The Stop Sodastream Italy campaign sent the following letter to Oxfam Italy and shared it with Mondoweiss:
Dear Oxfam Italy,
As Stop Sodastream Italy, we are writing regarding a matter concerning your organization at the international level.
American actress Scarlett Johansson, Oxfam Ambassador since 2007, has recently signed a contract to become the new “global ambassador” for the Israeli company Sodastream. As you are fully aware, this company is at the center of an international boycott campaign due to the fact that it profits from the occupation and apartheid regime imposed by Israel. Its main factory is in Ma’aleh Adumim, one of the Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories that are illegal under international law.
In 2012, we wrote to you regarding another “ambassador” for Sodastream, Paola Maugeri, due to her involvement in one of your campaigns. At that time, you demonstrated great consistency with Oxfam policy condemning the Israeli settlements by removing a promotional video made with Maugeri and informing her of the reasons for this decision.
Oxfam International reaffirmed this policy on January 23 in an initial communication on the involvement of Johansson with Sodastream, stating that “businesses that operate in settlements further the ongoing poverty and denial of rights of the Palestinian communities” and that Oxfam “is opposed to all trade from Israeli settlements, which are illegal under international law.” Oxfam announced that dialogue was underway with Johansson on the issue.
In the meantime, however, Johansson released her own statement in which she not only indicates she intends to continue in the role of “global ambassador” for Sodastream, but also defends the factory built on land stolen from the Palestinians. Johansson speaks of purported “economic cooperation” between the Palestinian people living under occupation and the Israeli occupying power, describing them as “neighbors working alongside each other” enjoying “equal rights.”
As Oxfam knows well, the reality is quite different. Palestinian workers, subjected to a regime of occupation, do not enjoy civil rights and are deprived of access to their natural resources preventing them from developing their own independent manufacturing sector as would be the case if they were left to freely exercise their right to self-determination, including for their own economy. It is precisely due to the Israeli occupation, from which Sodastream profits, that Palestinian workers often have no choice but to work in illegal settlements, as Oxfam itself has documented.
Sodastream has always chosen not to address its complicity with the Israeli occupation and violations of Palestinian human rights, but rather to pour money into image campaigns, going so far as to use their own Palestinian workers for this purpose.
Despite the fact that Johansson’s own words reveal an unbridgeable difference between the positions of Oxfam and those of a person representing and promoting the organization, to this day she maintains in her role as ambassador for Oxfam. It is unthinkable that Johansson can simultaneously promote human rights and human rights violations. Maintaining her in this position will only undermine the work of Oxfam and the relationship of trust it has established with the Palestinian people, and not only, damaging the credibility of the organization.
With this letter, we join the calls from academics and intellectuals, human rights organizations in the United States,Palestinian civil society as well as the nephew of one of the founders of Oxfam, urging Oxfam to suspend Johansson from her role as ambassador. We call on Oxfam Italy to take every initiative to ensure the organization understands that the current paradoxical situation cannot continue, in order to safeguard the reputation of Oxfam as well as to send a clear message, in particular to your partners in Palestine, that promoting illegal activities violating the rights of persons has no place within Oxfam.
We look forward to your reply.
Stop Sodastream Italy