The international development organisation Oxfam is currently facing a dilemma. Since 2005, the actor Scarlett Johansson has worked with them as a ‘global ambassador’, and has reportedly helped the organisation considerably with their work.
It has emerged that Johansson has recently signed up to do a similar job for SodaStream – the deeply unethical Israeli company targeted around the world for boycott, due to their complicity in illegal settlement expansion and human rights abuses in the occupied Palestinian territories.
In response to a letter-writing campaign, the Oxfam CEO Mark Goldring has stated publicly that Oxfam “is opposed to trade from Israeli settlements, in which Sodastream is engaged. Israeli settlements are illegal under international law and have a devastating effect on the lives and livelihoods of the Palestinian communities that Oxfam works with. Trade with businesses operating in settlements exacerbates the ongoing poverty and denial of Palestinians’ rights that Oxfam addresses in its work.”
Significantly, he states that Oxfam “are now engaged in a dialogue with Scarlett Johansson on these important issues”.
Oxfam is clearly embarrassed by Johansson’s partnership with SodaStream, and is looking for a way to save face all around. And the pressure on the organisation is acute, since SodaStream has recorded a major TV advert starring Scarlett Johansson to be broadcast during the TV coverage of the US football Superbowl on the 2nd of February. If the advert goes out and she remains Oxfam’s ‘celebrity ambassador’, Oxfam’s reputation and popular respect amongst people of conscience will suffer a serious blow.
The furore has attracted considerable media attention. See for example the coverage on Mondoweiss.
The Oxfam CEO Mark Goldring can be contacted at email@example.com.