Are donors to the Swedish Christian aid organization Diakonia aware of its negative obsession with the world's sole Jewish state?
By ILYA MEYER
Is it unreasonable to provide information about the Holocaust without at the same time providing information about the Naqba - "the catastrophe" of the Palestinian Arabs who became refugees in Israel's 1948 War of Independence?
This is the official view of Swedish Christian aid organization Diakonia, whose policy officer for conflict and justice Joakim Wohlfeil said at a meeting in Gothenburg in October that Diakonia is more a lobby group with a clear political agenda for the Middle East than a Christian aid organization. The shocked silence that ensued was quickly filled by his boss, secretary-general Bo Forsberg, who said that Diakonia was still first and foremost a Christian aid organization.
Diakonia operates freely in Israel and the Palestinian territories in pursuit of anti-Israel policies that are often remarkably anti-Semitic in effect. Its record speaks for itself.
Political extremism, religious fanaticism, dictatorships and crimes against humanity are all on the rise. As democrats rooted firmly in the Judeo-Christian affirmation of inalienable human rights, it is always our moral duty to stop human suffering at the hands of anti-democratic despots and their collaborators. Iran, Darfur, Chechnya, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Yemen, Tibet - all require our focus if we are to contribute to a better world.
These, however, are areas in which Sweden's Diakonia is not involved. The ostensibly Christian aid organization appears instead to be totally obsessed with the world's only Jewish state and is uninterested even in coming to the aid of Christian communities in acute distress. Copts suffer systematic racism in Egypt, Pakistan's Christian minority is being hunted to extinction, Christians in the Philippines are being exterminated. Bethlehem's Christian population has been decimated since the Palestinian Authority took control over the area. Yet Diakonia continues to pump Swedish money into the PA apparatus while maintaining total silence on the systematic expulsions of Christians from Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus and the cradle of Christianity.
IN THE democratic state of Israel, Diakonia collaborates intimately with a whole raft of extreme left-wing organizations. In the PA dictatorship, it collaborates intimately with radical political groups and fanatical religious organizations that refuse to mark Israel on the map and where schoolchildren are systematically indoctrinated in anti-Semitic hatred from grade one.
In Diakonia's 60-page annual report, the word "terror" appears just once - in conjunction with Paraguay - and then only with the qualifier "alleged terrorists." According to Diakonia's worldview, acts of violence against civilians perpetrated by fanatics with an extreme religious and/or political agenda are not characterized as terrorism.
Diakonia's annual report makes no mention of Sderot, whose civilians have been terrorized by more than 8,000 Palestinian rockets and where playgrounds for toddlers have to be built indoors. Yet the Palestinians get 13 percent of Diakonia's total aid, donated by Christians in Sweden who believe in democracy and the equal value of all human life.
In one single month, October 2008, Diakonia sponsored 10 articles in the Swedish media, nine of which dealt with the world's only Jewish country. Diakonia writes in its annual report that its second focus area outside Israel/the Palestinian Authority is Congo. Yet Congo, which has seen hundreds of thousands of civilians slaughtered, raped and expelled, has merited just one single article, written back in February.
Diakonia runs what it calls an "ecumenical accompaniment program in Palestine and Israel" whose stated aims are to "reduce the brutality of the occupation" and to "end the illegal occupation of Palestine." But it does not aim to bring an end to terrorism - the root cause of the occupation and the violence. Despite the flowery language in its policy document, there has not been one single recorded instance of Diakonia ever accompanying children in Sderot. But then these are Jewish children.
IT IS to this organization that Christians in Sweden donate their millions. And it is this organization that Israel gives free right to operate within its sovereign territory.
History has taught us it is that religion and politics are dangerous bedfellows. When the church pursues its own foreign-policy agenda with substantial financial backing, the result is seldom pleasant and always predictable. One natural question regarding Diakonia's obsession with the Jewish state while ignoring human rights issues in the world's 23 Arab states is whether its Christian benefactors in Sweden actually know what is being done with their hard-earned money. Because if there is one thing Diakonia does not do, it does not contribute to calm and mutual respect in the Middle East by pursuing such a flagrantly prejudiced stance.
The other question that begs an answer is whether the Israeli authorities really understand the nature of the fifth column that is being allowed to work within its borders. The Foreign Ministry and security establishment may find it helpful to contact Swedes with an objective insight to obtain first-hand information about the nature of Diakonia and other like-minded Swedish organizations that operate freely within Israel to bring down the country.
It is incompatible with a Christian, humanitarian and democratic worldview that a radical left-wing organization be allowed to operate under the mantle of Christian aid. It is inconceivable that it should receive Swedish governmental financial aid and official Israeli sanction to engage in lobbying and domestic politics in Jerusalem while remaining silent on the plight of Christians being decimated a few kilometers away in Bethlehem. And it is unconscionable that its obsession with the Jewish state causes it to turn a blind eye to the plight of millions of people the world over who are suffering indescribable injustices.
The author is former deputy chairman of the Swedish-Israel Friendship Society, Western Region and is a former board member of the Joint Council for Jews and Christians in Sweden.
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