Israel punishing Oxfam for break up with Scarlett Johansson, say aid workers

Oxfam staff distributed supplies to some of the thousands of Palestinians affected by damaging storms in Gaza last December.

Oxfam

Israeli occupation authorities have been delaying permits to enter Gaza for staff from Oxfam in what may be retaliation for the international charity’s criticism of Hollywood actress Scarlett Johansson.

Earlier this year, Johansson, who was an Oxfam humanitarian ambassador, parted ways with the charity after it criticized her endorsement deal with SodaStream, an Israeli company that manufactures home drink carbonation machines in the occupied West Bank settlement of Maaleh Adumim.

Permits denied

Since the controversy, Oxfam has found it almost impossible to get Israeli permits for its international staff to enter Gaza to carry out work on projects relating to water, food security, public health and other services.

A person with knowledge of the matter, who asked not to be named because Oxfam has not authorized anyone to speak publicly about the issue, told The Electronic Intifada that this “is the first time ever that Oxfam staff are getting a blanket refusal … all of them used to get permits on time before and [the delays] all started happening since Scarlett.”

“Of course no Israeli authority would ever confirm that is the reason but the word inside Oxfam is that it is.”

While a tiny handful of permits have been issued, the vast majority of applications have been subjected to lengthy and unexplained delays.

Scarlett praised by Netanyahu

Israel’s anger at the Scarlett Johansson affair was certainly felt at the highest levels of government.

In his speech to the powerful Israel lobby group AIPAC in Washington in March, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu publicly praised Johansson’s stance.

“Those who oppose BDS, like Scarlett Johansson, they should be applauded,” Netanyahu said.

Johansson had accused Oxfam of supporting the Palestinian-led campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS). While Oxfam opposes trade in settlement goods, it has not endorsed the broader BDS movement.

An Oxfam spokesperson declined to provide The Electronic Intifada with a comment on the matter.

Palestinians will pay price

In the absence of any other plausible explanation, it would seem that Israel is once again prepared to use humanitarian work and the denial of aid as a weapon to silence criticism and in pursuit of its political agenda of legitimizing land theft and colonization.

As usual, Palestinians in Gaza who are in need of repairs to their badly damaged water and public health infrastructure will pay the price of Israel’s vindictiveness.

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Ali Abunimah

Ali Abunimah's picture

Co-founder of The Electronic Intifada and author of The Battle for Justice in Palestine, now out from Haymarket Books.

Also wrote One Country: A Bold-Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse. Opinions are mine alone.