Human rights advocates meet with Oxfam & Scarlett Johansson reps over concerns with Israeli settlements

ActivismIsrael/Palestine
Activists at Oxfam America's office in Washington DC. (Photo: US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation)

Activists at Oxfam America’s office in Washington DC. (Photo: US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation)

In a meeting at Oxfam America’s Boston headquarters Tuesday afternoon, local human rights advocates urged representatives of the international aid agency Oxfam to be true to the organization’s principles and cut ties with their Global Ambassador Scarlett Johansson if she remains the Global Brand Ambassador for SodaStream, a company that operates a factory in an illegal Israeli settlement in the West Bank. In Los Angeles and New York, human rights groups delivered a petition with more than 10,000 signatures to Johansson’s representatives at Creative Artists Agency. The petition calls on the Hollywood actress to end her relationship with SodaStream.

Also Tuesday, Oxfam America’s Washington D.C office refused to meet with a visiting delegation, or to receive the same petition addressed to Johansson.

The meeting and visits in four U.S. cities came amidst a viral debate in mainstream and social media about Johansson’s role as a Global Ambassador for both Oxfam and SodaStream. On Tuesday a Twitter Thunderclap organized by CODEPINK: Women for Peace with the message “Tell Oxfam to drop SodaStream Ambassador Scarlett Johansson. Occupation isn’t green or ‘guilt free’” had a social reach of nearly 2 million  people. Online memes contrasting Johansson’s support for a settlement-based “green” drink company with Israel’s systematic repression of the Palestinian people have also captured media and popular attention.

Activsts in Boston (Photo: US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation)

Activsts in Boston (Photo: US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation)

In Boston advocates from Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), the Boston Coalition for Palestinian Rights(BCPR), American Jews for a Just Peace, and First Church in Cambridge (UCC) Israel/Palestine Task Team told Oxfam staff they needed to take a stand after Johansson came out in support of Israeli occupation and settlements in a Friday statement.

Nancy Murray, a member of BCPR explained, “Among our group that met with Oxfam were four people who had recently been to the West Bank and who spoke about the destructive impact on the ground of the city-settlement of Ma’aleh Adumim where SodaStream is manufactured. Oxfam has stated that it is opposed to all trade from Israeli settlements, which are illegal under international law. It should now stand by these words.”

In response, Oxfam representatives told the group that the matter was under “serious consideration.”

Activist outside Scarlett Johansson's agent in Los Angeles. (Photo: US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation)

Activist outside Scarlett Johansson’s agent in Los Angeles. (Photo: US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation)

A Los Angeles delegation from JVP and Christian Peacemakers Team explained their concerns about SodaStream to assistants for Bryan Lourd and Jim Toth, Johansson’s agents at Creative Artists Agency. They gave her agents the petition with 10,000 signatures, which calls on Johansson to “stand on the right side of history and end your [her] relationship with SodaStream,” plus letters from JVP, the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, and CODEPINK addressed to both Oxfam and Johansson. In New York, a delegation from CODEPINK and Adalah-NY: The New York Campaign for the Boycott of Israel delivered a similar information packet to the assistant of Joe Machota, Johansson’s Talent Agent at CAA.

Activists in New York (Photo: US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation)

Activists in New York (Photo: US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation)

But in Washington, D.C., Oxfam America staff turned away a delegation from the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, CODEPINK, JVP, and the US Palestinian Community Network, saying that their concerns and information could only be received by their office in Boston.

A large network of Palestinian non-profits, including some Oxfam partners, and Palestinian civil society groups have both issued statements criticizing Oxfam for failing to distance itself from Johansson over her support for SodaStream.

Responding to criticism, Johansson said on Friday, “I stand behind the SodaStream product.” Oxfam followed with a statement saying,  “Oxfam believes that businesses that operate in settlements further the ongoing poverty and denial of rights of the Palestinian communities that we work to support… We have been engaged in dialogue with Scarlett Johansson… Oxfam is now considering the implications of her new statement and what it means for Ms. Johansson’s role as an Oxfam global ambassador.” The organization has made no further comment, with the exception of a quickly deleted tweet from Oxfam GB on Monday promising “a fuller statement very soon.”

