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.