- Trócaire’s mandate includes acting on behalf of the Irish Catholic Church to provide humanitarian relief and development aid overseas, while informing and mobilizing the Irish public in support of these objectives. It has been active in the Middle East since 2002.
- With a total income of €47.8 million in 2010 (down from €60.1 million the previous year), Trócaire is funded by the Irish government through Irish Aid (11.5 % of income for 2010), the European Union (EU), United Kingdom (UK), and public donations. It spent €151,187 on activities in “Palestine” in 2009-10, down from €952,441 the previous year.
- Trócaire’s involvement in the Arab-Israeli conflict has been entirely one-sided and focused on accusations of Israeli violations.
- Trócaire lobbies for sanctions against Israel, including suspending the EU-Israel Association Agreement, blocking Israel’s acceptance into the OECD, and “action” from the United Nations.
- This anti-Israel advocacy runs contrary to the policies of the Irish government, despite Irish Aid’s goal of “coherence across the full range of Irish Government policies on issues such as … trade, the environment and fiscal matters.”
- Director Justin Kilcullen traveled to Gaza in June 2010. His reports blame Israel exclusively for the conflict, reflecting a politicized and myopic narrative.
- During the Gaza war (January 2009), Trócaire issued 11 updates, calling Israel’s actions “illegal” and “massively disproportionate,” but only briefly mentioning Hamas rocket fire that targeted Israeli civilians.
- Joint Trócaire publications with other NGOs repeat allegations of Israeli “war crimes,” promote sanctions against arms sales to Israel, and advance highly disputed legal claims.
Trócaire was founded in 1973 by Irish Catholic bishops “to express the concern of the Irish Church for the suffering of the world’s poorest and most oppressed people.” It is the official overseas development agency of the Catholic Church in Ireland. Trócaire has a dual mandate:
- “to support long-term development projects overseas and to provide relief during emergencies,” and
- “to inform the Irish public about the root causes of poverty and injustice and mobilise the public to bring about global change.”
To carry out its activities, Trócaire partners with local organizations.
Trócaire began operating in the Middle East in 2002 “in response to the unprecedented levels of military confrontation and restrictions on the movement of Palestinians imposed by the Israeli army.” As indicated by its initial motivation to intercede in the Arab-Israeli conflict, Trócaire’s involvement has been overwhelmingly one-sided, repeating and promoting perceived Palestinian victimization.
The organization’s statements proclaim that the “main cause of poverty in the OPT [Occupied Palestinian Territory] is loss of employment and curtailment of economic activity due to the closure policies imposed by the Israeli government,” and list the region’s key challenges as “intensified conflict,” the “separation barrier,” “humanitarian and refugee crises,” and the “settlements and east Jerusalem.”
Israel is portrayed as the primary impediment to peace, which Trócaire believes can be achieved through “an end to the Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands; the exercise of the right to self-determination by Palestinians [including refugees] and Israelis and a comprehensive and just settlement based on the full implementation of international law.” There is little mention of Palestinian violence, corruption, and failure to adhere to international human rights standards.
Trócaire’s statements make only a few minor references to Hamas attacks on Israeli civilians, and do not address the repression of women, gays, apostates, Christians, and political opponents under Hamas rule. A Trócaire spokesperson noted in passing that “Hamas does oppress [Palestinians] in many aspects of their lives” and, if not for humanitarian organizations, “Hamas would be even more oppressive and the people of Gaza would be even more oppressed and would be starving,” but nevertheless claimed that “the overwhelming issue is the impoverishment of the people of Gaza by the State of Israel.”
(*Page numbers in this section refer to the Trócaire Trustees’ Report and Consolidated Financial Statements for the year ended February 28, 2010.)
Trócaire’s total income for 2010 is €47.8 million, down from €60.1 million in 2009 (p. 32). Public donations account for €34.6 million of this amount. Institutional and government funding includes €5.5 million from Irish Aid, €2.7 million from the EU, and €1.3 million from the UK Department for International Development (p. 37).
Irish government funding to this NGO includes a five-year Irish Aid program set to end in 2011, entitled MAPS. Trócaire was due to receive €116 million over the full period, but due to the recession, “shortfalls are expected … which could give rise to an overall loss of €30 million on projected income from MAPS” (p. 22).
In 2009-10, Trócaire spent €151,187 on activities in “Palestine,” representing a significant drop from €952,441 in 2008-9. This reflects a major reduction in “its presence in the West Bank” due to budget cuts.
