The Catholic Near East Welfare Agency (CNEWA) is a charitable organization founded by Pope Pius XI in 1926 to help Catholics in the Near East and Asia. The organization publishes a magazine, One, on a quarterly basis.
The most recent issue of this magazine included articles highlighting CNEWA’s work in Armenia, India, Iraq, Israel, the Gaza Strip and Syria.
A feature article about immigrants struggling in Israel is a pretty reasonable and fair-minded assessment of the problems facing immigrant children in the Jewish state.
They need the Church’s help, but despite the suffering, the article’s author, Diane Handal, refrained from using anti-Judaic language to up the emotional ante when describing the suffering. There was the almost obligatory reference to the suffering of immigrants in the “promised land” in the title, but there was no effort to portray Israeli Jews as reprobates and unworthy of a sovereign state as a result of the suffering of immigrant children.
The article’s restraint is remarkable given the tendency of Christian charities such as Embrace the Middle East and World Vision to demonize Israel as part of their fundraising efforts. It has been a problem for a long time.
Unfortunately, there is another article in One magazine that demonizes Israel. It was titled “A Letter from Gaza,” written by Suhaila Tarazi, a Palestinian Christian who directs the Al Ahli Hospital operated by the Anglican Diocese of Jerusalem and supported by CNEWA.
In her letter, Tarazi told an all-too-familiar narrative of innocent suffering on the part of the Palestinians and unrelenting villainy on the part of the Israelis.
For example, she describes the installation of the Palestinian Authority after the signing of the Oslo Accords in the early 1990s as heralding a moment of “peace and tranquility” that was brought to an end when Israel imposed restrictions on Palestinian economy, restricted freedom of movement and constructed a “separation” wall, which she says “have left no hope for the establishment of a Palestinian state.”
She also complained about the construction of settlements in the West Bank.
Nowhere does she recount the failure of Palestinian leaders to negotiate in good faith at Camp David in 2000, nor does she mention Yassir Arafat’s refusal to accept the Clinton Parameters, which, if accepted, would have established a Palestinian state on all of the Gaza Strip and most of the West Bank and would have brought an end to the settlement construction she condemned.
Nor does she mention the suicide attacks that took place during the Second Intifada that prompted Israel to build the security barrier she bemoans. Tarazi also failed to mention that Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip in 2005 only to be met by increased violence, rocket attacks, especially, perpetrated by Hamas. No Christian can offer a reasonable judgment about the rights and wrongs of the Arab-Israeli conflict without knowing about these things.
As Tarazi’s letter progresses, it becomes a pro-Hamas screed, stating that in 2006, “Hamas won parliamentary elections in Gaza, which the international community described as transparent and legitimate.”
In her effort to portray Hamas as a legitimately elected government, Tarazi fails to include any reference to Hamas’s deeply antisemitic ideology and well-documented calls for Israel’s destruction and its support for Muslim supremacism over Christians in Gaza. How can a Catholic publication publish an article that ignores these issues?
In addition to failing to describe Hamas’ hostility toward Israel, Jews and Christians, Tarazi also omits the organization’s role in causing three wars with Israel and the responsibility Hamas bears for the suffering caused by these wars.
Tarazi writes that since Hamas achieved power in 2006, “Israel has engaged in three brutal wars in Gaza – the most recent in August 2014, which lasted 51 days and killed thousands of innocent people, mainly women and children.”
After describing the war’s impact on homes, cultivated fields, sewage and water pipes and its health care system, Tarazi then goes onto describe her hospital’s efforts to address these humanitarian problem and expresses gratitude for CNEWA for its support and generosity.
Tarazi fails to mention that each of these wars she invokes was precipitated by tunneling and rocket attacks into Israel from the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip. She even failed to report that the 2006 war was precipitated by a cross-border raid and kidnapping of Corporal Gilad Shalit, who was held in captivity for five years. Tunneling into Israel, kidnapping and launching (or allowing the launching) of rockets into neighboring territory, are by any definition, acts of war, and yet in her letter, Tarazi blames Israel and only Israel for these wars. This is simply dishonest.
In a further effort to further delegitimize Israel, which has taken unprecedented steps to avoid civilian causalities, Tarazi also exaggerates the number of civilian deaths caused by the 2014. She states that the war “killed thousands of innocent people, mainly women and children.” During the last few weeks of the Gaza 2014 War, the New York Times reported the following after looking at the names of the casualties:
[T]he population most likely to be militants, men ages 20 to 29, is also the most overrepresented in the death toll: They are 9 percent of Gaza’s 1.7 million residents, but 34 percent of those killed whose ages were provided. At the same time, women and children under 15, the least likely to be legitimate targets, were the most underrepresented, making up 71 percent of the population and 33 percent of the known-age casualties. (New York Times, Aug. 6, 2014).
A detailed report produced in 2015 by the Meir-Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center states that of the 2,125 Palestinians killed during the 2014, “at least 936 of the dead (44 percent of all the fatalities), were terrorist operatives (“militants”) and 761 (36 percent of all fatalities) were civilians.” This same report also indicates that more than 600 of these casualties were affiliated with Hamas and that just over 200 were affiliated with the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ). Clearly, Tarazi is exaggerating the number of civilians killed by the war.
By publishing Tarazi’s dishonest screed, the editors at One have became accomplic
es in broadcasting anti-Israel propaganda.
This is important. If a humanitarian organization is going to talk about the causes of the suffering caused by a war and ask its readers to make a moral assessment about who is at fault for this suffering, as Tarazi’s article does, it has to be careful not to allow itself to become party to the conflict in question. That is exactly what CNEWA did by publishing this article.
CNEWA’s status as a Catholic charity that helps the poor does not give it license to engage in this type of propagandizing.