Member access

4-Traders Homepage  >  News

News

Latest NewsCompaniesMarketsEconomy & ForexCommoditiesHot NewsMost Read NewsRecomm.Business LeadersVideosCalendar 

Comment is free: In brief: The Johansson fiasco shows the importance of an honest debate on Israel's illegal actions

01/31/2014 | 12:47pm US/Eastern
Recommend:
0

Global charities seek global ambassadors to help them raise the profile of their work. Simply doing their best to stem the tide of suffering is not enough to gain them attention. But if a celebrity goes among the poor on behalf of the charity, the media flocks to cover the story - or at least the fact that the celebrity is there. The nuts and bolts of inequality are often overlooked, but the charity gets its name in print or on the television. This is the sorry state our humanism has reached.

It is precisely because of this that Oxfam turned to Scarlett Johansson in 2007 to become its global ambassador. She travelled to Oxfam projects, something that provided photo opportunities for herself and for Oxfam.

In January, Johansson was appointed the brand ambassador for SodaStream, an Israeli company with a factory in the Israeli settlement of Maale Adumim, near Jerusalem.

Israeli settlements are built on land seized from the Palestinians during the 1967 war. By the standards of the Geneva convention, the Rome statute and the international court of justice, they have been developed illegally by Israel. Israel has thumbed its nose at international law and continued to build its settlements, including industrial parks such as the one that houses SodaStream.

The EU has called the E1 parcel of land that Israel plans to build on, extending from Maale Adumim, "a violation of international humanitarian law". Johansson, in other words, had become the face of illegal Israeli settlement activity.

Johansson's new job posed a problem for Oxfam. The charity has over the years taken a strong position against Israel's illegal settlement construction at the same time as it has worked to deliver much-needed goods and services to the encaged population in the occupied Palestinian territories.

In a powerful briefing paper from 2012, Oxfam called on Israel to "immediately halt the construction of all illegal settlements" and end "policies and practices that are illegal under international law and harm the livelihood of Palestinian civilians".

Maale Adumim is built on the rubble of the Palestinian villages of Abu Dis, Al Izriyyeh, Al Issawiyyeh, Al Tur, Khan al Ahmar and Anata - names that exist now only in the memory of their displaced residents. How could Oxfam retain its global ambassador when her new job would undermine its principles? Pro-Palestinian activists began to put pressure on Oxfam and Johansson to make a choice - either she breaks her contract with SodaStream and remains Oxfam's global ambassador, or Oxfam cuts itself off from her complicity with settlement activity.

Within the US, the question of boycotting Israel has become an important political issue, with the vote by the American Studies Association - and other scholarly bodies - to sanction Israel for its illegal occupation, an occupation that has been backed by US political, diplomatic and financial power. Several US lawmakers wish to make any talk of a boycott of Israel illegal in the US. In this context, it is understandable that Oxfam America had to tread lightly.

Any link between the Johansson fiasco and the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign would bring Oxfam America into this toxic environment. Eventually, good sense prevailed and Johansson cut her ties to Oxfam.

Small as it may seem in the context of a long battle, the Johansson affair is one more piece of evidence that illegal Israeli actions in the occupied Palestinian territories are being increasingly held up to scrutiny. There is no longer impunity for those willing to associate themselves with it. Patience has run out and an honest debate on western support for Israel at all costs is now on the table.

This debate is better than silence, or than celebrity airbrushing of deep-seated problems.

Vijay Prashad is the Edward Said chair at the American University of Beirut

(c) 2014 Guardian Newspapers Limited.

Recommend :
0
React to this article
Latest news
Date Title
<1m ago LIVEDEAL : Launches Enhanced, Faster and More Responsive Version of Its Mobile iOS App
<1m ago EL POLLO LOCO : Puts the "Loco" in Houston
<1m ago KANDI TECHNOLOGIES : Reports Plan to Launch the Car-Share Program in Nanjing with its Brand Electric Vehicles
<1m ago TE CONNECTIVITY : Cisco Awards TE Connectivity with Excellence in Sustainability Award
<1m ago INTREXON : and Amneal Expand Relationship with Second Product Collaboration
<1m ago HERITAGE COMMERCE : Telkonet, Inc. : Announces New $2 Million Revolving Line of Credit
<1m ago ALERE : Entamoeba histolytica Rapid Test Receives CE Mark
<1m ago CARNIVAL : Multi-Year Fuel Conservation Program Expected to Save More Than One Billion Gallons of Fuel and Reduce Carbon Emissions by 12 Billion Kilograms by End of 2014
<1m ago CVS HEALTH : Insights Report Tackles Complex Issue of Medication Adherence
<1m ago GENCORP : Announces Put Option Notification for 4.0625% Convertible Subordinated Debentures due 2039
Latest news
Advertisement
Hot News 
XAAR : To Slash Costs As It Lowers Revenue Guidance On China Weakness
ORDINA : investigates Zembla claims: initial findings reveals no irregularities
INTERQUEST : Recruitment in Tunbridge Wells highlighted in Recruitment International
MASIMO : Philips Electronics to appeal ruling in $467 million patent lawsuit
GENERALE DE SANTE : Change of control and refinancing of Générale de Santé
Most Read News
8h ago TESLA MOTORS : Musk says 'about time to unveil the D and something else'
1d ago JANUS CAPITAL : Pimco Total Return Fund posts record $23.5 billion net outflow in September
1d ago JPMORGAN CHASE : to Present at the Bank of America Merrill Lynch Banking & Financial Services Conference
1d ago TOTAL SYSTEM SERVICES : Pimco Total Return Fund posts record $23.5 billion net outflow in September
1d ago CANADIAN PACIFIC RAILWAY : CP Rail looks to boost revenue to C$10 billion in 2018
Most recommended articles
<1m agoUNITED STATES : Unemployment Claims better than estimates at 287K
1m ago PRICE & TIME : NZD/JPY Bear Pattern Hangs in the Balance
1m agoDJEUROPE MARKETS : European Stocks Fall; ECB Watched For Stimulus Details
4m ago Maserati sees sales topping 35,000 this year
6m ago Draghi may have to consider QE later - Dixon
Dynamic quotes  
ON
| OFF