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Oxfam reject donation from author who defends Palestinians' right to resist

Oxfam has declined a £5,000 donation from a philosophy professor because the would-be donor has written a book in which he supports Palestinians right to resort to violence to free their people.

Next time you are asked to donate to Oxfam perhaps you should reconsider - your money may not be good enough for them! Use their freepost envelope to tell them what you think of their political bias against the Palestinians' right to fight illegal occupation.


Oxfam shuns £5,000 in row over book

Owen Bowcott
The Guardian
October 9, 2002

Oxfam has turned down a £5,000 donation from a distinguished professor of philosophy because it is linked to his latest book which defends the Palestinians' right to carry out suicide bombings and terrorist attacks.

Ted Honderich, formerly Professor of Mind and Logic at University College, London, offered to give the charity his advance against royalties for After the Terror, his recently published examination of the moral dimension of the September 11 attacks.

The book, published by Edinburgh University Press, generated controversy in his native Canada but was favourably reviewed in Britain. The Guardian and the Times praised its thoughtful probing of the implications of the events; the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a minor theme of the work.

After finishing the book this year, Professor Honderich, a long-time contributor to Oxfam, decided he would like to make a gift, but was told last month that objections had been raised.

Meanwhile a leading Canadian paper, the Toronto Globe and Mail, published an editorial condemning the book because of its comments about the Middle East."There is one page at the end of the last chapter that gave rise to the [controversy]," it said. "This page qualifies the book's strong and general condemnation of terrorism, by asserting the moral right of the Palestinians to their terrorism."

After the Terror declares: "Those Palestinians who have resorted to violence have been right to try to free their people, and those who have killed themselves in the cause of their people have indeed sanctified themselves. This seems to me a terrible truth, a truth that overcomes what we must remember about all terrorism, and also overcomes the thought of hideousness and monstrosity."

Prof Honderich, who was born in Canada and whose family owns the rival paper, the Toronto Star, believes the row influenced Oxfam's decision to decline the £5,000. "I readily grant that my view... that the Palestinians have a moral right to their terrorism is unconventional and may be offensive to many ordinary people of no particular political or other attachments." But those views should not be relevant to the donation, he said.

The charity said in a statement: "The decision to decline Prof Honderich's donation was taken for one reason alone, that Oxfam cannot accept, endorse or benefit from certain opinions given in the book.

"Oxfam's purpose is to overcome poverty and suffering. We believe that the lives of all human beings are of equal value. We do not endorse acts of violence... No other facts were considered in taking the decision."

Prof Honderich believes his rejection sets an awkward precedent and raises broader issues. "It's very obscure who they will have to turn away now if they keep to this line. Oxfam used to say that a few pounds would save a life. How many lives would £5,000 save?"



Oxfam rejects £5,000 from author who called bombers ‘martyrs’

Helen Jacobus
Jewish Chronicle
October 18, 2002

Oxfam has declined a £5,000 donation from a retired philosophy professor because the would-be donor has written a book in which he describes Palestinian suicide bombers as martyrs.

The charity turned down the contribution by Canadian-born Ted Honderich, former professor at University College London, which represented the advance for his recently published book about the September 11 attacks, “After the Terror.”

In the book, he writes: “Those who have resorted to violence have been right to try to free their people, and those who killed themselves in the cause of their people have indeed sanctified themselves.

“This seems to me a terrible truth, a truth that overcomes the thought of hideousness and monstrosity.”

An Oxfam spokeswoman told the JC: “We said: ‘No thank you,’ because you condone acts of terrorism and we can’t accept donations from someone taking that standpoint.’”

Asked to comment, Professor Honderich, who lives in Somerset, instead directed the JC to a lecture posted on his website delivered around the anniversary of September 11 to universities in America and Canada.

The lecture referred to “the invasion and occupation of Palestine by Israel, certainly beyond its pre-1967 borders, [as] a moral crime.” Terrorism was the Palestinians’ “only possible means of redress.”

Mr Honderich argued that “our support of the violation of Palestine also contributed to our share of res-ponsibility for September 11.”

Oxfam’s rejection of the donation has prompted a spate of correspondence in The Guardian. Critics accused the charity of acting politically and breaching its commitment to alleviate world poverty.

Denying this, the Oxfam spokes-woman maintained: “We can’t condone violence in any form.” She added that if the charity would doubtless have been criticised had it accepted the money.



So Why Did Oxfam Reject The Donation?

Ted Honderich Website


Extract from the above page, Professor Ted Honderich rings Oxfam just after learning from a newspaper article that Oxfam have declined his generous donation:

I rang Janet Roberts at Oxfam in Oxford and we had two conversations. She was distraught, as I was, and kept saying how very sorry she was. She conveyed various things to me.

The Globe and Mail had openly or in effect threatened that if Oxfam did not publicly turn away the money, The Globe and Mail would run a piece saying Oxfam was taking money from a terrorist-sympathizer. Oxfam, however necessary it was to do so, had given in to the threat of The Globe and Mail's. If it had not, she herself said, Oxfam would have been pilloried. It was possible to wonder about that. Still, the word "blackmail" was mentioned, perhaps by me, certainly without dissent from Ms Roberts.