About US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation

The US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation is the largest and most diverse coalition working to change U.S. policy toward Palestine/Israel to support human rights, international law, and equality. Learn more at endtheoccupation.org.

Other posts by .


Posted In:

33 Responses

  1. eGuard
    January 29, 2014, 11:21 am

    Wow. Of four organisations: two Jews-only, and one (Christian) Church. Not much space left for Palestine in the Oxfam office then. Why does Oxfam not talk with Palestinians?

    Something tells me Oxfam has lost something along the way already.

    • DICKERSON3870
      January 29, 2014, 5:11 pm

      RE: “Of four organisations: two Jews-only . . .”

      MY COMMENT: I am a member of US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, American Jews for a Just Peace, CODEPINK, JVP (Jewish Voice for Peace) and J Street (the alternative to AIPAC).
      Neither JVP, J Street, nor American Jews for a Just Peace asked whether I was Jewish. They are not “Jews-only”.

      • puppies
        January 29, 2014, 5:35 pm

        Well, even the name of three of them is. Out of four. Think again.

      • Citizen
        January 29, 2014, 7:09 pm

        Yep, I’m also a member of all those groups and you cant’t get more goy than me. People need to point this out more–or JVP and J Street for two, need to change their organization’s name. Confusion is mass because many of both the pro and con organizations who push for action in this arena try to cater to both Jews and Gentiles when it’s really a matter of pushing for humanistic and the best of both American/Christian values and the best of Jewish values. The case most in point, shouldn’t an honest name for AIPAC be IPAC? Wouldn’t that better inform the gullible what interest are being pursued by that organization?

      • eGuard
        January 29, 2014, 7:16 pm

        That must be why they call it like “American Jews for a Just Peace”.

      • W.Jones
        January 29, 2014, 7:50 pm

        Dickerson,

        I think the point he was making is that if Oxfam actually cared what the poor people it was supposed to be helping thought, then it should talk to Palestinian organizations.

        More specifically, could you imagine a Palestinian being elected to a top position in JStreet?

        I would not deny the value of having nonPalestinians meet with Oxfam. Of course it is very important that they do.

      • pmb1414
        January 30, 2014, 11:11 am

        Dickerson3870~ Thank you for pointing out that we are not all stamped out by the same cookie-cutter. Humanitarians hail from across the political and religious spectrum and are passionate about their support for human dignity and equality for everyone, regardless of who they are.
        I resent the fact that in order to be considered patriotic Americans we must pass the “friend of Israel” litmus test. If the US government was truly a friend of Israel, they would prescribe them a healthy dose of tough love in the form of withholding military aid.

  2. Maximus Decimus Meridius
    January 29, 2014, 11:21 am

    Oxfam need to cut Johansson loose NOW. If they don’t, the damage to their credibility might be irreparable – if that isn’t the case already. And if, as EI has reported, Oxfam America is the real stickler, the other Oxfam organisations need to part ways with them asap.

    Seriously, we’re only talking about a very mediocre ‘actress’ who’s already well on her way to being replaced by the next doe-eyed blonde. How much is she worth to Oxfam, really?

  3. W.Jones
    January 29, 2014, 11:27 am

    The organization has made no further comment, with the exception of a quickly deleted tweet from Oxfam GB on Monday promising “a fuller statement very soon.”
    So a tweet about a fuller statement was deleted.

    Yes, Oxfam America, if not International, wants this to blow over. It cannot even announce at the moment that it will make a statement.

  4. W.Jones
    January 29, 2014, 11:31 am

    So Scarlett J. is a representative of Oxfam America. She is not Oxfam, but represents it.

    And what is Oxfam America actually doing on the ground in Palestine? Nothing. It has no projects there. Scarlett J., at the moment a strong supporter of Sodastream, is in fact representing Oxfam America’s work to the public. She represents what Oxfam America does to help Palestinians.

  5. Kathleen
    January 29, 2014, 2:22 pm

    So how long will Oxfam allow this hypocrisy to continue? Cut the ties all ready. Scarlett chose and she chose occupation. She chose Soda$tream. Oxfam needs to make their move and have the balls to do it before the Superbowl ad shows. But guarantee they will be to chicken shit to really stand by their words otherwise they would have all ready done it.

