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January 30, 2014 1:51 pm

Financial Times Reporter Implies Scarlett Johansson Quit Oxfam for the Money, Then Apologizes

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The controversial tweet from the FT's Middle East and North Africa Corpespondent, Borzou Daragahi. Photo: Screenshot / Twitter.

The controversial tweet from the FT's Middle East and North Africa Correspondent, Borzou Daragahi. Photo: Screenshot / Twitter.

The Financial Times Middle East and North Africa Correspondent, the Cairo and Beirut-based Borzou Daragahi, faced social media talkback on Thursday after implying Hollywood actress Scarlett Johansson, who quit Oxfam yesterday, did so  for financial reasons.

“Scarlett Johansson picks lucrative #israel @SodaStream deal over @Oxfam charity backing, @FT reports,” Daragahi tweeted.

Readers questioned Daragahi’s tweet, and within an hour, he apologized. For Daragahi, this was the second time he has apologized for a tweet that denigrated Israel and was unconnected to the newspaper’s reporting of the event.

In framing Johansson’s choice to end her eight-year relationship with Oxfam as its global ambassador for her new role as the celebrity spokeswoman for SodaStream, commenters on Twitter criticized his choice of the word “lucrative.”

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Benjamin Weinthal, the European Affairs Correspondent for the Jerusalem Post, was the first to raise the question of Daragahi editorializing.

Weinthal tweeted, “How do you know it was about ‘lucrative deal’ as opposed to rejecting Oxfam policy? Are you editorializing?”

“Brian of London,” a blogger for Israellycool and the Times of Israel, wrote, “what evidence are you citing for financial motive? It doesn’t appear in the FT piece?”

@borzou implying financial motive when Scarlett clearly states she disagrees w @Oxfam ideology seems wrong for @FT reporter,” the blogger continued. “@borzou your tweet is the only thing I’ve seen mentioning ‘lucrative.’ Implies to me you’re saying she did it for the cash.”

Daragahi responded: “@brianoflondon hi, i did not ascribe any motive whatsoever, just described an action.” Then, he apologized: “@brianoflondon i apologize if i came off that way. it was an empirical description of multi-year contract, not meant to ascribe motive.”

The article, itself, written by the FT’s Jerusalem Correspondent, John Reed, did not make that point, although one of the people quoted, a spokesman for the anti-Israel BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) movement, did.

The FT quoted Rafeef Ziadah, a spokesperson for the Palestinian BDS National Committee, as saying, “Scarlett Johansson has abandoned her reputation as a progressive celebrity in exchange for the cheque that accompanies becoming the new face of Israeli apartheid. Just like the few artists who played Sun City during South African apartheid, Johansson will be remembered for having stood on the wrong side of history.”

In her comments, Johansson, a Jew, said her reason for quitting Oxfam was because of differences on the BDS movement.

Her statement, delivered by a spokesman on Wednesday night said, “She and Oxfam have a fundamental difference of opinion in regards to the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement,” while the charity, which accepted her resignation, responded,  “Oxfam believes that businesses, such as SodaStream, that operate in settlements further the ongoing poverty and denial of rights of the Palestinian communities that we work to support.”

SodaStream’s Maale Adumim, West Bank factory which employs hundreds of Jews and Arabs is at the center of the controversy.

A year ago, Daragahi apologized for a similar tweet, when he implied that the Israeli government bribed the government of Bulgaria to indict Hezbollah for a bombing in the country that killed five Israelis.

“Sincere apologies and regret for ill-conceived tweet yesterday about Israel and Bulgaria,” Daragahi tweeted. The day before, he had tweeted, “I don’t doubt Hezbollah/Iran could be behind Bulgaria bombing, but also think Israel could pay Sofia to say anything,” linking to an article quoting Bulgarian Interior Minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov, who pointed a finger at two Hezbollah operatives for the bus bombing in Burgas that killed six people, including five Israeli tourists.

At the time, Joe Hyams, CEO of HonestReporting, an Israel-based media watchdog group, said about Daragahi, “It is disgraceful for someone who calls himself a journalist to deal in second-rate conspiracy mongering.”

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