Oxfam’s lopsided logic


On the face of it, Oxfam is as irreproachable as motherhood and apple-pie. Who can be against its declared goals of combating hunger and promoting justice?

Oxfam’s confederation and its familiar charity shops are fixed features in some 90 countries worldwide. Founded in the city of Oxford in 1942, it crusaded for allowing food relief into occupied Greece. Ever since, Oxfam has embedded itself in the public perception as the harbinger of goodness and goodwill.

As such, it became de rigueur to champion its causes and indeed numerous celebrities score popularity points by starring as Oxfam campaigners.  Actress Scarlett Johansson was one of many who flocked to the Oxfam banner until she dared defy the outfit’s dogma.

To her credit, rather than back down, Johansson terminated her eight-year stint as Oxfam’s global ambassador. She thereby risked being pilloried as politically incorrect.

As with many seemingly righteous philanthropic associations, here too the controversy revolved around Israel and the trendy pretext of the illegality of the settlements – i.e. any Jewish presence beyond the 1949 armistice line. Although no borders ever existed, Israel is judged as the occupier there and its so-called occupation draws fire of the sort never aimed, for example, at the Turkish-controlled areas of Cyprus.

The trouble is that Oxfam’s movers and shakers cannot reasonably be suspected of weighing the issues on balanced scales.

In 2009, Barbara Stocking, Oxfam GB’s former chief and later president of a Cambridge University college, famously defined the organization as “impartial but not neutral.” Such sanctimonious obfuscation opens the door wide for holding Israel to double standards not applied against others, for delegitimizing and demonizing it.

The watchdog NGO Monitor, which checks for bias in non-governmental organizations, concluded in its recent report that Oxfam “distorts economic analyses of the West Bank and Gaza, repeatedly arguing that the sole impediment to Palestinian development is Israeli policy, ignoring intra-Palestinian limitations and factors.”
In essence, according to NGO Monitor, “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.”

Johansson exposed herself to attack by appearing in a Super Bowl commercial for Israeli carbonated drink maker SodaSteam, which operates factories around the world including one in Mishor Adumim near Jerusalem. That factory is located just over the Green Line and therefore beyond the pale by Oxfam strictures. It matters little that the area is sure to remain Israeli under whatever arrangement may ever be reached.

It likewise makes no difference to Oxfam that hundreds of well-paid Palestinians work right alongside Israeli counterparts at SodaStream, all earning equal pay, receiving identical social benefits and eligible for the same workplace perks.

In all, there are 1300 employees in that given industrial facility – 442 are Palestinian Arabs, 237 are Israeli Arabs and the rest are Israeli Jews. Not only are all SodaStream employees paid an equitable living wage but the company has even provided space for a mosque on its premises.

Nevertheless, some Oxfam supporters have likened such liberality to forced labor under the Nazis.
Without even delving into the contention that Oxfam actively funds the anti-Israel BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) movement, one would think that the SodaStream Mishor Adumim plant would in fact be precisely what Oxfam should promote as its ideal for coexistence and cooperation.

Would it be better by Oxfam’s yardstick if the factory were shut down and its Palestinian employees went hungry (and subsequently perhaps needed Oxfam handouts)?  In all likelihood Oxfam would then vociferously denounce Israeli occupation for creating poverty, a charge relentlessly leveled against Israel by Oxfam executives. Clearly they will not let facts get in the way of a good propaganda line.

Such lopsided logic not only offends commonsense but it exposes deep-seated anti-Israel bigotry. In effect, Oxfam tells us that it’s acceptable for Palestinians to work for any firm, so long as it isn’t Israeli. Does this not fundamentally negate the very notion of peace?

10 thoughts on “Oxfam’s lopsided logic

  1. i will be buy my soda stream device this week and our Canadian Federal Minister Jason Kenny even tweeted his picture of his device and thanked Oxfam for the buying tip.
    All this commotion which in my opinion ” OUTS OXFAM” for a racist under cover operation that funds and supports the BDS movement.
    This Oxfam discrace has got a lot of negative press over here in Canada

    Keep the information comming Sarah

  2. A very salient point – “Oxfam tells us that it’s acceptable for Palestinians to work for any firm, so long as it isn’t Israeli.” Why should Oxfam lead a boycott of what the Palestinians themselves are not boycotting? As I’ve mentioned before, on the surface, it’s odd for me, a Canadian with no personal ties to Israel, to follow these issues so closely; in theory, it’s not really my business. However, the self-bestowed right of actors, singers, business people, musicians, ngo reps, et al to bleat a skewed, shallow narrative unadorned with any semblance of acknowledgement of nuance or complexity is staggering. It’s hard for anyone who values intelligent and informed opinion not to become fascinated by the spectacle.