The 2008-9 budget included €332,500 for a human rights program to “secure the implementation of international law and an end to Israeli occupation of Palestinian land” (p. 57) and €151,187 for responding to the “worsening humanitarian need in Palestine” and promoting “an end to the ongoing blockade of Gaza” (p. 58).
Recent Political Advocacy and Activity
Gaza: Campaign to suspend EU-Israel Association Agreement
Trócaire is leading a campaign against Israel’s policy on Gaza, based on numerous calls to sanction Israel and attempts to interfere with Israel’s relations with European countries and the EU. Trócaire’s political advocacy on this issue goes beyond its mandate of providing development and relief aid, and educating and mobilizing the Irish public. This biased campaign also misrepresents the nature of such-mutually beneficial agreements, falsely presenting Israel as the sole beneficiary.
Similarly, an email campaign directed at the governments of Ireland and the UK charged that Israel “violates international law and human rights of ordinary people” and demanded that the EU “remove all of Israel’s trade privileges until it lifts the blockade and abides by international law.” A press release equated the blockade with “cruel and unusual punishment” and urged the Irish government to push for withdrawing Israel’s trade privileges in Europe. Similar calls were made in a news story and in an opinion piece by Director Justin Kilcullen.
Following the Gaza war, Trócaire distributed a petition calling for the suspension of the EU-Israel Association Agreement; a flyer demanding sanctions by halting Israel’s EU trade privileges; and a leaflet for university students, again claiming that Israel is violating international law and insisting that the EU rescind Israel’s trade privileges.
Although the EU has association agreements with the repressive regimes of Egypt, Libya, Algeria, Morocco, and others, and is currently in talks with Syria, Trócaire has made no calls to suspend these treaties. This is a clear example of the singling out of Israel for discriminatory treatment.
Attempt to Block Israel’s Inclusion in OECD
Before the vote to accept Israel into the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in May 2010, Trócaire joined the unsuccessful NGO effort to prevent Israeli membership. The organization circulated an online petition against Israel’s inclusion. A letter in the Irish Times from Kilcullen stated that “Ireland should not only vote against Israeli membership – we should urge other like-minded states who stand against Israel’s appalling treatment of Palestinians to also veto it.”
This strident political advocacy was in direct opposition to the policy of the Irish government, which voted in favor of Israel’s acceptance.
Kilcullen’s Gaza Trip
In June 2010, Kilcullen visited Gaza. His updates and reports reflected Trócaire’s one-sided approach to the conflict, vilifying Israel and erasing all Palestinian responsibility for the situation.
Kilcullen’s Twitter updates (posted June 10-11) again included a call for the suspension of the EU trade agreement with Israel. He described entering Gaza as “entering prison. A dehumanizing walk thru [sic] long passages into Gaza thru [sic] prison doors.” And in an opinion article, Kilcullen tempered a single brief mention of Israel’s right to security with a statement that this “must not preclude the rebuilding of a vibrant Gaza with commercial life restored.” He further noted that many although Gazans are fed up with Hamas and Fatah, Israel should be blamed for destroying “the emergence of a moderate center ground.”
Activity during Gaza War
During the three-week military operation in Gaza, Trócaire updated its website’s news section 11 times (December 2008-January 2009) with interviews and accounts from people in Gaza, and reports of protest events in Ireland. One news update included a quote describing the situation as “inhumane and criminal.” A blog entry questioned the justification for this operation as meant to protect Israeli citizens from rocket attacks, and repeated the allegation that “Israel is targeting civilian, residential areas.” An entry entitled “Priests for Peace” described Irish priests gathering at a rally where Trócaire’s campaigns officer repeated the demand “for the EU to suspend the recent upgrading of relations with Israel until the siege on Gaza is lifted and for the UN General Assembly to take action to substitute for the abject failure of the UN Security Council to do so.”
Another press release condemned Israel’s response to Hamas rockets as “massively disproportionate and a clear violation of international law.”
Israel Trauma Coalition
Trócaire is also active in Israel, “working with affected communities in Sderot supporting trauma counselling ” (p. 3). Although Trócaire’s website does not provide details about this partnership, research indicates (p. 13) that the NGO contributes to the Israel Trauma Coalition, which provides direct psycho-trauma care services to vulnerable populations in Israel and trains professionals in the trauma counseling field.
