Christian non-governmental organizations such as the Christian Peacemaker Teams, the Mennonite Central Committee, Pax Christi, the Ecumenical Accompaniment Program in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI) are regular providers of anti-Israel propaganda to Western audiences. These groups provide de-contextualized stories and images of Israelis behaving badly to “peace” activists and church leaders in Europe and North America who repackage this material into a narrative in which Israel is entirely responsible for Palestinian suffering and in which unilateral concessions and withdrawals will bring an end to the Arab-Israeli conflict. Seemingly intent on providing the raw material for an anti-Israel campaigns in the public institutions of the West, Christian NGOs provide little if any information about Arab and Muslim hostility and violence toward Jews and Israel in the Middle East and fail to describe the hostile agenda that fuels violence against the Jewish state in the region.
One group which engages in this type of behavior is WorldVision, a humanitarian agency that promotes the welfare of children throughout the world. WorldVision’s activists in the Middle East unfairly portray Israel in villainous terms to raise money for its operations in Jerusalem, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip.
WorldVision’s anti-Israel narrative is readily apparent on its website which offers a distorted chronology of the Arab-Israeli conflict, portrays Palestinian suffering solely as a consequence of Israeli (and not Palestinian) misdeeds and offers little acknowledgement that Israelis also suffer as a consequence of the violence.
WorldVision’s anti-Israel animus is particularly evident in the page it uses to introduce potential sponsors to the realities of life in Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. This page provides a distorted chronology that describes Jewish immigration, Israel’s creation and two Arab efforts to destroy Israel as follows:
Jewish immigration increased in the 19th and 20th centuries joining the existing small Jewish community in Palestine and the indigenous Palestinian population.
After World War II, the State of Israel was declared by the region’s Jewish inhabitants. Much of the Palestinians and the surrounding countries were opposed to this. As a result, war broke out. After a year, a ceasefire was declared and Jordan governed the West Bank, while Egypt administered the Gaza Strip. In 1967, Israel defeated Egyptian, Syrian, and Jordanian forces during the Six-Day War.
In its description of these events, WorldVision portrays Israel’s creation in a clearly distorted manner that serves to legitimize Arab and Muslim hostility toward the Jewish state. For example, it omits any description of the condition of the Jews who left for Palestine during the 19th and 20th centuries – information that would help to explain why a Jewish state was necessary.
WorldVision’s chronology also fails to include any reference to UN Resolution 181 which called for the creation of an Arab and Jewish state in the British Mandate. Instead, it merely reports “the state of Israel was declared by the region’s Jewish inhabitants.” WorldVision also omits any reference whatsoever to the repeated calls by Arab leaders for Israel’s destruction before both the 1948 and the Six Day War in 1967.
The chronology’s authors uses the passive construction “war broke out” to describe the beginning of the 1948 War – which was initiated by five Arab armies attacking the nascent Jewish state the day after its leaders declared independence. This passive construction allows the reader to ignore exactly who was the aggressor in this war.
When it comes time to describe the Six Day War, the chronology’s authors report that “Israel defeated” the forces of Egypt, Syria and Jordan – without acknowledging the calls for Israel’s destruction that preceded these attacks.
Predictably, the same chronology fails to offer any description of the failure of the Palestinians to negotiate in good faith at Camp David in 2000 and the Palestinian Authorities refusal to accept the Clinton Parameters offered at the end of 2000 and beginning of 2001. In 2000 Ehud Barak made a peace offer at Camp David that would have allowed the creation of a Palestinian state on all of the Gaza Strip and most of the West Bank but Yasir Arafat said no, and did not make a counteroffer, and then authorized the Second Intifada which led to the deaths of more than 5,000 people on both sides of the conflict. In an effort to salvage the peace process, President Clinton put forth the “Clinton Parameters” which offered a state to the Palestinians on more beneficial terms than what Ehud Barak offered in 2000. But again, Arafat said no, despite a warning from Prince Bandar of Saudi Arabia that failing to take the offer would be a “crime.”
WorldVision’s depiction of the security barrier as causing the deterioration of the Palestinian economy and as threatening food security and impacting access to education and health care fails to acknowledge that it was built in response to a murderous series of suicide attacks from the West Bank that killed or injured thousands of Israeli civilians during the the Second Intifada.
By failing to mention the violence that preceded the barrier’s construction, WorldVision encourages its supporters to blame Israel and only Israel for Palestinian suffering caused by the barrier. It also encourages its supporters to ignore the suffering endured by Israelis during the Second Intifada.
