Suggesting that not even fizzy water or the soothingly sultry voice of Scarlett Johansson may be enough to settle the Israel-Palestine conflict, Johansson has stepped down from her eight-year role as an Oxfam ambassador, after controversy erupted over her recent ad for SodaStream. The company that has liberated so many from the oppression of bottled pop has also been accused of profiting from the occupation of West Bank settlements by Israel, where its main manufacturing plant is based. And that’s something the humanitarian group Oxfam International vehemently opposes, believing that businesses operating in those settlements “further the ongoing poverty and denial of rights” of Palestinians, in addition to being illegal under international law. Johansson disagrees, believing that homemade soda is refreshing.
Johansson also argued in her resignation that the SodaStream plant actually encourages “economic cooperation and social interaction between a democratic Israel and Palestine,” saying the factory sees Israelis and Palestines “working alongside each other, receiving equal pay, equal benefits, and equal rights” as they labor in harmony to create a new world of peace and DIY colas. But Oxfam and other activists argue that the hundreds of Palestinians employed there are little more than cheap, exploited labor who are being used to weaken the Palestinian economy while legitimizing Israel’s occupation of the territory. Meanwhile, reports from Palestinian factory workers talk of there being “a lot of racism” from their Israeli managers, and say they live under constant fear of being fired.
As such, Johansson has resigned over what she termed a “fundamental difference of opinion”—chiefly, the opinion that things can’t be that bad between Israel and Palestine, and that she would still like to get paid by SodaStream. And while Oxfam has been diplomatic about ending its relationship with Johansson, saying it’s “grateful for her many contributions” over the years, the rest of the world has not been so kind. Photos of Johansson enjoying SodaStream in front of Palestinians in cages or amid the rubble of their former homes are currently all over the Internet.
In the meantime, Johansson’s seductive commercial for SodaStream has already been rejected from the Super Bowl—but not over this. According to USA Today, Fox insisted SodaStream remove the line, “Sorry, Coke and Pepsi,” fearing it could reignite America’s version of the Israel-Palestine conflict: the long, entrenched Cola Wars that have cost so, so many lives.
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