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Occupied Palestinian Territory and Israel

The ongoing occupation of the Palestinian Territory is driving inequality and worsening poverty.

The Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT) is made up of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem. More than five million people are struggling to maintain access to their lands, livelihoods, and families. Their prospects for a safe, healthy, and dignified life are limited by more than 55 years of Israeli occupation, which drives inequality and worsens poverty and injustice.

More than two million people are trapped inside Gaza and deprived of their fundamental rights, with little access to basic services like healthcare, clean drinking water, sanitation, electricity, and education. Unemployment rates are among the highest in the world; the youth unemployment rate is 63 percent.

The violent events in Israel and Gaza that started October 7, 2023, have precipitated a massive humanitarian crisis in Gaza. Oxfam has called for the release of hostages by Palestinian armed groups, an immediate ceasefire, and humanitarian access to civilians in Gaza while working with our partners to deliver aid to affected people.

With local partners, Oxfam is fighting inequality by responding to both the immediate and long-term needs of people in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.

What's Oxfam doing to help people in the OPT?

Oxfam has been working in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and Israel since the 1950s and established its only country office in the area in the 1980s. We seek to end poverty in Palestine by working in the most vulnerable communities in Gaza, East Jerusalem, as well as Area C, the 61 percent of the West Bank where the government of Israel maintains full military and civil control.

In total, we work with 28 partner organizations to offer lifesaving support to people in crisis and to tackle the root causes of inequality and poverty.



Working for economic justice & equal rights

Oxfam and our partners are helping small businesses and farmers find the resources they need to succeed and have a voice in decisions that affect them. We are focused on helping women take up non-traditional roles on their farms, in businesses, and in community leadership. We help women dairy, fruit, and vegetable producers with training and access to information and technology.

After encouraging a cucumber grower cooperative to allow women members, one of the new members told Oxfam, “Women were surprised by the idea, as the cooperative comprised only men. We joined the cooperative and soon we were accepted … now I participate in the decision-making on anything related to the factory and the cooperative.”

Oxfam also supports partners that are helping people with disabilities hold regular jobs, and special training for young entrepreneurs to start businesses.

Advancing gender justice for women and girls

Oxfam and our partners are helping to ensure that Palestinian women play a role in decision making and discussions about peace and security, including by pushing the Palestinian Authority to take steps to eliminate sexual and gender-based violence. During the past years, the program provided women and girls with services for survivors of sexual and gender-based violence, and we helped our partners expand their services during the spread of COVID-19.

With help from Oxfam, our partners also responded to the increased demand from callers to a crisis hotline, which offers counseling, health/mental health, legal support, and information services. The line expanded its service from 16 hours a day to 24 hours a day, seven days a week, managing to answer 65 percent of the calls they received.

Oxfam is also working with groups such as the Wisal Network in Gaza to help women play a role in decision-making at all levels of government and in discussions about peace and security. Together, we help Palestinian female leaders attend and address international general assemblies and key events, highlighting the impact of the occupation on women and girls in and their contributions to peace and preserving the Palestinian national fabric

Oxfam helps to maintain wastewater treatment facilities in Gaza.
Oxfam helps to maintain wastewater treatment facilities in Gaza. Kieran Doherty/Oxfam

Advocating for peace and security

Oxfam is challenging the Israeli occupation and connected discriminatory policies and practices at the heart of poverty and injustice in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. At the same time, we are working with local and national authorities to end poverty in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, promote Palestinian livelihoods and the rights of Palestinians to pursue their own development, end the occupation, and build the potential for a viable Palestinian state.

Oxfam campaigns for peace and an immediate end to the illegal blockade on Gaza imposed by Israel. Oxfam also opposes trade with settlements, which are illegally built in the West Bank, and calls for an end to the de facto annexation of the West Bank and forced displacement of Palestinians living in Area C in the West Bank.

Oxfam also organized the “Area C Chronicles” event where a group of activists and influencers participate in hiking and biking tours in Area C. They met with the local communities, helped farmers work their lands, and produced videos and other content to shed light on the hardship farmers in Area C face daily amid Israeli violations of their basic rights.

Important facts about our Oxfam's work in the OPT

Oxfam's position on the conflict

We believe that real progress toward justice and the elimination of poverty in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT) and Israel can only be achieved through an end to the occupation and a just and peaceful solution to the conflict. Peace should be rooted in the recognition of the human rights and dignity of all Israelis and Palestinians, with a firm foundation in international law.

