Images from NGOs

NGO Monitor 1.9, (24 June 2003), highlighted the purely political poster produced by Oxfam Belgium encouraging the boycotting of Israeli products. The poster reads: "Israeli fruits have a bitter taste…reject the occupation of Palestine, don’t buy Israeli fruits and vegetables." Well-known Israeli brands and logos are declared as unfit for consumption. As we noted, the message is blatantly political, and thus in clear contradiction of Oxfam’s mission statement. NGO Monitor questioned Oxfam Belgium – via telephone and email – regarding their purpose in conveying the message against Israel, but Oxfam Belgium refused to respond.

In response to the publicity generated by the NGO Monitor on this issue, the chairman of Oxfam International has issued the following letter of apology. While the letter continues to justify involvement in political issues that are outside of Oxfam’s humanitarian mission statement, the recognition that the poster and accompanying message were highly offensive attacks against Israel and the Jewish people is a step in the right direction.

Oxfam’s Apology

Wednesday, 16 July, 2003

Thank you for your email. We appreciate your correspondence and would like to respond to your concern.

Oxfam’s mission is to respond to the suffering of people, without regard to race, religion or ethnicity. Oxfam supports the Road Map for peace. We condemn Palestinian suicide bombings and all other acts of terror and violence. We call for the occupation of the Palestinian territories to end.

Oxfam is pro-peace and pro-rights, for both Israelis and Palestinians. We have five affiliate groups who are working in the region on long-term development programs, and with peace activists on both sides of the conflict.

We want our campaigns to be challenging, but never offensive, and we apologize for any offense that has been caused. Our Belgium affiliate, Oxfam-Solidarity, has amended the campaign page of its website, removed the link to the poster image and introduced a new front-page that gives a more measured explanation of its own involvement in this Belgian campaign. Oxfam in Belgium has also apologized for any offense given.

Its website also now makes clear – where it didn’t before – that Oxfam-Solidarity’s involvement in the campaign was to target only those goods grown in the occupied territories and exported into the EU. As such, the campaign is against certain actual policies of the Israeli government. It is not against the Israeli or Jewish people. Oxfam condemns prejudice, discrimination and violence toward any racial, ethnic, religious or political groups.

Oxfam hopes that the changes we’ve made reflect this more clearly and help to answer your concerns.

Yours sincerely,

Ian Anderson Chairman Oxfam International