Bursting their bubbleBursting their bubble

Scarlett and a tempest in a soda cup

Actress Johannson, the new face of Israeli company SodaStream, has not responded to BDS cries of apartheid

Debra writes for the JTA, and is a former features writer for The Times of Israel.

Scarlett Johansson (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons/Gage Skidmore CC BY-SA)
Scarlett Johansson (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons/Gage Skidmore CC BY-SA)

Since Israeli company SodaStream named Scarlett Johansson the first-ever brand ambassador of its sleek, sassy seltzer makers earlier this month, the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement has been in a fizzy tizzy, demanding the actress step down from the post and plastering the Twittersphere with blood-soaked ads bestowing upon Scarlett an “A for Apartheid.”

Their beef with the beverage company? Its principal manufacturing plant, which is located in the industrial strip of Ma’aleh Adumim, a major West Bank settlement. Many in the BDS movement, a global campaign that urges its supporters to withhold patronage of any Israeli-made goods and services, began tossing the term “blood bubbles” around the Internet, while others cried foul over Johansson’s role as an Oxfam ambassador.

As of Thursday morning, Oxfam had added a paragraph to its online bio of Johansson, writing beneath descriptions of her work with Sri Lankan tsunami survivors and Kenyan refugees:

Oxfam respects the independence of our ambassadors. However Oxfam believes that businesses that operate in settlements further the ongoing poverty and denial of rights of the Palestinian communities that we work to support. Oxfam is opposed to all trade from Israeli settlements, which are illegal under international law.

We have made our concerns known to Ms. Johansson and we are now engaged in a dialogue on these important issues.

For her part, the Jewish “Her” actress, who will star in a February 2 SodaStream commercial airing during the Superbowl, has remained mum on the controversy, issuing no statements on the issue. Supporters and detractors of the company continue to howl across the Internet, with anti-SodaStreamers hurling cries of apartheid and pro-Israeli shoppers hailing the actress as a sexy sign that the BDS movement is failing.

Israeli company Sodastream syrups (photo credit: courtesy)
Israeli company Sodastream syrups (photo credit: courtesy)

In the Jewish Daily Forward, Elisheva Goldberg wrote that the factory’s location is in an area “which will likely be incorporated into Israel in any future deal,” but she added, “it does exploit the commercial benefits of its location, essentially profiting from occupation.”

The Daily Beast last week attempted to burst the media-generated soda bubble, snapping back to an Al Jazeera post on the topic by declaring it a “puny controversy” that was “based on four tweets.”

But the Internet is a thirsty place, and the posts and tweets have since only continued to pile up. Writing for New York Magazine, Kat Stoeffel admits that after facing backlash, she now lies and tells friends her SodaStream was a gift. The New Yorker published a lengthy piece entitled “The Politics of Celebrity Ambassadors” noting Johansson’s long history of human rights work as well as the troubling precedent of “Sex and the City” good girl Kristin Davis, who was nixed as Oxfam spokesperson after signing an endorsement deal with Ahava, another Israeli company with manufacturing facilities in the West Bank.

Anti-Zionist sites like The Electric Intifada and Mondoweiss have referred to the 900 Palestinian employees at SodaStream’s West Bank facility as working in slave-labor-like conditions, but on Tuesday, Al Arabiya wrote a clear-headed story questioning whether or not the anti-bubble backlash would, in fact, harm those very Palestinians first.

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