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

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.

Latest news
Date Title
6m ago SYNGENTA : Triton Algae Innovations Ltd. Names Dr. Xun Wang as President
15m ago AUTODESK : and Local Motors Collaborate on First Spark 3D Platform Implementation
15m ago FORTINET : Unveils Industry's First Multi-Gigabit Next Generation Firewall in the Middle East; Protects Mid-Enterprises with 5 Times the Performance
15m ago MICHELIN : Gourmet gateway: expanded speciality food festival caters to growing regional appetite for fine foods
15m ago DUBAI FINANCIAL MARKET PJSC : Al Ramz Capital's Mobile Trade App recognized by Dubai Financial Market at GITEX 2014
15m ago Air traffic management specialists, nats, open dedicated office for the mena region
17m ago PAN AFRICAN RESOURCES : AfDB pledges $7.7m to revamp health infrastructure in Africa
17m ago HUAWEI TECHNOLOGY : S/Sudan: Chinese company hacks govt's system-Official
20m ago THOMAS COOK INDIA : Oman pitched as honeymoon and wedding venue
21m ago AVISTA : showcases refrigerator recycling program at local school
Latest news
Advertisement
Hot News 
DIGITAL RIVER : Announces Agreement to be Acquired by Investor Group Led by Siris Capital Group for $26.00 per Share in Cash
EDREAMS ODIGEO : Statement responding to BA and Iberia statement
4IMPRINT : Full Year Expectations Underpinned By Strong Third Quarter
ATLANTIS RESOURCES : Raises GBP5.0 Million In Discounted Placing (ALLISS)
MERIT MEDICAL SYSTEMS : posts 3Q profit
Most Read News
1d ago MATSON : Shipping company pleads guilty in molasses spill
1d ago HEARTLAND EXPRESS : 2014 Q3 Earnings Release
1d ago APPLE : Time for all Apple products to enter China
13h ago PFIZER : Reports Vaccine Candidate Data
1h ago Deutsche Bank lawyer found dead by suicide in New York
Most recommended articles
1h ago Deutsche Bank lawyer found dead by suicide in New York
3h agoDJTHYSSENKRUPP : Denies in Talks to Sell Marine Systems to Rheinmetall
8h ago Russian government approves law to clamp down on offshore tax sheltering
8h ago Greybull Capital buys UK's Monarch
9h ago Areva-Siemens raises claim to $4.4 billion over Finnish reactor delays
Dynamic quotes  
ON
| OFF