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US Campaign Letter to Scarlett Johansson

January 14th, 2014

Dear Scarlett Johansson,

As a coalition of more than 400 groups in the United States working for freedom, justice, and equality, we are writing to urge you to end your recent agreement to become a Global Brand Ambassador for SodaStream.

Although SodaStream products are labeled as "Made in Israel," its main production site is in the industrial zone of Mishor Edomin, an illegal settlement in the occupied West Bank. Oxfam officials have labeled settlements "one of the main obstacles to achieving a just, lasting and stable peace in the area."  

Like all Israeli companies operating in the West Bank, SodaStream enjoys cheap land and water, confiscated from the indigenous Palestinian owners; a captive Palestinian labor force; tax benefits; and lax regulation of environmental and labor protection laws. While SodaStream claims to be building bridges and supporting Palestinians, a May 2013 interview with a Palestinian factory worker calls into question these claims. According to this worker: "They treat us like slaves. This has happened many times on the assembly line: when a worker is sick and wants to take sick leave, the supervisor will fire him on the second day. They will not even give him warning or send him to human resources, they will immediately fire him.” He goes on to describe other harsh working conditions including working 60 hours a week and not being allowed to pray.

In announcing your decision to team up with SodaStream, you explained how this product helps you not feel guilty because you love the taste of carbonated water but hate the waste of bottles. The reality is that by choosing to locate its factory in a settlement, SodaStream is actively supporting Israel's military occupation of the West Bank, including the environmental destruction this occupation has brought to Palestinian lands.

Since 1967, Israel has uprooted an estimated 800,000 olive trees, which is equal to 33 Central Parks.  In 2009 Amnesty International accused Israel of denying Palestinians the right to access adequate water by maintaining total control over the shared water resources and pursuing discriminatory policies.  Israel uses 80 percent of the water from the West Bank’s main aquifer, while allowing Palestinians a mere 20 percent. In the West Bank, 450,000 settlers use as much or more water than the Palestinian population of some 2.3 million. Due to the Israeli siege and blockade of the Gaza Strip, 95 percent of its water is unfit for human consumption. Palestinian villages are constantly contaminated by sewage flowing from nearby settlements.  B'Tselem- The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories has also documented the severe water crisis Israeli policies have created for Palestinians.

In 2005, more than 170 Palestinian civil society organizations issued a historic, rights-based call to the international community for Boycotts, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) targeting institutions and corporations complicit in Israel's oppressive policies towards Palestinians. The call for BDS promotes time-honored and respected tactics used to achieve justice throughout history, including the U.S. Civil Rights and South Africa Anti-Apartheid Movements and is grounded in universal human rights and international law.

Under the slogan "Occupation is Not Green," activists across the globe have responded to the call and have been organizing campaigns to convince stores and consumers to boycott SodaStream. 

As a Global Ambassador for Oxfam, you have a responsibility to push forward the fight against poverty and injustice. Your role as a Global Brand Ambassador for a company that profits from military occupation and the abuse of Palestinian human rights directly contradicts this responsibility.

In October 2012, Oxfam Italy cut its ties with Paola Maugeri, well-known radio personality, over her role as a SodaStream PR Ambassador.  In 2009, Oxfam International cut ties with Sex and the City star Kristin Davis over her role as spokesperson for cosmetics company Ahava, which operates in the Israeli settlement of Mitzpe Shalem.  

We urge you to stand on the right side of history and end your relationship with SodaStream. 

Sincerely, 

Ramah Kudaimi
Membership and Outreach Coordinator

US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation

PDF of letter here.