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Op-Ed: Catholic Aid Societies Promote Hatred of Israel

Interview with NGO Monitor's Yitzhak Santis:"At NGO Monitor, we launched a ‘BDS in the Pews’ project". This will trace the complex interactions between governments, churches, aid societies and Palestinian advocacy organzations - including funding.
Published: Friday, December 20, 2013 12:23 AM


“Various Catholic Aid societies which are partly government-financed, promote hatred against Israel. Most are in Western Europe. The Irish Trócaire and the Dutch Cordaid are among the most problematic. Both are members of the Caritas Internationalis group. Most Caritas members however, do not take similar positions.”

Yitzhak Santis is NGO Monitor’s Chief Programs Officer. He was Director of the Middle East Project at the San Francisco Jewish Community Relations Council, where he served for 21 years until he moved to Israel in 2011. 

He explains: “There are two official Catholic aid charity ‘families’ - Caritas Internationalis and Pax Christi. Caritas Internationalis is a global confederation of 165 Catholic organizations providing assistance in humanitarian emergencies and international development. It describes itself as ‘part of the Catholic Church,’ and is headquartered in Vatican City, with satellite offices in NYC and Geneva. Pope John Paul II granted Caritas with ‘Canonical Legal Status.' 

“Trócaire was founded in 1973 as the official overseas development agency of the Catholic Church of Ireland. Its biased activities encompass the employees hired, partnerships, published material, political positions and funding decisions. Trocaire conducts a campaign to sanction Israel – and as a result, Europe too – by suspending mutually beneficial trade agreements. It attempted to block Israel’s inclusion in the OECD. All these positions are against Irish government policy.

“Trócaire’s history of broad spectrum political activity against Israel include, among many others, a campaign launched against the security barrier and sponsorship of events commemorating the ‘Nakba.’ In 2007, Trócaire joined the Palestinian NGO Badil in a ‘Call to Action,’ which advocated anti-Israel boycotts and sanctions. In 2013, Trócaire co-sponsored an International Right of Return Conference, organized by the Israel-based NGO Zochrot, which advocated a ‘right of return’ and a ‘one-state solution’ to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. 

“Trocaire receives funds from Ireland, the UK and the EU, as well as other Catholic aid agencies that are funded by their respective governments. In 2012, Trocaire’s funding from ‘Contributions and Agencies’ totaled approximately 30 million Euros, with 23 million coming from governmental sources.

“Cordaid’s biased activities are illustrated by their funding decisions, publications and political positions. It is a joint member with other Dutch-based organizations of the United Civilians for Peace organization, which advocates Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel. Cordaid Director René Grotenhuis, argued during a 2011 panel in the Dutch parliament, that BDS is a defensible tactic because, ‘it is important that people in Palestine look for ways to resist occupation, and this is a non-violent way to do so.’ 

“In 2012, Cordaid joined a coalition of 22 European NGOs in producing a report titled Trading Away Peace: How Europe Helps Sustain Illegal Israeli Settlements. It promotes the BDS agenda, calling on the EU and national governments to wage political warfare through economic sanctions against Israel. Cordaid also joined in a 2009 report titled Failing Gaza: No rebuilding, no recovery, no more excuses. The report falsely claims that Gaza remains occupied. The organization also funds various anti-Israel NGOs in Israel and the Palestinian Arab territories.

“Cordaid is regularly subsidized by the Dutch government. Funding amounts vary. From 2007 to 2010, Cordaid received 422 million Euros. Due to a reduction in government subsidies, it received 69 million Euros in 2011.

“Pax Christi International (PCI) describes itself as ‘a global Catholic peace movement and network that works to help establish Peace, Respect for Human Rights, Justice and Reconciliation in areas of the world that are torn by conflict.’ PCI’s website’s page on the Middle East addresses a number of conflicts in the region including the situations in Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, Iraq. Yet, the resources devoted to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict outweigh the resources and materials devoted to all others by far. Toward the end of 2013, more than twice the number of words were written on this conflict than on all others together.

“PCI’s British Section promotes a Bethlehem Advent Project that ‘draws on Pax Christi’s experience of working in solidarity with the people of Palestine.’ They also joined with the Palestine Solidarity Campaign on November 27, 2013  for a ‘National Lobby of Parliament for Palestine.’  The lobbying agenda included ‘Arrange an appointment to come and lobby your Member of Parliament. Issues to be raised include: ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian Bedouin from the Negev; banning goods from Israel's illegal settlements; respect for prisoners’ rights and ending the siege of Gaza.’”

Santis concludes: “Many Catholic Aid organizations often co-sponsor reports and letters, receive funding from each other and co-fund the same projects. At NGO Monitor, we launched a  ‘BDS in the Pews’ project.  We plan to do more research on the complex relationship between governments, churches and both Protestant and Catholic Church aid societies, NGOs and Palestinian Christian advocacy organizations. This will also entail uncovering the money trails, as well as the ideological and theological currents and activities of this matrix.”