The strident, revolutionary tones of the email declared, “In the midst of Israel’s attempt to end Palestinian armed resistance in Gaza…” Was this a statement from Hamas or Islamic Jihad? No. It is a fundraising appeal from the tiny, fringe non-governmental organization (NGO) Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD) whose principle donors include various mainstream Christian institutions. This is but one of scores of instances of anti-Israel NGOs receiving funding from Christian sources, themselves largely funded by European governments. The current war in Gaza brings this unholy alliance sharply into focus.
This ICAHD email, sent during Israel’s attempt to halt Hamas’ rocket attacks and terrorist infiltrations targeting Israeli cities and towns, calls attention to the role of major Christian institutions in fanning the flames of the Arab-Israeli conflict. ICAHD promotes the BDS (boycotts, divestments and sanctions) campaign against Israel and explicitly advocates for the end of Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people. ICAHD’s Christian funders include the Irish Catholic aid society Trócaire, World Vision, and the Mennonite Central Committee.
Another protégé of Christian charities is the tiny fringe group Zochrot, established with the aim of “recognizing and materializing the right of return” of millions of descendants of the 1948 Palestinian refugees. The full realization of such a “return” is correctly understood by every Israeli – including Zochrot – to mean the erasure of the State of Israel. Zochrot’s extremism is exemplified in its response to the Gaza crisis. Calling Israel a “racist regime” and blaming Israel alone for the current war, Zochrot can only imagine “the implementation of the right of return of the Palestinian Refugees will bring about the ending of the violence.”
Zochrot’s Christian funders include: Broederlijk Delen (Belgium), Finn Church Aid (Finland), Christian Aid (UK), Trocaire (Ireland), ICCO (Netherlands), CCFD (France), Misereor (Germany), HEKS (Switzerland), Mennonite Central Committee, and American Friends Service Committee (AFSC).
Another illustrative example was this year’s biennial Christ at the Checkpoint (CatC) conference, whose goal is to undermine support for Israel among Evangelicals. Since its first conference in 2010 organizers Holy Land Trust (HLT) and Bethlehem Bible College (BBC) have partnered with, or been funded by, a number of Christian charities including Cordaid, which received a €345 million grant from the Dutch government for 2012-2015, and Kerk in Actie that also received funding from unspecified governmental bodies. CatC’s organizers also received direct funding from the governments of the US, UK and EU in the period 2009-2012.
Other enablers of the CatC conference included the Israel Palestine Mission Network of the Presbyterian Church (USA), Board of Global Ministries of the United Methodist Church, Presbyterian Church in Ireland, St. Paul’s United Methodist Church of Celina, Ohio, Church of the Brethren, the BMS World Mission, Eastern Mennonite Missions.
In many instances, the money funneled to these NGOs comes from taxpayers. How does this work? Many governments and church-based aid charities – especially in Europe, but also in the United States and Canada – are participants in public-private partnerships. The government agencies disburse funds to various Christian aid societies, which then distribute funds to a broad range of humanitarian projects worldwide.
In the Middle East these funds are often transferred to NGOs claiming to foster peace and human rights in the Arab-Israeli conflict. In reality, these groups actually fuel conflict by promoting BDS against Israel accompanied by a torrent of delegitimizing propaganda denouncing Israel as “apartheid” and “racist.”
The list of such Christian charities funding anti-Israel NGOs is long, and includes both Protestant and Catholic groups. A few examples suffice.
Christian Aid (UK) serves as the official relief, development and advocacy agency of 41 sponsoring churches in Britain and Ireland. It is heavily subsidized by the British, Irish, Scottish, U.S., Norwegian, and EU governments. It assumes a highly biased and politicized approach to the Arab-Israeli conflict. Its publications systematically ignore Palestinian responsibility in the conflict and minimize Israel’s right to self-defense.
Christian Aid’s partner organizations include some of the most radicalized NGOs operating in the region: Sabeel, Zochrot, ICAHD, Palestinian Agricultural Relief Committees, and Alternative Information Center, among others.
The Palestinian Christian Sabeel is an interesting case. It is a beneficiary of this public-private partnership, and is one of the more influential groups promoting anti-Israel political campaigns, particularly church divestment efforts, worldwide. The Presbyterian Church (USA), which recently passed a divestment resolution, is an official Sabeel partner. Rev. Naim Ateek, Sabeel’s founder, repeatedly pushes antisemitic theology. Attacking Judaism, he called, “the establishment of Israel [a] relapse to the most primitive concepts of an exclusive, tribal God” and has described the Israeli government as a “crucifixion system” responsible for putting “Jesus is on the cross again with thousands of crucified Palestinians around him.”
Sabeel’s other Christian funders include Diakonia (which received funds from both the Swedish and Norwegian governments), Kerk in Aktie, World Vision, Mennonite Central Committee, Church of Scotland, United Church of Christ, the Presbyterian Church of Canada, and the United Church of Canada.
The Christian funding of these extreme NGOs makes no moral sense. True peacemakers avoid worsening conflict and seek to create trust between disputants, and foster an atmosphere of reconciliation. Funding groups that support Israel’s destruction, that euphemistically refer to Hamas terrorism as “armed resistance,” that seek to isolate Israel and dehumanize Israelis has brought many Christian charities into the conflict participants. Until these Christian groups change course, no credence should be given to the claim of their acting on any kind of ethical prophetic voice.