Oxfam accepts Scarlett Johansson's resignation

GREGORY KATZ Associated Press Published:

LONDON (AP) -- A growing movement to boycott goods produced in Jewish settlements in Palestinian territories has cost American actress Scarlett Johansson her role as a global goodwill ambassador for Oxfam International.

The star of "Her" and other major films riled Oxfam by promoting SodaStream, which operates in a Jewish settlement in the West Bank. She will appear in a high profile ad for the company set to air during the Super Bowl Sunday.

Oxfam International said Thursday that Johansson's role with SodaStream was incompatible with her Oxfam position. The charity first voiced unhappiness with her dual role last week.

The international humanitarian organization said Thursday that it believes SodaStream and other businesses operating in Israeli settlements in the West Bank contribute to the "denial of rights of the Palestinian communities that we work to support."

The charity said it opposes all trade from the Israeli settlements, "which are illegal under international law."

Oxfam's statement followed Johansson's announcement Wednesday that she was resigning her Oxfam position because of a "fundamental difference of opinion."

Some 550,000 Israelis live in settlements in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, lands Israel captured in 1967, along with the Gaza Strip. The Palestinians seek all three territories for a future state.

Pro-Palestinian activists who advocate consumer boycotts of goods produced in Jewish settlements -- which are deemed illegal by much of the international community -- have encouraged the public to shun SodaStream. The company's main plant is in an Israeli industrial zone next to the settlement of Maaleh Adumim in the West Bank.

The company makes home soda machines and home beverage carbonation systems. It hopes to use Super Bowl exposure to increase its U.S. market share, which lags far behind its market penetration in Europe.

Johansson's involvement prompted Oxfam to express concern about her role last week, setting in motion events that led to her resignation. She had become a global brand representative for the company.

The company's chief executive, Dan Birnbaum, told The Associated Press that the campaign to boycott products from Israeli settlements had not had any impact on SodaStream.

"To the best of my knowledge, we have not lost a single customer," he said. "If anything, it advances our awareness around the world, because people are talking about SodaStream."

He said the company does not want to "sacrifice" the jobs of 500 Palestinians who work in the SodaStream factory "for some political cause" of activist groups.

The World Jewish Congress issued a statement Thursday praising Johansson for her "forthright defense of economic cooperation between Israelis and Palestinians."

The international organization said the actress was a "role model for others confronted with insidious anti-Israeli pressure."


Derrik J. Lang in Los Angeles and Ami Bentov in Tel Aviv contributed to this report.