Oxfam, whose staff are seen distributing relief supplies in Gaza last year, may see its credibility plunge among Palestinians as it stands by settlement profiteer Scarlett Johansson. (Oxfam/Flickr)
The grandson and grand-nephew of two founders of Oxfam is calling on the charity to dissociate from its “Global Ambassador,” Hollywood actress Scarlett Johansson, who signed a multi-million dollar endorsement deal with Israeli-occupation profiteer SodaStream.
Hubert Murray, who lives in Massachusetts, makes the call in a letter to Raymond Offenheiser, president of Oxfam America, shared with The Electronic Intifada.
Murray’s grandfather was Professor Gilbert Murray and his great-uncle was Dr. Henry Gillett, both founding members in the 1940s of the Oxford Committee for Famine Relief, which later became Oxfam.
Despite the fact that Johansson has defended the SodaStream deal and endorsed Israeli colonization and settlement – a position totally at odds with Oxfam’s – the charity is standing by her.
“By endorsing the kind of SodaStream propaganda that underwrites the Israeli occupation, [Johansson] is acting as an ambassador for oppression,” Murray writes.
He adds that the “ongoing credibility of Oxfam depends on its adhering to its founding principles,” and says “I am certain my grandfather and great-uncle would agree with me.”
Oxfam’s stance is also likely to deal a blow to its reputation among Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip, where the charity runs numerous projects.
Murray’s letter adds to a growing chorus of criticism of the charity for refusing to break its ties with Johansson, even after her clear defense of settlements.
Last week California public broadcaster KQED announced that it would stop giving away SodaStream’s settlement-made home carbonation machines to its donors because “the controversy surrounding SodaStream would undermine the spirit of our impartiality and unbiased mission.”
Letter to Oxfam
President, Oxfam America
226 Causeway, 5th Floor
Boston, MA 02114
Dear Mr. Offenheiser,
I am writing to you as an American citizen and direct descendent of Professor Gilbert Murray and Dr. Henry Gillett, two founders of the Oxford Committee for Famine Relief (the original Oxfam).
I am alarmed that Oxfam America retains as one of its “celebrity ambassadors” Scarlett Johansson despite her becoming the highly paid public face of SodaStream. As is well known, this Israeli company manufactures its products in the city-settlement of Maaleh Adumim, which is not just illegal under international law, but also vitiates the possibility of any future Palestinian state by cutting the West Bank into two pieces.
The ongoing credibility of Oxfam depends on its adhering to its founding principles, which include “the relief of suffering as a result of wars or of other causes in any part of the world.” Maale Adumim, and by its association, SodaStream, are among just such causes of the suffering of the Palestinian people. Scarlett Johansson, by endorsing the kind of SodaStream propaganda that underwrites the Israeli occupation, is acting as an ambassador for oppression.
I urge Oxfam America to disassociate itself from Ms. Johansson so long as she chooses to represent SodaStream. I am certain my grandfather and great-uncle would agree with me.
Hubert Murray, FAIA, RIBA