An overdue slap on the wrist for Trócaire

Trócaire needs to jettison what seems to be an Israel-hating cabal that has apparently hijacked the organisation. It’s that simple.

Regular readers of this website might not be surprised to hear that Trócaire has finally fallen foul of the charities regulator. As revealed in yesterday’s (5 June 2022) Irish edition of the Sunday Times, the regulator has had to intervene with the charity about Trócaire’s anti-Israel campaigning. We have in the past commented on how it had ceased – in many ways – from being a charity that helps the world’s poor. More and more over the last decade or so, it has become a political advocacy organisation that takes a highly partisan stance on complex political issues, especially the Israel-Palestine issue.

For example, we published details of how Trócaire has provided funding to Sadaka, a pro-Palestinian lobby group whose members – being based in Ireland – can hardly claim to be amongst the world’s poorest people. We also revealed that Trócaire listed as one of its partners a Palestinian group called BADIL which has a history of publishing antisemitic cartoons and posters. BADIL also refused to sign the EU’s anti-terrorism clause on funding and lost the funding as a result. For the record, as recently as May 11th this year, Trócaire was still referring to BADIL as a Palestinian partner.

An overweening obsession with Israel

Trócaire has also come to the attention of NGO Monitor, which is itself a non-governmental organisation “publish[ing] fact-based research and independent analysis about non-governmental organisations (NGOs), their funders, and other stakeholders“. In a report released in November 2018, NGO Monitor highlighted Trócaire’s overweening obsession with Israel – evident even in the charity’s tweets, not to mention references to Israel on its website. The Jewish state was getting mentioned far more often than Yemen, Iran and Saudi Arabia combined.

In December 2019, the Ireland Israel Alliance published its own report on where funding from Irish Aid (the Government of Ireland’s official international development aid programme) goes with respect to the Israel-Palestine issue and where it subsequently ends up. Amongst other things, it revealed that out of €292k given by Trócaire to anti-Israel groups in the 2016-18 period, an unknown amount of money was given to a group called “Medical Aid for Palestinians” (MAP), founded by a Doctor Swee Ang who has promoted an antisemitic video by David Duke, a far-right American politician. MAP’s West Bank director is one Majed Nasser who has ties to the terror group PFLP (Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine).

A satirical impression of a Trócaire Lenten donations box
A satirical impression of a Trócaire Lenten donations box

Trócaire’s obsession with Israel causes this “charity” to contradict itself on occasion. On the one hand, it accuses Israel of blockading Gaza, even though Israel supplies Gaza with almost all of the aid, power and water it receives and despite the fact that Gaza has a border with Egypt over which (obviously) Israel has no control. As if that weren’t ridiculous enough, Trócaire also accuses Israel of occupying Gaza. This is silly stuff. A country doesn’t simultaneously occupy and blockade a territory. 

Trócaire and the IPSC

Whence comes the anti-Israel obsession? It’s difficult to say with absolute certainty. However, NGO Monitor has commented that for years there was a close relationship between the Irish Palestine Solidarity Campaign (IPSC) and Trócaire. Bearing that in mind, can it be a coincidence that two senior figures from the IPSC went on to hold top positions in Trócaire and that Trócaire now takes a highly partisan anti-Israel position on the Israel-Palestine issue?

Scroll forward to late 2021 and – perhaps emboldened by the lack of governmental or regulatory action on their antics – the Trócairistas were upping the ante. In one campaign in the run-up to Christmas 2021, they sent completely unsolicited mailshots to members of the public containing Palestinian flags with the request that the recipient display the flag in their home. In another campaign, they sent correspondences – again unsolicited – to members of the public asking them to sign a petition calling for an EU boycott of Israeli (i.e. Jewish) communities in Judea-Samaria. 

The Irish public reacts

As described in the Sunday Times (Ireland) edition of 05-Jun-2022, two members of the public complained to the charities regulator about these deviations by a supposed “charity” from charity work into outright political activity and propaganda. With regard to the Palestinian flag campaign, one complainant commented how it was “particularly reprehensible that this is done at Christmas, the season of good will, when the same flag is flown over Gaza by Hamas, a violent Islamist, misogynistic, anti-Jewish cult pledged to wiping the world’s only Jewish state off the map”. With regard to the unsolicited requests to members of the public to sign the petition, another person (who is an Ireland Israel Alliance activist) complained that this campaign was political rather than charitable.

The Sunday Times article goes on to report that the charities regulator reminded the charity to “take account of the requirement for all the activities of a charity, particularly any involving an element of political activity, to directly advance and support the stated charitable purposes” (The bolding has been added by this writer). 

It’s all about the charitable purpose, folks

In correspondence with the newspaper, the regulator added that “the use of charitable funds and resources by a charity for the purpose of engaging in activities to promote a political cause is only permissible if it can be shown the activity is directly advancing or supporting the charitable purpose of the charity.” Again, the bold has been added by this writer. 

This stuff is hardly rocket science. To take the first complaint, Trócaire spent an unknown amount of money to have an unknown amount of Palestinian flags printed and then posted to members of the Irish public who didn’t ask for this sort of “correspondence”. What does this do to address the problems faced by Palestinians, the acts of corruption and human rights abuses committed by both Hamas and the Palestinian Authority, and the way in which Hamas prioritises its violence against Israelis over the well-being of Gazans? The answer is nothing. The best that can be hoped for is that the recipients disposed of the “correspondence” in an environmentally appropriate manner.

All that campaign did was to make a few anti-Israel activists sitting in a cushy office in Dublin feel good about themselves. If that’s what they want to do, fair enough but let them use their own financial resources to do it, not donations from the Irish government and Irish public who gave the donations in good faith, believing that they’d be used to alleviate poverty and promote justice around the world. 

Charity or political lobby group?

In fairness to Trócaire, there’s more to it than its anti-Israel politicising. It does a lot of good in the world. However, that should not leave it immune to criticism. Of all the issues of our times, the Israel-Palestine question has been impacted more than any other from poorly-informed outsiders rushing in with their simplistic views. Ignoring Israel’s side of the argument has a hugely negative effect – not the least of which is blaming Israel for all the problems of Palestinian society, thereby giving a free pass to Hamas and the Palestinian Authority to continue with their corruption and human rights abuses.

Trócaire needs to decide what it is. If it is a political lobby group, being highly partisan and choosing certain political causes to support, that’s fine. But it can’t do that and pretend to be a charity, beseeching money from the Irish government and hard-working Irish families. It should deregister itself as a charity immediately. If it’s a  charity, that’s fine too. However, it needs to jettison what seems to be an Israel-hating cabal that has apparently hijacked the organisation. It’s that simple. 

By Ciarán Ó Raghallaigh

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