BDS IN THE PEWS
August 24, 2014
See also NGO Monitor's reports on Oxfam Australia and Oxfam Novib (Netherlands).
- Website: www.oxfam.org/en
- Describes itself as “an international confederation of 17 organizations networked together in 92 countries, as part of a global movement for change, to build a future free from the injustice of poverty.”
- In addition to Oxfam International, affiliates involved in politicized advocacy on the Arab-Israeli conflict include Oxfam Novib (Netherlands) and Oxfam Great Britain. Oxfam Novib has “taken the lead in campaigning on Palestinian issues” within the Oxfam International network. In contrast, for Oxfam USA, these issues are less central.
- Funding: 2013-2014 total income of €947 million; 42% from “Institutional Fundraising,” including national governments, the EU and EU institutions, and the UN and UN institutions.
- In 2013-2014, Oxfam International and its affiliates reported spending €68.3 million in the “Maghreb & Middle East”.
- Political Advocacy: Oxfam consistently paints a highly misleading picture of the Arab-Israeli conflict, departing from its humanitarian mission focused on poverty. Most Oxfam statements erase all complexity and blame Israel exclusively for the situation, and these distortions and their impacts contribute significantly to the conflict.
- Oxfam also distorts economic analyses of the West Bank and Gaza, repeatedly arguing that that the sole impediment to Palestinian development is Israeli policy, ignoring intra-Palestinian limitations and factors.
- In a July 2012 briefing paper, Oxfam recommended that NGOs should engage in explicit violations of international law by “initiat[ing] and support[ing] development projects in the Jordan Valley and other parts of Area C...even if they have not been approved by the Israeli Civil Administration…” (emphasis in original). In 2009, Oxfam was accused of being involved in constructing a water-siphoning system, which illegally diverted water from the “main authorized Palestinian water supply.”
- BDS against Israel: In response to increased (mutually beneficial) cooperation between the EU and Israel, Oxfam called on the EU to sanction Israel with “urgent and concrete measures to push for an immediate end to settlement construction and the unlawful demolition of Palestinian civilian infrastructure.” Oxfam also called on the EU to sanction Israel regarding the blockade of Gaza. Oxfam lobbying led the British Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) to recommend that retailers label goods produced in the West Bank as “Israeli settlement produce” or “Palestinian produce.”
- In 2014, actress Scarlett Johannsen was forced to resign as an “Oxfam Ambassador” over her role in promoting SodaStream. Oxfam responded, stating that “businesses, such as SodaStream, that operate in settlements further the ongoing poverty and denial of rights of the Palestinian communities that we work to support. Oxfam is opposed to all trade from Israeli settlements, which are illegal under international law.”
- In August 2009, Oxfam severed ties with actress Kristin Davis – an “ambassador” (supporter and spokesperson) for the NGO – due to her work endorsing the Israeli Ahava cosmetics company. Oxfam was prompted by the radical American group CODEPINK.
- Demonization of Israel: “‘The people of Gaza are living in the world’s largest prison but have fewer rights than convicts’... said Oxfam International’s Director Jeremy Hobbs.” (Press release: European Foreign Ministers should tell Israel’s Livni: 'Open Gaza’s borders', January 21, 2009)
- Distorted legal claims: “Oxfam has argued against the blockade, which punishes the ordinary people of Gaza for rocket fire and the imprisonment of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit over which they have no control. International humanitarian law defines this as collective punishment which is illegal.” (Oxfam News blog: Michael Robin Bailey, “Gaza: ‘frontline of collective punishment’,” July 2, 2009)
- Following the violent confrontation instigated by the 2010 Free Gaza Flotilla, Oxfam issued a deeply biased statement entitled “Monday’s tragedy is a direct result of the Israeli blockade on Gaza,” condemning Israel’s “appalling use of violence and the killing of civilians” and falsely claimed that “The Israeli operation appears to have violated a number of basic rules of International Law. This comes on top of the blockade that inflicts collective punishment on the population, which is illegal under International Humanitarian Law.”
- In 2003, Oxfam-Belgium produced a poster of an “Israeli orange” dripping with blood to promote anti-Israel boycotts. The caption read: “Israeli fruits have a bitter taste...reject the occupation of Palestine, don't buy Israeli fruits and vegetables.” Following protest initiated by NGO Monitor over the antisemitic “blood libel” overtones, Oxfam withdrew the campaign.
- During the 2014 Gaza war, published a number of highly biased and emotive statements and blog posts, placing primary responsibility for the conflict on Israel, calling for the immediate implementation of an arms embargo, and claiming that the “conduct of both the Government of Israel and of Palestinian armed groups raises numerous concerns of violations of international law.” The statements thus equate indiscriminate Hamas rocket fire directed at Israeli civilians and legitimate measures of Israeli self-defense.
Oxfam International Essentials:
- Charity that exploits its high reputation for ethical work, Gerald M. Steinberg and Naftali Balanson, The Jewish Chronicle, September 11, 2014
- Errors, Omissions, and Bias - Oxfam's Reporting Failures on Gaza Conflict, NGO Monitor Report, September 8, 2014
- Kidnapped Israeli Teens Compel Scrutiny of Hamas's International Finances, Matthew Levitt, The New Republic, June 24, 2014
- Oxfam's Middle East Blinders, Gerald M. Steinberg, The National Post, February 14, 2014
- BDS and Oxfam Defeated at the Super Bowl, Gerald M. Steinberg, The Canadian Jewish News, February 7, 2014
- The Exploitation of Human Rights, Shira Michael, Israel Hayom, February 4, 2014
- Responding to the NGOs Durban Strategy: between engagement and confrontation, Gerald Steinberg, Fathom, April 25, 2013
- Oxfam: Syria 2011-2012 – blatant double standards, NGO Monitor Analysis, September 12, 2012
- Oxfam Calls for Violations of International Law, NGO Monitor Analysis, July 15, 2012
- Bias in Oxfam’s report, “The road to olive farming,” Correspondence, November 25, 2010