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 Euro Ready for a Short-term Breakout, Trend Revival When Liquidity Returns
2m ago PRESTIGE : Holistic Company Report by The Stock Reseach Center
6m ago MARRIOTT VACATIONS WORLDWIDE : 'Next Gen' & Innovation Focus Of Vacation Ownership Industry Annual Convention
13m agoDJDLF : Behind a Real-Estate Empire, Ties to India's -2-
14m agoDJDLF : Behind a Real-Estate Empire, Ties to India's Gandhi Dynasty
17m ago COMPANHIA DE SANEAMENTO BASICO SABESP : SABESP : Announces Tariff Revision
17m ago ZTE : Provides Technical Support as Air China Launches its First Ground-Air Broadband Test
18m ago NCKU Professor’s Research on Bike-Share System Published in ‘Operations Research’
24m agoDJGains in China Average New Home Prices Slow in March
29m ago APICS : and APICS : Foundation Honor Rockwell Automation for Supply Chain Management Excellence
Latest news
Advertisement
Hot News 
INDEPENDENT BANK : Entry into a Material Definitive Agreement, Completion of Acquisition or Disposition of Assets, Change in Directors or Principal Officers (form 8-K)
HAYNES PUBLISHING : Third Quarter Hit By Us Inventory Returns, Weak UK
SPACEANDPEOPLE : Shares Slide As It Lowers 2014 Forecast
BLUR : Shares In Blur Group Plummet Due To Delayed Revenue Recognition
LDK SOLAR : Provides Additional Information on its Request for Review of NYSE Regulation's Decision to Suspend Trading and Commence Delisting Procedures
Most Read News
4h ago WALT DISNEY : Disney sees operating income growth at cable networks
4h ago LULULEMON ATHLETICA : CEO looks beyond yoga wear for growth
4h ago BLACKSTONE : Retailer Michaels Stores confirms payment card data breach
4h ago APPLE : Pixel Film Studios, Apple FCPX Effects Developer Announced the Release of ProSilent, Professional Silent Film Effects.
4h ago PNC FINANCIAL SERVICES : The Mission Continues, PNC Bank to Host Community Service Project to Refurbish Grace Hill Early Childhood Development Center
Most recommended articles
15h ago U.S. shares seen opening lower as tech giants stumble
11h ago Financials bolster FTSE after reassuring U.S. earnings
13h ago BLACKSTONE : earnings rise 30 percent, boosted by private equity gains
04/10DJCarrefour Sales Grow at Fastest Pace in Two Years
13m agoDJDLF : Behind a Real-Estate Empire, Ties to India's -2-
Dynamic quotes  
ON
| OFF