British conflict charity teams up with Israel-promoting indie band

British charity War Child, which works with children affected by war, has announced a series of benefit concerts – one of which will be by indie band Ride, whose lead singer recently performed in Tel Aviv.

The series of benefit concerts, by bands including Duran Duran, Elbow and The Vaccines, as well as Ride, are billed as “Passport” shows. Rather than selling tickets, a minimum donation to the charity enters donors into a draw for entry to the limited-capacity, “intimate” gigs.

The launch publicity for the shows includes the wording:

All the money raised will support War Child’s vital work saving children from the brutal effects of war in areas including Syria, Iraq and Gaza. These stripped back, intimate shows will have a life-changing impact for thousands of vulnerable children.

War Child offers trauma counseling and other services, via local partners, for children in Gaza. Its fundraising, however, carefully avoids mentioning why Palestinian children are in need of support in the first place. In effect, the charity seems willing to use Gaza’s children to raise money, without daring to challenge the very state which kills, maims and traumatizes them.

A War Child fundraising appeal during the summer 2014 Israeli attack on Gaza, which killed more than 2,000 Palestinians (including hundreds of minors) stated that:

Children in Gaza are being directly targeted with rockets and bombs fired at schools, hospitals and populated civilian areas. They are witnessing the killing of their friends, parents and siblings. It’s enough to traumatize anyone for life; let alone a child. The latest UN report estimates that there are nearly 400,000 children in need of trauma counselling.

The charity’s information on its work in Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Central African Republic, by contrast, openly states the names of the parties in those conflicts.

Supporters of Israel

Given the fact that children in Gaza only need such support because of Israeli aggression, this seems fundamentally inconsistent with the fact that Ride singer Mark Gardener played a solo gig under the billing of “Mark Gardener (Ride)” in Tel Aviv on 14 January this year. Since then Gardener has consistently defended his decision to take a pro-Israel stance.

Whilst in Israel, Gardener also gave an interview to the Israeli website Ynet which was headlined: “Mark Gardener: I don’t believe in boycotts, I’m here to play music.” In the article Gardener was quoted as saying that Tel Aviv would likely be his last solo gig before the band reformed, raising the possibility that the War Child show is primarily intended as publicity for the reunion.

In response to criticisms of his Israeli show, Gardener tweeted that “Some need to understand on here, I play music to the people without prejudice as people are mostly not their oppressive governing regimes.” In doing so, he betrays an ignorance both of the fact that the majority of Israelis serve in the armed forces and of the Israeli state’s use of the arts to promote itself worldwide.

Inquiries by journalists into War Child’s position on Ride’s other affiliations have been met by the claim that the charity is “politically neutral.”

Samir Eskanda, a London-based musician and contributor to an earlier War Child fundraising initiative, told The Electronic Intifada that an email he sent to the charity protesting their decision to work with Ride had received no response.

Eskanda also told the The Electronic Intifada in an email that War Child:

told me on the phone last week that they were considering pulling [the Ride concert] because of the contradiction between support for human rights and support for Israel. But they’ve apparently changed their minds.

Whitewashing Israel’s occupation

Gardener has also supported a number of Israeli whitewashing initiatives, in which culture has been manipulated to mask the state’s human rights abuses.

His January 2015 Israel visit included forging alliances with Heartbeat FM, a “coexistence” project explicitly condemned by Palestinian civil society for its efforts to deny the oppression and occupation which characterize daily life for Palestinians.

Heartbeat FM (in common with Gardener’s naive and destructive promotion of the idea that music is a non-political force which “brings people together” regardless of power imbalances) organizes “encounters” between Israeli and Palestinian youth, focused on playing music together. The group’s website acknowledges that it concentrates on work within Israel because of “a lack of staff capacity to obtain permits from the Israeli military.”

It does, however, mention that it works in H2, the area of the Palestinian city of Hebron most heavily occupied by Israel, where direct Israeli control has permitted many violent settlers to establish themselves and has brought about economic and political devastation for the local Palestinian community. Heartbeat staff, it appears, are able to work here because it equates to operating within a settlement environment.

Mark Gardener’s Israel visit was also promoted by American anti-boycott and whitewashing organisation Creative Community for Peace (CCFP). It praised Gardener on Twitter, saying that: “We greatly respect musicians who are dedicated to their fans. #Music can heal wounds & affect positive change” and “We in #Hollywood and thousands of others strongly oppose cultural boycotts,” and retweeted one fan claiming publicly that Gardener is “raising music above politics.” Gardener has also regularly retweeted CCFP’s support for his stance.

