20 February 2014


...Scarlett Johansson and I ... are both alumni of Oxfam, ...[and] have both shared the Oxfam Moment.

Last month, Oxfam announced that Scarlett Johansson’s support for an Israeli company operating in a Jewish settlement was incompatible with her continued role as an Oxfam Ambassador. She was faced with a stark choice: continue her association with Oxfam or support SodaStream...Ms Johansson chose SodaStream.
...When I arrived in London, a deracinated refugee from apartheid South Africa, poor in cash but rich in far-left ideology, I was ripe for a job at Oxfam. I moved to Oxford and settled into Oxfam’s one-person press office, effectively the spokesman of the organisation. ...It helped that I did not think of myself as a Jew, and no one else did either.
My South African credentials offered instant access to far-left circles in Oxford, but it bothered me that my new-found comrades, mostly at the university, liberally peppered our conversations with casual, gratuitous anti-Semitism. The Jews, it seemed, were at the root of the world’s ills.
But my Oxfam Moment came one summer’s evening when a senior Oxfam executive invited me to dinner at his sumptuous home in the rolling Oxfordshire countryside. He was cultured, brilliant and cool. Every inch the top Foreign Office diplomat, which had indeed been his previous calling. Before dinner, he suggested we take drinks on the lawn. As an afterthought, he asked the butler to bring out his portable radio so that we could listen to the news. It was, after all, the first day of the Six Day War.
The BBC faithfully reported claims by the Israelis that they had destroyed the air forces of Egypt and Syria on the ground. Then, the newsreader intoned the Arab claims that they had inflicted extensive damage on the Israeli army; that Egyptian tanks were advancing; that they were now 25 kilometres from Tel Aviv.
My urbane host lost his cultivated cool. His elderly body shot into the air, fists pumping at the skies: 
‘Now the Jews are going to get it... Now they’re going to get it.’ 
Remember, Israel occupied no territories, nor had it constructed a single settlement. There could be only one explanation for his jubilation: the prospect of Israel’s imminent destruction
When he recovered his composure, he raised his glass and beamed at me: ‘Wonderful news. Simply wonderful.’ I stared back, shocked, not knowing how to respond. To my shame, I said nothing.
His reaction was more or less typical of the culture I encountered among the loony left, which perceived Jews as arrogant and pushy, while it regarded determined Palestinian displacement as principled and heroic. My own displacement – from the far-left and Oxfam – was now more or less complete.
But the madness of the Sixties never went away. On the contrary, it triumphed. The past half-century has witnessed Europe’s traditional sources of authority – political and church leaders – in full retreat, ceding the moral high ground to bunch of unelected, unaccountable NGOs, like Oxfam, which place themselves on the side of the angels. They set the agenda now.

I doubt whether Oxfam would have been much exercised if SodaStream was owned by, say, Jordanians, Egyptians or Saudis. Rather, I believe, they have chosen to invest a large chunk of their resources in advocating a boycott of the company because it is Jewish.  Haven’t we heard that before, too?