Famous Hollywood actress Scarlett Johannson, was until recently, the global spokesman for Oxfam International.
Oxfam International (Oxfam) is an international aid organization that tries to alleviate poverty and help the poor and the needy.
About a month ago, Johannson also became a global brand ambassador forSodaStream International Ltd., an Israeli public company, which manufactures soda pop makers, so that you can make your own fizzy soda pop at home from plain tap water.
SodaStream has over 20 factories around the world. But one factory is located in the established Israeli settlement of Maale Adumim in East Jerusalem in the West Bank.
And there is the rub.
Apparently, when Oxfam learned of Johannson’s involvement with SodaStream, it advised Johannson to cut her ties with SodaStream.
Because according to Oxfam: “While Oxfam respects the independence of our ambassadors, Ms Johansson’s role promoting the company SodaStream is incompatible with her role as an Oxfam Global Ambassador….Oxfam believes that businesses, such as SodaStream, that operate in settlements further the ongoing poverty and denial of rights of the Palestinian communities that we work to support.”
Ms. Johannson, through her representatives, publicly criticized Oxfam for its support of the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement against Israel. And decided to end her ambassador role with Oxfam after eight years.
Her publicist stated, “She and Oxfam have a fundamental difference of opinion in regards to the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement. She is very proud of her accomplishments and fundraising efforts during her tenure with Oxfam.”
By publicly outing Oxfam’s support of the anti-Israel BDS movement, I believe thatJohannson has created potentially serious problems for Oxfam, especially here in Canada.
Recall that Prime Minster Harper in his recent historic “Fire and Water” speech in Israel, declared that those who support “Israel as an apartheid state” and the BDS movement, are expressing the new anti-Semitism.
As has been discussed in the Huffington Post, these anti-Semitic views are totally unacceptable to the current Canadian federal government, the Federal Liberal Party and the all the provincial parties of the Ontario Legislature.
In 2009, a Canadian charity known as Kairos was linked to the anti-Israel BDS movement. As a result, the Harper Government cut off its federal funding, notwithstanding Kairos claimed that it did not support sanctions against Israel.
Apparently, Kairos argued unsuccessfully that it only supported sanctions against products and services linked to Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
The Kairos argument is the same one being used by Oxfam Canada.
Recently, Oxfam Canada executive director Robert Fox released a statement outlining a position similar to that of Kairos.
“Oxfam does not and has never supported a boycott of trade with Israel….Oxfam opposes trade with Israeli settlements in the West Bank because these settlements are illegal under international law. We believe these settlements exacerbate the injustice and poverty that Oxfam addresses in its ongoing programs.”
As we say in the hills of my hometown, Westmount, “Ce chien ne sera pas chasser” (that dog won’t hunt”).
SodaStream is an Israeli company that is licensed to operate a factory by the Israeil government in the Israeli-controlled East Jerusalem settlement of Maale Adumin. SodaStream is producing these products, not Israeli settlements.
A boycott of products produced by Israeli SodaStream, is of course a boycott of Israel. There is no real distinction between the Jewish state of Israel, its Jewish people and the Israeli SodaStream, producing Israeli state authorized products in a factory located in an Israeli-controlled East Jerusalem settlement.
For Oxfam to suggest anything to the contrary is disingenuous and especially hypocritical.
Apparently, Oxfam claims that SodaStream contributes to impoverishing Palestinians and the denial of their rights.
The reality is that in this West Bank factory SodaStream employs 1300 employees — 442 are Palestinian Arabs, 237 are Israeli Arabs and the rest are Israeli Jews. All employees are treated equally, earn equal pay, receive identical social benefits, and are eligible for the same workplace perks.
It is beyond dispute that the SodaStream Palestinian Arab employees earn wages at least three to four times the wages paid to Palestinian Arabs in a similar Palestinian business.
Assume each SodaStream Palestinian employee feeds 10 people. Therefore, approximately 4,400 Palestinians are fed as a result of the SodaStream West Bank factory. Note it is also beyond dispute that the Palestinians suffer 30%-40% employment in the West Bank.
As has been stated by Ben Phillips, the director of policy for Oxfam, in a recent interview, Oxfam would rather see the SodaStream factory closed, and 442 Palestinian Arabs unemployed, and approximately 4,400 Palestinians potentially impoverished and with little food.
What a hypocritical position to take for an organization whose mandate is to fight poverty and feed the needy!
But I believe that Oxfam and Oxfam Canada appear to be guilty of a far worse crime: supporting the new anti-Semitism, that is, targeting Israel as the sole cause of all Palestinians’ ills. And supporting the BDS movement, which seeks to delegitimize the state of Israel.
The watchdog NGO Monitor, which checks for bias in nongovernmental organizations, concluded in its recent report that Oxfam “distorts economic analyses of the West Bank and Gaza, repeatedly arguing that the sole impediment to Palestinian development is Israeli policy, ignoring intra-Palestinian limitations and factors.”
“Oxfam consistently paints a highly misleading picture of the Arab-Israeli conflict, departing from its humanitarian mission focused on poverty.
Most Oxfam statements erase all complexity and blame Israel exclusively for the situation, and these distortions and their impacts contribute significantly to the conflict.”
Since Oxfam Canada’s anti-Israeli and anti-Semitic activities are contrary to Canadian principles, as enunciated by Harper and Ignatieff, I believe that the Canadian government should cut off all further government funding to Oxfam Canada, approximately $16 million dollars in Canadian taxpayer money and should revoke Oxfam’s charitable status.
Oxfam Canada certainly has the freedom to express its anti-Israeli and anti-Semitic views, but we Canadians are not obligated to support Oxfam with our hard-earned tax dollars.