Scarlett Johansson Promotes Occupied West Bank Company, Quits Oxfam

By Naim Naqvi

Time and again it has been proved that the first casualty of war is always truth. The latest being the statement of The Avengers star Scarlett Johansson as she quit her seven-year ambassador role with humanitarian group Oxfam following massive criticism over her decision to star in an advertising campaign for Israeli company, SodaStream.

Source: Flickr

Source: Flickr

“I remain a supporter of economic cooperation and social interaction between a democratic Israel and Palestine. ‘SodaStream’ 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.”

She was the global ambassador for Oxfam till the aid group deemed the role “incompatible” with her promotion of the Israeli firm that has a factory in the occupied West Bank.

Before we discuss the main issue, let us talk about the four entities involved in this controversy.

What is Oxfam? It is an international confederation of 17 organisations working in tandem in 90 countries to eradicate poverty and fight injustice. Their goal is to enable people to exercise their rights and manage their own lives. It was founded in Oxford in 1942 as ‘Oxford Committee for Famine Relief’ by a group of Quaker social activists and Oxford academics. The first overseas Oxfam was founded in Canada in 1963 and changed its name to OXFAM in 1965.

Who is Scarlett Johansson? She is well known Hollywood actress, born in an Ashkenazi Jewish family. She was born Nov 22, 1984 in New York. She had started acting at a very young age. The list of her big films includes among others The Avengers, The Island, The Prestige, Girl With a Pearl Earring, Lost in Translation, and Ghost World. She was a favorite of Woody Allen and worked for him in Match Point. The Horse Whisperer and The Man Who Wasn’t There were some of her famous films.

What is SodaStream? It is a company, which manufactures carbonated drinks and sells more than 100 types of concentrated syrups of flavourings to make carbonated beverages. The company’s headquarters are located in Israel. It has its manufacturing plants in Occupied Territory of Palestine, which is illegal according to International Law.

What are Occupied Territories? In 1949, the new Jewish state of Israel was created from Arab Lands of Palestine under the Mandate Palestine. From 1948-1967, the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, was ruled by Jordan. The King of Jordan annexed the area in 1950 and extended citizenship to Palestinians living there. Gaza Strip was under Egyptian military administration in those days. In the 1967 war, after the major defeat of Arab Countries united forces, Israel captured and occupied these areas. Sinai Peninsula was snatched from Egypt and the Golan Heights from Syria. Israel established a military administration to govern the Palestinian residents of the occupied West Bank and Gaza.

Under this arrangement, Palestinians are denied the basic political rights and civil liberties. There are denied the freedom of expression, freedom of the press and freedom of political association. Palestinian nationalism has been declared a crime, and a threat to Israeli security. All aspects of Palestinian life are regulated by the Israeli military administration.

Since the Arab-Israel war, the Jewish State has built hundreds of settlements, in absolute violation of International Law and permitted hundreds of thousands of its own citizens to move to the West Bank and Gaza. It declared Jerusalem as its “eternal capital.” Arabs consider East Jerusalem part of the occupied West Bank and want it to be the capital of a Palestinian state.

Recently Johansson participated in an advertisement for home drinks carbonation firm SodaStream, which is due to air during the US Super Bowl on Sunday. It has already been seen more than 4.5 million times on YouTube, a video-sharing website.

“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.

In a statement, Oxfam said: “Oxfam is opposed to all trade from Israeli settlements, which are illegal under international law. Oxfam has accepted Scarlett Johansson’s decision to step down after eight years as a global ambassador and we are grateful for her many contributions.”

“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.”

“We have made our concerns known to Ms. Johansson and we are now engaged in a dialogue on these important issues.”

In her defense, the 29-year-old actress refused to back down over her campaign, stating that she “never intended on being the face of any social or political movement, distinction, separation or stance. She was also proud of her work with Oxfam.”



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