba (catastrophe) of 1948.” They claim that “the Zionist collective memory exists in both our cultural and physical landscape, yet the heavy price paid by the Palestinians — in lives, in the destruction of hundreds of villages, and in the continuing plight of the Palestinian refugees — receives little public recognition.” In a joint submission to the UN Human Rights Council for Israel’s Universal Periodical Review, Zochrot accuses Israel of “ethnic cleansing” and “forcible displacement and dispossession of the Palestinian people.”
Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) – Trócaire funds PCHR (pg.6), Trócaire’s “main partner” in Gaza. While PCHR does report on intra-Palestinian human rights abuses, it also supports boycotts against Israel and presses an anti-Israel agenda in the media and international organizations. PCHR repeatedly refers to terrorism as “resistance” and pursues an on-going campaign of “lawfare,” bringing criminal and civil suits against Israeli military officials for anti-terror measures. During the Gaza war, PCHR issued over 40 statements about the violence, referring to a “humanitarian holocaust,” as well as “indiscriminate killing and continued systematic destruction of all the Palestinian institutions and civilian facilities in the Gaza Strip.”
Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP) – Trócaire has committed €36,000 to MAP in 2009. MAP operates in the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, and in Lebanon, ostensibly to “deliver health and medical care to vulnerable Palestinians.” While Steve James, Chief Executive of MAP, claims that “[w]e don’t take a political view on what’s happening in Palestine, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” he has blamed Israel for “denying” medical care to Palestinians. Similarly, on December 28, 2008, MAP’s head of advocacy Andrea Becker referred to the “collective punishment” of Palestinians.
Rabbis for Human Rights (RHR) – RHR claims Trócaire as a supporter, and in an article posted during the Gaza war Trócaire pledged €20,000 to RHR, a “close partner” since 2004.
Trócaire has partnered with RHR on several projects including “campaigning to stop the demolition of a Palestinian family’s home” and an olive harvest in the West Bank.
On numerous occasions, Trócaire officials have made politicized statements which reveal a pro-Palestinian bias.
Justin Kilcullen, director of Trócaire:
- In “Gaza Strip: An open air prison?” Kilcullen focuses solely on the effects of checkpoints and border closures on the Palestinian people – their freedom, livelihood, health – distorting international law and without once mentioning the Palestinian terrorism that necessitated the Israeli measures.
- “Palestinians living in Gaza are being treated worse then [sic.] animals in a zoo. Ireland must do everything we can to end Israel’s collective punishment of civilians, which is a flagrant breach of international law.”
Bishop John Kirby, Trócaire chairman
- “Trócaire was highlighting the plight of the Palestinian people 40 years after Israeli occupation and calling for a lasting peace for Israelis and Palestinians.” (p.2)
- Planned to meet with Foreign Affairs minister Dermot Ahern on behalf of the Irish Commission for Justice and Social Affairs, to oppose the EU-Israel Association Agreement on the grounds that there is “evidence of systematic abuse of human rights on a large scale as in the Occupied Territories.”
Eóin Murray, Trócaire Palestine Programme Officer
- Former National Coordinator of the fringe Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign (IPSC)
- Blog from “Occupied Palestine,” refers to “illegal settlements” and claims that Israel is “using the wall to annex Palestinian land.”
- Alleges that “[s]ettlers are allowed to do as they please but Palestinians are prevented from doing anything, on the basis of their ethnicity” and refers to the “systematic oppression and domination by one racial group over another to maintain a regime.”
Conclusion – No basis for Dialogue or Cooperation with Israelis
Trócaire director Justin Kilcullen argues that “development issues are political issues and to deny this is to be naive. While other agencies see being political as negative, we see it as a positive mandate” and accordingly, Trócaire has entered the political realm. Through campaigns, publications, statements, and events, Trócaire repeatedly promotes the Palestinian narrative, while minimizing terrorism and Iran’s role in the conflict. Trócaire’s funding of many NGOs that adopt extreme political positions and foment conflict raises concern regarding the substantial amount of funding it receives from the Irish public, as well as the Irish government, the UK and the EU.
Trócaire officials have also blamed the “humanitarian crisis” in Gaza on the “military policies of the Israeli government,” and they believe that “peace will be achieved through an end to the Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands.” There is very little mention of the long history of Palestinian rejectionism and intense violence that predate the 1967 war and terms such as “occupation” and “settlement”. Without this context, any efforts to promote peace become counterproductive, in terms of Trócaire’s objectives.
By framing the conflict in terms of “occupation” and placing the onus for peace on Israel alone, Trócaire reveals its lack of understanding regarding the complexity of these issues. Such one-sided activities help to fuel the conflict – in sharp contrast to the stated goals. In addition, by adopting and promoting the Palestinian position, officials from Trócaire alienate and anger Israelis, preventing the constructive dialogue and cooperation necessary to overcome violence and hatred.