Summary of the London Bureau’s meetings

Summary of the London Bureau’s meetings with Oxfam, Christian Aid and Amnesty UK

Report by Jeremy Havardi

B’NAI B’RITH UK

LONDON BUREAU OF INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS

OXFAM: The Bureau said that Oxfam had become needlessly politicised and that it had adopted a stridently anti-Israeli tone in which the Jewish State was unfairly maligned on many issues. A recent Oxfam document on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict discussed the security barrier and checkpoints and referred to cases where Palestinian lives were hampered by these intrusions. The Bureau argued that they were regrettable but militarily necessary given the security situation. The issue of settlements was raised with the Bureau offering a more nuanced interpretation than the black and white denunciation given by Oxfam. The Bureau raised concerns at the lack of attention given to the PA’s near daily incitement against Jews, the rejectionism of a two state solution, the role of UNRWA in fostering discord and terror and other related issues. It also spoke of the co-operation between Israel and the PA in energy and security. Oxfam’s representatives were unhappy with elements of the Israeli border restrictions and naval blockade but these were vigorously countered. The Bureau said that until Gaza was disarmed and under better governance, the enclave’s problems would not be solved.

 

CHRISTIAN AID: The meeting with Christian Aid focused on many of the same topics. After a brief overview of the organisation’s history, which was founded to help Jewish refugees in WW2, the Bureau raised concerns about the charity’s one sided narrative on the Middle East conflict. The Bureau argued that Christian Aid was whitewashing Palestinian responsibility for poverty by ignoring how Hamas diverted aid money to building an infrastructure of terror in the enclave. The terror group’s antisemitism was highlighted. The charity’s representative accepted there were some failures of Palestinian leadership but also lamented Israeli policy towards ‘occupied’ Gaza and towards Palestinian refugees. A long discussion ensued about the status of refugees and how their plight might be alleviated, together with the role of settlements in the conflict. The meeting concluded with the shared vision of moving beyond the status quo and forcing peace on the ground between two sides.

 

AMNESTY: The Bureau had a meeting with representatives of Amnesty on 17th April. While agreeing with Amnesty’s desire to uphold human rights and tackle injustice, we argued strongly that their presentation of the Middle East conflict was heavily biased and provided little context for many of its accusations of human rights abuses. They appeared to whitewash Palestinian responsibility for the problems in the West Bank and Gaza. There followed a lengthy debate about the reasons for Gaza’s economic crisis, including the failed leadership of Hamas with its ideological and obsessive anti-Zionism and the security context for Israeli checkpoints and the security barrier. Israeli settlement policies were also discussed, particularly within the context of recent policies such as the Regularisation Bill. The Amnesty representative said that questions of ideology were ignored by the NGO and focused instead on the deteriorating conditions of life in Gaza and perceived human rights abuses elsewhere. Amnesty’s representative conceded that they had been mistaken in cancelling a panel event in January due to be hosted by Amnesty and which would have featured UN Watch. Amnesty decided not to host the event because UN Watch ostensibly had different views on settlements. The meeting concluded with an in depth discussion of antisemitism in the UK.

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