Christian Aid Palestinian refugees report ' misleading'

By Jennifer Lipman, July 7, 2011

A report on Palestinian refugees by Christian Aid has been criticised as one-sided and misleading after it referred to a man struggling to work because of settler violence without any evidence to support the claim.

The 24-page Locked Out report claimed to be interested in an "honest and meaningful dialogue about the Palestinian refugee crisis, which engages all stakeholders". But according to watchdog NGO Monitor, the finished product "clearly demonstrated political bias".

Barely a year after the charity falsely accused Israeli settlers of sexually abusing Palestinian children in Hebron, NGO Monitor condemned Christian Aid for a number of "one-sided and unsupported" points.

In a case study on Abed Rabin, described as a refugee in Bethlehem, he was said to find it difficult to
work because of "attacks from Israeli settlers".

But the report, based on an interview from last year, offered no proof of this. The author, William Bell, admitted that the line "referred to the situation" rather than any specific incident.

‘It’s a general issue, not a specific attack’

"It just refers to the general situation, not to any specific attack on him," said Mr Bell, who added that he had not carried out the interview himself. "And to be honest, at some point he might well have been attacked. It's a general issue that he and others have to deal with."

Mr Bell's report on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which features pictures of Palestinians at checkpoints and run-down areas as well as Tel Aviv beach and an Orthodox Jew at the Western Wall, makes no mention of terrorists such as Hamas or Hizbollah. "We are not security experts," said Mr Bell. "We understand the issue of security, but we should
also be able to have the conversation beyond that."

Mr Bell heaped criticism on Lebanon and Syria as well as Israel for the treatment of the Palestinians, highlighting for example the employment restrictions on Palestinians in Lebanon. Yet no mention was made of the turmoil in the region this year, and while Israel was set many recommendations, other host countries were only urged to "ensure that all civil and human rights are afforded to Palestinian refugees pending a final settlement."

"I'm not sure what we could have challenged host countries to do other than on civil rights, so that's what we settled for," said Mr Bell. "The majority of this issue will be solved between the Palestinians and the Israelis."

Professor Gerald Steinberg, the president of NGO Monitor, said the report was misleading and "part of a broad and sweeping narrative" that understood the Israelis as aggressors.

"It's very blatantly hostile to Israel. The images it uses are emotional manipulation without getting to the core of the issue," he said. "The language is of empathy to the Palestinian case while the Israeli narrative is dismissed.

"Christian Aid has a history of writing reports that are entirely sympathetic to Palestinian position and blatantly hostile to Israel even though they have the façade of being balanced. Everything in this report reinforces this."

He said the report should not be taken seriously, because it relied too much on assumptions.

Last updated: 1:09pm, July 7 2011