Adonis Diaries

Archive for January 31st, 2014

“Internal revolt”?  Scarlett Johansson, Oxfam, SodaStream, Israel West Bank settlements…

The Israeli Daniel (Dony) Birnbaum is CEO of the SodaStream bottling plant company located in the occupied West Bank. He claims that the plant employs about 1,600 and 500 are Palestinians enjoying equal pay as Israelis.

The neighboring Palestinian communities lack running potable water and electricity. A Palestinian said: “If we need to go to the hospital we need a permit. we need permits to go pray at the mosques, to visit relatives…”

Mind you that the water the company is using belong to the Palestinians, but Israel is abusing the Palestinian rights to their resources and denying them the proper ratio quantity and ruining their agriculture.

Actress Scarlett Johansson, having the ambassador role with Oxfam for the last 8 years, has been promoting SodaStream ads.

Although Oxfam, an international charity organization, has not endorsed boycott, divestment and sanctions,  it opposes trade with Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank.

There is an “internal revolt” within Oxfam for refusing 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.

Ali Abunimah posted on Electronic Intifada this Jan. 27, 2014

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

Scarlett Johansson in a screenshot from an Oxfam fundraising video.

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.

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.

Note 1: AP released this statement:

A statement released by Johansson’s spokesman Wednesday said the 29-year-old actress has “a fundamental difference of opinion” with Oxfam International because the humanitarian group opposes all trade from Israeli settlements, saying they are illegal and deny Palestinian rights.

“Scarlett Johansson has respectfully decided to end her ambassador role with Oxfam after 8 years.  She and Oxfam have a fundamental difference of opinion in regards to the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement. She is very proud of her accomplishments and fundraising efforts during her tenure with Oxfam.”

Note 2: Suppose SodaStream negotiate that:

1. Two third of the employees be Palestinians

2. The neighboring Palestinian communities receive running potable water as much as the company is using.

3. The neighboring Palestinian communities get connected to the public utility as the company is and paying as the company is paying

4. The company makes the additional effort to coax the Israeli government to prevent Israeli settlers from cutting down the olive trees and ruining the Palestinian fields…

Why Daniel Birnbaum refuses to join the campaign against settlers cutting down olive trees and protecting the Palestinian agriculture from the onslaught of the Israeli ruffians?

Would you think that the case of boycotting  SodaStream will be harder to defend?

Note 3: If you try to get information on SodaStream, you’ll be hard-pressed to discover that it is located in the West Bank.  This company knows that it is antagonizing the world community.

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