SCARLETT’S STAND Star’s support of Israel tough swallow for Oxfam

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Oxfam International said Thursday that American actress Scarlett Johansson’s support of an Israeli company operating in a West Bank settlement was incompatible with her role as an Oxfam Global Ambassador.

Oxfam’s statement followed Johansson’s announcement Wednesday that she was resigning her Oxfam role because of a “fundamental difference of opinion.” Oxfam said it accepted her resignation.

The international humanitarian organization said Thursday that it believes SodaStream and other businesses operating in Israeli settlements in the West Bank contribute to the “denial of rights of the Palestinian communities that we work to support.” 

The charity said it opposes all trade from the Israeli settlements, “which are illegal under international law.”

Pro-Palestinian activists who advocate consumer boycotts of goods produced in Jewish settlements — which are deemed illegal by much of the international community — have encouraged the public to shun SodaStream. The company’s main plant is in an Israeli industrial zone next to the settlement of Maaleh Adumim in the West Bank.

Approximately 500 Palestinians work at the SodaStream factory in the West Bank. 

Some 550,000 Israelis live in settlements in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, lands Israel captured in 1967, along with the Gaza Strip. The Palestinians seek all three territories for a future state.

Johansson, who is Jewish, has become a global brand ambassador for SodaStream, and she recently appeared in an attention-grabbing commercial for the company, which has been gaining attention on YouTube and social media sites. 

Johansson’s involvement prompted Oxfam to express concern about her role last week, setting in motion events that led to her resignation.

The company’s chief executive, Dan Birnbaum, told The Associated Press that the campaign to boycott products from Israeli settlements had not had any impact on SodaStream.

“To the best of my knowledge, we have not lost a single customer,” he said. “If anything, it advances our awareness around the world, because people are talking about SodaStream.”

He said the company does not want to “sacrifice” the jobs of Palestinians who work at SodaStream factory “for some political cause” of some activist groups.

The World Jewish Congress issued a statement Thursday praising Johansson for her “forthright defense of economic cooperation between Israelis and Palestinians.”

The international organization said the actress was a “role model for others confronted with insidious anti-Israeli pressure.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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