Christian Aid distorts refugee problem

Jewish refugees on their way to Israel from Aden

Agenda-driven NGOs such as Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and War on Want have long compromised their neutrality on the Arab-Israeli conflict. But they do more than that – they actually make a settlement less likely by adopting the ‘Palestinian narrative’.

The latest NGO to put a spanner in the Middle East peace works is Christian Aid. William Bell, who is described as ‘Christian Aid Policy and Advocacy Officer, Israel and the Palestinians’, brought out a report in June 2011 entitled: Locked out: Palestinian refugees and the key to peace.

NGO Monitorhas done a great job identifying numerous examples of bias. While Christian Aid places the responsibility for the creation of the Palestinian refugee problem squarely at Israel’s door, there is no reference to the Arab League’s intention to destroy the Jewish state, nor to the fact that the Palestinian refugee problem was a by-product of the Arab League decision to declare war in 1948. Christian Aid’s ‘solution’ is the ‘right of return’ of Palestinian refugees and their millions of descendants to Israel proper.

Lyn Julius of Harif, the UK association of Jews from the Middle East and North Africa, wrote to Christian Aid to point out that there were more Jewish refugees than Arab. Christian Aid ‘s one-sided report will not help achieve peace, she told them.

In 28 pages, Bell devotes only one paragraph to Jewish refugees:

“Some Israelis also raise the issue of Jewish refugees from Arab countries after the 1948 war, who were absorbed and integrated into Israel. They insist that any discussion of Palestinian refugees be broadened to include their own experience of displacement. Palestinians do not necessarily deny that this took place, but assert that any compensation claims should be taken up with the relevant Arab states and should not be made a condition of their own right of return.”

(Note ‘some Israelis raise the issue’. The displacement of Jewish refugees is not a fact, it’s an argument raised by ‘some’ (not all) Israelis.)

While Bell does not deny that there were Jewish refugees, he comes up with the canard that the Palestinians had nothing to do with their displacement: this is a matter for Arab states to resolve.

In an exchange of emails between Julius and Lucy McDonald, Supporter Relations Officer for Christian Aid, McDonald reiterates that Jewish refugees should take up their grievances with Arab states. McDonald assumes that Jewish refugees, too, wish to take up their ‘right of return’ to their countries of birth.

Julius replied as follows:

“Besides the fact that a ‘right of return’ does not exist in international law, Jewish refugees do not want such a ‘right of return’ to Arab countries. Such is the level of antisemitism in these countries that to exercise such a right would be a death sentence.

“I think it would be more helpful if Christian Aid were to revise its so-called ‘solution’ to the Middle East problem by recognising that an irrevocable exchange of roughly equal numbers of refugees took place. Both sets deserve rehabilitation in their new countries of residence, and compensation.

“I’m afraid that the idea that the Jewish refugees must take up their grievances with Arab states has no basis in historical fact. It is well documented that the Arab states were dragged into war against Israel by the Palestinian leader, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husseini – and not the other way around.

“The same Mufti was responsible for inciting the murder of 180 Jews in Iraq in 1941 when he helped engineer a pro-Nazi coup. This is one example of how one cannot divorce Palestinian responsibility for the plight of Jewish refugees from Arab countries.

“On the other hand, there is a sound case to be made for Palestinian refugees to take up their plight with the Arab League, which by law prevented them from acquiring full civil rights in their host Arab countries.”

No further message was received from Ms McDonald.


  • Bataween, I depend here on that point mainly on Yaakov Meron's article in Malka Hillel Shulewitz's book [as ed.], Forgotten Millions. But before the vote on 11-29-1947, Iraqi and Egyptian diplomats had made speeches at the UN in which they implicitly [not too implicitly] threatened to kill and dispossess Jews in Arab countries in case the partition plan was recommended by the UN GA.

  • Eliyahu
    As ever you bring little-known but essential facts into the picture. Can you point to any sources stating that Palestinians knew of Arab League plans to dispossess Jews from Arab countries? I thought the Arab League draft law branding Jewish citizens as enemy aliens dated back to December 1947 – after the Partition plan.

  • the leadership of the Palestinian Arabs, Mufti Husseini and others, wanted the Arab League to fight for them against the Jews. And the AL decision to make war against any emergent Jewish state was made BEFORE the UN General Assembly partition recommendation of 11-29-1947. The Palestinian Arabs were members of the AL from the beginning and Mufti Husseini was looked up to by Arabs throughout the Fertile Crescent [in Iraq too as you point out].
    Another point that Christian Aid neglects is that Britain encouraged the AL and the Palestinian Arabs in particular to war against any Jewish state. Indeed the UK encouraged pan-Arabism and the formation of the AL [Anthony Eden was especially important here]. The Egyptian journalist Muhammad Hassanayn Haykal –post-facto to be sure– in fact accused the British of pushing Egypt into war in 1948 against its prime minister's will. What does Christian Aid say to that??
    Anyhow the Palestinian Arabs were part of a pan-Arab coalition in 1947-1949, and did much to instigate the Arab states to war. The Pal Arab leaders knew before 11-29-1947 of the AL plan to dispossess Jews in Arab lands.

  • Quite right, they don't seem at all bothered about the plight of Christians

  • war on want is really biased. they actually said that israelis poison palestinian wells (blood libel anyone?) christian aid hasn't said that (yet). PS Why isn't "Christian" Aid helping Christians in the Middle east whose are seriously threatened by political Islam


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