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How Scarlett Johansson got in the middle of the Israel-Palestine conflict

It’s an all-out meme shaming. 


Sarah Weber

Internet Culture

A new meme has popped up on Twitter that features Scarlett Johansson Photoshopped into a what appears to be scenes from disputed territory in the West Bank.

Scarlett Johansson enjoys a refreshment in the employee lounge at #SodaStream‘s West Bank factory:

— Abe Greenhouse (@grinhoyz) January 26, 2014

#ScarlettJohansson’s #SodaStream Endorsement Deal Conflicts w/ Charity Work @nytimes @Oxfam

— Maie ⭐ (@Maie_AD) January 26, 2014

How did she manage to get in the middle of the complicated and decades-old conflict between Israel and Palestine? She signed up to be SodaStream’s first “global brand ambassador.”

The Israeli company, which makes home soda machines and soda syrups, apparently operates a factory located in hotly disputed territory in the West Bank. People who support Palestinians in the conflict are taking Johansson to task for agreeing to represent a company that owns what they see as exploitive manufacturing facility in an illegal settlement.

Especially fueling the fire is Johansson’s previous relationship with Oxfam International, a humanitarian group that positions itself as against trade from Israeli settlements under the belief that it harms Palestinian rights. Johansson is a global ambassador for the group after getting involved with Oxfam during the 2004 tsunami disaster.

Amid the backlash on Twitter, Johansson released a statement to the Huffington Post defending SodaStream, saying she never “intended on being the face of any social or political movement.”

“I remain a supporter of economic cooperation and social interaction between a democratic Israel and Palestine,” she said. “SodaStream is a company that is not only committed to the environment but to building a bridge to peace between Israel and Palestine, supporting neighbors working alongside each other, receiving equal pay, equal benefits and equal rights. That is what is happening in their Ma’ale Adumim factory every working day.”

It’s unclear what effect her position on the issue and continued representation of SodaStream might have on her relationship with Oxfam. In response to the uproar, the group posted the following statement to its website:

“We have been engaged in dialogue with Scarlett Johansson and she has now expressed her position in a statement, including stressing her pride in her past work with Oxfam. Oxfam is now considering the implications her new statement and what it means for Ms. Johansson’s role as an Oxfam global ambassador.”

While the controversy is unlikely to go away anytime soon, Johansson and SodaStream may have gotten a lucky break. Fox rejected the company’s Super Bowl commercial featuring the actress, taking away an opportunity for opponents to bring wider attention to the issue.

H/T Huffington Post | Photo via Abe Greenhouse/Twitter

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