Dexter Van Zile
Dexter Van Zile

World Vision’s war against the Jewish state

World Vision President Kevin Jenkins with Ban Ki Moon, Secretary-General of the United Nations. (UN Photo.)
World Vision President Kevin Jenkins with Ban Ki Moon, Secretary-General of the United Nations. (UN Photo.)

If you give money to World Vision, a multibillion-dollar Christian aid and development agency, whose U.S. affiliate is headquartered in Federal Way, Washington, there’s something you need to know.

The organization, which does great work promoting the welfare of children throughout the world is also a major player in the campaign to demonize Israel, the Jewish state.

Don’t believe me?

Take a look at the organization’s website and see for yourself. In particular, you need to see World Vision’s differential approach to dealing with the impact of violence on children in the Middle East.

When it comes to Syria, the organization talks about the suffering children endure as a result of that country’s civil war in a non-political and non-polemical manner.

It describes and laments the suffering inflicted on children in Syria but omits any reference to the perpetrators. It does not name and shame the perpetrators in any way.

About the only thing you will learn about the civil war in Syria from World Vision materials is that it began in 2011, harms children and that World Vision needs money to help these children. Fair enough.

World Vision takes a decidedly different approach, however, when it comes to dealing with the suffering of children in Jerusalem, West Bank and Gaza.

When publicizing its work in these areas, World Vision rarely misses an opportunity to blame Israel for the suffering it confronts. Interestingly enough, World Vision materials rarely make any mention, of the role Hamas has played in putting children in danger.

In World Vision materials, the alleged villainy of the Jewish state is shoved in the reader’s face without hesitation and without shame.

After reading World Vision’s materials about its work in Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza, people would have every reason to think that Israel, the Jewish state is a monstrous pariah state that intentionally murders children despite the fact that it has worked assiduously to avoid civilian casualties.

And after reading the organization’s publicity about its work in Syria, people would know bad things are happening to children in that country, but have absolutely no idea of who is responsible for the atrocities that are taking place there.

The difference between World Vision’s approach to violence in Syria and Israel is so stark that it is impossible to believe that the people who run the organization from their offices in Federal Way, Washington do not see what is happening.

People like Kevin Jenkins, the organization’s international president, simply do not get put in charge of multibillion-dollar charities without knowing what is happening in the organization’s they lead.

The question is whether or not the organization’s donors know what is happening.

Fortunately, it’s all there on World Vision’s websites. The donors can check for themselves.

Here’s is what they’ll find.

Syria Materials

In December 2013, World Vision published a “policy report” about violence against children in Syria. It’s one of a series called “Stand With Me.” It’s titled “Ending the War on Syria’s Children.”

It’s a compelling document that talks about the suffering children in Syria have endured as a result of their country’s ongoing civil war, which began in 2011. The document reports that three million have been driven from their homes in Syria and that as many as 11,000 children have been killed in the course of the fighting. The report states, “Children have been killed, targeted with maiming, sexual violence, torture, detention, and recruitment by all parties of the conflict.”

The report also provides first-hand testimony from children and parents about the impact of the Syrian civil war on peoples’ lives. “I saw 60 people killed in front of my eyes,” one father told World Vision. “By the time we left, people were dying one by one. Children were being killed, and women.”

One nine-year-old boy told World Vision, “If you hear the sound of helicopter, you have to run for your life. But, if you hear a plane, that means you are still alive, because it is very fast and you only hear it after it hits; but that also means other people have died.”

Harrowing stuff.

The report ends with a list of recommendations on how to bring an end to the violence against children in Syria, with the first recommendation being to achieve “A lasting end to the conflict.” The report states: “The most effective way to protect Syrian children from violence is for parties to the conflict, supported by their international allies; to rapidly reach a politically negotiated settlement.”

But even before an agreement can be reached, the report states, “more must be done to end the targeting of children. Parties to the conflict bear the primary responsibility for ending policies and practices violating child rights. States with influence over parties to the conflict also bear responsibility, and should leverage their influence to ensure that children are protected.”