In contrast to the intense political advocacy on behalf of the Palestinian cause, activities helping Israelis are apolitical.
No information on support for other forms of assistance to Israelis was found.
Educational Resources about Gaza
Trócaire publishes educational resources on global issues for teachers to use in the classroom. The material relevant to Israel also reveals Trócaire’s bias, repeating the Palestinian narrative and providing no context for Israel’s response to attacks. Three of eight resources in the “conflict” section relate to Gaza. It also lists the conflict in the “religion” section.
Lesson plans about children’s rights include “stories” from the perspectives of Palestinian children, and then asks students to explain how their rights have been affected.
A background information sheet for primary school educators contains misinformation, falsely claiming that “no Palestinian was allowed to enter or leave Gaza” following the 2005 Disengagement. The description of the 2008-9 Gaza war is largely emotive, while describing terrorists who targeted Israeli civilians as “militants,” and erasing the human suffering from these attacks:
At the end of 2008, Israel attacked Gaza with shelling and missile attacks, killing hundreds of Gazans, including civilians, and injuring thousands. Palestinian militants fired rockets into Southern Israel.
- A 60th anniversary commemoration of the Palestinian “nakba” (catastrophe), meaning the rejection of the 1948 creation of the state of Israel, and ignoring the context of the Arab aggression against the Jewish state.
- A campaign against the Israeli security barrier, with no mention of Palestinian terror.
- A “call to action” with the Palestinian “right of return” NGO Badil, urging governments to boycott, divest from, and sanction Israel (the BDS campaign), and enlisting journalists in a campaign to “expose the lies of AIPAC and the Anti-Defamation League … and expose the Jewish and Zionist community’s double standards.”
- A human rights summer camp focused on the security barrier. Campers built a replica of the barrier, which was later displayed in Dublin.
In addition, Trócaire funded the following political advocacy projects:
- Protection of the rights of Palestinians in East Jerusalem and a campaign against Israel’s “closure policy” (€35,000)
- Reconstruction of illegally constructed buildings that were subsequently demolished (€10,000)
- Legal aid to defend Palestinian “freedom of movement” (€10,000)
- 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 Palestinian communities (€8,671)
- Evaluating the impact of community-based refugee networks (€6,119)
(Details available in NGO Monitor’s report – March 18, 2009 – Trócaire: Misdirected Catholic Aid from Ireland Fuels Conflict; information subsequently removed from Trócaire’s website.)
Failing Gaza: No Rebuilding, No Recovery, No More Excuses was published in December 2009 by Trócaire, Amnesty International, Christian Aid, and several other NGOs. This report disproportionately blamed Israel for the situation in Gaza, devoting nine of eleven recommendations to alleged Israeli violations, with an additional recommendation calling for investigations of Palestinian human rights violations alongside Israeli misdeeds (p. 16). Out of 18 pages, only one-quarter of one page discussed Palestinian leaders’ responsibility for the conditions in Gaza (p. 11). The report advocated freezing the upgrade in relations between the EU and Israel “pending tangible progress in Israel’s respect for human rights.” However, the NGOs encouraged the Mideast Quartet to “begin political dialogue with all Palestinian parties” – clear implying the inclusion of Hamas (p. 16).
The document called the blockade of Gaza “collective punishment” that “violates international humanitarian law,” but acknowledged that the EU has never used either of these phrases (p. 14). The NGOs also distorted international law for political purposes, labeling Israel “the Occupying Power” (p. 16).
Another 2009 joint report, entitled EU’s Position on the Middle East Peace Process: Key Inconsistencies and co-published by Trócaire and 13 other NGOs, recommended that the EU Council sanction arms shipments to Israel, saying “Member States should refuse export licences for military equipment which would be inconsistent with the criteria in the Common Position [on arms exports]” in which “Israel generally fails the test” (p. 9).
Numerous Errors in Research Publications
Trócaire’s voluminous material about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is fraught with inaccuracies, false information, and poor research. In material for schoolchildren, Trócaire claims that 100,000 people were killed “in the OPT” in 2007, citing Ploughshares as its source. Ploughshares’ report, however, stated that 800 people were killed in 2007, of which 400 were the result of Palestinian in-fighting. Rather, Ploughshares gives 120,000 as the total number of deaths in Israeli-Arab wars from 1948-2007.