CCFP’s ties to the right-wing, pro-settler and Israeli hasbara organization StandWithUs have been well documented, along with its role as StandWithUs’ voice within the US creative sector. It was also reported recently that StandWithUs had signed a quarter-million-dollar deal with Benjamin Netanyahu’s own Prime Minister’s Office, under the terms of which it will disseminate Israeli propaganda – presumably through front groups such as CCFP.

In 2011, Artists Against Apartheid called upon all creatives to boycott CCFP, calling it a “complicit propaganda institution seeking to normalize Israeli apartheid” and pointing out that the group’s tactics rely on:

Capitalizing on ignorance, the CCFP proudly calls Israel “the only democracy in the region” surrounded by states known for their human rights violations, while offering no solutions to any human rights violations anywhere in the Middle East. Of course CCFP does not acknowledge the human rights violations being carried out daily by the Israeli state throughout Palestine-Israel.




This article seemed very interesting and informative until I read what the author wrote about the heartbeat group, which is so misleading and far from the truth.
I saw a concert by heartbeat last year in the USA and was very impressed of the amount of light they shed on the occupation and the injustice that is happening in Palestine. The group is far from being a "whitewashing" organization.
They even said in the concert that the way to achieve peace is by co-resistance and not co-existence.
All of my Palestinian and non-Palestinian friends, that are very much involved in the Palestinian cause, who saw them in the past were extremely impressed of the bravery and courage of this group.
Now I cannot take this article seriously anymore. This is misinforming and simply not true.


I read the article you attached about HEARTBEAT and again it's plain wrong!
I was there and I talked to them and heard what they had to say in more than one concert in the USA.
The occupation and the injustice in Palestine was what the songs revolved around and then they even stopped playing music in the middle of the concert and started talking to the audience saying that they want to make sure that the audience understands why they are there. They said they are there not just to make people dance to Arabs and Jews playing music. They said that their goal, when abroad, is to raise awareness about the horrible things that the occupation is doing. The vast inequalities between the 2 sides, among other anti-occupation anti colonization statements. They even talked about the BDS and why it is so important to have a BDS movement.
I even know that they were kicked out of a venue after a concert because the university where they played at thought they were too "pro-Palestinian".

These 2 articles (The one I originally commented on and the one you posted) make me question the validity of all other articles I read here.

I suggest that the activists talk to the HEARTBEAT crew and see what's going on instead of just publishing false accusations about them.


I'm not disputing what you saw, but nothing you've said actually contradicts the PACBI and BfW statement, based on the PACBI guidelines, that this article refers to. If you can link me to something to back up what you're saying I'd be eager to read it. Thank you.


I don't know if there are any documents or links to "back up" what I said against the false accusations of this website and the other website of the link you posted.
The point is it seems that there was no real investigation or any sort of contact on behalf PACBI, BfW and EI with the heartbeat group before coming up with these very serious and very severe accusations.
It makes me mad and sad that a group like PACBI that is asking for justice and fairness is being disrespectful and not very aware ,or doesn't care enough to be aware, of the things they publish.
It's just very disappointing.
I am activist myself. I don't think there was one demonstration in my city against the Israeli occupation and violence that I did not help organize or attend. I think the BDS is doing a great job in many areas, but apparently not in every area.
I know these accusation are false because I experienced the work of this courageous group called heartbeat myself and leaned who they truly are.

I suggest for the supporters and the activists of the BDS movement to contact the organizations they demonize before making enemies of them.
In my eyes the BDS movement and the heartbeat folks complement each other. Not rival one another.

picture's hard to believe what you're saying. How do you know there was no investigation or contact from PACBI? Your opinion remains just that without any proof of any kind.


How do I know that there was no contact? It's very clear that there was no contact. It is clear to me that the articles were written on a "hunch" and not as conclusions of a fair investigation.
I don't owe anyone any evidence. I am just expressing an opinion and a frustration, and I urge you to talk to the heartbeat folks and see what they are all about.
As I know them, I'm sure they would love to talk to you.
I just find it sad how demonized they are in these articles. That's all.


No I don't work for them and I am not their "spokesperson"!
Why is it so hard to hear something that is negating what is written here?
I am only saying what I think and what I saw and heard.
I am just really upset because the BDS is something that I promote a lot in my work and I find it hurtful to me and to others when I promote something that is not as accurate and pure as I promote it to be.
I said everything I needed to say here.
As much as I am for the BDS initiative, I am disappointed in the lack of accuracy of the reporters.


Sarah Irving

Sarah Irving's picture

Sarah is a freelance writer and editor, author of a biography of Leila Khaled and of the Bradt Guide to Palestine, co-editor of A Bird is Not a Stone (a volume of Palestinian poetry translated into the languages of Scotland), and a PhD candidate at the University of Edinburgh. She has worked and traveled in Palestine since 2001.