Groups working for Palestinian rights are urging Oxfam International to take immediate action and break its ties with Hollywood actress Scarlett Johansson after she issued a statement supporting Israel’s military occupation and human rights abuses.
On January 10, SodaStream, which makes home carbonating devices, announced that Johansson had become their first-ever Global Brand Ambassador. SodaStream has been targeted globally for boycott due to the company’s main production site being in an illegal West Bank settlement and its exploitation of Palestinian land, resources, and labor.
Johansson also serves as a Global Ambassador for Oxfam International, which considers settlements to be a major barrier to peace and contributor to poverty. Following international outcry, Oxfam stated that it was engaged in a dialogue with the actress. But on January 24, Scarlett released a statement standing behind the SodaStream product and praising their work environment. An Oxfam spokesperson then told the Electronic Intifada, “Oxfam is now considering the implications [of] her new statement and what it means for Ms. Johansson’s role as an Oxfam global ambassador.”
“Scarlett Johansson completely whitewashes Israel’s brutal military occupation and colonization of Palestinian land by asserting SodaStream propaganda that the company is ‘building a bridge to peace between Israel and Palestine,'” said Ramah Kudaimi of the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation. “How can a company based in an illegal settlement and profiting from the abuse of Palestinian rights contribute in any way to peace? Ms. Johansson has come out for occupation and against principles of freedom, justice, and equality. We demand Oxfam respond immediately and drop her as their Global Ambassador in accordance with their own stated position that settlements are a major barrier to peace and contributor to poverty.”
Patrick Connors from Adalah-NY: The New York Campaign for the Boycott of Israel added: “We are shocked to learn that Scarlett Johansson believes that Sodastream’s construction of a factory on stolen Palestinian land and exploitation of a captive labor force held under a brutal Israeli military occupation furthers ‘equal rights.’ We’re disturbed by her assertion that Israel’s colonial domination of Palestinians constitutes ‘communities joining together’ for peace. Given Ms. Johansson’s ringing endorsement of Israel’s military occupation, settlement and economic exploitation of Palestinians in direct contradiction of international law and fundamental Oxfam positions, Oxfam must immediately drop her as an Oxfam Global Ambassador if it is to maintain its credibility.”
“Scarlett Johansson just doesn’t get it. Sodastream’s factory is located in an illegal settlement in the West Bank, profiting from the exploitation of Palestinian labor and resources that is endemic to military occupation. These conditions are the furthest thing from equal rights or ‘communities joining together’ for peace,” said Rebecca Vilkomerson, Executive Director of Jewish Voice for Peace. “It is entirely inappropriate for Oxfam to continue to use Ms. Johansson as a Global Ambassador, given her statement directly contradicts Oxfam’s strong position against Israeli settlements.”
“Scarlett Johansson touts the SodaStream factory in the Occupied West Bank as an Edenic scene of ‘equal rights’ and ‘social and economic cooperation.’ She needs a reality tour of the Occupied West Bank, starting with the dystopian cattle chute that is the Qalandiya Checkpoint,” said Nancy Kricorian of CODEPINK Women for Peace. “Oxfam must suspend Johansson from publicity work for the duration of her SodaStream contract in the way that they suspended Ahava spokesmodel Kristin Davis in 2009. Anything less is pure hypocrisy.”
“Scarlett Johansson portrays SodaStream’s Ma’ale Adumim factory as an ideal workplace for Palestinian laborers, but a worker interviewed there recently said he feels like he is enslaved. In 2013 SodaStream refused to allow Corporate Watch to visit their factory and would not respond to questions about the minimum wage paid, options for unionization and promotion, and the exclusion of the local Palestinian Bedouin population from employment in the factory,” said Andrew Kadi, Steering Committee member of the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation. “A job with poor working conditions, in an Israeli factory on stolen Palestinian land, within a context where Palestinians’ own economic development is stifled by Israel’s military occupation is not anything that Scarlett Johansson should be touting. Palestinians need freedom and human rights, not sweatshop jobs in factories run by Israelis.”
US groups continued to call for people to join more than 6,300 others by signing a petition asking Johansson to end her relationship with SodaStream and asked concerned individuals to call on Oxfam America to push Johansson to end her relationship with SodaStream and drop her as a Global Ambassador if she does not.