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In 2012 Oxfam Italy cut ties with celebrity spokesperson over SodaStream connection

on 24 Comments
Image via Twitter)

(Image via Twitter)

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 intellectualshuman 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.

Best regards,

Stop Sodastream Italy

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24 Responses

  1. HarryLaw
    January 28, 2014, 12:08 pm

    Johansson’s stance is incompatible with her position as Ambassador for Oxfam, the Italian branch are to be commended for sending this letter, just how untenable her position is, [or should be] is to understand what a grave war crime it is that she is supporting, and by extension what Oxfam would be supporting if they keep her on, Most war crimes deal with offenses against individuals or groups of individuals, but the offense in Article 49(6) is one that threatens the integrity of an entire people. It clearly qualifies as an exceptional offense of higher order that is of grave concern to the global community as a whole, only Israel of all the states in the world regard the settlements as legal, to keep her on would put Oxfam as the sole supporter of Israeli colonization, and against the rest of mankind.

  2. Henry Norr
    Henry Norr
    January 28, 2014, 12:42 pm

    Ali Abunimah has a source inside Oxfam, who told him there’s an “internal revolt” within the organization over the Johansson issue.

    The dispute within the global charity is largely along transatlantic lines, with Oxfam America stamping on anything seen to be critical of Israel.

    Unlike other national affiliates, “Oxfam America doesn’t invest one cent in the Palestinian territories, or even Israel. They don’t have any programs in the West Bank or Gaza,” the insider explained.

    “Yet they [Oxfam America] always claim that anything Oxfam says on Palestine or Israel affects their fundraising. They almost have veto power on what Oxfam does on Palestine,” the insider added.

    While these tensions have been present for some time, the Johansson episode has brought the “anger” to the surface within the organization, the insider said.

    Interesting stuff – check it out.

    • Ecru
      January 28, 2014, 1:13 pm

      Interesting and thanks for the info. I’d already pretty much come to the conclusion that Oxfam USA was the stumbling block. After all is there any large organisation in the USA not corrupted by Zionism and Zionists. Perhaps it’s time for the rest of Oxfam to cut away this corrupted organ.

    • ritzl
      January 28, 2014, 1:26 pm

      @Henry Norr- That was a great article at EI. Highly relevant insight. Oxfam really has some organizational work to do to maintain it’s credibility.

      Zionism corrupts everything it touches.

      • ritzl
        January 28, 2014, 1:35 pm

        And given the info in the EI article, I hope that Oxfam International has legal rights to the name Oxfam. If and when they yank it from whatever the US organization is/has become, the separation will be clear.

      • W.Jones
        January 28, 2014, 1:53 pm

        Actually, the settlements are considered an impediment to Peace, even by the US. So what is the difficulty in laying that out and having ambassadors who do not hurt people on major issues?

        I think it is partly because she is a physically attractive celebrity. It is kind of a psychological effect. That’s why advertisements use celebrities in the first place, and for that matter it’s why Oxfam uses celebrities- to gain recognition. If it was someone not so well known like Pauloa Maguela, then it would not be as difficult psychologically to break with the person, even if he/she were supporting something bad.

        Now should having a physically attractive celebrity be more important than the human rights an organization is dedicated to? i would think it would be a no brainer.

      • ritzl
        January 28, 2014, 2:40 pm

        One would think it was a “no brainer.”

      • Maximus Decimus Meridius
        Maximus Decimus Meridius
        January 28, 2014, 3:00 pm

        Kirstin Davis is also ‘physically attractive’ yet Oxfam forced her to choose between them and Ahava (she chose Oxfam).

        I don’t think Oxfam’s reluctance to dump Johansson has anything to do with her perceived ‘attractiveness’ but due to the fact that she, and Sodastream, are much higher profile than Davis and Ahava. As the EI article made clear, Oxfam America seem terrified of alienating potential donors and feel they have to tread on eggshells when it comes to Israel. Davis could be jettisoned without too much of a furore, but the Johansson/Sodastream affair has already become a bit of a cause celebre and Oxfam don’t want to be seen as ‘giving in’ to pro-Palestinian pressure. I really do wonder how it’s all going to end up though, because the scandal just isn’t going to go away, which is clearly what Oxfam are hoping.