World Vision then calls on “All parties to the conflict” to “respect and ensure the protection of children and uphold children’s rights by immediately ceasing all violence, exploitation and abuse against children.”

“Parties to the conflict.”

One curious aspect of the document is that nowhere does it provide any meaningful detail about the conflict itself. It provides no information whatsoever about who is fighting in the conflict. In other words, when it describes the terrible acts of violence perpetrated against children in Syria, the report says nothing at all about who is responsible for these acts.

The report states children have been shot dead at close range, but does not tell us who did the shooting.

We learn children have been targeted by snipers, but aren’t told who is responsible for such outrages.

“Execution-style deaths have been reported, in which children have been shot dead or had their throats cut.”

Who did it? The report doesn’t say.

Other than describing the people doing these terrible things as “combatants,” “armed groups,” or “parties to the conflict,” the report leaves readers in the dark about the identity of the perpetrators.

World Vision is apparently so careful to not take sides in Syria’s Civil War that it does not give readers even the most basic information about who is fighting whom in Syria. Readers will look in vain for names like “Assad,” “Free Syrian Army,” “Hezbollah,” or “Islamic Front.” The outside powers with a stake in the conflict (such as Russia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and the United States), are not mentioned by name.

About all we learn from the document is that some very bad people are doing some very bad things in Syria and that World Vision wants people to stop doing these bad things. And World Vision needs money to help the children afflicted by these bad acts.

Stand With Me, But Don’t Name Names

It’s the same deal with three other reports produced by World Vision in the “Stand With Me” series.

A joint report issued by UNICEF, World Vision, UNHCR and Save the Children titled “Education Interrupted,” laments in December 2013 talks about how students have had their educations disrupted as schools have been destroyed or damaged as a result of the war, but doesn’t say who blew these schools up. It talks about how children have been driven from their homes, but doesn’t say who drove them out.

A report about the violation of children’s rights issued by World Vision in January 2014, titled “Children Rights, Wronged,” uses the personal narratives of four children to highlight the impact the civil war is having on Syrian children, but does not name the parties to the conflict. One of the stories reads in part as follows:

Israa was an honour student, the top in her senior class in Syria. On the day of Israa’s final exam, warring groups destroyed her school, shattering her life and her dreams of earning a high school diploma.


I was in school when bombs hit,” the 17-year-old says. “The windows were blown out, glass everywhere and some hit my friends in the face and hands. Glass hit my face. I ran out, ran home to be with my family, my father. There were hurt people everywhere on the street. I saw bodies on the streets. I saw a lot of blood.

Who destroyed Israa’s school? The report does not provide any detail other than to say, “warring groups.”

Another report issued “Our Uncertain Future,” issued by World Vision in March 2014, tells what it’s like for children living in refugee camps in Lebanon and Jordan. And like the December 2013 report, makes no mention about who drove these children out of the country they were born in.

All four of these reports recount great suffering on the part of Syrian children, but make no mention of who is responsible for this suffering.

In every instance, responsible parties are masked in anonymity.

Blog Entries

The same is true with the blog entries that World Vision publishes about its work in Syria.

For example, an entry published in May 2014 about a World Vision supported refugee camp being constructed in Azraq in the Jordanian desert makes no mention whatsoever of the actors in the conflict that has made the camp necessary.

The article, written by Bob Neufield, twice refers to “the conflict in Syria,” and gives one reference “the fighting that has torn Syria apart,” but  offers no mention of the Syrian government forces that have used chemical weapons against civilians, nor does it mention the Islamist groups who have destroyed churches, murdered children and massacred Christians. The language is clinical. Bad things happen. Somebody does them. But we aren’t told who.

A previous entry published in March 2014 (written by Meg Sattler, WV’s regional communications manager) includes the following sentence: “In September, chemical weapons attacks were proven.” Notice the passive voice and the author’s failure to say who actually used the chemical weapons.

