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‘Without doubt, the biggest loser in this well publicized BDS campaign was SodaStream’: Reactions to Johansson leaving Oxfam

on 35 Comments
(Image: Stephanie Westbrook)

(Image: Stephanie Westbrook)

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.”

(Image via

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.”

ALI ABUNIMAH, Author of the forthcoming, The Battle for Justice in Palestine (2014) and cofounder ofThe Electronic Intifada:

“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.”

PATRICK CONNORS, Adalah-NY: The New York Campaign for the Boycott of Israel:

“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.”


“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.”

(Image: Stephanie Westbrook)

(Image: Stephanie Westbrook)

Adam Horowitz

Adam Horowitz is Executive Editor of

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35 Responses

  1. seafoid on January 30, 2014, 2:43 pm

    Shocking brand management. I mean really shocking.
    You don’t want your brand all over the net with something like this.

    • annie on January 30, 2014, 3:19 pm

      oxfam had no idea she was going to go this route.

      • seafoid on January 30, 2014, 4:29 pm

        I bet they got loads of abusive calls from Bot Central. I bet they were accused of hating Jews.

        But the memes are dying.
        If I were the Dersh I’d be screaming blue Gaza mass murder at the schmuck who runs Sodasettler. Not even Regev could lie them out of this one.

        This sort of thing emboldens people like the Presbyterians. It’s right dead centre in the space where Zionists are most vulnerable- religious morality/charity .

        Super article in the Guardian

        “Small as it may seem in the context of a long battle, the Johansson affair is one more piece of evidence that illegal Israeli actions in the occupied Palestinian territories are being increasingly held up to scrutiny. There is no longer impunity for those willing to associate themselves with it.
        Patience has run out and an honest debate on western support for Israel at all costs is now on the table. This debate is better than silence, or than celebrity airbrushing of deep-seated problems. I welcome it.”

      • Bumblebye on January 30, 2014, 5:53 pm

        Gaah! hophmi’s found a new place to play, down in theGrauni comment section!

      • seafoid on January 30, 2014, 6:07 pm

        Comments are now closed. Ya haram. I would have given him 2 barrels.

      • Kathleen on January 30, 2014, 6:31 pm

        How do you know this Annie?

      • Citizen on January 31, 2014, 8:39 am

        @ Annie Robbins
        Maybe. Scarlett Johansson was a member of Oxfam for two years when Kirsten Davis (Sex and the City) had to make the same choice. Unlike Scarlett, Kirsten dropped her settlement-made cosmetic product and stuck with Oxfam. Perhaps Oxfam figured Scarlett would do the same thing?

    • Maximus Decimus Meridius on January 30, 2014, 3:22 pm

      Who? Oxfam, Johansson, or Sodastream?

      IMHO all have come out of this very, very badly. I expect little from the latter two, but I had hoped for a bit more integrity from Oxfam.

      (And not to sound whingy but I wonder why my posts always seem to take hours, sometimes days to appear, when much later posts often appear much more quickly. I know it’s off topic but there’s nowhere else I could say it. Sorry!)

  2. Tzombo on January 30, 2014, 3:13 pm

    No winners here though. Oxfam doesn’t exactly get off clean either.

    • Dutch on January 30, 2014, 7:56 pm

      Correct. Oxfam should have given her 24 hours to quit SS. They didn’t. Big words, no deeds, game over.

      • Citizen on January 31, 2014, 3:47 am

        @ Dutch
        Yeah, I’m guessing Oxfam staff took less than 24 hours to read their list of bigger donors, and then did nothing while Scarlett was advised to put a heroic face on and resign so nobody could say Oxfam gave her an ultimatum, with the boot. Anybody got the trend, if any, on how this Sodastream issue is being handled by US TV newsy shows on the days leading up to the Superbowl? I’ve only seen Fox’s The Five discuss it, for about a minute–only the usual blonde woman said anything worthy.

      • seafoid on February 1, 2014, 3:09 am

        It is funny that you used SS for something very Zionist deeply implicated in Lebensraum issues.

  3. W.Jones on January 30, 2014, 3:14 pm

    One of the reactions to Scarlett is Oxfam’s:

    Ms. Johansson’s role promoting the company SodaStream is incompatible with her role as an Oxfam Global Ambassador.

    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.

    Oxfam is opposed to all trade from Israeli settlements, which are illegal under international law.

    I think you may have covered this.

  4. shachalnur on January 30, 2014, 3:40 pm

    Qui bono?

    Scarlett Johansson?
    The settler movement?

    Obviously BDS,but they didn’t start this scenario,a scenario that was(more or less) predictable.

