Reuters (Inadvertently) Shows Oxfam to Be Dishonest on Israel and Gaza

A month ago, Oxfam in Jerusalem posted the story of surfer Mohamad Abu Ghanem as part of its Gaza series demonizing Israel (hat tip: Michal):

What Oxfam’s narrative fails to mention is the issue of dual-use items – those that could be either for civilian use or terror purposes, and which require special permission to be brought in to Gaza. Even the Office of the Quartet (which supports “the Palestinian people to build the institutions and economy of a viable, peaceful state in Gaza and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem”) acknowledges that the list reflects Israel’s “legitimate security concerns.” If any of these surfing items cannot be brought into Gaza, it would be because they could also be used by Gazan terrorists to attack Israel.

I say if because I do not see surfing equipment on the list of dual-use items.

  • Surfboards are not specifically mentioned, but it could be they fall under one of the other categories mentioned.
  • Wetsuits are also not mentioned, but it could be they fall under “diving equipment.” One can imagine that Hamas naval units utilize such equipment
  • Surfing wax is not mentioned, nor is paraffin, its main component

I reached out to COGAT twice for clarification and they never responded (that can be a post for another time).

But this report informs that the Israeli organization¬†Surfing 4 Peace “finds ways to get surfboards, wet suits, surf wax, and all kinds of surfing paraphernalia into Gaza and into the hands of its surfers.” A look at their website confirms this, and also indicates Hamas’ has been an issue in getting the equipment into Gaza. For instance:

After more than two years of negotiations with the Israeli Border Authority, permits to import the surfboards were finally issued in August of 2010.  In the preceding two years, the Hamas government in Gaza had banned all peace initiatives and cross-border cooperation between Palestinians and Israelis.  Fortunately, Matthew Olsen and Explore Corps had already established the Gaza Surf Club project and was able to secure the necessary permissions on the Palestinians side and manage the distribution of the surfboards to the waiting surfers.

So it is clear Oxfam’s demonization campaign is dishonest. But it gets worse.

Yesterday, Reuters came out with a (fair) report about surfing in Gaza.

Standing at his watchtower, Gaza lifeguard Mohammad Abu Ghanim keeps a keen eye out for signs of rising waves.

“When I feel the winds blow west at the end of my shift, I know the waves will be high the next day,” he said. “I prepare myself, friends and cousins and we get it, and we enjoy the nice high waves.”

With Gaza’s land borders tightly controlled by neighbouring Israel and Egypt, the seaside is a precious resource for people looking to relax and escape their day-to-day stresses.

“When we go surfing we feel freedom and peace, we feel our hearts are relieved,” Abu Ghanim said.

While the tiny Gaza surfing scene is a world away from the famed beaches of California, Australia or South Africa, it has clung on since 2007, when Israeli surfer Dorian “Doc” Paskowitz brought 15 surfboards into Gaza after seeing a film of two Palestinians practising on a makeshift board.

A few years later, American surfer Matthew Olsen helped deliver 30 more boards and helped train more surfers, even though an attempt to set up a surf club foundered after opposition from Gaza’s rulers in Hamas.

“I feel wonderful the surfboards are still in use,” Olsen told Reuters.

Obtaining boards and other equipment such as wetsuits is made difficult by Israeli restrictions aimed at limiting the import of anything that could be used for military purposes, although an Israeli military spokeswoman said there should be no problem about bringing in purely sporting equipment.

Note how this report mentions things Oxfam did not, including:

  • Gaza’s border also being controlled by Egypt, and Hamas’ opposition to a surf club. Oxfam’s narrative has Israel as the lone ‘bad guy’ – and an unreasonable one at that.
  • The IDF spokesperson confirming that any purely sporting equipment should not be an issue

It also makes no mention of being “barely able to surf”

But it gets even worse (unless the following is a coincidence).

Oxfam’s story centers around surfer Mohamad Abu Ghanem. Reuters report centers around surfer/lifeguard Mohammad Abu Ghanim. They seem to have the same name, albeit spelled slightly differently.

Here is his appearance according to Oxfam:

and here is how he looks in the Reuters report:

REUTERS/ Ibraheem Abu Mustafa

These do not look like the same person.


David Lange

A law school graduate, David Lange transitioned from work in the oil and hi-tech industries into fulltime Israel advocacy. He is a respected commentator and Middle East analyst who has often been cited by the mainstream media

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