Scarlett Johansson recently became an ambassador for SodaStream and together they created what most people would regard as a clever and, as with many Super Bowl ads, it had a healthy dose of silliness. However, to critics of Israel, it was a message justifying Israeli settlements in the West Bank. How they came to this conclusion is still a little confusing, and why it was decided that this was any fault of Scarlett’s is even more confusing.
The advertisement starts off with a short introduction of Johansson, how the product works, and the benefits of using it. Due to the fact that it is an environmentally savvy appliance that produces a low sugar alternative to other soft drinks at a reasonable price, it is naturally a popular product. As the ad continues, Johansson proceeds to unveil her dress from underneath an inconspicuous robe, attempting to make that ad viral to promote the product. It’s a witty, funny ad that demonstrates an interesting product.
Now, at the end of the advertisement, she proceeds to apologize to Coke and Pepsi, suggesting that their products are not at the same caliber of SodaStream. This has led to the commercial being cut from the Super Bowl ad lineup as it was apparently too aggressive towards the rival soft drink companies, according to Fox.
However, it was not perceived corporate animosity against any company that drew the ire of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement. The anti-Israeli organization criticized Johansson and the ad on the basis of the physical location of the company’s primary factory.
Located in the settlement of Ma’ale Adumim, the factory is considered by some an active support of settlement activity in general. Israeli settlements in the West Bank region are considered illegal under international law and many critics have supported active social and economic lobbying against Israel as a whole.
However, all of the controversies surrounding the company, the ad, and Scarlett herself are rather curious. The biggest question is why are any of these things connected to the political controversies surrounding the region at all, and why on earth is the SodaStream silliness somehow Johansson’s fault or responsibility?
SodaStream has a single factory in the West Bank in a city that is only about four miles East of Jerusalem. Also, in the Oslo Accords, Ma’ale Adumim was designated as a part of the post-peace plan Israel; a point Palestinians agreed to. So, there is no need for controversy in the city at all.
On top of that, it is important to note that the factory employs about 500 Palestinians and pays them about three times the amount of Palestinian minimum wage. In this factory, Jews and Arabs are treated as equals by all accounts. So it is in fact not in a controversial city, and the company is operating a factory that is a benefit to the Palestinian people.
As if that were not enough, the company’s CEO has openly rebuked settlements in general. CEO Daniel Birnbaum has quite evidently denounced discrimination against Arabs in the region. So, the company itself is in support of fair and equal treatment of Palestinians, recognizing as well that there are inequalities.
How exactly does this connect to Johansson? The short answer is it does not connect to her at all. She is an actress who made an advertisement for a company. Are all spokespeople personally responsible for the geographic location of the company they are representing and the politics of the entire region by consequence?
Regardless of all of the problems related to Israeli settlements, and there are indeed a lot, they have nothing to do with private sector companies that are improving Palestinian and Israeli lives. And the scapegoating of the spokespeople who are related to the company is utterly ridiculous.
It is understandable for activists to lobby against entities that are against their own political views; it is completely normal. However, SodaStream is in no way worth the condemnation and this is just another example of the hold-no-bars attacks against Israel. If the boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement got their way, the company would shutdown, thus negatively impacting hundreds of Palestinian families. This just goes to show that regardless of whether or not it is an innocent and entertaining Super Bowl ad or a positive work environment for marginalized people, those who truly hate Israel and Israelis will go to any lengths to attack. This silliness with SodaStream and Scarlett Johansson’s ad has nothing to do with Israeli-Palestinian issues in any way shape or form.
By Brett Byers-Lane