The Institute for Middle East Understanding sent out the following reactions to the news that Scarlett Johansson is leaving her role with Oxfam in order to maintain her sponsorship with SodaStream:
OMAR BARGHOUTI, Independent Palestinian commentator and human rights activist, founding member of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) and thePalestinian Civil Society Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign, and author of Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions: The Global Struggle for Palestinian Rights (2011):
“Without doubt, the biggest loser in this well publicized BDS campaign was SodaStream, which was exposed to the whole world as an occupation profiteer. Prior to this, most SodaStream customers had no idea that it is involved in grave violations of human rights by producing in an illegal settlement in the occupied Palestinian territory.
“By consciously dumping Oxfam and choosing instead to become the new propaganda face for Israel’s occupation and apartheid, Scarlett Johansson reminds us of the few unprincipled artists who during the struggle against South African apartheid sold their souls and stood on the wrong side of history. Her reputation as a defender of human rights has suffered irreparably.”
DIANA BUTTU, Ramallah-based analyst, former advisor to Palestine Liberation Organization Chairman Mahmoud Abbas and Palestinian negotiators, and Policy Advisor to Al-Shabaka: The Palestinian Policy Network:
“Oxfam made the correct decision to cut ties with Johansson and stand in favor of Palestinian rights. While a step in the right direction, it is not enough: all companies, countries and institutions should be boycotting Israel, divesting from Israel and sanctioning Israel in order to send the message that the denial of freedom for Palestinians is not acceptable. There are thousands of SodaStreams throughout the West Bank; all of them, along with all of the colonies, should be closed down.”
GEORGE BISHARAT, Professor at the University of California Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco, Senior Fellow at the Institute for Palestine Studies, and former legal consultant to the Palestinian Legislative Council:
“Oxfam International has a distinguished record of fighting poverty and injustice across the globe. Therefore, it is perfectly appropriate that it has parted ways with Scarlett Johansson over her promotional work for SodaStream, which operates a large factory in the illegal Israeli settlement Maale Adumim. Ms. Johansson has defended her association with SodaStream, saying ‘I remain a supporter of economic cooperation and social interaction between a democratic Israel and Palestine.’ Yet to ignore the surrounding context — Israel’s illegal expropriation of Palestinian public and private lands, importation of its own civilian settlers, restrictions on freedom of movement of people and goods that choke any possibility of independent Palestinian economic development — is like saying that apartheid was a boon to black South Africans for providing them jobs.”
“By quitting Oxfam and sticking with her endorsement of SodaStream, Scarlett Johansson has confirmed she values profiting from Israeli occupation and apartheid far above human rights and charitable work. The fact that she quit Oxfam, rather than being fired by the charity weeks ago, reflects very poorly on Oxfam. The charity failed to swiftly and clearly uphold its principles and appears to have been taken by surprise by Johansson’s announcement, adding to its humiliation and disarray. I credit the Palestinian and global grassroots campaigns that would not allow Oxfam or Johansson to evade their responsibilities for finally bringing this matter to a head.
“Everyone — celebrities, companies and nongovernmental organizations — must be on notice that complicity with Israeli occupation and apartheid comes with a high reputational cost. Whatever financial gains Johansson reaps now will fade. She will be remembered, like those who were complicit with apartheid in South Africa, for standing on the wrong side of history.”
REBECCA VILKOMERSON, Executive Director of Jewish Voice for Peace:
“That Oxfam and Scarlett Johansson have parted ways over her association with SodaStream proves that one can no longer claim to be a humanitarian while being associated in any way with the settlement enterprise. Israeli policies that deny human rights, ignore international law, and help companies profit from the occupation are no longer being tolerated by people around the world who care about justice. That the BDS movement was able to force this decision in a matter of weeks is proof of the growing power of BDS worldwide.”
“Contrary to Scarlett Johansson’s claim that SodaStream furthers equal rights and peace, SodaStream’s Palestinian laborers live under a brutal Israeli military occupation. Israel’s seizure of West Bank land for settlements, like the one where SodaStream’s factory sits, has destroyed the Palestinian economy, creating a captive labor force that companies like SodaStream exploit. Away from the ears of his bosses at SodaStream, a Palestinian worker recently told Reuters, ‘There’s a lot of racism here [at SodaStream].’ ‘Most of the managers are Israeli, and West Bank employees feel they can’t ask for pay rises or more benefits because they can be fired and easily replaced.’ Palestinians need freedom and human rights, not sweatshop jobs in an Israeli factory built on stolen Palestinian land.”
NANCY KRICORIAN, CODEPINK Women for Peace:
“We are glad that Oxfam and Scarlett Johansson have parted ways. Oxfam’s clear stance against Israeli settlement trade and Johansson’s association with occupation profiteer SodaStream made their relationship untenable. We look forward to educational leafleting opportunities at Ms. Johansson’s public events.”
RABBI BRIAN WALT, Founding executive director of Rabbis for Human Rights-North America and member of the Jewish Voice for Peace Rabbinical Council:
“Companies like SodaStream located in exclusive, illegal Jewish settlements built on Palestinian land, do not build ‘bridges to peace’ as Scarlett Johansson claims. If Johansson truly cares about human rights, justice and peace, she should join those who support the Palestinian call to boycott all companies like SodaStream that profit from the occupation.
“As a rabbi committed to justice and peace, I believe that standing in solidarity with Palestinians who demand their basic human rights would be a far better way for Johansson to build ‘bridges to peace,’ than promoting a company that is paying her to distract us with ludicrous claims about their commitment to peace. As a person who grew up in Apartheid South Africa, I know that people all over the world who participated in the boycott against South Africa played a major role in ending Apartheid. By boycotting companies that profit from the occupation, people all over the world could play a similar role in the Palestinian struggle for basic human rights, justice and peace.”
NANCY MURRAY, Boston Coalition for Palestinian Rights:
“While we regret that Scarlett Johansson has chosen to be an ambassador for oppression and wish that Oxfam America had taken swift action to stand up for its principles, we are happy that the organization’s reputation will not be further sullied by being associated with Israel’s illegal settlement activity.”