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(Wissam Nassar / Maan Images)

Oxfam’s cowardly stance on Scarlett Johansson’s Israeli settlement profiteering

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Scarlett Johansson in a screenshot from an Oxfam fundraising video.

Human rights defenders took some encouragement yesterday from a statement by Oxfam implicitly criticizing Hollywood star Scarlett Johansson for a multi-million dollar endorsement deal with the Israeli-occupation profiteering firm SodaStream.

Johansson is also an “Oxfam Global Ambassador,” representing the human rights and development charity and helping it raise money around the world.

The Oxfam statement said that it was in “dialogue” with Johannson, suggesting that action might be forthcoming.

But yesterday, an excellent post on the growing controversy, by Robert Mackey, for The Lede blog at nytimes.com, revealed:

A spokesman for Oxfam, Matt Herrick, told The Lede in an email on Thursday that the group had not asked Ms. Johansson to withdraw from her endorsement deal with SodaStream. Oxfam objected in 2009 when another ambassador, the American actress Kristin Davis, agreed to endorse Ahava, an Israeli cosmetics company that also has a factory in a West Bank settlement. After a wave of negative publicity, Ahava and Ms. Davis quickly parted ways.

This is quite disturbing. Given the facts, the very least Oxfam could do is to give Johansson a clear choice: them or us. It is impossible to be an “ambassador” both for a human rights group and for human rights abusers!

Oxfam’s earlier statement said that it had informed Johansson “that businesses that operate in settlements further the ongoing poverty and denial of rights of the Palestinian communities that we work to support.”

Mackey’s post provides details about SodaStream’s presence in an illegal West Bank settlement, as well as providing information on the routine abuses in industrial zones in the occupied West Bank (among other sources, Mackey cites The Electronic Intifada’s report from last year “SodaStream ‘treats us like slaves,’ says Palestinian factory worker”).

Baffling

“Oxfam has been clear about settlements being a major barrier for peace, which makes it baffling that they would not ask their own Global Ambassador to end her support for a company based in a settlement and profiting from exploiting Palestinian land, labor, and resources,” Ramah Kudaimi of the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, wrote The Electronic Intifada in an email.

“We call again on Oxfam to hold up its values and cut ties with Scarlett,” Kudaimi added.

The US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation recently issued an action alert asking people to contact Oxfam America president Raymond Offenheiser, to urge that Oxfam “press Scarlett to end her deal with SodaStream or…end its relationship with the actress to send the message that supporting companies that profit from occupation and human rights abuses is unacceptable.”

In the UK, the Palestine Solidarity Campaign has issued a similar call.

Duplicity

Oxfam’s hiding behind “dialogue” while failing to act is no different from the US-sponsored so-called “peace process” in which Palestinians are invited to engage in endless “dialogue” with Israel, while Israel continues to gobble up their land.

Groups like Oxfam are supposed to provide a civil society alternative to such government duplicity. Instead, we see Oxfam emulating it in the most cowardly way.

It’s time for Oxfam to act on its principles instead of just talking about them.

I will be tweeting this post at @Oxfam and @OxfamAmerica as well as some of the key personnel who have been disseminating the “dialogue” statement online.

These include @Winnie_Byanyima, executive director of Oxfam international, @Mark_Goldring1, chief executive of Oxfam UK and @mattmherrick, director of media for Oxfam America.

While Oxfam hides, the controversy and attention Johansson’s shameful deal with SodaStream is attracting only continues to grow.

Comments

This girl is either a moron, a "useful fool" or needs a new agent.

Kristin Davis was not dropped by Oxfam, as your blog yesterday seemed to imply:

"It is still unclear whether Oxfam will eventually drop Johansson – following a 2009 precedent with Hollywood actress Kristin Davis – or whether the charity will convince Johansson to drop her lucrative contract with SodaStream."

But naturally, the fact that this has happened AGAIN with an Oxfam ambassador does increase the pressure on the organization.

And looking towards the future, Oxfam should probably think of stressing the concept of "no profiteering from occupation profiteers" in their initial talks with prospective ambassadors (it's difficult to imagine what would happent to Oxfam's reputation if this were to occur a THIRD time). They should be especially explicit if these prospective ambassadors are Hollywood movie stars, who, it seems, are surrounded by a lot of nasty people pointing them in the wrong direction.

It doesnt say Oxfam and Davis parted ways. It says Davis and the company she was endorsing parted ways.

Reportedly Ms Johansson is not exactly a bright light. But how much brain power does it take to know right from wrong? Shame on her.and shame on Oxfam.

It would seem Oxfam and "what's her name" have parted ways.

Good for Oxfam.

She will not be missed.

info@oxfamamerica.org

Dear Sirs,

It would appear that others in your organsation are singing from a different hymn sheet to the one which you sent to me in your recent email;
.
"The Oxfam statement said that it was in “dialogue” with Johannson, suggesting that action might be forthcoming.

But yesterday, an excellent post on the growing controversy, by Robert Mackey, for The Lede blog at nytimes.com, revealed:

A spokesman for Oxfam, Matt Herrick, told The Lede in an email on Thursday that the group had not asked Ms. Johansson to withdraw from her endorsement deal with SodaStream."

I sincerely hope that you will do the right thing in this matter and send a clear signal to Israel that her policies of land theft, settlement building, refusal of right of return for Palestinian refugees will no longer be tolerated by all fair minded people.

Yours faithfully.

Should Oxfam choose not to disassociate with an ambassador for Sodastream, then we logically must extend the boycott to Oxfam itself. If Oxfam makes a conscious, deliberate, public choice to stand by Sodastream (and its defiance of international law and its illegal exploitation of the Palestinian people), then Oxfam is supporting that exploitation. BDS starts with little steps such as giving our donations and our charity shop purchases to a more appropriate recipient--along with a note to Oxfam to let them know each time. And then there will be campaigns...

Yes.
Pal. organizations working with Oxfam Italy can send them the message. Oxfam America doesnt help Palestinians with any projects anyway.

I did not know about Sodastream. I have been a political activist for 50 years but I do not know everything. Which means I am open to be called a moron by those who are know alls. Maybe like me this actor did not know of Sodastreams links, she should be informed of such then judge her action.

"Maybe like me this actor did not know of Sodastreams links"

She did and does!

January 27, 2014, 2:22 pm
Scarlett Johansson’s Defense of SodaStream Factory in Occupied West Bank Fails to Sway Critics
By ROBERT MACKEY
The Lede