No naming.

No shaming.

Another post written by Sattler in February takes the same approach. She quotes a girl who talks about having her home destroyed, but doesn’t say who is responsible for the destruction. Read the rest of the entries for yourself and you’ll see this is the form World Vision’s staffers invariably follow when dealing with Syria.

Special Treatment for Israel

Ruth Padilla DeBorst, World Vision's director of Christian Formation and Leadership, appeared at the 2014 Christ at the Checkpoint Conference. (Photo: Dexter Van Zile.)
Ruth Padilla DeBorst, World Vision’s director of Christian Formation and Leadership, appeared at the 2014 Christ at the Checkpoint Conference in Bethlehem. Israel was given very harsh treatment while speakers blamed Islamist violence against Christians in in the Middle East on Israel and the West. (Photo: Dexter Van Zile.)

World Vision’s staffers working in Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza take a completely different approach. When these staffers write about the suffering they endure, responsibility for this suffering is almost always associated with Israel. It’s largely the same message offered at Christ at the  Checkpoint conferences that have been held in Bethlehem every two years since 2010.

First let’s start with the blog entries that publicize World Vision’s work in Gaza.

An entry written by Alex Snary, (World Vision’s national director for Jerusalem, West Bank and Gaza) and posted on Monday, Aug. 4, 2014, tells us that Beit Hanoun, which reportedly had a “peaceful attitude” toward the Israelis, now “lies in ruins.” It was the target of a “massive Israeli bombardment” that has “destroyed entire neighborhoods, blanketing everything in a layer of grey cement dust.” The piece continues:

The smell of death, the bodies of loved ones still buried in the rubble assaults your senses. In every direction, collapsed houses can be seen representing the collapsed lives of their owners. People have lost everything; their place of shelter, their businesses, their assets and their loved ones.


Yesterday, while entering Gaza I heard the booming of the Israeli artillery as the rounds flew overhead and the saw them strike Beit Hanoun.

Notice the highly detailed and polemical description of what has happened (“the smell of death,” for example) and the association of this misery with Israel.

Israel’s alleged responsibility for the suffering is placed front and center in the reader’s mind. And it is depicted as being solely responsible for this suffering. There’s no mention of the other party to the conflict in question – Hamas.

There’s no mention of the Hamas rocket that fell short onto a UN run school in Beit Hanoun, nor is their any reference to Hamas’ use of human shields. All of the writer’s (and World Vision’s) contempt is directed at Israel. No criticism whatsoever is directed at Hamas.

This isn’t to say that every World Vision blog entry demonizes Israel in such a manner. An entry written by Snary on July 25, 2014 laments the suffering of both Israeli and Palestinian children and makes no reference to Hamas or the Israeli military. But another entry posted on that same day, this one written by Mohammad El Halaby, a development officer for World Vision, speaks about children who “had died under the rubble of homes that the Israelis had targeted for demolition without any pre-warning.” It continues:

Every hour and every day, we see scenes of murdered children predominantly displayed on all of our television channels. I am sure it is hard for most people in the world to imagine the status of their bodies and their innocent childhoods being destroyed by indiscriminative [sic] fire.


Last year, World Vision’s programmes in Gaza achieved amazing results with children. We managed to reduce children’s distress significantly. For one big event, we gathered children together to fly kites that carried messages of peace, child protection, rights and hopes for the future.

Halaby doesn’t come out and say it, but in his piece, he implicitly accuses Israel of murdering children with indiscriminate fire. While its tough to confirm the details of the events Halaby is describing, one thing is for sure, you’d be hard pressed to see such an accusation leveled by World Vision staffers at the Assad Regime or by Islamist terrorists in Syria. They tell us it happens, by won’t say who does it.

Why is it that World Vision staffers feel free to level such ugly and one-sided accusations at Israel but won’t even mention the Assad Regime or Islamists in Syria by name?