The chronology also fails to acknowledge the fact that Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip in 2005 and has suffered an increase of rocket attacks after this withdrawal. Instead of describing Israel’s security concerns in a comprehensive and honest manner, WorldVision states that “efforts by the government to improve health care have been hampered by border closures and a lack of funding.”
The border closures are a response to ongoing violence against Israel by groups that publicly affirm Israel’s destruction. Israel has been attacked from nearly every bit of territory from which it has withdrawn since the Oslo Accords, but the only detail WorldVision can provide of these events is that “confidence eroded … as both sides contributed to a breach of trust.”
There is no doubt that the events of the past sixty years have caused enormous suffering in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. WorldVision’s chronology narrative however portrays this suffering solely as the result of Jewish sovereignty and Israeli policies. Any honest reading of history would reveal that Palestinian leaders bear great moral responsibility for the suffering of their people, but for some reason WorldVision seems intent on proffering a narrative that denies this reality.
Repeating Hamas Propaganda
WorldVision’s deceptive and one-sided narrative about the Arab-I sraeli conflict is also evident in a recent article “End the blockade of Gaza” by Allyn Dhynes, a peacebuilding and communications manager for the organization. This article, published on Nov. 26, 2008 does acknowledge that Israelis are suffering “violence and insecurity due to military incursions or short range rockets.” Nevertheless, Dhynes portrays the suffering in the Gaza Strip as solely the consequence of Israeli military attacks in the area. “The situation is desperate,” he writes.
The blockade has prevented all food, fuel and medical supplies from entering Gaza for the past 20 days. The basic needs for survival have vanished. Bakeries have shut down because there is no wheat and no electricity. People are making do by burning what wood they can find for cooking and milling chicken feed for bread.
Assuming that Dhynes’ depiction of conditions in the Gaza Strip is accurate (a problematic assumption given that Abdel Shafi director of the UN Development Program recently said that “people aren’t starving”) one question needs to be asked: Who is responsible for the crisis?
Numerous sources indicate it was caused not by the Israelis who have periodically let humanitarian shipments into the Gaza Strip, but by Hamas which has stolen fuel for its own purposes. On Nov. 19, 2006 the Jerusalem Post’s Khaled Abu Tomeh reported that Palestinian officials in Ramallah believed that Hamas was staging the blackouts in the Gaza Strip “in a bid to win sympathy and incite the Palestinian public against Israel and the PA.” Tomeh reports:
“There’s no shortage of fuel in the Gaza Strip and the Electricity Company is continuing to function normally,” said a PA official. “Our people in the Gaza Strip have told us that the blackouts are all staged as part of the Hamas propaganda.”
Another PA official noted that Hamas’s lies reached their peak last January when its legislators held a meeting in a darkened hall of the Palestinian Legislative Council – while light could be seen coming in through the curtained windows.
“There’s enough fuel in the Gaza Strip,” he said. “Even when Israel reduces the fuel supplies, Hamas continues to smuggle tens of thousands of liters through the underground tunnels.”
The Fatah-controlled Pal-Press Web site on Thursday quoted a senior official in the Gaza Electricity Company as saying that Hamas has been stealing fuel supplies intended for the power grid.…
The official, who asked not to be identified, also denied claims by Hamas and Al-Jazeera about power outages in large parts of the Gaza Strip. He noted that 70% of the Gaza Strip’s electricity came from Israel and Egypt, while the remaining 30% were being supplied by the local company.“Hamas has seized more than 220,000 liters of fuel that was intended for generators belonging to our company,” he revealed. “There’s no shortage of fuel and as such there is no reason for a crisis.The official also disclosed that Hamas militiamen had been forcing the company to cut off power supplies to some areas in the Gaza Strip so as to create the impression that the outage was due to a lack of fuel caused by the ongoing closure of the border crossings.
Exactly why is WorldVision cooperating with Hamas’ efforts to delegitimize Israel and the PA leadership in the West Bank? Do WorldVision officials really think this will promote the welfare of children in the Gaza Strip, the West Bank and Jerusalem? Why does Dhynes give such short shrift to attacks against Israel from the Gaza Strip in his report?
To be sure, WorldVision’s efforts to promote the welfare of children in the West Bank, Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip are laudable. Its efforts to raise funds on the back of the modern state of Israel are not.
If WorldVision is to raise funds with integrity, it must come to terms with a difficult realty: It is trying to provide children in the West Bank and Gaza what Arab leaders (Palestinians especially) have denied them for the past sixty years – a chance for healthy future in a stable society that lives in peace with its neighbors.