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For Immediate Release: January 30th, 2014

US Groups Say ScarJo Resignation as Oxfam Ambassador Will Strengthen Global Movement for Palestinian Rights

Contact Ramah Kudaimi at membership@endtheoccupation.org or 202-332-0994.  

After an international campaign urging Oxfam International to end its relationship with Hollywood actress Scarlett Johansson for endorsing SodaStream, whose factory is based in an illegal Israeli settlement in the West Bank, groups working for Palestinian rights said that Johansson’s resignation from the role of Global Ambassador for Oxfam will send the message that profiting from occupation is incompatible with human rights work.

Nancy Kricorian of CODEPINK: Women for Peace said: “We are glad that Oxfam and Scarlett Johansson have parted ways. Oxfam’s clear stance against Israeli settlement trade and Johansson’s association with occupation profiteer SodaStream made their relationship untenable. We look forward to educational leafleting opportunities at Ms. Johansson’s public events.”

On Tuesday, U.S. human rights groups sent delegations to Oxfam America's offices in Boston and Washington, D.C. urging Oxfam to end its relationship with Johansson. Groups also delivered a petition with more than 10,000 signatures to Johansson's representatives at Creative Artists Agency in Los Angeles and New York, calling on Johansson to end her support for SodaStream.

In a statement accepting Johansson’s resignation, Oxfam reiterated its position 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.” Approximately 200 hundred Palestinian families were displaced to create the huge Israeli settlement of Maaleh Adumim where SodaStream's factory is located. The settlement also cuts the West Bank in half, furthering Israel's strategy of creating disconnected, impoverished Palestinian bantustans.

Nancy Murray, on behalf of the Boston Coalition for Palestinian Rights, said: "While we regret that Scarlett Johansson has chosen to be an ambassador for oppression and wish that Oxfam had taken swift action to stand up for its principles, we are happy that the organization's reputation will not be further sullied by being associated with Israel's illegal settlement activity.”

SodaStream announced on January 10 that Johansson had become their first-ever Global Brand Ambassador. Two weeks later, Johansson released a statement standing behind the SodaStream product and praising the company for “building a bridge to peace between Israel and Palestine.”

Patrick Connors from Adalah-NY: The New York Campaign for the Boycott of Israel commented: "Contrary to Scarlett Johansson's claim that SodaStream furthers equal rights and peace, SodaStream's Palestinian laborers live under a brutal Israeli military occupation. Israel's seizure of West Bank land for settlements like the one where SodaStream's factory sits has destroyed the Palestinian economy, creating a captive labor force that companies like SodaStream exploit. Away from the ears of his bosses at SodaStream, a Palestinian worker recently told Reuters, ‘There's a lot of racism here [at SodaStream]. 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.’ Palestinians need freedom and human rights, not sweatshop jobs in an Israeli factory built on stolen Palestinian land."

Ramah Kudaimi of the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation said: "It is a shame that Scarlett Johansson has chosen to use her celebrity to whitewash Israel's ongoing occupation and colonization of Palestinian land. It is obvious that shilling for companies like SodaStream that profit from the abuse of Palestinian rights is completely incompatible with work against poverty and injustice. We hope the end of Scarlett's relationship with Oxfam and the organization's clear opposition to Israel's illegal settlements will help strengthen campaigns targeting SodaStream worldwide."

Rebecca Vilkomerson of Jewish Voice for Peace added: "That Oxfam and Scarlett Johansson have parted ways over her association with SodaStream proves that one can no longer claim to be a humanitarian while being associated in any way with the settlement enterprise. Israeli policies that deny human rights, ignore international law, and help companies profit from the occupation are no longer being tolerated by people around the world that care about justice. That the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement was able to force this decision in a matter of weeks is proof of the growing power of BDS worldwide." 

Rafeef Ziadah, a spokesperson with the Palestinian BDS National Committee, a coalition of Palestinian civil society organisations, said: "Scarlett Johansson has abandoned her reputation as a progressive celebrity in exchange for the check that accompanies becoming the new face of Israeli apartheid. Just like the few artists who played Sun City during South African apartheid, Johansson will be remembered for having stood on the wrong side of history." 

"This controversy has shined a light on the fact that SodaStream is at the heart of Israel's system of occupation, colonization, and apartheid. Retailers that stock SodaStream can no longer claim they are unaware of the role the company plays in Israeli violations of international law and consumers across the world will now see through SodaStream's claims to be an ethical company." 

"Oxfam's statement today that Johansson's support of SodaStream was incompatible with her role as an Oxfam ambassador is very welcome, but the great length of time that it took for Oxfam's leadership to reach this conclusion has disappointed many Palestinians, people of conscience across the world and Oxfam staff and supporters. We hope Oxfam will oppose Israeli settlements and settlement trade as a matter of principle in the future."