Commentary Magazine


Oxfam and Israel: More than Sex and the City

Two weeks ago I blogged about a story published in the New York Post concerning Sex and the City star Kristin Davis’s being fired from her role as spokeswoman for Oxfam because she also endorses Israeli-made Ahava Cosmetics, a stance that conflicts with Oxfam’s support for boycotts of certain Israeli products.

However, a reader who communicated with Oxfam International, which claims Davis is still working for them, has now forwarded to me an e-mail from Lyndsay Cruz, Oxfam press officer, that reads: “Recent news stories reported that Oxfam and actress Kristin Davis have ended our relationship. In fact, Kristin Davis remains an Oxfam ambassador and supporter. Oxfam values its on-going relationship with Kristin very highly.”

This doesn’t entirely contradict the original Post story, which claimed that the relationship between the actress and the NGO was ongoing even though they claimed at the time that “Oxfam remains opposed to settlement [Israeli] trade, in which Ahava is engaged. Both Kristin and Oxfam do not want this issue to detract from the great work we have done in the past and plan to do in the future.”

More to the point, it shouldn’t distract us from acknowledging that Oxfam has a long and mostly dishonorable record with regard to Israel issues. A quick search of Oxfam’s own website shows a host of press releases on the organization’s calls for an end to Israeli measures of self-defense against Hamas—including a “humanitarian” stand that demonized Israel’s counteroffensive to the rocket fire directed at its southern towns and villages—calls for ending the boycott of the terrorist state there, and position papers that treat the presence of Jews in the West Bank and East Jerusalem as illegal.

It is of particular note that Oxfam is also a virulent opponent of Israel’s security fence, a structure that has virtually ended the Palestinian terror campaign of suicide bombings inside the Jewish state. Though Oxfam claims it is merely a humanitarian organization and not partisan in the Arab-Israeli conflict, its decision to treat a structure that has saved lives and thwarted terrorism as criminal exposes its claim of neutrality as a lie. As its own website documents, Oxfam has never been shy about condemning Israel, but at the height of the second intifada, when Jews were being slaughtered in the streets of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, the most that Oxfam would do was issue a statement in May 2004 that refused to specifically condemn the suicide bombings carried out by Fatah’s al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade and Hamas but that merely noted how “civilians are paying a high price for the escalating violence in Israel and the occupied Palestinian Territories. Hundreds of innocent lives are being lost and hundreds of thousands deprived of their basic rights as the security situation deteriorates. A solution to the conflict can only lie in a political process.”

Moreover, it should be noted that while Oxfam International has attempted at times to portray itself as neutral, at least one of its chapters, Oxfam Belgium, has actively supported a boycott of Israeli products.

Whether or not Kristin Davis is able to keep her position as spokeswoman for the group is of only marginal interest. Of greater import is that the anti-Israel slant of Oxfam is a matter of record. Americans who wish to give charitable donations to this group or have their own philanthropies partner with it on projects should be aware that in doing so they are helping to support an NGO that is an active participant in the ongoing campaign to smear the state of Israel and ultimately render it defenseless.