    What the hey is up with Oxfam’s D.C. office? So great that activist took the time to deliver the petitions.

    • W.Jones
      January 29, 2014, 2:50 pm

      Kathleen.

      Yes.

      Good question.

      Oxfam America is a major US charity helping people in difficult circumstances abroad, which my family donated to. Can you please find out about Oxfam America’s specific work in the territories?

      Never mind. :/

    • Maximus Decimus Meridius
      January 29, 2014, 2:59 pm

      I think Oxfam are really in a conundrum over this, largely of their own making. They should have cut ties with Johansson when the story first broke about 2 weeks ago. They could have cited concerns over her ”busy schedule” or some such face-saving nonsense. Then the story would have blown over and even here we probably wouldn’t be talking about it today.

      But now, it’s become a big cause celebre. People who had no clue about BDS or SS’ factory in occupied land do now. And Oxfam, even if they were to drop her tomorrow, have already badly compromised their reputation through this shilly shallying. Look at any of their FB pages – they’re full of criticism about Johansson, and not much else. Oxfam really have to cut her loose – and they have to do it NOW.

      • W.Jones
        January 29, 2014, 4:28 pm

        Maximus,

        Is it:
        link to facebook.com

      • Maximus Decimus Meridius
        January 29, 2014, 5:12 pm

        Eh….. yes. Did you read the comments? On this or any of Oxfam’s other FB pages? There’s tons of stuff about Johansson.

      • Kathleen
        January 29, 2014, 6:26 pm

        “busy schedule” exactly. Allowing this to drag out was a mistake for all involved.

  6. mcohen
    January 29, 2014, 3:08 pm

    link to theguardian.com

    here it comes……..nice play even if i say so myself

    “The SodaStream chief executive, Daniel Birnbaum, told the Forward he would never have established a production plant in a settlement if he could turn the clock back, saying its location had turned out to be “a pain in the ass”. He inherited the factory when he became CEO in 2007. Birnbaum said he would not bow to pressure to close it out of loyalty to his 500 Palestinian employees, who would be unable to work at a new larger plant under construction inside Israel”

    • Maximus Decimus Meridius
      January 29, 2014, 4:01 pm

      LOL! Kind of underlines the stupidity of the whole ‘helping Palestinians’ and ‘promoting equality’ line. Israeli citizens can work perfectly easily in the OPT, yet Palestinians cannot work inside Israel? And that’s ‘equality’? If Birnbaum really cares about his Palestinian employees, why doesn’t he demand that Israel allow access to Palestinian workers anywhere in the territory it controls? And preferably in the territory it *legally* – however unjustly – controls, no the territory it illegally occupies.

      Oh, and notice how often the Guardian article refers to ‘anti-Israel activists’. Couldn’t be that they’re pro-Palestinian, or pro-human rights. That would never do.

      • puppies
        January 29, 2014, 5:39 pm

        @MDM – “Anti-Israel” is fine. That old name has already become unrecyclable and it expresses exactly one half of the target.

    • W.Jones
      January 29, 2014, 4:21 pm

      Birnbaum hardly cares about Pals, or else he would not have established it in a settlement on their land.

      However, it does bring up an issue. Liberal nationalists want two states that are separate and did not hire Pals on their kibbutzes. But the Rightwing ones were willing to hire and exploit their labor. I wonder if Birnbaum’s Pal. employees get medical and social security benefits. Doubtful.

      Palestinians, with no jobs of their own, find work building a wall to trap themselves in. Much of the walls and other enforcement structures are built by Palestinian labor.

    • W.Jones
      January 29, 2014, 5:32 pm

      “[As to the claim that]…the people in the West Bank and Gaza who survive by doing Israel’s dirty work are improving their lot by standard economic measures.
      Slave owners offered similar arguments.” ~Noam Chomsky

    • Kathleen
      January 29, 2014, 6:28 pm

      Birnbaum should be encouraged to sell to Palestinians. A Palestinian worker owned business. Oh yeah its in an illegal Israeli settlement.

