Palestinians Working in Settlements are Captive Labor Force, says Official

WASHINGTON, February 4, 2014 (WAFA) – In a letter addressed to Hollywood actress Scarlett Johansson regarding her role as promoter of Israeli settlement products, the head of Palestinian General Delegation to the US, Maen Areikat, said Palestinians working in settlements are exploited as a captive labor force, and not as equals to Israelis.

He said in the letter dated January 27 but released on Tuesday that he and the Palestinian people were deeply concern with the position Johansson have taken regarding her involvement with the Israeli company SodaStream, which operates a factory in the illegal settlement of Maale Adumim in the occupied West Bank.

“The unjust operation of companies like SodaStream in illegal settlements has laid a heavy burden on disempowered Palestinians,” he wrote. “Maale Adumim, the third largest settlement in Palestine, is not only erected on land held by military force, but is also considered illegal by international law.’

Areikat said Johansson’s depiction of Palestinians working in Jewish settlements as neighbors “working alongside each other” conceals the fact that Palestinians “are being exploited as a captive labor force by illegitimate industries operating on their colonized land.”

He said that “Israel has rendered 99 percent of the so-called ‘Area C’ of the occupied West Bank, where SodaStream operates, off-limit for Palestinian economic activity, while more than 68 percent of that occupied area is now reserved for settlement growth and expansion.”

He explained that this ban on Palestinian economic activity in that area remains “the main impediment facing a sustainable Palestinian economy,” as stated by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

“By becoming the ‘Global Ambassador’ of SodaStream, you are helping the settlement industry in furthering the political and economic oppression of Palestinians,” wrote Areikat.

He urged Johansson to stand up to what she had said during her work for the international humanitarian organization, Oxfam, that “If you already have the spotlight shining on you, it’s great to direct that toward a cause you believe in and that you can stand behind. It’s nice to be a voice for people who don’t have a voice.”

“We cannot agree more,” wrote Areikat. “We truly believe that you can use your voice to speak up for the Palestinian people today by immediately ceasing your involvement with SodaStream. On behalf of all Palestinians, I urge you to stand by the values you have always cherished through your long record of advocacy for those suffering of global poverty and social injustice, because Palestinians too, are yearning for freedom, justice, and equality.’

Oxfam has severed its ties with Johansson following an international uproar over her involvement with SodaStream.