Hollywood Starlet Says No to Boycotting Israel

“And if thou sell aught unto thy neighbour, or buy of thy neighbour’s hand, ye shall not wrong one another.” (Leviticus 25:14)

(Photo: Gage Skidmore/ Wiki Commons)
(Photo: Gage Skidmore/ Wiki Commons)

Although its profits did not meet projections despite strong sales in the fourth quarter of 2013, SodaStream, the Israeli home soda-making machine manufacturer, is hoping actress Scarlett Johansson, as its first “global spokesperson,” will help turn things back around.

Johansson, who was named “Sexiest Woman Alive” by Esquire magazine last year, will kick off her new position in a Super Bowl ad to air in the fourth quarter of the famed football game in February.  Unlike last year’s ad, the commercial will focus on “how easy it is, how sexy it is, to make your own soda,” according to SodaStream CEO Daniel Birenbaum.  Last year, the spot not-so-subtly attacked its bottled-drink competitors, however, “I don’t need to talk about Coke or Pepsi to legitimize our story,” Birnbaum said.

“I think it was a natural partnership because I’ve been using SodaStream for five to six years,”  Johansson said.  In a behind-the-scenes video released by the company, Johansson said, “The company’s commitment to a healthy body and healthier world is perfect for me.”  She is known for her environmental stance, as well as her political activism.

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Not everyone is pleased with the new partnership, though.  There are those who feel her involvement with SodaStream, which has a manufacturing facility located in the Mishor Adumim Industrial Park just over the so-called “green line”, is at odds with her involvement with Oxfam, which describes itself as “a confederation of 17 like-minded organizations working together to find lasting solutions to poverty and injustice.”

“While she’s openly gunning for former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for 2016, Johansson would do well to realize that ‘normalizing’ the Israeli occupation is a bad use of her celebrity,” the Forward wrote.  Another complaint, quoted in the New York Magazine, referred to the company’s product as “blood bubbles.”

SodaStream has been a target of Boycott, Divest and Sanctions (BDS) campaigns for some time, and some US stores have refused to carry its products, but it is sold widely in WalMart and on Amazon.  BDS supporters claim the company, by operating in disputed territory, is sustaining an illegal occupation.  They also claim the company employs Palestinian laborers in sweatshop conditions.

The company does employ some 900 Arab workers, including 500 Palestinians, however, it maintains that they are given the same wages, rights and working conditions as Israeli employees.  The factory has both a synagogue and a mosque on site to meet the needs of all its employees, and all workers share the same dining hall.  When Birenbaum was invited to Israeli president Shimon Peres’s residence last year to receive the 2013 Outstanding Exporter Award, he insisted on bringing with him a number of Palestinian employees to represent the company, and underwent the same security checks they did.  He went on to criticize Peres for the treatment his employees were subjected to.

For her part, Johansson has not responded to the controversy.  As one columnist put it on Twitter, “Ignored, in this case, is as good as dismissed.”