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(Wissam Nassar / Maan Images)

“Internal revolt” at Oxfam over Scarlett Johansson affair, insider says

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Scarlett Johansson in a screenshot from an Oxfam fundraising video.

There is an “internal revolt” within Oxfam over the international charity’s refusal to cut ties with Hollywood actress Scarlett Johansson, an Oxfam insider has told The Electronic Intifada.

The dispute within the global charity is largely along transatlantic lines, with Oxfam America stamping on anything seen to be critical of Israel.

Johansson is one of Oxfam’s “Global Ambassadors” but recently signed a deal with SodaStream, an Israeli firm with a factory in an illegal settlement in the occupied West Bank.

The insider, who is familiar with the organization’s internal deliberations, asked not to be named because they are not authorized to speak to media.

The insider decided to speak out from a belief that Oxfam was suffering serious damage to its credibility by standing with Johansson.

“We do a lot of good work, but it is being overshadowed by all the negative publicity,” the insider said.

“Thorniest issue”

The Johansson affair “has really brought out one of the thorniest issues within Oxfam,” the insider said.

Although Oxfam has done a lot of lobbying both publicly and privately on the issue of Israeli settlements, it has faced intense resistance from Oxfam America.

Oxfam operates as an international federation with national affiliates including Oxfam America, Oxfam GB, Oxfam Belgium and, in The Netherlands, Oxfam Novib.

Fundraising fears

Unlike other national affiliates, “Oxfam America doesn’t invest one cent in the Palestinian territories, or even Israel. They don’t have any programs in the West Bank or Gaza,” the insider explained.

“Yet they [Oxfam America] always claim that anything Oxfam says on Palestine or Israel affects their fundraising. They almost have veto power on what Oxfam does on Palestine,” the insider added.

While these tensions have been present for some time, the Johansson episode has brought the “anger” to the surface within the organization, the insider said.

The insider noted that the situation became much worse after Matt Herrick, spokesperson for Oxfam America, told The New York Times’ blog The Lede last week that Oxfam had not even asked Johansson to end her deal with SodaStream.

“There are a lot of good people at Oxfam who are really pissed off at what Johansson did and even more pissed off at Matt Herrick’s comment,” the insider said.

One unmistakable sign of the disarray at Oxfam came this morning when Oxfam GB tweeted, and then a short time later deleted, a statement on the controversy.

Hurting Palestinian partners

Now the insider fears that Oxfam’s position could harm its programs in the West Bank and Gaza Strip which provide vital support to Palestinian communities.

“Oxfam has a lot of Palestinian partners and is one of the more respected international organizations working in Palestine,” the insider said.

These fears could be right. It was revealed today that the Palestinian NGO Network (PNGO) has written to Oxfam calling on it to sever its ties to Johansson. PNGO includes virtually all of Oxfam’s Palestinian partners.

on Twitter

Palestine’s Boycott National Committee issued a public statement making the same demand today.

It remains to be seen whether the internal struggle will be resolved in favor of a principled stance and solidarity with Palestinians under occupation, or whether those more concerned with protecting Israel and Oxfam America’s bottom line will ultimately prevail.

Comments

It is horrific to realize that Oxfam America is run by Zionists, or, at best, by people prepared to bow to Zionists (and is there any real difference between the two?).

For the rest, I congratulate this brave insider as he/she does make me feel a lot better about Oxfam GB, Oxfam Belgium and Oxfam Novib. Although the issue must naturally be resolved at the global level, to clear the Oxfam brand name.

It seems that Johansson has done Oxfam a favour. The organization must rid itself of this pernicious Zionist influence. No branch of Oxam can accept to be in the pocket of Zionists in any way, shape or form.

Yes Phillippa, I also feel that as upsetting as this is, it is also rather encouraging to think that we are at that stage in the Worldwide struggle for Palestinian rights where we can finally smoke the hypocritical Zionists and tribalists out. So Oxfam America’s president, Raymond C. Offenheiser may be against suffering and hunger and rape and injustice, but now we know his organization believes there are certain nationalities that are exceptions to such supposed universal human rights. Now we know. Thanks Scarlett.

Can you believe Oxfam America actually COMPLAINED when the other Oxfams tried to help Palestinians?

I'm not at all surprised. American Anti-Arab prejudice today ranges from American Anti-Aboriginal prejudice in the 1800's to American Anti-African prejudice in the 1960's.

Anything outside of that spectrum is considered "radical" and "far left".

I Certainly wont be donating anything to Oxfam in the future. There are far more reputable charities to be part of.

It’s surprisingly not surprising. Ive recently come to understand just how well the American wars have succeeded in dehumanizing the Arab/Muslim/Brown stand-in in the eyes of the most liberal, politically correct American. To find someone not poisoned, at some level, by this thinking is the real surprise.

...in the East Midlands. I am seriously considering leaving Oxfam, and encouraging my colleagues to do the same.

The organization that I love is rapidly losing all credibility. We are supposed to oppose injustice, not passively support it. We are supposed to support international law, and yet here we are silently supporting those who ignore it and who profit from that ignorance.

I am becoming ashamed of my association with Oxfam.

I've written the Canadian group asking for assurance that it will have nothing to do with Johansson. No reply yet.

I am confident you will hear from Oxfam Canada soon. Please remember that Oxfam, globally, is a confederation of 17 independent groups. They aim for a high degree of consensus, but consensus doesn't always emerge in a flash. And, whether you agree with the (apparent) Oxfam America position or not, it's not a great surprise that Oxfam in the US might be more "conservative" than other members of the confederation -- which is not to defend what seems to be excessive sensitivity to apparent perceptions of US Jews' thinking on Israel/Palestine (and implications for fundraising and related matters)....

Given the politics of the current Canadian government - and Harper's recent triumphalist visit to Israel, I suspect that Oxfam Canada is tryiong to walk the awkward tightrope between their principles (in support of Palestine) and the threat of getting whacked by the Cndn Gov't. (They would not be the first NGO in Canada punished for their politics!)

Unless OXFAM USA changes its actions and policy on Palestine urgently, I will cease to support any organisation that supports it.
The thought that OXFAM USA is racist is so appalling.
However was OXFAM USA allowed to go on using the title OXFAM when it has these racist zionist policies?

I have worked for Oxfam on and off for close to 2 decades now, and I am seriously considering never working for them again. My latest work has been with Oxfam America and they are the worst. In addition to the wrong politics on Johansson, Oxfam America is also getting too close for comfort to bug companies like Coca-Cola and SABMiller. Its also easy enough to find with a simple search. They are selling out to big companies and that is not right at all.

My brother is terrified he will lose his job at Sodastream if there is a boycott. I am in the UK now but he earns good money in safety at their factory and is so grateful with my cousins and their friends to be working there in the OT

As a supporter of Oxfam Novib I feel ashamed by Oxfam USA being hesitant about their position. The affaire is bad for the name of Oxfam worldwide.

Why do I have such trouble believing you are who you say you are, the sister of a Palestinian?

Isn't this the same organisation that signed a deal with Bill Gates to support the chaining of peasant farmers in Africa to the agro-industrial complex and Monsanto? So, why are we so surprised by sucking on the soda stream