    If you would like to damage the settlers,isn’t this the way you would do it?

    Is that why Arutz Sheva and the settler sites on the web were not enthousiatic at all about this whole thing?

    Who was behind this psy-op,who says this is not an attck on the settlers?

    • shachalnur on January 30, 2014, 5:54 pm

      Even the Iranians are recognizing what’s happening.

      PressTV “Scarlett Johansson quits Oxfam as ambassador over Israeli aid”

      The video shows almost the entire Sodastream advertisement,surrounded by pictures and texts that could not be more flattering for Scarlett.

      She quit over “A fundamental difference of opinion”.

      Sodastream is being referred to as ” …. controversial company”.(ouch,that hurts)

      In short ; an advertisement for Scarlett and Sodastream.

      Why would that be?

      • shachalnur on January 31, 2014, 7:07 am

        And what if the Sodastream-Scarlett operation is an attack on the settlers?

        It would explain another two “strange “developments this week.

        Just read Israel National News(INN),Arutz Sheva(the official mouthpiece of the settler movement).

        1. Nethanyahu provocation/trap;”Settlers can stay under PA authority if they want to”

        PA didn’t react,Bennet(Jewish Home) did and got into trouble.

        But today in INN today,”Ayelet Shaked;”Why can’t Jews live in Palestinian State”.
        Shaked(Jewish Home) said one month ago(29 dec 2013);”if there will be a peace deal,I think that just as Arabs live in Israel,I don’t see a reason why settlers shouldn’t stay and live in the Palestinian State if they will want to”.

        And nobody said a word.

        2. INN;New poll(29 jan 2014) “Panel Politics”,Knesset TV channel;

        Likud/Beitenu : 30 seats
        Jewish Home : 17 seats

        Causing premature celebrations in the settler camp.

        INN;New poll(30 jan 2014) “Globes” poll

        Likud/Beitenu : 36 seats
        Jewish Home : 10 seats

        Another trap INN/settlers fell into(Even Israpundit fell for it).

        Geo-political and macro economical developments have put the importance of the Israeli-PA conflict on the backburner(Israel is the centre of the universe only for (Israeli) Jews,Palestinians and pro-and anti-Zionist websites,in the total picture there are much more important problems for TPTB(US/European Banker Cabal vs BRICS)) and Israel and the PA will make some kind of agreement as soon as possible,if it was only to get the US out of the way,before they blow up the whole Middle East.

        Therefore it is necessary to flatten the settler movement,and fast,and that’s not only what is happening but the settlers know it.

        Be aware of “Pigeon Superstition”.

  5. hophmi on January 30, 2014, 3:54 pm

    LOL. The reactions of the interested witnesses.

    My reaction: People will forget about this story in a week, and the main goal of this PR campaign, which was to get more Americans in the pro-Palestinian camp, will be frustrated.

    Oxfam America is not even publicizing the news on their webpage.

    As I’ve said elsewhere, Oxfam, a large recipient of blood money from Coca-Cola, a company with an awful human rights, labor, and environmental record, has little moral credibility to criticize ScarJo for allying herself with a company that has good labor practices, makes a popular product, and does it in an environmentally safe way. The company is run by a peacenik who is an outspoken advocate of Palestinian rights, and most of his Palestinian employees are on ScarJo’s side.

    As usual, BDS puts parochial politics above human rights, labor rights, and peace.

    • seafoid on January 30, 2014, 11:16 pm

      “As usual, BDS puts parochial politics above human rights, labor rights, and peace.”

      Arbeit macht frei

      Hoph is so nuts. It is WTF khaalis

      • Citizen on January 31, 2014, 3:53 am

        But Hoph’s consistent; remember that Israel was helping apartheid S Africa get the bomb, and was the last state that supported that Afrikaner regime.

    • Talkback on January 31, 2014, 8:24 am

      hohmi: … Oxfam, a large recipient of blood money from Coca-Cola, …

      How many Palestinians does your Antigentile State Mafia have to oppress, terrorize, disenfrenchize and dispossess on a daily base so that this criminal company can produce under illegal circumstances?

  6. just on January 30, 2014, 5:06 pm

    Stephanie Westbrook’s work is quite amazing.

    I wish that all of those priceless and incisive expressions by those beautiful Kenyan women could be somehow be photoshopped, with their laser sharp scrutiny, on Scarlett.

    Wonder if she asked them how colonialism, land theft and Occupation made their lives oh, so much better. I bet that they are disappointed with her now.