Then there’s a piece posted on World Vision’s website by Lisa Sabella, communications officer for World Vision in 2012. It tells the story of  Hajar Masoud who works for World Vision in its Jerusalem-West Bank-Gaza section. It talks about the suffering Masoud and her family endured during Operation Cast Lead. She doesn’t mention Israel by name in her narrative, but then at the bottom of the article, someone (Sabella?) inserted a post-script which reads in part:

Operation Pillar of Defense, Israel’s recent military operation in the Gaza Strip resulted in the death of 163 Palestinians, 32 of which were children, and injured over 1,200 others. Six Israelis were also killed due to rocket fire.

Again, we see the reference to Israeli use of force with the phrase “Israel’s recent military operation in the Gaza Strip” which “resulted in the deaths of 163 Palestinians, 32 of which were children, and injured over 1,200 others.” And mercifully enough, it does acknowledge that six Israelis were killed due to rocket fire during the fighting.

But interestingly enough, there’s no reference to who fired the rockets at Israel. Nor is there any reference to the act of violence that preceded the fighting that began in November 2012 – the launching of an anti-tank missile that destroyed an Israeli jeep and killed for Israeli soldiers.

So there you have it. Not only are the people in Syria able to kill people without being named by World Vision staffers, so is Hamas!

Then there are the lengthy reports World Vision produces about its work in Jerusalem, Gaza and the West Bank. These reports, like those that publicize World Vision’s work in Syria are available on the organization’s website as PDFs. Sometimes World Vision PDFs about its work in Jerusalem, Gaza and the West Bank refrain from mentioning Israel but most of the time, the organization’s staffers offer a one-sided description of the conflict and provide no reference to the role Palestinian leaders have played in causing the suffering the organization is trying to confront.

For example, the organization’s 2013 report on child well-being in Jerusalem, Gaza and the West Bank describes the “political context in the occupied Palestinian territory” as being “unlike any other context in the world.” It continues:

With an ongoing Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territory, namely the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip; Palestinians are unable to participate in decisions that affect their daily lives. Movement and access to, from and within oPt are restricted by a combination of physical obstacles such as checkpoints, roadblocks and gates, and by bureaucratic constraints of permits and the designation of access restricted areas.

Yes, it is true that Israel exerts a significant amount of control over the lives of Palestinians, but it’s also true that Hamas has made a lot of decisions – without input from its subjects in Gaza – “that affect their daily lives.” One obvious example is that Hamas keeps shooting rockets at Israel, which in turn brings about disastrous consequences for the people who live in Gaza – who don’t get to vote over whether or not it’s a good idea start a fight they can’t win with a state that cannot afford to lose. World Vision’s report ignores this reality altogether.

And those checkpoints and roadblocks (which have been reduced drastically in the West Bank in recent years)? They were put there for a reason – to put an end to the attacks Israel was suffering during the Second Intifada. Another issue that is ignored by World Vision.

Hamas Gets Kid Glove Treatment

The same document goes on to list some of the political factors that negatively impact the lives of the Palestinians World Vision is trying to help. They include “Continued Internal  Palestinian Faction Divisions between Fatah and Hammas [sic].”

The document makes no mention of the extra-judicial killings that Hamas has perpetrated over the years, which would normally raise some questions about whether or not the organization should really be part of the Palestinian Authority.

Do these killings traumatize children in the Gaza Strip?

Of course they do! But World Vision’s report says nothing about them.

Nor does the World Vision document mention the summer camps Palestinian terrorists have created to indoctrinate children in Jew-hatred. And there’s no reference to the hate indoctrination that appears on children’s television shows in Palestinian society.

What does World Vision think about these shows and camps? Don’t they negatively affect the lives of children in the West Bank and Gaza? Or are they too busy obsessing about the things that Israel does wrong to pay them any mind? Or are World Vision staffers working in Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza too frightened to speak about these problems?

