Irish ties to Israel hurt by NGO funding

The Irish government is either oblivious to Trócaire’s extensive anti-peace activities, or knowingly carrying on a long tradition of anti-Israel bias.

Irish Flag 370 (photo credit: Reuters)
Irish Flag 370
(photo credit: Reuters)
This week, officials from Ireland are traveling to Israel for high-level talks. At the top of the agenda should be the damaging policies conducted by Trócaire, one of the major recipients of Irish taxpayer largesse.
Founded by the Bishops of Ireland, Trócaire is the official overseas development agency of the Catholic Church in Ireland and a major recipient of funds from Irish Aid with an annual budget of some ¤56 million.
In contrast to the humanitarian label, Trócaire is also a major contributor to and unwitting participant in the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.
Amid the organization’s materials showing impoverished African children and grateful aid recipients from the third world are political attacks in the form of calls to boycott Israeli products from the West Bank. In a recent op-ed in the Irish Times, Trócaire’s executive director, Justin Kilcullen, urged Ireland to adopt a total ban on “illegal settlement goods” and to “push European counterparts for similar action.”
Beyond the central moral issue raised by an aid organization interceding politically in a complex and multifaceted conflict, Trócaire’s role as a key enabler of anti-Israel campaigns raises important questions. If boycotts are a legitimate means of influencing the policies of foreign governments, why is there no call to boycott Syria following the deaths of tens of thousands of people in Assad’s bloody war against his own people? And why is there no Trocaire-led boycott of China, or of many other countries plagued by violent attacks and terrorism. In fact, why is Israel the only country that Trócaire targets in the entire Middle East?
The answer may have something to do with the fact that Trócaire’s “Occupied Palestinian Territories/Israel Programme Officer,” Garry Walsh, was previously employed as the National Coordinator for Ireland Palestinian Solidarity Campaign – an openly partisan and biased organization far removed from any humanitarian objectives. The appointment of Walsh to lead the campaign against Israel has completed Trócaire’s transformation from a legitimate aid organization to anti-Israel lobbyist, and has led to the loss of all credibility and influence to comment on the Arab-Israeli conflict.
Trócaire’s track record illustrates the growing influence of bias and politics, at the expense of assisting people in need. For example, in 2007, Trócaire joined Badil (a militant anti-Israel NGO) in a “Call to Action,” to advance boycotts divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel and invoking offensive rhetoric aimed at the Jewish community. Trócaire is also involved in campaigns to commemorate the Palestinian “nakba” (meaning catastrophe, and referring to the failure of the Arab side in the war of 1948) reinforcing the image of Palestinian victimhood resulting from Israeli independence.
Trócaire’s executive director, Justin Kilcullen, produced a highly distorted report on Gaza which falsely blames Israel alone for the conflict, erasing Hamas mass terror.
Apparently, the Irish government is either oblivious to Trócaire’s extensive anti-peace activities, or the current government is knowingly carrying on a long tradition of Irish anti-Israel bias. In the past financial year, the group received ¤18.5 million from Irish Aid, the government’s assistance program for developing countries, all at the expense of the Irish taxpayer.
SADLY, TRÓCAIRE is but one example of Irish government funding for an NGO whose damaging political agenda is hidden in the language of human rights. Irish Aid also supports Al-Haq, which calls itself a “human rights organization,” yet a closer look at the group reveals another goal: targeting Israel in the political war. The group has suggested “flooding the Israeli Supreme Court with petitions in the hope of obstructing its functioning and resources.” It commences spurious legal proceedings in foreign courts attacking freely elected Israeli politicians, and has even sought to manipulate the UK judicial system to sabotage economic ties between Britain and Israel.
Like Trócaire, the motives of the group are betrayed by its leadership. Al-Haq is headed by Shawan Jabarin, one of the alleged “senior activists of the Popular Front terrorist organization” according to the Israeli High Court. And like Trócaire, the group receives substantial support courtesy of the Irish taxpayer. In 2009 alone, Al Haq received $186,689 from Irish Aid.
An Irish taxpayer might well ask why on earth their government has seen fit to fund “humanitarian” organizations headed by radical ideologues and alleged members of terror groups.
What is even more perplexing is that in funding groups such as Trócaire and Al-Haq, the Irish government is supporting organizations which completely undermine its very own policies.
Officially, the Irish government has rejected the unconscionable movement of boycotts, divestment and sanctions against Israel. Yet Irish Aid continues to give money to groups that actively campaign for BDS – a strategy that politicizes human rights, adds fuel to the conflict and, to be clear, seeks nothing less than the ultimate destruction of Israel.
One leading boycott activist – Ahmed Moor – revealed the true aims of the movement, when he declared: “Boycotts, divestment and sanctions does mean the end of the Jewish state.... Ending the occupation doesn’t mean anything if it doesn’t mean ending the Jewish state itself.”
So on the one hand, the Irish government says that it advocates a peaceful settlement of the Arab-Israeli conflict and the realization of a two-state solution. Yet at the same time, it provides large funds to organizations involved in a campaign which seeks the destruction of a democratic, sovereign state.
The Irish government supports a negotiated settlement between Israel and the Palestinians. This is how lasting peace will be achieved. This is how Israel will realize its dream of peaceful co-existence with its neighbors, and Palestinians can achieve statehood.
In contrast, as the examples of Trócaire and Irish Aid funding for Al Haq illustrate, the abuse of public funds for destructive and discriminatory activities shows the need for a systematic and independent review of these important issues.The writer is Israel Research Fellow at NGO Monitor, the Jerusalem-based research institution. He previously practiced law in London and Sydney and is also the founder of The Jewish Thinker.