In a political parting of ways, Hollywood actor, model and singer, Scarlett Johansson, has quit as Global Ambassador for aid organisation Oxfam. This followed her decision to sign up as the first global ambassador for SodaStream International Ltd, an Israeli soft drinks company with a large manufacturing presence in the Occupied West Bank. The actor said her departure was the result of a “fundamental difference of opinion.”
In a statement, Oxfam said that while it respects the independence of its ambassadors, “Ms. Johansson’s role promoting the company SodaStream is incompatible with her role as an Oxfam Global Ambassador.”
The BAFTA award-winning actor, who has been Oxfam’s Global Ambassador since 2007, will appear in a television advertisement for SodaStream that will be telecast in the U.S. during the Super Bowl, the annual championship game of the National Football League, on February 2.
While acknowledging the work of Ms. Johansson in “helping to highlight the impact of natural disasters and raise funds to save lives and fight poverty,” Oxfam has stated that it is “opposed to all trade from Israeli settlements, which are illegal under international law.” 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,” it added.
Sodastream’s plant in the West Bank settlement of Ma’ale Adumim, about 10 minutes outside of Jerusalem, has a workforce of 1300, of whom 500 are Palestinians.
In a statement to Huffington Post, the 29-year-old actor said she would not break the deal with SodaStream, stating that she “never intended on being the face of any social or political movement, distinction, separation or stance”. She said that she remains a supporter of “economic cooperation and social interaction between a democratic Israel and Palestine.”
The actor’s break with Oxfam, hotly debated on social media networks, is not the first for the aid organisation. In 2009, actor Kristin Davis, of Sex and the City fame, was dropped by Oxfam as its Global Ambassador for her endorsement of the Israeli cosmetics company Ahava, which, like SodaStream, has its production facilities in the Occupied West Bank. She later broke her contract with Ahava and rejoined Oxfam.
Ms. Johannson started work with Oxfam following the Indian Ocean Tsunami, after which she travelled to India and Sri Lanka, becoming a brand ambassador in 2007.
Interviewed by the Israeli publication Haaretz after the Johansson story broke, CEO of SodaStream Daniel Birnbaum said he would not bow to political pressure to close the plant.