Danby slams Oxfam

January 24, 2014 by J-Wire Staff
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Labor MP for Melbourne Ports, Michael Danby, has slammed the overseas aid organisation Oxfam International for attempting to censor its ambassador, actress Scarlett Johansson, over a commercial endorsement she signed with Israeli drink company SodaStream.

Ad showing Scarlett  drinking

Ad showing Scarlett drinking Sodastream

Danby said it was a farce that Oxfam had such ludicrous priorities such as attacking Ms Johansson given the 130,000 civilians killed in Syria, the revelations about 11,000 tortured or starved to death in Assad’s prisons and the 2 million+ Syrians who are now refugees from their own country.1

Mr Danby said Oxfam’s objection to Ms Johansson’s role with SodaStream, reportedly due to one of SodaStream’s 25 factories being located in the West Bank, was foolish and probably unconsciously revealed Oxfam’s British colonialist mentality.

“This stance by Oxfam demonstrates once again their patronising & provincial opposition to the state of Israel,” Mr Danby said. “Their history of prejudging issues in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is at odds with their claims to support a negotiated two- state solution; at the very time the two sides are negotiating.”

“There’s no rational explanation for Oxfam attempting to denigrate one of its own ambassadors and prevent them from dealing with an Israeli company. SodaStream employs hundreds of Palestinian workers and if Oxfam had its way, a divestment would cost people their jobs and livelihoods.”

“Oxfam is undoubtedly being pressured by the extremist BDS movement run by Omar Barghouti. The BDS and Barghouti are not seeking to modify individual Israeli policies but see the elimination of Israel as a state entirely.”2

“Oxfam has allowed its fawning fear of the BDS over a sponsorship deal between Ms Johansson and an Israeli soda company. Their stance will again compromise their reputation in the eyes of its many mainstream Australian supporters & donors who may not wish to support or give credence to Israeli boycotts.”

Mr Danby urged Ms Johansson not to bow to pressure and continue with the deal to promote the healthy and enviro-friendly product.

Oxfam told J-Wire:  “We have been engaged in dialogue with Scarlett Johansson and she has now expressed her position in a statement, including stressing her pride in her past work with Oxfam. Oxfam is now considering the implications her new statement and what it means for Ms Johansson’s role as an Oxfam global ambassador.”

SodaStream’s factory in the West Bank employs nearly 550 Palestinian workers.



19 Responses to “Danby slams Oxfam”
  1. Sam Rosenwax says:


    I visited the SodaStream factory today. A young Palestinian, called (full name given but withheld to avoid BDS intimidation), who is studying ***** at ****** University, told me that “SodaStream is the greatest!”

    He earns 6000 shekalim per month, rising to 12,000 per month, instead of 1000 shekalim in any other part of the Arab world for such work. There is equality not only between employees, but between managers and employees. Palestinians, Russians and Israeli Arabs are managers.

    They get good food for lunch (we had it too). They get clothing, transport to work paid for, fun days, special permits and visits to the beach near Tel Aviv. Women work there too, next to the men, unheard of in the Moslem world.
    Come and see for yourself. I am going to suggest to Pat Clegg that she comes and has a look.
    (Name withheld at writers request)

  2. Larry Stillman says:

    Gerald Steinberg.

    Get your facts right. I am not an employee of Oxfam. I conduct research in conjunction with Oxfam so please withdraw that spurious and and erroneous comment.

    One of the great problems with NGO watch is that it likes to slur critics. Steinberg probably doesn’t know, I am not a supporter of the BDS movement, though I do not support trade and relationships with West Bank businesses and entities (and note that Amos Oz is on board with boycotts of Ariel academic college). I have research relationships with Israeli academics, so don’t try to tar me. ”

    NGO Monitor (Steinberg’s organisation, funded by many mysterious sources– which it does not wish to reveal or discuss, in complete contrast to its actions against other organisations http://www.haaretz.co.il/magazine/1.1636887) has a lot of answer for, perusing any number of NGOs in spurious ways. For one, its complaints against Australian NGOs operating in the region have been dismissed by the Australian government (including I understand ASIO). It has continued a spurious campaign against the moderate New Israel Fund (http://www.jwire.com.au/news/ngo-monitor-report-on-nif-and-bds-funding/18062) In the eyes of its critics from several organisation, it has a habit of knowingly publishing false and manipulated information, exaggerating the anti-Israel activity of organisations. It never criticizes right-wing NGOs in Israel

    Oxfam takes ethically-based positions, that is all. How it is an ally of Syria is beyond my comprehension. I suppose you could make the same accusation for Israel taking in Syrian wounded. I can’t speak from any position of knowledge about the accusations that Steinberg makes against other organisations, though HRW has taken NGO Monitor to task.

