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Friday, July 16, 2010

Farewell Daleep Mukarji, Israel-baiter

In April Dr Daleep Mukarji ended a 12-year stint as Director of Christian Aid. So this is not a bad time to stumble on a Guardian Society interview with Dr Mukarji, published in May 2004 but still distinctly topical.

I started my campaign to challenge Christian Aid's bias against Israel by writing to Dr Mukarji in 2003. I received a courteous and considered response. When I wrote again a couple of years later he was enjoying an extended holiday in India, and the response promised by his PA never materialized. That I could never have expected to get any change out of him becomes clear in the first paragraph of the Guardian piece:-

'The church in Britain may once have been perceived as the Conservative party at prayer but its humanitarian wing offers a world view that embraces cross-cultural action against poverty, criticises Israel and the US, supports peasant occupations of land in Brazil, and lobbies Tony Blair on aid for Africa.'

Well, you see why I wanted to cover it, don't you? I don't think there has ever been much risk of Christian Aid being confused with the Conservative Party at anything, but just to rule out any possible doubt, here is the Guardian's seal of approval: this guy is One Of Us. How do we know this? Because he criticises Israel and the US. Because he criticises the two countries in which four fifths of the world's Jews live. In 2004 this was the way you established your credentials as a good Leftie and it still is in 2010 only more so.

And so it goes on:-

'Reality matches rhetoric, he insists. "Liberation theology has inspired many of us; we want to be part of a movement to change systems and structures, including the use of civil disobedience and protest, though never the use of violence."

'So Brazilian peasants seizing land have Mukarji's backing, while a Christian Aid report said Israeli policies deepened Palestinian poverty. "We must not be in sympathy with anyone who uses violence," he says, "but we do have to look at the root causes, respect people's rights and ask how we can find solutions."'

Need I say that Dr Mukarji apparently felt no need to accuse any other state (apart from the US) of having policies that deepen poverty? Here, too, we have the key equivocation which enables Christian Aid to disclaim sympathy with violence whilst steadfastly declining to explicitly condemn the violence of Hamas. That violence has its "root causes" in the Israeli occupation, therefore the proper response to it is not condemnation of Hamas but condemnation of Israel. Of course this is a game in which the moral parcel is only ever passed in one direction, so that Israel is never to be exonerated by an appeal to "root causes".

Perhaps I am being too hard on Dr Mukarji, though?

'One example of that movement is the UK Interfaith Humanitarian Group, which Mukarji helped set up after 9/11 to bring together Christian, Islamic, Jewish and other faith agencies, as well as Oxfam and Save the Children, to work together on common concerns such as Islamophobia and anti-Semitism.'

Very laudable in principle, but how does it work out in practice? Perhaps that concern with Islamophobia is the reason why Dr Mukarji did not use the interview to criticize any of the 57 member states of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference. Not even Sudan, whose regime was in 2004 still engaged in its 20-year war against the non-Muslim populations of the South of the country, deploying brutality on a scale massively exceeding anything the Palestinians have ever suffered at the hands of Israel.

But it's Israel, not Sudan, that is fair game for "criticism". And I'll say it again: whenever Israel is singled out in this way, anti-Semitism is legitimized. When the singling out is repeated time after time after time, anti-Semitism creeps stealthily back into the mainstream. Enough drops of water will hollow out a stone. Read here an example of how the mood is changing among supposedly intelligent and educated people.

"I don't think this would have happened 10 years ago" writes Eve Garrard of the outburst of "bloody Jews" academic anti-Semitism she encountered. No indeed; and Dr Daleep Mukarji has spent the past decade being part of the problem. Too many of those drops of water have dripped from Christian Aid on his watch. It's not a record that encourages me to regret his departure.


Postscript

On a different tack, it's worth noting the extraordarily deferential tone of the Guardian piece. If the interviewer had any aspirations to be a Humphreys or a Paxo one day, he was keeping them under wraps. Whatever the normal hue of his nose, it was surely browner than Dr Mukarji's by the time he switched the tape recorder off. Guardian Society knows which side of its bread is buttered with advertising revenue.

Here's the executive summary of Mukarji's CV:-

'Mukarji's background mixes both the frontline of human need and leadership roles in development challenges, from working as a doctor with lepers to taking on the Christian Aid job in 1998 and becoming an influential voice in many networks, notably as chair of the Trade Justice Movement. He once described himself as "city-bred, slightly westernised, secular and cosmopolitan".

'Why is he running a multi-million pound global charity from small offices near Waterloo station, London? "I made a personal and professional choice," he answers. "I could have stayed a doctor in India, but I saw that poverty and injustice could not be solved by medical treatment alone; that needed everything from clean water supplies to women's rights. That inspired me. I'm very lucky: I get paid for doing what I enjoy, and I believe in what I'm doing."'

Practically an Albert Schweitzer de nos jours. Here, though, is the same in a little more detail at the end:-

'Career 1971, qualified as doctor; 1972-74, worked with lepers and then ran mission hospital; 1975-76, post-graduate study in London, diploma in tropical public health, and master's in social planning; 1977, returned to India to establish a rural health and community development programme; 1985, appointed general secretary of the Christian Medical Association of India; 1994, became executive secretary for health, community and justice at the World Council of Churches in Geneva; April 1998, became director of Christian Aid, seeking to expand the organisation's influence and to change public perception of the charity's work.'

So two years at most as a frontline medic, followed by some 35 years as a desk wallah! I hasten to add that I who have never entered a leper hospital have no business pointing to the mote in Dr Mukarji's eye. No doubt every one of his career moves has been motivated by a zeal for serving the poor (though it must be said that he was in no danger of joining their number during his time at Christian Aid). But I don't much like newspapers that try to manipulate me. Better just make that "I don't much like newspapers".

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

This Christian totally rejects your intemperate comments.

Cyrus said...

Anonymous, I am glad to know you are a Christian. I would like to know why you think I am wrong. May I suggest you set a Christian example by posting a reasoned argument and not just calling me names?