Ms Roberts also conveyed, I am sure, that she herself and others in Oxfam in Oxford had been against the decision. It had been taken, she said, by the senior management team of Oxfam in Oxford and now she was, so to speak, loyal to it. She had not thought the matter was escalating when she talked to me when she rang me in New York, but it had escalated. I gathered that Oxfam Canada was part of what happened, having itself been approached, if that is the word, by The Globe and Mail , and then passed on the news to Oxfam in Oxford.

Nor was that the end of the story, as I was given to understand. Not only the newspaper had brought pressure to bear. Other persons or organizations had done so. She did not identify these persons or organizations.

The decision had been taken, Ms Roberts repeatedly said, to preserve Oxfam's neutrality. Oxfam could not look like it was taking sides. She chose not to say anything when I wondered if Oxfam took money from Zionists -- whether it took money from individuals or companies who explicitly or implicitly, but in any case indubitably, take it that the Israelis have exactly a moral right to their state-terrorism and war against the Palestinians. She did say Oxfam was in general aware of how the Zionist lobby operates.

Another canvassed reason for not taking the £5,000 was mentioned. It had been argued in Oxford that Oxfam's taking the money would actually endanger its workers in the field in Palestine. The danger, presumably, would be from Israel or Israelis. The Palestinian regional office of Oxfam had been consulted. It had in fact been in favour of rather than against taking the money...



Letter To The Guardian

The Guardian
October 12 2002

I normally make substantial donations to Oxfam: they have totalled £3,500 since 1999, and after my mother's death I ensured that they received £10,000 from her estate. I am inclined to believe that when a country is living under a foreign occupying force, so that voting can do nothing to achieve an effective change, individuals and groups have a moral right, and indeed a duty, to resist in any way they can.

Would Oxfam prefer me to cease making donations, and to change my will so that it ceases to be a beneficiary? There are other charities that share Oxfam's aims of overcoming poverty and suffering, so it won't cause me much inconvenience.

E J Evans


Was Oxfam Right To Turn Down The Donation?

"Third Sector" Magazine, whose subject includes international aid agencies such as Oxfam, asked the question: Was Oxfam right to turn down the donation?

Rob Cartridge, head of campaigns for War on Want replied "No":

It is absolutely legitimate to question the sources of donations particularly when they are associated with business or (in this case) a business deal. Accepting a donation implies a degree of endorsement.

But in this case I suspect Oxfam has reacted to a vocal pro-Israeli minority and concerns about potential damage to its future fundraising. All NGOs working in Palestine are well aware of this lobby, which complains on a daily basis about any support given to the opposition.

Professor Honderich's book deals with terrorism only as a minor issue. He discusses whether Palestinians have a moral right to use terror tactics, which is a valid debate. The book does not support terrorism but seeks to understand it. The links between poverty and terrorism are clear and stark. Even the Israeli military has admitted that more than 80 per cent of Palestinians in Gaza are living below the poverty line.

In these circumstances, Oxfam's decision not to accept the donation seems a strange one.

Rob Cartridge
Head of campaigns,
War on Want


Oxfam's Loss is Palestinian Aid's Gain

by Owen Bowcott and Raekha Prasad
The Guardian
11 December 2002

A British charity has stepped in to accept a donation that Oxfam controversially rejected because the money was linked to a book defending the Palestinians' right to carry out suicide bombings.

Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP) has welcomed the £5,000 donation by Ted Honderich, former professor of mind and logic at University College London. The money comes from advance royalties for his book, After the Terror, which examines the moral dimension of the September 11 attacks.

Map will also get the equivalent 1% of sales revenue from the publisher, Edinburgh University Press.

Earlier this year, when it was offered the money, Oxfam said it could not take the proceeds of a work that endorsed acts of violence.

Belinda Coote, MAP's chief executive, says Oxfam is entitled to its view. But her charity is accepting the royalty advance very gratefully. "Ted Honderich is a moral philosopher," she says. "He doesn't trade arms or peddle baby milk."

Honderich has made it clear that his views do not have to be endorsed by MAP, says Coote, adding: "Five thousand pounds is a lot of money to us. To Oxfam, it's very little."

MAP, established 20 years ago, has six employees in London and seven in the Middle East. It spends about £2m annually on supporting health services, including mobile clinics and health centres in the West Bank and Gaza and in Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon.

Honderich, who was a long-time donor to Oxfam until the charity refused his gift, says: "My reason for giving the £5,000 to MAP is partly that Oxfam allowed itself to be recruited in the anti-Palestinian cause. So it is particularly suitable that the money should go to a charity trying to help the victims of Israeli aggression and occupation."

Paul Mylrea, Oxfam's head of media, says: "We have a substantial programme in the Middle East. We have called very strongly for an end to the Israeli government's policy of closure of Palestinian villages to prevent a humanitarian disaster."

When Honderich offered the money, says Mylrea, it was framed as a private donation. But he then went public. "He linked the charity to what he was saying, without discussing it with us first," says Mylrea. "Our reputation is one of our most valuable assets."


Further Information

Please visit the following comprehensive page on Professor Ted Honderich Website:

Also see the related story:

Book defending Palestinian right to resist banned after Zionist pressure: