Scarlett Johansson and SodaStream: What’s the Big Deal?

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Scarlett Johansson, who starred in films including Lost in Translation and The Avengers, is presently in the middle of a publicity mess involving Arab-Israili-politics, the super bowl, and her role in both Oxfam and SodaStream. Johansson was, up until recently, the celebrity representative for Oxfam International, a non-profit international aid organization. She also took the position of spokesperson for SodaStream, which makes machines used for homemade carbonated beverage.This last resulted in her appearing in a commercial for SodaStream.

The reason that the whole thing has become such a hotly contested media fest stems from the location of SodaStream’s factories, which is in the West Bank in the Israeli settlement of Ma’ale Adumim, according to NPR. Palestinians are angry with the present Israeli settlements built there, and in other areas in that region, making the location of the factory controversial. The factory itself employs both Palestinians and Israelis, and not all Palestinians are as against it.

“I don’t like the settlements,” said the CEO of SodaStream, Daniel Birnbaum, to NPR. He has spoken against discrimination of the Palestinian workers there, and notes that his displeasure regarding the settlements doesn’t mean he wants the factory closed. “I don’t want to send 5,000 people into hunger because some activist group thinks that’s going to promote peace. I don’t see how that’s going to serve any good purpose,” said Birnbaum.

Oxfam International and all other nations consider the Israeli settlements to be illegal, and Johansson’s role as spokesperson for the the factory there has led her to leave her position as Oxfam’s ambassador. Earlier, before this whole mess came to a head, she called the factory “a bridge to peace between Israel and Palestine, supporting neighbors alongside each other, receiving equal pay, equal benefits, and equal rights,” according to NPR.

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