Photo Credit: Rabbi YY Rubinstein
Rabbi YY Rubinstein

Hands up, any Jewish Press reader who is against motherhood and apple pie.

No hands, right?


Well, if you lived in the UK, you could modify that old cliché slightly and ask, “Who’s against motherhood, apple pie, and Oxfam?”

There would be no hands raised to that one either.

I am not sure how well known Oxfam is in the United States, although a U.S. branch of the international charity was set up in 1970 and is now based in Boston.

Oxfam started off in England. The name is derived from Oxford Committee for Famine relief. It was founded in 1942 by a group of Quakers who lobbied the British government to get food to Greeks starving under Nazi occupation. The organization grew from there.

The original organization is now called Oxfam UK and there is an Oxfam Canada, Australia, Ireland, India – nineteen countries in all. It’s a billion-dollar operation.

One of the most respected NGOs in the world, its work includes fair trade, education, health/HIV, clean water, natural disasters, human rights, helping communities become self-sufficient, and much more.

It’s had the support of some of the world’s most famous people, like the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (Will and Kate to Americans); show-biz celebrities including Michelle Dockery (Lady Mary Crawley to Americans) and Meryl Streep; and moguls such as Rupert Murdoch, who owns, among much else, Fox News, the New York Post, and the Wall Street Journal.

What could possibly be better? Motherhood and apple pie with ice cream on top!

And suddenly a yellow canary flies straight into this warm fuzzy picture and messes the whole thing up.

You know the canary. The one that miners used to carry with them underground. These birds were vulnerable to deadly gases like carbon monoxide. If they dropped dead, the miners knew they were in danger and could run.

Jews historically occupy precisely that role. When we are attacked, everyone should know there is something rotten and evil in the atmosphere. You might not see it nor smell it, but anti-Semitism is the sure sign it’s there.

Certainly, Oxfam has seen its credentials, when it comes to Jews, challenged over and over again.

In case you’re still wondering where you’ve have heard the name before, cast you mind back to 2014, when Jewish actress Scarlett Johannson resigned her eight-year role as an ambassador for the organization due to its support of the BDS and the SodaStream factory operating in Maale Adumim.

Ah! That Oxfam.

Johansson alleged that Oxfam had supported and funded the BDS movement, which the charity denied.

She also said: “I think for a non-governmental organization to be supporting something that’s a political cause…something feels not right about that to me. There’s plenty of evidence that Oxfam does support and has funded a BDS movement in the past. It’s something that can’t really be denied.”

Not only did it “not feel right,” it was illegal in the UK and violated the organization’s tax-free charity status.

This was not the first time Oxfam would be reprimanded for wandering into to realm of politics, which it claims it never does.

NGO Monitor, an organization that checks up on what charitable organizations are up to with regard to Jews and Israel, has a very long list of examples of Oxfam’s BDS links and worse.

Have a look at the Oxfam America website on the topic of “anti-Semitism.” Oh, how nice – the good folks there are against it after all. But wait – the piece is a very clear foray into politics, with a 2016 attack on Donald Trump because of his association with Steve Bannon.

You’ll recall that this was very much the lie of the Left at the time – that members of Trump’s team were largely anti-Semitic. The Forward, among others, promulgated that lie, and we all heard the countless claims that Trump himself hated Jews.

You can make many claims against Steve Bannon, but that he is an anti-Semite is not one of them; and in any case, Oxfam is not supposed to be involved in politics, remember?

But hold on. Isn’t all this criticism and negativity a bit too Jew-centered? Am I not, due to an obsessive focus on my own people, smearing great work by great individuals in a truly caring organization that helps tens of thousands of really vulnerable people?

Well, all I can say is, don’t forget those canaries!

When Jews are attacked, you can be quite sure the attackers have been busy with all sorts of other nasty stuff and hurting lots of other people too.

And so two weeks ago in the UK, the Times (yes, there’s an authentic newspaper of that name, in case you Americans from New York or Los Angeles were wondering) broke the story Oxfam had been covering up for years:

Oxfam aid workers in Haiti (after the earthquake in 2011), Chad, and many other disaster areas have been forcing and starving desperate women into prostitution.

Oxfam chief executive Mark Goldring is facing mounting pressure as the massive scale of the abuse becomes clear and the extent of the cover up he presided over becomes known.

Goldring was, by the way, at the heart of the clash with Scarlett Johansson. He was quoted in the Guardian newspaper as expressing “regret” over the way the matter was handled.

Oxfam’s error, said Goldring, was letting the controversy drag on so that Johansson could eventually seize the initiative.

The London Times’s Mark Liddle wrote,

“Yet another brilliant party I’ve missed out on. The Oxfam gig in Haiti back in 2011 — the prostitutes, I’m told, were…a little on the young side. My own fault for having assumed it would be a grim convocation of death and destruction — plus pious white liberals blaming capitalism for everything.

Not a bit of it. Those Oxfam staffers know how to party, especially the top brass.

The women were purchased – some of them younger than 16, allegedly – and decked out in only Oxfam T-shirts. Then began [the depraved partying], led by Oxfam’s then-country director.…

Better still, [that Oxfam director] could later appear before the cameras, wringing his hands and saying of the situation in Haiti:

“Too many donors from rich countries have pursued their own aid priorities.”

And as this story unfolds, Oxfam’s defenders are busy explaining that they are not the worst of the NGO’s by any means! Great defense.

And let’s not forget the rape of women and children by UN “peacekeepers” over decades in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Haiti, Liberia, and elsewhere.

In 2014, “peacekeepers” were implicated in incidents of sexual violence against young children in the Central African Republic. In 2016, the UN reported 41 cases of abuse involving peacekeepers from Burundi and Gabon.

The UN, another enemy of the Jewish people and Israel, reacted with real anger to these revelations. Not against the perpetrators you understand, but against the whistleblowers.

But why the surprise? All you have to do is look at the yellow canaries for an early warning that there is something toxic in the air and, like Ms. Johannson, realize these are organizations to run away from when they ask for your money and support.


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Rabbi Y Y Rubinstein is a popular international lecturer. He was a regular Broadcaster on BBC Radio and TV but resigned in 2022 over what he saw as its institutional anti-Semitism. He is the author of twelve books including most recently, "Truly Great Jewish Women Then and Now."