    Jennifer Rubin of the Washington Post included the following in her article on the matter, which is something one would never hear from Oxfam and its ilk:

    Palestinian Nabil Basharat has worked for years for Israeli-owned SodaStream, where he has risen up to shift manager in its West Bank factory.
    He supports his wife and six children on an income he says is quite high by both Palestinian and Israeli standards. Though he’d like to see Palestinians get their own state someday, he doesn’t want it to come at the expense of his career.
    “They need to understand what the factory gives the Palestinian workers and there are a lot of factories in this area doing the same thing,” says Basharat, 40, who lives in a village near Ramallah.
    The “they” he alludes to are the European and American groups pushing a boycott of Israeli products to get Israel to relinquish claims to the West Bank, a region the size of Delaware on Israel’s eastern border where about 375,000 Israelis and 2.1 million Palestinians live.

    Good for Scarlett for bringing some sorely-needed fact-based food for thought to the issue.

  3. ““impartial but not neutral.” I’m still scratching my head over that one. I disagree with you though Sarah about anti-Israeli bigotry. It’s anti-Jewish bigotry hiding behind an anti-Israeli mask. Like most continental Europeans, British society in general never lost their deep seated animosity toward Jews, however tepid it became. It merely hid for a few years after WWII. Now it is acceptable again the guise of attacking Israel for what they wish to perceive as Israeli injustice. They will never e happy unless Israel commits national suicide or Jews are driven from the homeland.

    • Well said William. I’ve experienced this sort of bias my whole life throughout the U.K. – and I’m not the only one. At the end of the day there very very few Brits who don’t have a slanted opinion (however mild) and are misinformed as to Israel and Jews.

    • I do apologize for the errors. “…again the guise…” should be “again under the guise…” “e happy” should, of course, be “be happy.”

  4. ““impartial but not neutral.” I’m still scratching my head over that one. I disagree with you Sarah about anti-Israeli bigotry. It’s anti-Jewish bigotry hiding behind an anti-Israeli mask. Like most continental Europeans, British society, in general, never lost antipathy toward Jews, however hidden and diluted it became. It merely hid for a few years after WWII. It is, once again, acceptable under the smokescreen of attacking Israel for what they wish to call Israeli injustice. Never mind that an arab MK can support hamas or call for the return of an Islamic caliphate in Israel without fear of censure. There is never any objection to hamas stating there will never be a Jew in a “Palestinian” state. Nor is there ever an objection to any of the sundry arab hate groups vowing to push Jews into the sea.They will never be happy unless Israel commits national suicide or Jews are driven from Israel.

  5. Yet another organization hijacked by the radical left, seeking the destruction of civilized countries. Vandals on a grand scale.

  6. Welcome to the world of the anti-semitic left.

    We need to closely examine Oxfam’s position on military occupation. Aside from Israel, the following states are involved in some form of military occupation, which have been deemed illegal by the “international community”, Turkey, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Ethiopia, Eritrea and Russia.

    In the 1990s Russian instance they conducted a particularly horrific ethnic cleansing operation on the Georgian population of Abkhazia, where an estimated 200,000 people were killed or displaced. Afterwards, the occupied area was populated by ethnic Russians.

    You may have guessed by now that each of the occupying powers receive assistance from Oxfam, and there is no mention of their occupation on any of the Oxfam sites. So, the problem cannot be with military occupation deemed illegal by whoever says these things are legal or illegal.

    I can only surmise that Oxfam’s problem is with a Jewish occupation of a non-Jewish population. That, regardless of what Oxfam says smacks of anti-semitism.

    I would encourage all your readers to rethink any donations they make to this organization, and any organization that may be in Oxfam’s network.

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