Howard Epstein



Oxfam has provided relief all over the Third and the stricken world. It began innocently enough. In 1942, a group of Quakers, social activists and Oxford academics formed the Oxford Committee for Famine Relief, as a pressure group to persuade the British government of the day to allow food relief for the starving citizens of occupied Greece through the Allied blockade. In 1965, it became Oxfam. By 2017, its operating budget had ballooned to £410 million (of which no less than £34 million came from the British government).

Over those years, Oxfam became a political force (without accountability), claiming to target (somewhat immodestly, you might think) trade justice, fair trade, education, debt and aid, livelihoods, health, HIV/AIDS, gender equality, conflict (campaigning for an international arms-trade treaty), natural disasters, climate change, human rights and — of course — democracy. This last is puzzling because when it comes to the one democracy in the Middle East, Oxfam is demos-blind. Consider the following:-

  • October 2009: Oxfam accused (by Israeli NGO, Regavim) of aiding Palestinians in illegal activities in Kiryat Arba, including water theft. Oxfam denies its participation.
  • 2012: Oxfam blames poor economic development in the Palestinian territories exclusively on Israel. The Israel embassy in London said, “Oxfam’s latest report on the situation in the Palestinian territories puts a clearly political agenda above any humanitarian concern. Far from advancing peace, such an approach undermines the prospects of reaching a negotiated resolution to the conflict.
  • January 2014: actress Scarlett Johansson resigned as an international spokeswoman for Oxfam after appearing in a TV ad for SodaStream, a company that manufactured on the West Bank. Johansson’s statement read: “ … She and Oxfam have a fundamental difference of opinion in regards to the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement.” 500 Palestinian employees of SodaStream lost their jobs when the factory was relocated.
  • February 2015: Regavim reports that the European Union illegally funded the construction of houses on the West Bank. Oxfam participated in the project “on humanitarian grounds”.

One might ask: “Has Oxfam lost its way”. This question has been definitively answered in the last ten days, thus:-

  • Thursday February 8: The Times (of London) revealed that some of Oxfam’s most senior staff paid survivors of the 2010 Haiti earthquake for sex and hosted parties with prostitutes “wearing Oxfam T-shirts” and that the charity tried to cover it up.
  • Friday February 9: Accounts of serious sexual misconduct by a group of male aid workers living at an Oxfam residence in Delmas, near Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Country director, Roland van Hauwermeiren, a Belgian, is reported to be at the heart of the scandal and to have admitted prostitutes visited his residence rented for him by Oxfam. Instead of being dismissed, he was allowed to resign.
  • Saturday February 10: The Times reveals that the men sacked by Oxfam were able to work among vulnerable people in other disaster zones after it failed to warn aid agencies about their use of prostitutes and that van Hauwermeiren went on to become head of mission for Action Against Hunger in Bangladesh in 2012-14. Further allegations that Oxfam employees had orgies in Port-au-Prince shocks Haiti and the Haitian “diaspora”.
  • Monday February 12: Revelations that Oxfam knew of concerns about the conduct of two men caught up in the Haiti sex scandal before they were appointed to senior humanitarian roles.

After that, the reports went from bad, through worse, to the worst that one could imagine for the poor and the woebegone of Haiti — apart from one: no-one alleged that Oxfam had traded in human organs.

That was an allegation that had already been made in February 2010 by the Palestine Telegraph — not against Oxfam but against Israel. This, an old canard of Palestinian media, was to the effect that the Israel Defence Forces’ emergency aid hospital in Haiti, deployed there in the aftermath the 2010 Haiti earthquake, had been secretly harvesting the organs of deceased Haitians and selling them on the black market (as if there were any other sort of market for such merchandise).

A member of the British liberal party, Jennifer Louise, the Baroness Tonge, a patron of the Palestine Telegraph, suggested that the IDF and others in Israel should establish an independent inquiry immediately to clear the names of the team in Haiti! (This ranks alongside calls on Israel to prove its right to exist, and is worthy of the same response. Total silence in the face of arrant nonsense.)

