After eight years, Scarlett Johansson is stepping down as the ambassador for Oxfam. The decision came after complaints over her appearance in a new SodaStream commercial.
SodaStream is an Israeli company with a production plant in Ma’aleh Adumim, in the West Bank. Oxfam International believes trades and companies in Israeli settlements are illegal and deny the rights of the Palestinian people. Pro-Palestinian groups also support Oxfam’s view and called for the charity to remove her as its ambassador.
The 29-year-old actress became SodaStream’s first international ambassador this year. Their first commercial together was created ready for the Superbowl on February 2, but the company had to create a second one to get past Fox’s ban. The original was deemed too sultry and mentioned competitors Pepsi and Coke.
Daniel Birnbaum, CEO of SodaStream, was annoyed at the decision. He argued that plenty of other companies mention competitors in their advertisements and are allowed to air on American TV. He likened the censorship to the type practiced in China and insisted that he was disappointed with the decision.
The full version of the advert has been posted online and received 1.3 million views within the past 24 hours. However, that has not stopped those protesting the company for its choice of location for the production plant.
Oxfam last week made it clear that it believed the company was acting illegally under international law and posted this on its ambassador’s page. Johansson tried to clear the air with the charity, but decided that it was best to step down as Oxfam’s ambassador in the end.
To clear the air, The Other Boleyn Girl star apologized for getting involved in the political debate, but it was never something she wanted to do. On the contrary, she wanted to promote Palestine and Israel working together, and believes that this is something SodaStream is doing. The company has Israelis and Palestinian people working together, receiving the same rights and pay. She has seen how beneficial this is through her work with the charity and wanted to continue that.
It was not enough for the Pro-Palestine cause. Critics of her involvement with the company claim that SodaStream is working on “land held by force.” The West Bank settlement was already claimed by Palestine when it was captured in 1967 by Israeli forces. Israel has refused to give it back.
Johansson’s resignation brings an end to an eight-year term with the charity. Starting in 2007, she has helped promote awareness and raise funds for Oxfam International. She has shared the things she has witnessed when talking to domestic abuse victims in developing countries and the devastation in Sri Lanka and India caused by the tsunami in 2004. She had witnessed the people rebuild their lives, schools and village irrigation schemes.
Part of her term as ambassador has also involved speaking to world leaders in an attempt to tackle poverty and climate change around the world. Because of Johansson’s actions before she stepped down as ambassador, Oxfam’s work has been boosted considerably through fundraising and private donations.
By Alexandria Ingham