In sum, the document directs nearly all the outrage over the suffering it describes at Israel and very little of it at Palestinian elites who are afflicted by hateful ideologies, corruption or both.

And its like that in other World Vision reports about Palestinian children. In a case study titled “Children as Risk Communicators—Building a resilient community” World Vision doesn’t shy away from portraying Israel as the primary source of suffering endured by Palestinian children. It also accuses Israel of engaging in indiscriminate fire against the Palestinians. Here’s the relevant text:

The most recent conflict was in November 2012, when the the [sic] Israeli Air Force (IAF) launched an airstrike that targeted and killed the acting chief of Hamas’ armed wing and one of his associates. This incident marked the beginning of a large military offensive, called the Pillar of Defense. The latest offensive followed several weeks of intermittent escalations in violence between Palestinian armed groups and the Israeli military. IAF airstrikes and firing from Israeli naval vessels and tanks have resulted in rising civilian fatalities and injuries and damage to hundreds of homes across the Gaza Strip. The total death toll is 1581, of which 33 are children, 13 women and 13 elderly. The total injured is 1,269, including 260 children, 140 women and 55 elderly.


The uninterrupted waves of airstrikes and indiscriminate rocket fire have also triggered widespread fear among the civilian population in the Gaza Strip, particularly among children, with dozens having to be treated for shock.

Again, World Vision’s narrative about the fighting in November 2012 makes no reference to the attack on Israeli soldiers that preceded Israel’s response.

Jenkins Offers False Moral Equivalence

To be fair, the silence about Hamas’ abusive actions is not across the board. In late July 2014, World Vision’s International President Kevin Jenkins condemned Palestinian behavior in a piece titled “Stop sacrificing children for politics.”

But this piece, Jenkins, like World Vision staffers, can’t bring himself to condemn Hamas by name, speaking instead of “armed groups in Gaza” who fire rockets into Israel from heavily populated areas. What is it about World Vision being unable to speak ill of specific Islamist groups?

It’s like these folks are students at Hogwarts, too afraid to even mention Voldemort by name.

Ultimately Jenkins’ attempt at even handedness forces him to embrace a false moral equivalence between Hamas’ terrorism and Israel’s efforts at self-defense.

He writes “If we are to keep our moral compass, the world must make it clear that those firing rockets into Israel and bombing homes in Gaza are doing wrong.” Jenkins fails to acknowledge however, that Israel seeks to avoid civilian casualties and Hamas is intent on creating them, whether they take place in Israel or Gaza.

Can the president of a hugely influential Christian charity not see the difference? Is World Vision’s access to the Gaza Strip contingent on treating Hamas with kid gloves and demonizing Israel?

That is sure what it looks like.

What Is Going On?

In sum, Islamist terrorists in the Middle East are able to perpetrate all manner of atrocities without being named by World Vision activists, but when Israel fights back against attacks, it always gets named. Its response is  depicted as “indiscriminate” despite its well-documented efforts to avoid civilian casualties.

And when a group like Hamas does, by some miracle, get mentioned in World Vision materials, it is described as a target of Israeli attacks, but almost never as a perpetrator.

What is that about?

What is it about the Jewish state that prompts World Vision staffers in the Holy Land to engage in one-sided commentary against it while World Vision staffers in Syria don’t even mention the names of the groups who have perpetrated unspeakable atrocities?

Whatever motivates this double standard, the message for its American donors is clear: World Vision has, for one reason or another, enlisted in the propaganda war against the Jewish state.

World Vision has allowed its good name and resources to be used to demonize Israel in a shameless and ugly manner.

People who donate money to World Vision – whether they mean to or not – are supporting an organization whose staffers who propagandize against Israel while giving Islamists kid glove treatment.

It’s something they need to keep in mind the next time they get a solicitation letter signed by Kevin Jenkins.

About the Author
Dexter Van Zile is Shillman Research Fellow at the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting and Analysis.
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