    The problem with Steinberg and others who criticize the position I take (and that of the Israeli left ) is that we don’t agree with the occupation and the settlement project for a variety of reasons, most of all, the violation of human rights of Palestinians in the West Bank. Many goverments and NGOs engaged in human rights activity and advocacy take that viewpoint in the same way they condemn abuses and support the rights of people to live freely in many countries. Of course, Israel is prominent because of its democratic claims that are belied by its activity.

    As for Ms Johansson, she has a conflict of interest in her position as a promoter of a company that is engaged in unethical business practices, and her position as an Oxfam ambassador. She should make a choice.

    That’s not censorship. That is making a political decision. She has to be prepared to justify her viewpoint and connections and endorsements and adequately respond to it. She has engaged in political campaigning in the past for the Democrats and dropped hints that she wants to enter into politics. Well, this is politics. She’s not just a movie star. It is a learning curve to be both.

    I note that none of you have actually addressed the substantive issue of unfair labour practices by Sodastream or the other reports I have referred to.

    • Malvina says:

      Lecturing Israel about “unfair labour practices” and human rights abuses against Palestinians,- their sworn enemies,- from here is so ludicrous as to beggar belief. What Arabs are doing to each other, let alone to their own women and what they would like to do to us Jews and also doing to Christian and other minorities, it still amazes me when comparisons are made re “human rights” which they wouldn’t even recognize if they saw it!. Again,- blame the Jews,-whatever they do is never good enough, is it?

    • Otto Waldmann says:

      To his credit, Larry Stillman knows how to craft a text, construct rationale, insert valid arguments, drive discussions to the directions conveninet to his agenda.
      Conflict of logic emerges the moment Larry attempts to portray himself as a “card-carrying” memeber of a club he does not ACTALLY wants to be a member of, but would intrude as a sixth column, nturally just to destabilise it.
      For why would Larry advertise in one top sentence his distaste for BDS and then continue, cute and subtle, discrediting everything and everybody who is GENUINLY fighting the same BDS. To place a plastic cherry atop a synthetic cake, he defines his opposition to the BDS by reminding all and sundry that he “ONLY” objects to the presence, prduction, future of the “settlements”. The rusty wedge he is driving through a coherent argument against ANY boycotts of goods and services INCLUDING, actually with emphasys, the “settlements”, becomes apparent from the first syllable of his risible presentation. Call it prejudice, but when I see Larry Stillman puting his name on a piece about Israel, reflexively I say to meself ” here we go AGAIN”. In most cases i have a reply even before I read his opinion. I agree, we have something in common and that is the healthy preemption of mutual reaction to each other’s typical stances on these topics ( save the fact that Larry would NEVER address me directly !!).
      NGO MONITOR is well beyond any criticism when it comes to defending Israel. Larry Stillman should cop ALL criticism ehn it comes to his stand on Israel.
      One thing I tend to agree with. NIF can be branded as “moderates” in regards to their attacks on Zionism and generally Israeli State politics, yet they can ONLY be moderates when compared to Hamas, Muslim Brotherhood and all alike.
      Lex talionis ( see your mate Hammurabbi ) does not quite apply to the complex world of politics. The Steinberg tooth of the NGO Monitor kind is not at all equal to the eye NIF has on Israel. There is vast difference between an org. profiled on defending Israel and its financial sources and the financial origins of orgs. bent on demonising, destryoing the same.
      The best argument is that USA supports quite overtly the State of Israel, but whn it comes to Hamas and their affiliates ( and NIF does play in that vast court !!) we are dealing with entities well bellow the surface of the leagl and the decent. Thus, very true and also necessary, USA and Israel are in the business of DESTROYING proscribed entities, but, from the ethics of the decent people, that does NOT place their enemies on equal footing, in respect of those decent ethics.
      This is the crux of the Stillman farcical stance !!!!

  3. It’s not love of the Arabs who call themselves “Palestinians” that drives them; it is hatred of the Jewish People. There is no other explanation for their grotesque, obsessive ,irrational and mendacious campaign.

