Famous actress Scarlett Johansson is not bowing to anti-Israel pressure from the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement for her role as the first Global Brand Ambassador representing Israeli company SodaStream International Ltd.

Johansson will kick off the partnership by starring in a Super Bowl XLVIII commercial on Feb. 2.

SodaStream is the world’s largest manufacturer, distributor and marketer of Home Carbonation Systems. Its brands are sold in more than 60,000 retail stores in 45 countries. It has 25 factories around the world, including in the city of Maale Adumim just east of Jerusalem, which employs more than 500 Palestinians who are afforded the same benefits as Israeli workers.

The Maale Adumim factory, located in the ancient Jewish region of Judea – an area that the Palestinian Authority has insisted should be under PA sovereignty – has an on-site mosque and a synagogue, and Jewish and Arab employees share the same dining hall. SodaStream has two other facilities in Israel, in Ashkelon and in the Galilee town of Mount Tabor. The Galilee factory employs several hundred Israeli Arabs.

“Everyone works together: Palestinians, Russians, Jews,” a Palestinian employee named Rasim at the Maale Adumim site told JTA (Jewish Telegraphic Agency).

Rasim has worked at the plant for four months and asked that his last name not be published.

“Everything is OK. I always work with Jews. Everyone works together, so of course we’re friends,” he said.

For SodaStream CEO Daniel Birnbaum, treating Arabs and Jews equally is a doctrine, not a convenience.

“We practice equality and full cooperation both on the job and off it,” Birnbaum told the Arab publication Al Monitor in a recent interview.

The company prides itself on providing an environmentally friendly, ethical alternative for soda consumers who want to do away with bottles, which is what Scarlett Johansson claims she loves so much about SodaStream and why she is now its first-ever “brand ambassador.”

The BDS movement – which charges Israel with practicing Apartheid against the Palestinians – in its criticism of Johansson appears to demonstrate an expression of blind anti-Israel hatred.

In the latest campaign – directed against SodaStream – BDS activists are staging protests at stores that sell SodaStream and urging investors to sell their shares.

Specifically, BDS objects to the Maale Adumim factory and is pressuring Johansson to end her endorsement as SodaStream’s global spokesperson.

The 29-year-old Johansson released a statement via the Huffington Post on Friday claiming she had “never intended on being the face of any social or political movement, distinction, separation or stance.”

“I remain a supporter of economic cooperation and social interaction between a democratic Israel and Palestine,” she stated.

“SodaStream is a company that is not only committed to the environment but to building a bridge to peace…supporting neighbors working alongside each other, receiving equal pay, equal benefits and equal rights. That is what is happening in their Maale Adumim factory every working day.”

Oxfam International, which supports BDS and claims to work against poverty and injustice, took issue with Johansson because the organization opposes “all trade” from Israeli “settlements,” saying they are illegal and deny Palestinian rights.

Johansson has served as a global ambassador for Oxfam since 2005, raising funds and promoting awareness about global poverty.

“Oxfam respects the independence of our ambassadors,” the company wrote in a statement. “However, Oxfam believes that businesses that operate in settlements further the ongoing poverty and denial of rights of the Palestinian communities that we work to support. Oxfam is opposed to all trade from Israeli settlements, which are illegal under international law.”

“I believe in conscious consumerism and transparency and I trust that the consumer will make their own educated choice that is right for them,” the actress stated, in direct response to Oxfam. “I stand behind the SodaStream product and am proud of the work that I have accomplished at Oxfam as an Ambassador for over 8 years. Even though it is a side effect of representing SodaStream, I am happy that light is being shed on this issue in hopes that a greater number of voices will contribute to the conversation of a peaceful two-state solution in the near future.”

Author: Shoshana Kesner, UWI contributor
Date: Jan. 28, 2014