So you see how the Palestinians, and their apologists, miffed at the scale of Israeli altruism, generosity and munificence, seek to minimise, not to say trash, Israel’s achievements. The reality is as follows:-

  • January 12: catastrophic earthquake on Haiti kills 320,000 with concomitant injuries and damage;
  • January 14: two 747 jumbo jets, leased from El-Al, depart for Haiti with 220 volunteers, doctors and soldiers and aid packages from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Magen David Adom and the Israeli Police.
  • January 15: the Israelis establish an operations center on a soccer field near Haiti’s main airport. (Israel’s ambassador to the Dominican Republic, Amos Radian, had already arrived in Port-au-Prince, to coordinate Israel’s contribution with local authorities and international aid agencies.)
  • January 19: an additional Israeli team arrived.

Accordingly, the Israelis had arrived — from a distance of 10,400 kilometres — within three days of the disaster striking. The Americans’ first response appears, from around the corner by comparison, when the USS Carl Vinson docks, as the second Israeli team arrived, on January 19.

Following the events of 2010, had Oxfam any decency, it would have taken an objective view and dropped its campaigning against Israel. We now know the extent to which Oxfam was and is profoundly and broadly indecent, in every sense of the word.

As for the Liberal Party, Baroness Tonge and the Palestinians, we can say: (if you have one) eat your heart out. You do not even aspire to the level of humanity of the Israelis — and until you do, we should have no truck with you.

This approach was very well expressed by Dr Mordechai Kedar of the Department of Arabic at Bar-Ilan University (who served in IDF Military Intelligence for 25 years, specializing in Arab political discourse, Arab mass media, Islamic groups and the Syrian domestic arena). Appearing on Al Jazeera television last December, he said that Israel cannot make peace with the Arab world, until they make peace with themselves.

Yet it is the Arab world, and more especially the Palestinians (who reward and laud terrorism at every opportunity), who are and have always been supported by the Irish people and their governments. Could these moralizers, who affect to have the right to advise Israel on how to behave towards those who kill and slander them, be less than squeaky clean themselves? Consider this: the dead babies scandal in Ireland is still under investigation over three years after the story broke. Two underground structures, one a decommissioned septic tank, have yielded evidence of the remains of human infants, ranging from foetuses at approximately 35 weeks of development to children 3 years old, apparently dating from 1925 to 1961, when a Catholic order of nuns, the Bon Secour sisters, ran a home for unmarried mothers on the premises.

Whilst the sight of an unmarried mother was too offensive to be allowed to remain apparent in the sanctity of Irish society, such that they should be banished with their as yet unborn babies to some wretched enclosed religious order, and laundry, it is not known what offence the deceased had given that justified a death sentence. What is clear, however, is that death certificates for nearly 800 babies and children at the home have been discovered. Have these revelations of base and inhumane conduct caused a diminution in Irish sermonizing to Israel? It has not.

There are many other examples of an exceedingly dark kettle calling black the pot that is the comparatively pristine white Israel, but time does not permit my providing them.

I shall be taking a sabbatical from these columns for a while whilst I write an historical novel about how America nearly lost the shop — and then redeemed itself. Speaking of redemption, perhaps, before I appear again here, Abu Mazen (the nom de guerre of Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian leader) will have announced his nom de paix — but don’t hold your breath.

In any event, it is time for Israel to be judged by the evident qualities of its enemies.

© Howard Epstein — February 2018

The author’s book, Israel at Seventy: In Weizmann’s Image is available now from Amazon in paperback or as a Kindle e-book

As Israel reaches its seventieth birthday, it is timely to consider the story of its indispensable founder, Chaim Weizmann. Statesman and scientist, it was Weizmann who saved the British Empire from defeat in World War I, kindled the hope for the return of the Jewish people to their ancient homeland, after an absence of 2,000 years, and was then instrumental in securing what was needed to establish the State of Israel and its future as a technological powerhouse. Weizmann may be said to be the world’s first 20th century — even 21st century — man. If any aspects of modern life became supremely important last century, and remain so in this, they are science & technology and networking. Weizmann’s chemistry, both in the laboratory and with a wide-range of key people, led to his four great political coups, each essential to the emergence of the State of Israel. In addition, he pulled off three crucial educational feats that secured Israel’s future and ensured its success — in his image. In the case of the political achievements, only Weizmann could have wrought them. In the case of the others, only he did. Despite these signature successes, today little is known of him and what he achieved. Why this should be so is revealed in a tale of rivalry between two political giants: Weizmann, the greater talent, but the older, and his nemesis, David Ben-Gurion.

Amazon USA — Paperback

Amazon USA — Kindle E-Book keywords=israel+at+70

Amazon UK — Paperback

Amazon UK — Kindle E-Book


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