  7. Ecru
    January 29, 2014, 4:07 pm

    @ cohen

    Birnbaum said he would not bow to pressure to close it out of loyalty to his 500 Palestinian employees

    Yes and if you believe that I’ve got a bridge to sell you. He has zero loyalty to the Palestinian workers, the reason he doesn’t want to close the factory is no Israeli Jew has EVER given anything back to a Palestinian once they’ve stolen it if it could possibly be helped, and he gets lots of lovely economic incentives from the Judenreich to stay there.

  8. The JillyBeans
    January 29, 2014, 4:19 pm

    Ms Johansson is free to associate with whomever she likes socially and economically, as long as it’s within our government’s guidelines. As such her relationship with SodaStream is acceptable. However, Ms Johansson needs to resign or be released from her role as Oxfam “ambassador” as her economic relationship with SodaStream is in policy conflict with an area of Oxfam’s mission. Her non-action statement indicates that her amassing of personal fortune is more important than participating in humanitarian efforts.

    Oxfam America should be proactive just release a statement indicating that it is ending the relationship, that they thank her for her service and that they wish Ms Johansson well in her endeavors.

    • Maximus Decimus Meridius
      January 29, 2014, 5:25 pm

      ”Ms Johansson is free to associate with whomever she likes socially and economically, as long as it’s within our government’s guidelines. As such her relationship with SodaStream is acceptable.”

      Is it though?

      Correct me if I’m wrong, but I thought that the US, as a high contracting power to the 4th Geneva Conventions, was bound under solemn treaty to enforce it. Building factories on occupied land is unquestionably a violation of that treaty. Therefore, shouldn’t Sodastream, and its promoters such as Johansson, be deemed to be accessories to a war crime under the Geneva Convention?

      But I suppose the US government is far too busy with the really important stuff, such as making sure nobody can book a flight to Iran using Expedia. That’s got to be more important than a breach of the Geneva Conventions.

    • Kathleen
      January 29, 2014, 11:00 pm

      Well said. Yes she has every right to support the illegal occupation of Palestinian lands by the apartheid government of Israel. But Oxfam clearly has to drop her to maintain their integrity. What is taking so long? Pathetic that they are stringing this out so long…waiting until after Superbowl to try to save face. Oxfam can’t do the right thing before Scarlett’s first support the illegal occupation commercial

      • RoHa
        January 30, 2014, 12:08 am

        “Yes she has every right to support the illegal occupation of Palestinian lands by the apartheid government of Israel.”

        No, she does not have such a right. There cannot be a right to do something wrong, and to support wrongdoing is itself wrong.

  9. Citizen
    January 29, 2014, 7:23 pm

    I don’t think anyone keeping abreast of Scarlett’s relationship with her stage mom can accuse Scarlett of being naive when it comes to what she thinks is in her own best interest in the most practical, materialistic ways: link to nypost.com

    I’ve concluded Scarlett knew what she was doing when she signed on with Sodastream. She made a bet she could weather any political wave that came her way, and she would profit mightily by signing on with the Israeli occupier’s seltzer bubble machine. We will see if she’s right.

  10. Blownaway
    January 29, 2014, 7:32 pm

    Oxfam is deluding themselves. Scarlett Johansen is giving them the finger….she has dared them to cut ties by effectively saying you need me more thn i need you. It looks like shes right…whats the debate Oxfam?

  11. kalithea
    January 29, 2014, 8:38 pm

    Why the hesitation??? Ethnic cleansing is a crime against humanity! Settling the citizens of an occupier on land that was taken in war is a war crime. Suppressing the rights of millions and treating others as less than second class citizens and relegating them to ghetto areas while suppressing rights and maintaining a two-tier racist system is Apartheid.

    Show her the door already! Her blatant disregard for the victims of these crimes is enough justification. What’s there to think about?

  12. mcohen
    January 30, 2014, 5:37 am

    She resigned from oxfam 3 cheers for a courageous woman

    • puppies
      February 1, 2014, 3:26 pm

      Zionist definition of courage: daring to kick the lying-down guy when all the powers are on your side. I suggest submitting that to the people who fought in Europe.

Leave a Reply