Oxfam Boss Mark Goldring presented to charity professionals last week. The topic was campaigning for less popular causes. In his lecture, Goldring expressed regret about “turning what should have been a point of principle into something of a PR disaster”. Eager to have charity professionals not to repeat his mistakes he confessed, “The judgment was when to be proactive, when to be forceful, and when to be balanced and reflective, we got that wrong.” Goldring was talking about when Oxfam, in the name of freedom for Palestinians, attacked Scarlett Johansson for making commercials or Sodastream which is situated in the territories.
Our error was letting the matter drag on till Johansson seized the initiative, Goldring admitted. He added that the Johansson spat cost Oxfam America thousands of donors.
But don’t lose all hope; Goldring is still proud of his other anti-Israel initiatives that didn’t cost him any donors or revenues. He was happy to share an example that yielded ‘positive results’. Oxfam working behind the scenes helped most leading UK supermarket chains label clearly and eventually remove any produce coming from Israeli settlements. This was one prime example of ‘getting it right.’
But the truth is that Oxfam had it wrong about Sodastream and has it wrong about employment in the territories in general.Oxfam which supposedly cares about the Palestinians actually worked against its cause of helping the impoverished Arab sector in Israel. Sodastream employed hundreds of Arabs and was a model of coexistence. They paid salaries by far higher than the Arabs would be paid otherwise. But due to loss of revenues thanks to Oxfam, Sodastream had to close down the “problematic plant” whose sole sin was that it was in Mishor Adumim, which is in “the Territories”. The net result was the loss of over 800 jobs for Arab workers who were gainfully employed. The disgruntled Arabs were not happy with the results.
Only on top you will hear the rhetoric about how great it is to take away business from the territories. You will also get it from the misguided people who swear by the anti-Semitic BDS movement. But the regular Arab in Israel or the territories, who actually works for his money instead of dipping his hands into the generous international donations like their leaders do, appreciate good employment opportunities and they are the ones who lost out.
In this case the donors voted with their feet and wanted out. We hope to see more of that in the future.