This week, Ireland’s Justice, Equality and Defense Minister Alan Shatter is visiting Israel. While Minister Shatter has not contributed to the virulent anti-Israel activities and statements of many of Ireland’s elite, this visit cannot avoid this serious and growing problem. In particular, Israelis should stress the moral and political damage resulting from Irish government funding for Trócaire.
Trócaire, with an annual budget of some €56 million, is the overseas development agency of the Catholic Church of Ireland, and a major recipient of funds from Irish Aid, the government’s assistance program for developing countries. Irish Aid claims to “promote coherence across the full range of Irish government policies on issues such as agriculture, trade, the environment and fiscal matters.” In reality, it funds many NGOs that participate in extreme anti-Israel activities, and, in particular, Trócaire. For many years, Trócaire has been centrally involved in promoting the Durban strategy of demonization. In January, highly distorted “educational resource guides” on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict produced by Trócaire became the subject of intense criticism, not only among Israelis, but also from some Irish commentators.
For example, Councillor Richard Humphreys published an op-ed in the Independent, decrying Trócaire’s blatant anti-Israel bias. As Humphreys noted, Trócaire’s educational resource guide, distributed to secondary schools throughout Ireland, promotes the exclusivity of Palestinian victimhood in the conflict, and seems “to be a case of four legs good, two legs bad. Palestinian victims and Israeli oppressors.”
This exceptional criticism sparked an important debate on why Irish taxpayers are funding such activities that fuel conflict, particularly in the midst of Ireland’s economic crisis. Between 2007 and 2011, the Government pledged to Trócaire a staggering €116 million, and the NGO received a further €18.5 million in the last fiscal year.
Beyond the waste of limited resources, and in the context of its religious framework, Trócaire has betrayed the universal, apolitical humanitarian principles that its claims to promote. Officials encourage the public and lobby the Irish government to boycott Israeli products as part of the BDS campaign, among other forms of political warfare against Israel.
Given the Irish government’s stated opposition “to proposals for trade sanctions or boycotts against Israel,” the government is essentially using taxpayer funds to undermine its own policies.
In 2007, Trócaire joined the radical anti-Israel group Badil in a “Call to Action,” which contained explicit attacks on Jews. This included a targeted campaign to “expose the Jewish and Zionist community’s double standards” on the conflict. Trócaire is also involved in campaigns to commemorate the “nakba” (catastrophe) originating from the Arab states’ war of aggression on Israel in 1948. This, like Trocaire’s “educational” guides, reinforces the narrative of exclusive Palestinian victimhood.
In another instance, following the 2008-09 Gaza conflict, Trócaire’s executive director Justin Kilcullen produced a one-sided report on Gaza that ignored Hamas’ blatant human rights violations and war crimes while exclusively blaming Israel for the fighting.
This obsession with Israel is seen in Trócaire’s 2012 annual report, which defines the “key areas” of their work as being “climate change, human rights violations in Israel and the Occupied Palestine Territories, and overseas aid.” Despite the systemic and mass abuses committed by Saudi Arabia, Syria, Iran, Egypt, Yemen and other Arab states, Israel, it appears, is the only country that Trócaire chooses to focus on in the entire Middle East.
Trócaire declares opposition to the blockade against Gaza, which allegedly seeks to “punish Hamas,” but erases the terror attacks targeting Israeli civilians. In 2012 over 800 rockets were fired from Gaza by Palestinian terrorists, leaving millions of Israelis in constant fear, scores were injured and a number killed. Trócaire – which claims to promote moral and ethical values — remained silent.
Trocaire is certainly responsible for its anti-Israel activities. But, the Irish government, as a major funder, should also be held accountable.
On one hand, the Irish government advocates a peaceful settlement of the Arab-Israeli conflict by a realisation of a two-state solution. Yet, it funds organisations involved in efforts that politicise human rights, fueling the conflict by demonizing one side – Israel.
With Minister Shatter’s visit, the Israeli government has a much needed opportunity to raise and discuss this and related sources of mutual distrust and animosity, and to work towards understanding and co-operation between Ireland and Israel.