      • W.Jones
        January 29, 2014, 3:14 pm


        I am lucky that we are not in oral conversation, or else you would chide me for failing to pronounce the h in “what”.

      • ritzl
        January 29, 2014, 5:25 pm

        @WJ- Wat are you talking about? :)

      • Rusty Pipes
        Rusty Pipes
        January 28, 2014, 2:15 pm

        Once again, money talks. It’s the Zionist donors to Oxfam America that are contributing to its differences with Oxfam International.

  3. annie
    January 28, 2014, 1:02 pm

    i mentioned Oxfam Italy cut ties with Paola Maugeri over her ambassadorship for SodaStream Italy in my post here , at the time it didn’t occur to me oxfam might not be cutting ties w/SJ if she stuck w/SS. i thought they were waiting for SJ to make up her mind before they either dumped her or not based on her decision. wow, was i wrong. at the base of my article, directly after mentioning Paola Maugeri getting dumped i wrote What choice will Johansson make?. little did i know oxfam would be wavering over this decision. it’s a no brainer.

    • Kathleen
      January 28, 2014, 1:30 pm

      I’d put money on it that there is tremendous pressure on Oxfam not to do anything until after Superbowl. Would put a few coins on that. At that point I would imagine SJo will step down due to a busy schedule. Does anyone think that Oxfam or Sjo will say there was a conflict of interest?

      Really going viral

      • annie
        January 28, 2014, 2:49 pm

        yeah, i read latimes article this morning, the one he links to. it was great reading msm coverage that didn’t cram the bds perspective at the base after paragraphs of explanation of how ss is so pc.

      • Nevada Ned
        Nevada Ned
        January 29, 2014, 9:31 am

        I’m happy that Jonathan Turley is covering the story. Turley is a publicity hound, and shows up all over the media as a talking head on all sorts of topics with a legal angle.
        I don’t think Turley would cover this story if he thought it would hurt his career.

  4. Felipe
    January 28, 2014, 2:45 pm

    Oxfam International should come out unequivocally and terminate their relationship with Johansson. This situation is tarnishing their prestige and reputation as an international organization committed to upholding human rights and denouncing situations of injustice worldwide. Donors who are truly committed to advancing Oxfam’s core causes will certainly understand why this needs to happen. These kinds of principles cannot be compromised for the sake of celebrity-driven advertising.

    • Kathleen
      January 29, 2014, 2:24 pm

      Dragging this out is telling. Waiting until after Superbowl for SodaStream and Scarlett.

      • Karin
        January 29, 2014, 5:46 pm

        My understanding was that the Sodastream ad was rejected by the Superbowl, and was not going to be on the air because it referenced Coke and Pepsi, which are much bigger players as far as Superbowl ad dollars. So I’m really confused about the purpose of this foot dragging.

      • Kathleen
        January 29, 2014, 6:30 pm

        The “sorry Coke and Pepsi piece” cut out. Adam Horowitz put this up the other day

  5. Justpassingby
    January 28, 2014, 4:05 pm

    As Ive said before, pressure Oxfam, go to their website and click Contact at the top and email them.

  6. Henry Norr
    Henry Norr
    January 29, 2014, 1:21 am

    From the Forward:

    MISHOR ADUMIM, WEST BANK — If he could turn back the clock, SodaStream CEO Daniel Birnbaum would “never” have established a production plant on an Israeli Jewish settlement in the occupied West Bank. In fact, he said, its location has turned out to be “a pain in the ass.”

    “We’re here because we’re here — for historical reasons,” Birnbaum told the Forward in an exclusive interview Tuesday, when asked about the public row that has erupted over the controversial location of his company’s main facility.

    More (mostly liberal BS) at

    • Light
      January 29, 2014, 2:38 pm

      My vote for the best BS from the above link.

      The reason for staying is loyalty to approximately 500 Palestinians who are among the plant’s 1,300 employees, Birnbaum claimed

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