The Catholic connection to ‘L’Affaire d’Orange’

Orange CEO Stéphane Richard’s “Cairo declaration,” stating that his company would cut ties to Israel “tomorrow,” was the culmination of a well-funded French NGOs.

French telecom operator Orange Chairman and CEO Stephane Richard speaks during the company's 2014 annual results presentation in Paris (photo credit: REUTERS)
French telecom operator Orange Chairman and CEO Stephane Richard speaks during the company's 2014 annual results presentation in Paris
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Orange CEO Stéphane Richard’s “Cairo declaration,” stating that his company would cut ties to Israel “tomorrow,” was the culmination of a well-funded, highly organized campaign by a coalition of French NGOs.
Chief among them is the Catholic Committee Against Hunger and For Development (CCFD).
This Catholic connection to the international BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) campaign is but a keyhole image of a much larger picture that should be placed at the top of the Catholic-Jewish dialogue agenda.
The attacks on Partner Communications (the official name of the firm operating under the Orange brand in Israel) began in earnest at the beginning of May, when a coalition of French NGOs, along with the Palestinian NGO Al Haq, published “Orange’s Dangerous Liaisons in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.” This 51-page publication was accompanied by intensive lobbying of the French government, Orange and the Palestinian Authority.
Staff from CCFD were instrumental in preparing the report.
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CCFD, as it turns out, actively promotes the global campaign to delegitimize Israel including pushing BDS and the maximalist Palestinian demand of a “right of return.” In September 2013, CCFD co-sponsored an “International Right of Return Conference” organized by Zochrot, a fringe anti-Zionist Israeli NGO. The conference focused on the logistical and demographic reality of a complete return of all Palestinian refugees from the 1948 Arab-Israel war and their descendants to modern Israel. This would necessitate Israel, the expression of the Jewish people’s right to national self-determination, to cease its existence.
In 2012 and again in 2013, CCFD transferred a total of NIS 340,303 (about $88,500) to Zochrot. (NGO Monitor research shows that 84 percent of Zochrot’s total foreign funding between 2012 and 2015, NIS 4.5 million, comes from Christian charities, 41% of which are Catholic.) CCFD also provided funds to other BDS-supporting Israeli NGOs. In 2012 and 2013, CCFD granted a combined total of NIS 463,441 ($120,000) to Social TV, Hamoked and the Alternative Information Center.
Another recipient of CCFD largesse is Breaking the Silence, the Israeli NGO that tours Europe and the US promoting anonymous, and therefore unverifiable, allegations by IDF soldiers of Israeli war crimes.
Against this backdrop is the powerful moral declaration made by Pope Francis I two weeks ago: “Anyone who does not recognize the Jewish people and the State of Israel – and their right to exist – is guilty of anti-Semitism.”
Likely unbeknownst to the pope, besides CCFD, other major Catholic aid charities are funding numerous NGOs whose political campaigns delegitimize Israel.
In a new report, “Catholic Aid Societies and Political Campaigns Directed at Israel,” NGO Monitor documents this funding by nine Catholic aid societies – mostly associated with Caritas International. These funds are used for highly politicized purposes, including activities that, contrary to the pope’s powerful affirmation, intensify the conflict and undermine genuine efforts for peace. In total, between 2008 and 2014 an estimated €7.4m. (about $10m.) was allocated by various Catholic charities to many such NGOs.
The other Catholic charities are the Caritas-affiliated Catholic Agency for Overseas Development (UK), Cordaid (Netherlands), Secours Catholique (France), Trócaire (Ireland), Catholic Relief Services (USA), Development and Peace (Canada) and independent Catholic charities Broederlijk Delen (Belgium) and Misereor (Germany).
Ireland’s Trócaire funds NGOs that support BDS and the so-called “one state” framework, including the Israel Committee Against Housing Demolitions and the Palestinian NGO Badil, which advocates for the end of Israel as a Jewish state.
Both NGOs support BDS and the “right of return.” Worse, Badil’s 2010 “Al-Awda Nakba” caricature competition awarded money to the artist of a blatantly anti-Semitic cartoon that portrayed a hooked-nosed Jew standing above a dead child and skulls while holding a pitchfork in the shape of a menorah, dripping with blood.
Broederlijk Delen also funds NGOs that support BDS and oppose a two-state formula.
And most of the NGOs receiving funds from Germany’s Misereor participate in global political warfare campaigns against Israel, some supporting BDS and opposing a two-state solution.
Significantly, Trócaire, Broederlijk Delen, and Misereor joined with CCFD to co-sponsor Zochrot’s 2013 “International Right of Return Conference.”
The pope is correct: hostility to Israel’s existence is anti-Semitic.
Those Catholic charities supporting NGOs that oppose Israel’s survival are on the wrong side of the pontiff’s moral pronouncement.
Because these NGOs contribute to Middle East tensions and encourage hatred toward Israel and the Jewish people, the Catholic charities are dragging the Church into the Middle East conflict as a full participant. The Church’s role as a peacemaker is shattered, and the pope’s courageous ethical stance against anti-Semitism is demeaned.
“L’affaire d’Orange” brings into sharp focus this intolerable and immoral complicity of Catholic charities in the global political war against Israel’s legitimacy.
This must immediately be brought to the top of the Jewish- Catholic dialogue, including the pope himself.
The writer is chief programs officer at the Jerusalem-based research institute NGO Monitor.