Responding to my correspondence, The Guardian’s Readers’ Editor has amended an article written last week by Matthew Kalman.
Kalman’s article reported on the controversy over Hollywood actress Scarlett Johansson ditching her role as humanitarian ambassador for the charity Oxfam, which objected to her endorsement deal with SodaStream, an Israeli company with a factory in a settlement in the occupied West Bank.
The piece, “Oxfam under pressure to cut ties with Scarlett Johansson over SodaStream ad,” now appears with the following appended text:
In a sub-heading and in the body of the text campaigners seeking to pressure Oxfam to sever ties with Scarlett Johansson were described as “anti-Israel.” To clarify: the campaigners are opposed to settlements.
When the article was first published, I highlighted Kalman’s “anti-Israel campaigners” language on Twitter, prompting him to justify his turn of phrase in the following terms:
@benabyad Hi Ben. Over-analyzing, methinks. Direct parallel to “anti-apartheid campaigners.” Don’t recall any objections to that usage— Matthew Kalman (@MatthewKalman) January 30, 2014
He repeated this line to a number of others, yet it is highly disingenuous. The analogy to his choice of language would be if “anti-apartheid” campaigners had been called “anti-South Africa” campaigners instead (terminology that doubtless would have pleased the apartheid government).
Revealingly, Kalman has now written an article for Haaretz, in which he questions the “ethics” of Oxfam policy on Israel and boycott, and claims that the Johansson saga showed that the charity “is now a fully-fledged political campaign group.” A nice narrative – as long as you forget Oxfam campaigns on issues like, say, corporate land grabs, a tax on bankers and the arms trade.
In an email to Chris Elliott, The Guardian’s Readers’ Editor, I pointed out how “describing the campaigners as ‘anti-Israel’ mirrors the language used by pro-Israel advocates, who wish to give the impression that the activists are merely ‘against’ something in a negative, hateful sense – rather than being ‘for’ something in a positive sense (i.e. Palestinian rights, equality, freedom etc.).”
Elliott accepted my complaint, saying it is “fairer” to clarify the activists’ opposition to the settlements.