  4. I cannot get my mind around those who blame Israel for everything to do with the Palestinians. If they really cared about the Palestinians so much you would think they would advocate that they start looking at accepting the reality of their existence rather than that of their mythical friends,the anti-Israel/anti-Zionist/anti-Semitics’ advocacies. The news just out: little Israel is 10th among the world’s most powerful countries, according to the NPI 2012 Index. On every criterion it is Israel up there with the big ‘boys’ of nations, not the Palestinians’ supposed friends. A clever people would know where to put their trust for their future well-being and prosperity and tell their so-called-supporters,- Jewish and non-Jewish alike,- where to shove off and buck out!

  5. Robert Sherr says:

    Larry I don’t believe Mr Danby claims that Oxfam censored Scarlett, only that they’re attempting to. And clearly trying to portray one of their ambassadors who has given them great service for their most worthy work as now making an immoral decision is pressuring her to end her commercial relationship with SodaStream.

    I’d refer you all to Ms Johansson’s own comments in response to the controversy:
    “I remain a supporter of economic cooperation and social interaction between a democratic Israel and Palestine,” said Johansson. “SodaStream is a company that is not only committed to the environment but to building a bridge to peace between Israel and Palestine, supporting neighbors working alongside each other, receiving equal pay, equal benefits and equal rights.”

  6. Lynne Newington says:

    Oxfam can be a little misguided unless they have changed over the years, just the other day their name came up in relation to Latin America and the role of the Catholic Church whereby they were expounding on their good works in a period when the militiary junta was ruling not only Argentina but was financially supporting the Vatican through local ecclesiastics, who acted against their own clergy and those who refused to obey, causing many to be kidnapped and murdered that is now coming back to haunt this Latin American pope irrespective of what you hear otherwise.

  7. Sol Salbe says:

    Did Michael Danby really referred to “one of SodaStream’s TWENTY-FIVE factories”? or has someone put the words in his mouth? If the Mishor Adumim factory is typical, then 25 times 550 is 13750. What a huge company! If only four per cent of the workforce was on the other side of the Green Line, then I may consider writing to Oxfam, and suggesting that there are higher priorities. Of course, not for the first time my esteemed erstwhile Federal Member has enlightened us with facts that no one else seems to know.

    • Sol Salbe says:

      OK, so where is the limit of “unparliamentary language” on this website? I presume I cannot call either the esteemed Editor or my Michael Danby a liar. But saying that “one of SodaStream’s 25 factories being located in the West Bank” is not the truth. It’s a fib and grossly misleading. Since I have a higher opinion of the Editor’s integrity than that of Mr Danby I’d say that the Honourable Member is KNOWINGLY not telling the truth and neither the Editor nor any of the people who read this gives a rat’s arse about facts and figures — they just want to win political arguments.

      • admin says:

        J-wire asked Oxfam for a response which was given and published. You Sol have the opportunity of expressing your viewpoint which should focus on the issue and not the personalities

        • Sol says:

          I’m a journalist. When I see something false being published I want to determine the facts. Don’t you care whether the figure of 25 is correct or not? I was focussing on the source of the error/falsehood/fib/lie. That is journalism, not personalities.

          • admin says:

            Once again, if you are a journalist [where are you published?] you should have noted that Ixfam were given the right of reply and reply they did…

  8. What gives Oxfam the title of moral arbiter is beyond
    me! A Leftist organization feeding on extortion,
    manipulation of public opinion, intimidation, threats
    and utter vulgarity when they don’t get their ways,
    is the ultimate judge, on who one should endorse,
    preventing free speech, debate on issues and diversity of opinions
    They decide what is correct, what is right, what is fair.
    They decide with whom one can make a commercial transaction.
    This is not about Oxfam, it is about the true face
    of power hungry, freeloading Leftists, the most
    ill-liberals since the days of despised Stasi, the
    Chinese Cultural Revolutionaries, or the Stalin/Nazi Youths
    it is about power to those who never worked
    a day in their life, spreading envy, jealousy,
    racism, resentment, class war-fare, hatred,
    all under the banner of fairness, justice, for the
    folks-another fellow used this banner
    his name was Adolf Hitler, they
    follow in his footsteps.

  9. Brian Thomas says:

    Spot on by Michael Danby. Oxfam have once again displayed their inherent dislike, bordering on hatred, of Jewish Israel. Sorry. We’re here. The only reason Oxfam aren’t desperately needed keeping Palestinians alive in places where Jews are ultimately responsible for their welfare is because Israel is not evil.