Why Oxfam is not responding in Israel

The violence perpetrated against Israeli civilians by Hamas in October 2023 was appalling and Oxfam condemns the attacks in the strongest terms.

Our decision to respond in any crisis is always driven by humanitarian need alone—ensuring that people most in need of help are prioritized and taking into account the ability (or inability) of states to provide assistance for its people.

The Israeli government and local and national organizations have the capacity to meet the current needs in Israel.

Even before the October 2023 attacks, 80 percent of people living in Gaza relied on international aid following 16 years of blockade. Oxfam’s humanitarian appeal is therefore focused on providing help to people affected by the crisis in Gaza

Why Oxfam is against settlements

Israeli settlements in the West Bank (including East Jerusalem) are widely recognized by international governments as a violation of international law and a major obstacle to peace. In our daily work we see the negative impact of Israeli settlements on the lives and livelihoods of Palestinian businesses, farmers and herders. These settlements are a major cause of Palestinian poverty and the denial of rights which we try to address in our work.

Settlements continue to expand across the West Bank–in the past 20 years, the settler population has doubled to more than 660,000. This has resulted in the confiscation of Palestinian land and resources and has fueled poverty.

The population transfer of Israeli settlers into the OPT; legalization of settlement outposts; demolition of property; confiscations of assets, land and resources; and impunity for settler violence are all rooted in the Israeli policy of forcibly displacing Palestinians from their lands and acquiring territory. This policy of land-grabbing is backed by a discriminatory legal system that favors Israeli settlers over Palestinian citizens, and parallel systems of rights and privileges.

This has left many Palestinians in Area C with one of two choices: either move elsewhere in the West Bank, with or without their families, or take up employment on settler farms, frequently under exploitative labor conditions. Some 35 percent of the land in East Jerusalem has been confiscated for Israeli settlement use; only 13 percent of East Jerusalem is zoned for Palestinian construction, much of which is already built up.

Settlement, employment, and poverty in in the West Bank

The Israeli military occupation, intensifying coercive environment (including settlement expansions) and lack of accountability are primary drivers of poverty in the West Bank. According to the World Bank, restrictions on Palestinian access to Area C—the 61 percent of the West Bank that is under full Israeli civil and military control and where most settlements are located—cost the Palestinian economy about $3.4 billion in losses annually.

Unemployment in the West Bank has increased as a result: The unemployment rate among Palestinian youth stands at 40 percent (63 percent in Gaza). Some Palestinians do find work in Israeli settlement farms and factories (which receive support from the Israeli government). This is often because they are restricted from pursuing other livelihoods and have little other choice.

Oxfam works with Palestinian farmers and animal herders living near settlements across the West Bank. They can only cultivate one percent of the land located in Area C and can only access 20 percent of the water supply, while the rest falls under Israeli control. Palestinians in Area C require Israeli permits to build new homes, wells, irrigation systems or animal shelters, but 98 percent of Palestinian building permit applications are rejected. At the same time, Israeli settlements continue to expand.

Around 800,000 olive trees have been uprooted in the West Bank since 1967, and since 2009 more than 8,551 Palestinian homes and property have been demolished, forcibly displacing almost 13,000 people. Palestinian olive oil production has dropped by 40 percent in the past decade.

Oxfam does not support a boycott of Israel

We oppose trade with Israeli settlements in the West Bank because they are illegally built on occupied land, and increase poverty among Palestinians.

However, we are not opposed to trade with Israel and we do not support a boycott of Israel, or any other country.

We do not fund activities that call for a boycott, divestment, or sanctions. Oxfam believes that a vibrant civil society is the best way to overcome global poverty and injustice, and we know that a strong civil society will have many different opinions and approaches. We work with more than 28 diverse local partners and we do not expect that all of them agree with us on all policy issues. Some of them may support a boycott, but we do not fund this part of their work.

Oxfam also does not fund or support any organizations that promote anti-Semitic or any other discriminatory practices, or advocate violence. We believe that trade with settlements, or companies located in settlements, contributes to legitimizing their presence and denying the rights of Palestinians. We promote ethical consumption, and we support the right of consumers to know the origin of the products they purchase. Therefore, we urge the Israeli government to ensure proper labeling of Israeli products and of settlement products so that consumers can differentiate between them.

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