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 SWISS PRIME SITE : remains on growth path
<1m ago AVG TECHNOLOGIES NV : Simplifies Microsoft® Office 365™ Administration with new Managed Workplace® Service Module
<1m ago SQS SOFTWARE QUALITY SYSTEMS : Notice of Results and Invitation
<1m ago MINING & INFRA : Amendment of Bond Instrument's Maturity Date
<1m ago KNOWIT : founding security company in Norway
<1m ago REABOLD RESOURCES : Notice of Annual General Meeting (“AGM”)
<1m ago ACCESS BANK : Returning To Growth Trajectory
<1m ago SUZUKI MOTOR : Spiders force Suzuki to recall midsize cars
1m ago DELEK US : Oil, Gas and Consumable Fuels Equities Coverage -- Triangle Petroleum, Cosan, Clean Energy Fuels, Gevo, and Delek US Holdings
1m ago GREENBRIER : Machinery Equities under Review -- Deere, AGCO, Cummins, Greenbrier Companies, and Rexnord
Latest news
Advertisement
Hot News 
CHURCHILL CHINA : Raises Dividend, Confirms Confidence In 2014 Outlook
TYRATECH : Vamousse® head lice products coming to Sainsbury´s and Tesco in the UK
David Lenigas Steps Down As Executive Director Of Polemos
GLOBAL ENERGY DEVELOPMENT : Provides Update on Catalina Well
NEWAYS ELECTRONICS : H1 turnover and profit in line with expectations
Most Read News
1d ago MASTERCARD : Latin America revenue to double by 2019
1d ago ALLERGAN : Facing shareholder demands, Allergan calls special meeting for December 18
1d ago REPSOL : talks to buy Talisman assets stall: WSJ
1d ago SUNPOWER : Verizon Plans Major Expansion of Its On-Site Green Energy Program; Company on Track to Become Largest Solar-Power Producer Among U.S. Communications Companies
1d ago EXCLUSIVE - CHIPMAKER QUALCOMM MAY FACE EU ANTITRUST PROBE : sources
Most recommended articles
1m ago Futures point to flat open with indexes at records
3m agoDJU.S. HOT STOCKS : Hot Stocks to Watch
5m ago MCDONALD : Russian courts close three McDonald's branches in Moscow - agencies
6m agoDJWintershall Awaits Signal to Restart Libyan Oil
6m agoDJCease-Fire Between Israel and Hamas Holds
Dynamic quotes  
ON
| OFF