    Sorry Oxfam, the BDS movement is sinking, and even supporting it may well be illegal in Australia soon.

  10. Larry Stillman says:

    Mr Danby should try to get his story in a straight line if that is possible.

    Oxfam has not censored Johansson. What has Oxfam said –“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,” the organization said in a statement posted on its website Thursday. And “Oxfam is opposed to all trade from Israeli settlements, which are illegal under international law,” it said. Now that is an opinion taken by almost every country in the world, bar Australia (but not Canada).

    And as well “”We have made our concerns known to Ms. Johansson and we are now engaged in a dialogue on these important issues.” You can’t call that censorship.

    But worst of all, Danby has tried to destroy the reputation of Oxfam Australia which has no project in the Middle East (other than Syrian relief).

    People should continue to support Oxfam Austalia’s work in Asia and the region particularly because of the cuts by the Federal government.

    As far as I know, and all other organisations appear to have been able to find out despite the PR spin, Sodastream does not treat its Palestinian workers equally as compared to Israelis; they have limited labour rights and there work permits are subject to revocation. Palestinians work there because they are desperate for a job. As a member of the Labour Party, Danby should deplore this separate and unequal policy and advocate equal work for equal pay, notwithstanding the fact that the plant is built on disputed international territory. See http://www.globalexchange.org/economicactivism/sodastream/why for details about Sodastream on the West Bank.

    In the same way that (I assume) Danby supports Fair Trade policies, Danby should make clear that Israeli products from the West Bank are the product of conditions that do not benefit the local communities but profits go out of the West Bank (as in the case of Sodastream).

    After nearly 50 years of occupation, having a moral or ethical position on the occupation and the theft of resources (in violation of international law by the occupying power) and pretending that the situation can’t be “prejudged” has nothing to do with Danby’s bizarre use of analogy of a British colonial mentality to condemn Oxfam. Oxfam also supports community projects in Israel and I know that senior members of Oxfam have also lectured to international development students at Hebrew University. So much for being anti-Israel.

    As for Syria, Oxfam, like many other NGOs, has been actively seeking relief funds. Oxfam also calls for international peace talks and obviously deplores the tragic situation there.

    I admit a conflict of interest. I work with Oxfam in South Africa and elsewhere, but I am not speaking for them. They, and the projects they support (Aids education, health empowerment are wonderful). I invite Mr Danby to come with me to South Africa or Bangladesh to visit the projects and people on that ground that Oxfam supports without a skerrick of his putative neo-colonialism.

    • Whether or not Oxfam exactly ‘censored’ Johansson, it certainly censured her. Or, as the UK Independent put it yesterday, ‘blasted’ her. Michael Danby has appropriately slammed Oxfam in response its censuring Johansson for dealing with an Israeli company.
      Shades of BDS??!!
      Larry Stillman can change the subject all he likes. But once again, Michael Danby has belled the cat!

    • Mr. Stillman is dancing around this issue. Whatever the niceties of Mr Danby’s language, it’s just semantics. Mr Kirsner is right – censure or censorship, it’s all the same, and in that regard Danby is correct. Those who give to organizations like Oxfam – basically a charitable venture – should not expect their funds to be spent on a quasi-BDS (in other words, BDS by a different name) campaign that is plainly ridiculous in the first place. Perhaps supporters of this Oxfam campaign would be better to ask the Palestinian workers if they prefer their livelihoods endangered so liberals in comfortable Western first world existences can feel better about themselves, rather than actually getting out and working for meaningful change. Of course that requires real effort, not punching a few keys on a keyboard. Danby is intellectually and morally correct.

    • In response to MP Michael Danby, and in defending Oxfam, Larry Stillman makes a number of factual claims that are false and unsupported, while conveniently omitting others. The BDS movement is fundamentally discriminatory in applying unique criteria to Israel, and the leaders of Oxfam, Amnesty and Human Rights Watch should be the first to oppose this immoral agenda. Instead, in the past 20 years, these groups have been hijacked and are now the ideological and political allies of some of the world’s worst violators of human rights, while on the real issues, such as the slaughter in Syria, they are ignored and impotent. As an employee of Oxfam, Mr. Stillman should focus on getting his own house in order before preaching morality to others (see http://www.ngo-monitor.org)

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