Johansson Takes on Oxfam
Gilbert N. Kahn is a professor of Political Science at Kean University.
The scary part about the Scarlett Johansson/Sodastream/Oxfam/BDS kerfuffle is that it is far more serious than some in the media would make it out to be. It is also very depressing. It manifests the extent to which there continue to be major interests and forces in the world which want to single out Israel—please do read Jews—as the single biggest villain(s) in the world.
Yes, Israel’s leaders do not understand that the continuing Israeli occupation of the West Bank is detrimental to the future of the State of Israel. Israel’s leaders continue to be unable to optimize the current favorable environment. In addition, their internal, petty putdowns leave one wondering whether there ever will be real leaders again in Israel.
For Oxfam, this scene is classic. Oxfam, which was founded by Quakers in 1942 in Oxford, England, is dedicated to the eradication of poverty and hunger throughout the world. As such it has championed some of the finest international for more than 70 years. It is a formidable organization with extensive support throughout the world. Like many other groups on the British left, however, Oxfam has never demonstrated a warm, sensitivity to Jews in need or Israel; although it is concerned about the Israel-Palestinian crisis.
Like all human rights and social justice groups, Oxfam has sought to find and use public celebrities to act as spokespersons for their cause; enter Ambassador Scarlett Johansson. The fact that ScarJo now became the spokesperson for Sodastream, which has a factory in Maale Adumim in the occupied West Bank, caused Oxfam to call upon her to quit Sodastream. In choosing to resign from Oxfam, Johansson explained that Sodastream employs Jews and Arabs under the same terms of employment and benefits. From her perspective this was precisely the prototypic operation which should be fostered and encouraged between Jews and Arabs, if one wants to move towards peace in the region.
Like so many groups and advocates for BDS, singling out Israel for national humiliation and chastisement is blatant evidence of selective discrimination. Oxfam is not advocating that everyone in the West walk around nude, since most of their clothes are manufactured in China where wages are certainly lower than Sodastream’s and where there is certainly more child labor engaged in manufacturing than probably anywhere in the world.
The concern here is for ScarJo and other decent committed public persons who can and are frequently bullied by formidable NGO’s like Oxfam. The fact that she is standing up to them now is commendable, but so far there are not many public celebrities who are recognizing and supporting her principled position as well as her personal courage. If that does not manifest itself very soon, neither Johansson nor any other public figures will stick their necks out in recognizing good works and healthy, peaceful initiatives.