UKLFI: Supporting Israel with legal skills

Oxfam Stops Funding NGO Designated by Israel

Oxfam reported to Charity Commission

Oxfam says it does not currently fund  the Union of Agricultural Work Committees (UAWC), a Palestinian NGO that was designated as a terrorist organisation by Israel in October 2021.  This follows concerns raised by UK Lawyers for Israel (UKLFI), an investigation carried out for the Dutch government in response to these concerns, and an instruction given by the EU Commission to Oxfam to suspend the funding.

 

Oxfam International had donated over 4 million Euros to the Union of Agricultural Work Committees (UAWC) between 2014 and 2021.  Over half of this came from Oxfam GB.

UKLFI has reported Oxfam to the English Charity Commission over its continuing donations to the UAWC, despite warnings about connections between individuals associated with UAWC and the PFLP over the past years.  The Charity Commission has confirmed that it is “currently assessing all information available to us, including from both Oxfam and UK Lawyers for Israel, in order to determine what regulatory action – if any – may be required.”

UKLFI first wrote to Oxfam in May 2019, alerting it to connections between current and former UAWC personnel and the PFLP. In response, Oxfam said that these links had previously been investigated and dismissed by the Australian Authorities, that its own due diligence had not identified any concerns with continued funding of UAWC, and that this funding continued to be used solely for agreed development purposes.

UKLFI also wrote at the same time to the Dutch government, one of the UAWC’s largest funders.  Just a few months later, in August 2019, two of the UAWC’s top executives were indicted for their involvement in a terrorist attack, in which 17 year old Rina Shnerb was murdered and her father and brother were injured.  These proceedings are still ongoing.  After their arrest, the UAWC terminated their employment.

With the help of a Dutch NGO, The Hague Institute for International Cooperation (thinc), UKLFI contacted some Dutch MPs. They raised the questions that had been asked by UKLFI with the Dutch Foreign Minister in the Netherlands Parliament and requested an explanation of why they had not been answered.  The ensuing inquiries by the Foreign Ministry led to the Dutch government suspending funding to the UAWC and commissioning an independent investigation. The investigation, whose results were announced in January 2022, found that 34 former and current employees of the UAWC had links to the PFLP, although the report said there was no evidence suggesting that they had used their position at UAWC to organise or support terrorist activities and that UAWC could not be expected to be aware of these individuals’ links.  The Dutch government then terminated its funding of the UAWC

In October 2021 Israel designated the UAWC as a terrorist organisation calling it “an arm of the "Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine".

According to Oxfam’s online project database Atlas, Oxfam GB  had increased its donations to the UAWC since May 2019.

Oxfam GB donations to the UAWC

Euros

2018

102,992

2019

301,031

2020

631,152

2021

713,395

Oxfam GB donated 81,502 Euros  to the UAWC between 2014 and 2017 and this rose by a factor of 25 to 2,055,013 Euros between 2018 and 2021.

Oxfam GB’s latest project with the UAWC  has cost  over 2 million Euros to date and is still listed as active on the Atlas database.  Almost all of the payments made to the UAWC occurred after UKLFI  first contacted Oxfam. Oxfam GB even sent four donations to the UAWC after the Dutch government had suspended funding of the UAWC pending the external investigation.  Oxfam sent 433,133 Euros on 1 November 2020, 334,093 Euros on 1 March 2021, 379.302 Euros on 1 September 2021 and 306,442 Euros on 1 November 2021.

In around October 2021 the EU Commission instructed Oxfam “to cut funding to the UAWC until the situation has been clarified”, following the Israeli designation of the UAWC, as revealed in a written question to the EU by some European parliamentarians.

Oxfam International has also told UKLFI that Oxfam does not currently fund UAWC and  Oxfam GB has similarly told the Jewish Chronicle it “does not currently fund UAWC”.

However, neither Oxfam International nor Oxfam GB responded to UKLFI’s request for them to comment regarding their decision to continue funding the UAWC despite the evidence presented by UKLFI, or whether their failure to heed the warnings was evidence of a failure of their due diligence

Oxfam did not confirm that  they had ceased all funding of the UAWC or whether the funding had just been stopped for the time being.

Caroline Turner, director of UK Lawyers for Israel commented: “Oxfam continued to fund the UAWC having been shown evidence that many of its past and present employees and officers had links with the PFLP, raising real questions over the effectiveness of its due diligence processes. We do not believe that it is ethical to fund such an organisation.   Now that an independent report has confirmed this evidence, and the organisation has been designated, we expect to receive confirmation that the whole of Oxfam has ceased funding the UAWC.”

45% of Oxfam’s  £367.4m income for the year to March 2020 came from governments and other public authorities

The UK government is a major funder of Oxfam and donated over £10 million in the year to March 2020 and over £18 million the previous year.

Subscribe to Blog via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 87 other subscribers