  7. Bumblebye on January 30, 2014, 5:31 pm

    My blood is boiling.
    The presenter on the prestigious bbcR4 nightlynews just said that the spotlight is on “the anti Israel BDS movement”!!!
    *Everything* they have said, throughout the news progs of the day, has been rinsed thru the israel lens. It’s been bad.

    And then, at least, they had Youssef Munayer for a little bit of balance, recommending sanctions on Israel.

  8. Daniel Rich on January 30, 2014, 5:40 pm

    I would like to take this opportunity to introduce a new word:


    a) A person without a moral conscious or compass.
    b) Individual often found near the ‘Well of Greenbacks’
    c) Man or woman able to, verbally at least, turn night into day [and vice versa] without blinking an eye.

    As in ‘Scarlet Johansson is a real Dershbag.’

    P.S. Let’s also vote with our wallets and turn any potential SJ blockbuster into a real lackluster flick that goes straight to DVD.

    • Kathleen on January 30, 2014, 10:39 pm

      like this

    • seafoid on January 30, 2014, 11:23 pm

      I think it’s already out there -I heard it before but it does needs to enter the vernacular

      Another one I was thinking of is Hassy fit

      A combination of hasbara and hissy fit – for that moment when the memes break down and they can’t come up with a single argument and they lose the plot

  9. just on January 30, 2014, 5:42 pm

    For some seriously sick, but not surprising, news:

    “Israeli Military Says Settler Ratio Increasing
    JERUSALEM January 30, 2014 (AP)
    Associated Press

    Israel’s military magazine says an increasing number of West Bank settlers hold command positions.

    Bamahane weekly reported Thursday that 16 percent of those who attended the latest company and battalion commanders’ training course were residents of the West Bank — four times the proportion of settlers in the Israeli population.

    A recent graduate of the course quoted in the report said settlers had more motivation to serve given their proximity to Palestinians attacks. But the report also raised questions about how these officers would respond if ordered to evacuate settlements for a future peace deal.

    Palestinians claim the West Bank, in addition to east Jerusalem and Gaza, for a future state.”

    So the illegal settlers WILL get their guns, courtesy of Ya’alon and Netanyahu. It’s giving the criminals their tools of choice. An entire arsenal.

    “Far-right activist Meir Ettinger says that by denying him and his friends the right to bear arms, the army promotes Palestinian violence — One member of a group of far-right activists who, after allegedly attempting to carry out a “price tag” attack, were beaten and held captive by Palestinians in the village of Qusra near Nablus, demanded Thursday that the government allow him and other settlers residing in illegal outposts to acquire weapons.”

  10. seafoid on January 30, 2014, 5:42 pm

    It’s bad for Zionism.

    They haven’t had a decent win in the court of public opinion for a while. Getting De Blasio to bend over and take one for AIPAC doesn’t count.

    They are losing their thug touch.

    Sure they still lord it over the Beltway but outside in the real world the sands are shifting.

  11. Citizen on January 30, 2014, 6:07 pm

    Scarlett has made her decision. She feels that Sodastream is a force for good in the world, which happens to benefit her, so she thinks she can have cake and eat it too. It’s up to all of us to send her and her agent a memo.

  12. Sibiriak on January 31, 2014, 1:26 am

    Norman Finkelstein:

    The framework agreement will probably just speak of land swaps in terms of percentages, and merely insinuate—as the Clinton Parameters did—Israel’s annexation of the major settlement blocs without divulging the precise details.

    But it is striking that in all of the discussion over the last several weeks, Ma’ale Adumim—i.e., the largest settlement bloc that effectively bisects the West Bank—has never even come up. Because it’s already been resolved, in Israel’s favour.

    It’s rather ironic that Scarlett Johansson is being taken to task from so many sides for supporting Sodastream’s presence in the illegal Israeli settlement Maale Adumim, yet by all indications the Palestinian leadership is prepared to see that settlement legalized in a negotiated settlement.

  13. Citizen on January 31, 2014, 4:34 am

    Kerry is striving to make the wall legal boundary and cut off Palestinian ROR with compensation, likely to be paid by US directly or indirectly.

  14. Shuki on January 31, 2014, 11:16 pm

    Hats off to Scarlett Johansson for standing her ground.

    I doubt Sodastream is the biggest loser… a Super Bowl ad with a well known beautiful spokeswoman and tons of free publicity from the bigots and lunatic fringe. Keep up the good work, guys!

    • Citizen on February 1, 2014, 10:11 am

      @ Shuki
      Correction to your typo error:

      “Hats off to Scarlett Johansson for standing her apartheid ground.”

  15. charlesfrith on February 1, 2014, 2:51 am

    The big winner is awareness of BDS and Palestine. The rest look very oily.

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