NGO: Oxfam Aids Illegal Palestinian Deeds
By Tovah Lazaroff and Yaakov Lappin
October 31, 2009
THE JERUSALEM POST
Oxfam International is involved in illegal Palestinian construction and agriculture activity in the West Bank, the Regavim advocacy group says.
The NGO charged on Thursday that Palestinians had illegally siphoned water in the area of Kiryat Arba with the assistance of Oxfam.
The civil administration on Thursday demolished an illegal water-siphoning operation just outside the Kiryat Arba settlement near Hebron, which it claimed was linked to an international organization, but it did not name Oxfam.
It said that Palestinians had illegally linked pipes into the main authorized Palestinian water supply.
Ovad Arad of Regavim, however, said that Oxfam was involved in the project and had posted signs touting its work in the area.
He added that Oxfam also helped Palestinian farmers construct an illegal terraced field in the area, which he said the civil administration also destroyed on Thursday.
Arad alleged that contrary to the civil administration's claims, the Palestinians were stealing Israeli water with the help of Oxfam.
A source in the Kiryat Arba municipality said that the activity occurred within the settlement's boundaries and that the water siphons were connected to larger pipes that serviced both Israelis and Palestinians.
Oxfam International spokesman Michael Bailey in Jerusalem said in response, "We understood that an agricultural well and a field had been damaged and that some irrigation equipment had been removed.
"We are concerned about the impact of that on the Palestinian farmers," Bailey said.
He knew nothing, he said, of any illegal siphoning or of any other illegal activity connected to his organization.
The Civil Administration of Judea and Samaria said its actions were part of a policy of enforcement against pirate water supplies, and that Palestinian civilians were the primary victims of the illegal wells.
"The pirate wells are connected to water pipes and reduce the flow of the legal water supply to Palestinians," the civil administration said.
"International elements have been involved in this activity. We have warned the organization in question that they were partaking in an illegal construction project, but they refused to take heed of our warning," the civil administration added.
It refused to name the organization in question, and would neither confirm nor deny Regavim's allegation that it was Oxfam.
Regavim, created four years ago, operates on both sides of the Green Line, to monitor illegal construction and to preserve state land.
Arad said that its focus has been on illegal Palestinian and Israeli Arab activity, given that left-wing groups have solely focused on illegal Jewish construction.
In a letter that the organization's attorney Amir Fischer wrote to the civil administration, the IDF and Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Arad said that Oxfam had intensified its activity in the West Bank and was helping Palestinians build illegally and carry out agricultural activity on state land.