(Highly exaggerated claims are repeated several times in Trócaire’s material, such as statements that there were more than 100,000 deaths in the Philippine armed conflict in 2007. Ploughshares put the total figure from 1969-2007 at 40,000. Similarly, Ploughshares further stated that “over 130 deaths were reported” in Nepal in 2007, while Trócaire inflated this figure to over 10,000.)
Other misleading statements include the claim that “foreign journalists are not allowed into the Gaza strip” (p. 3), despite reports from journalists affliated with the BBC, New York Times, and Reuters. In another instance, Kilcullen wrote, “there is simply no way out of [Gaza] now without the permission of the Israeli government,” overlooking Gaza’s border with Egypt. A third example is Trócaire’s claim that “over 70% [of Gaza residents] are refugees for 60 years,” when more than 60% of Gazans are under the age of 19 (p. 20).
Likewise, in a week when Israel transferred 14,069 tons of humanitarian aid, including “hundreds of thousands of liters of fuel,” to Gaza, Kilcullen published a letter protesting Israel’s inclusion in the OECD. In order to achieve this political aim, Kilcullen falsely claimed that “Goods like petrol can’t enter Gaza. Hardly any food comes in.”
Trócaire lists the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR), Rabbis for Human Rights (RHR), Badil, and B’Tselem as its “key partners” in the Middle East. Trócaire does not detail the extent of these partnerships on its website.
- PCHR listed Trócaire as a funder in its 2009 annual report (p. 9). PCHR’s 2009 activities included highlighting “racist Israeli practices and crimes against Palestinian civilians” (p. 221); filing foreign lawsuits against Israeli officials under the pretext of universal jurisdiction (p. 126); and hosting a “field visit” to Gaza from Naomi Klein, an activist in the movement to boycott Israel (p. 226). PCHR regularly labels Palestinian terror attacks on Israeli civilians as “resistance.”
- Badil is a Palestinian organization whose aim is to defend and promote the rights of Palestinian refugees, including the “right of return.” It promotes the boycotts, sanctions, and divestment (BDS) effort against Israel.
- B’Tselem, which receives funding from Trócaire (p. 2), “acts primarily to change Israeli policy in the Occupied Territories and ensure that its government … protects the human rights of residents there and complies with its obligations under international law.” It has faced serious criticism for its misrepresentations of international law, inaccurate research, skewed statistics, and minimizing Israel’s security concerns.
- RHR calls itself the “rabbinic voice of conscience in Israel” and advocates for poor and vulnerable populations in Israel and the Palestinian territories. It participates in weekly demonstrations in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah, claiming “there is an attempt to create a continuous Jewish territory at the expense of Palestinian residents.”
In addition to the organizations mentioned on Trócaire’s website, it also has had affiliations with:
- Al-Mezan Center for Human Rights, a Palestinian organization that received funding from Trócaire for supporting “documentation of human rights violations in Gaza.” Al-Mezan’s anti-Israel rhetoric includes labeling the Israeli Defense Forces the “IOF – Israeli Occupation Forces,” and baseless allegations of Israeli “holocaust (genocide),” “slaughters,” “massacres,” “target[ing] civilian premises directly and wantonly,” “war crimes,” and “apartheid.” Al-Mezan has also been involved in “lawfare” campaigns against Israeli officials, including an attempt to procure an arrest warrant against Ehud Barak in the UK.
- Zochrot, an Israeli organization funded by Trócaire in 2008, (p. 29), whose 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.”
In 2009 and 2010, Trócaire has focused its efforts on Gaza, ending most of its activities in the West Bank. However, its reporting on the region reflects an ongoing political agenda, engaging in anti-Israel campaigns and blaming Israel alone for the situation in Gaza. Officials from the organization repeat the Palestinian narrative of the conflict and minimize Israeli rights, further reflecting this bias.
Trócaire’s reporting is also imbalanced. It produces a disproportionate amount of material that condemns Israel and demands sanctions against it. The few minor mentions of Hamas’ rockets into Israel and its abuses against its own people include no calls for similar action against Hamas. And, Trócaire’s advocacy against Israel’s inclusion into the OECD contradicts the position of its chief funder, the Irish government.
In addition, if it is to preserve its mandate as a charitable organization rather than a political action group, Trócaire must refrain from publicizing false and misleading information, incorrect “facts,” distorted legal interpretations, and misrepresentations of Israel’s actions and intentions. Unfortunately, Trócaire’s anti-Israel campaigning distracts from its noble mission of development, humanitarian relief, and social justice.