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Scarlett Johansson Breaks Up with Oxfam, Leaves Note on Pillow

Scarlett Johannson in a shoulderless black dress, hands on hips.

Johansson chooses Sodastream over Oxfam.

Wednesday evening, actress Scarlett Johansson brought the nine-day dilemma over the conflict between her seven-year relationship with the global relief organization, Oxfam, and her new commercial relationship with the Israeli company, SodaStream, to a conclusion with this announcement:

A statement released by Johansson’s spokesman Wednesday said the 29-year-old actress has ‘a fundamental difference of opinion’ with Oxfam International because the humanitarian group opposes all trade from Israeli settlements, saying they are illegal and deny Palestinian rights.

‘Scarlett Johansson has respectfully decided to end her ambassador role with Oxfam after eight years,’ the statement said. ‘She and Oxfam have a fundamental difference of opinion in regards to the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement. She is very proud of her accomplishments and fundraising efforts during her tenure with Oxfam.’

Earlier this month, The Avengers and Her actress signed on as the first global brand ambassador of SodaStream International Ltd., and she’s set to appear in an ad for the at-home soda maker during the Super Bowl on Feb. 2.

Oxfam announced late last week that it was in discussion with Johansson:

While Oxfam respects the independence of our ambassadors, Ms Johansson’s role promoting the company SodaStream is incompatible with her role as an Oxfam Global Ambassador,” it added.

‘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.’

Johansson responded to Oxfam without directly addressing the most pressing of Oxfam’s problems with the conflict:

SodaStream is a company that is not only committed to the environment but to building a bridge to peace between Israel and Palestine, supporting neighbours working alongside each other, receiving equal pay, equal benefits and equal rights.

The workers do not actually enjoy equal rights with their Israeli employers:

One mid-level Palestinian employee who spoke to Reuters outside the plant, away from the bosses, painted a far less perfect picture, however.

‘There’s a lot of racism here,’ he said, speaking on condition of anonymity. ‘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.’


Israeli labor watchdog Kav LaOved says a lack of oversight over enforcement of minimum wages and worker rights in West Bank factories reflects Israel’s pro-settler policies.

‘The government wants incentives for Israelis to come and build and expand there. The government has demonstrated very clearly that companies in the West Bank will be allowed to have cheap labor,’ Kav LaOved head Hanna Zohar told Reuters.

Early this morning, Oxfam responded to Johansson’s pillow note, changing her page there to reflect that the relationship is over, while at the same time saying nothing new.  A row developed over the early part of this week, with Oxfam America concerned that putting pressure on Johansson over an issue concerning Israel might hurt fundraising activities in this country:

There is an ‘internal revolt’ within Oxfam over the international charity’s refusal to cut ties with Hollywood actress Scarlett Johansson, an Oxfam insider has told The Electronic Intifada.

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

Johansson is one of Oxfam’s ‘Global Ambassadors‘ but recently signed a deal with SodaStream, an Israeli firm with a factory in an illegal settlement in the occupied West Bank.

The insider, who is familiar with the organization’s internal deliberations, asked not to be named because they are not authorized to speak to media.

The insider decided to speak out from a belief that Oxfam was suffering serious damage to its credibility by standing with Johansson.

‘We do a lot of good work, but it is being overshadowed by all the negative publicity,’ the insider said.

With Johansson coming to a decision to abandon the global relief NGO before they had moved to end their ties to her, one suspects everyone will move on here. But this dispute brought a bit more national and global attention to the Global BDS movement (which Oxfam does not participate in nor endorse, despite Johansson’s claim in her announcement) than any prior event. Also, in response to some of the many articles put out by either right-wing, extreme far-right or pro-Zionist organizations during the past ten days, defending Israeli industrial practices on the stolen lands of Palestine, while using relatively cheap Palestinian labor to enrich Israelis, a number of inevitable comparisons have been made. Those to the relationship of American slaves to their masters in antebellum America resonate, as noted by Jamil Khader:

Johansson’s pathetic apologia , released on January 24, for settler-colonialism and Israeli apartheid policies reflects the poverty of her progressive liberal ideology. In it she maintains that the global corporation Sodastream is an example of ‘economic cooperation and social interaction between a democratic Israel and Palestine.’ Johansson also adds that:

There are so many absurd fabrications and inconsistencies in this statement that one must wonder where the line between cynicism and conviction begins. To even suggest that a colonial factory built on ethnically-cleansed and illegally-obtained land in an illegal settlement is an example of economic cooperation is obscene. The sole function of a corporation, as many CEOs would tell you, is the extraction and maximisation of profits.

This happens through, among other things, the exploitation of cheap labour – any available labour, including the indigenous work force, which is usually compensated less than adequate salaries and benefits. Just ask Sodastream’s Palestinian workers , who have no choice but seek employment with such corporations, as a result of Israeli deliberate underdevelopment of the Palestinian economy .

Her ludicrous claims are nothing but a recycling of the same tired racist arguments that white slave owners in the American South circulated in order to justify their noxious antebellum regime. Slave owners even concocted perfectly outlandish claims about the rights, privileges and benefits their slaves enjoyed under slavery.

Johansson will have to live with the fact that while Oxfam woke up in the morning with less respect for the actress, she’s found the companionship of new BFF’s like Mike Huckabee. Maybe he can teach her how to control her libido, eh?

Maybe Johansson will strike up some sort of new relationship with another global NGO with less scruples about the illegal colonization of the Occupied West Bank.

Photo released under a Creative Commons Share Alike license at Wikimedia Commons.

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