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Scarlett Johansson's Image As SodaStream Ambassador

by Oui Sat Feb 1st, 2014 at 03:31:47 AM EST

Scarlett Johansson's naive SodaStream defense

American actress Scarlett Johansson has become the center of controversy following the announcement that she is the new face of SodaStream, an Israeli company with a large factory in the West Bank.

(+972) - SodaStream produces domestic carbonation machines for making sodas at home, and has a large factory in the Mishor Adumim industrial zone, located inside Ma'ale Adumim, the third largest settlement in the occupied West Bank [Map E1 zone]. (This fact is conspicuously absent from its Wikipedia page). The company has both Palestinian and Israeli employees working in its West Bank factory, branding itself as an environmentally friendly, ethical alternative for soda lovers who want to do away with bottles -  and that is what Scarlett Johansson claims she loves so much about SodaStream and why she is now its first-ever "brand ambassador."

Johansson has been under severe scrutiny and media attention from anti-occupation activists and advocates of the BDS movement. Both the The New Yorker and NY Magazine covered the controversy, the latter with the funny, if forced headline: "Guilt-Free Seltzer or Blood Bubbles?"  Robert Mackey who writes The New York Times' Lede Blog has an excellent, detailed report, if you want to read more details.

I reckon the enormous media attention has partly to do with that fact that she is major eye candy and websites love to put her face on their home pages, no less than SodaStream does. Here is a hilarious meme I saw going around that I cannot resist but share.

 « click for story
"Scarlett Johansson enjoys a refreshment outside the employee lounge at #SodaStream's West Bank factory"

Johansson did not respond to the criticism until Friday, after Oxfam- the international aid and development NGO for which she also happens to be an ambassador since 2007 - came out with a statement challenging her involvement with SodaStream (but stopped short of calling on her to step down). According to their statement:

"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."

The argument that settlement companies like SodaStream are OK because they employ Palestinians holds no weight, since the political reality of occupation does not allow Palestinian workers to make a free and informed choice regarding their livelihoods. This argument has already been made many times, and especially poignantly by Who Profits, an Israeli NGO that documents Israel's occupation industry.

Mondoweiss: Deconstructing Scarlett Johansson's statement on SodaStream

More reactions below the fold ...

Scarlett Johansson has been politically active for the Democrats since Kerry in 2004 and wants to be a voice for disadvantaged people. In a 2012 campaign TV ad for MoveOn.org she took a stance on women's issues. For 2016 she has already indicated to throw her support behind Hillary.

"If you already have the spotlight shining on you, it's great to direct that toward a cause you believe in and that you can stand behind. It's nice to be a voice for people who don't have a voice."

Scarlett's statement about her ambassadorship for Sodastream certainly didn't provide any clarity and was taken apart. Her decision to cut ties with Oxfam indicates her new political activism.

Daniel Birnbaum, CEO of SodaStream, said in a video produced by a pro-Israel group Stand With Us that "we give them an opportunity to not only have a job and health insurance, but also social benefits. And a very high pay-scale which they could never achieve in the West Bank." A report issued by the Israeli activist group Who Profits? [January 2011 - pdf] outlined major labor rights concerns at SodaStream's factory in Mishor Adumim can be found here.

Last part posted @Informed Comment - Bad for the Jews: Israeli Annexation of Palestinian West Bank, Scarlett Johansson and BDS.

The advantage for Palestinian workers seeking a job inside a settlement block versus the walled-off West Bank which has been impoverished.

Palestinian workers back Scarlett Johansson's opposition to SodaStream boycott (+video)

(CS Monitor) - But those most familiar with the factory - Palestinians who work there - largely side with Ms. Johansson.

"Before boycotting, they should think of the workers who are going to suffer," says a young man shivering in the pre-dawn darkness in el-Azzariah [El 'Eizariya], a West Bank town cut off from work opportunities in Jerusalem by the concrete Israeli separation wall. Previously, he earned 20 shekels ($6) a day plucking and cleaning chickens; now he makes nearly 10 times that at SodaStream, which also provides transportation, breakfast, and lunch.

Why Palestinians work at Israeli companies

By any measure, Israel's economy dwarfs the Palestinian economy, with a gross domestic product (GDP) of $252 billion compared to $8 billion, due in part to Israeli restrictions on Palestinian travel and trade that thwarts business. Every port, border crossing, and airport accessible from the Palestinian territories is controlled by Israel with the exception of a pedestrian-only crossing at Rafah, Gaza, which is controlled by Egypt.

Per capita GDP in Israel is more than 10 times that of Palestinians, while Palestinian unemployment (23 percent) is more than triple the Israeli rate (7 percent), according to figures provided to the Monitor by the Manufacturers Association of Israel.

That has prompted about 69,000 Palestinian workers - 10 percent of the Palestinian labor force - to work in the Israeli economy, where those who manage to secure a permit or risk working illegally earn an average daily wage of 164 shekels ($47), compared to 84 shekels ($24) in the PA economy. [Israeli law requires employers like SodaStream to pay the minimum wage, which they do not]

Scarlett Johansson: 'No Guilt' About SodaStream

Mr. Birnbaum told the Jewish Forward this week that the West Bank factory has been a "pain" due to all the criticism. But he says he's committed to his Palestinian employees, and sees the company as providing a haven of coexistence that can boost prosperity and prospects for peace.

"I'm not going to throw them to the street. I have an obligation to these people," he said in a video made by the company last year.

"My hope, my prayer, my belief, and my responsibility at SodaStream is that we will fulfill the prophecy from the book of Isaiah: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, nor shall they learn war anymore. Instead of learning war, let them learn how to make a sodamaker."  

As the occupation continues with no hope for the subjected people and settlements expand making a Palestinian State impossible. The C block is build to cut off ties to East Jerusalem and makes an honorable peace for Palestine a mirage.

'Sapere aude'

by Oui (Oui) on Sat Feb 1st, 2014 at 05:17:50 AM EST
This is the 4th time Obama or Kerry has been accused of anti-Semitic actions versus Israel in recent weeks.

Kerry slammed by right for 'encouraging' Israel boycott

(JPOst) - Economy Minister Naftali Bennett slammed US Secretary of State John Kerry Saturday night, saying he should be supporting Israel rather than encouraging boycotts against it.

"Let's make clear to all those giving advice: A nation has not been born - including us - that will give up its land because of economic threats," Bennett said in a Facebook post. "The Jewish people is stronger than the threats against it."

Bennett's post - coming weeks after Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon was quoted as calling Kerry "obsessed" and "messianic" about the Israeli- Palestinian conflict - was in response to comments that the secretary of state made Saturday at the Munich Security Conference.

"Today's status quo, absolutely to a certainty, I promise you 100 percent, cannot be maintained," Kerry said of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. "It is not sustainable. It is illusionary.

 You see for Israel there is an increasing delegitimization campaign that has been building up. People are very sensitive to it, there is talk of boycott and other kinds of things. Are we all going to be better with all of that?"

Bennett, on his Facebook page, said that only security would bring economic stability, not a terror state next to Ben-Gurion Airport.

Presentation Secretary Kerry at Munich Security Conference

'Sapere aude'
by Oui (Oui) on Sat Feb 1st, 2014 at 07:20:09 PM EST
For the second year in a row, SodaStream created a controversy in its Super Bowl Game Ad. Perhaps it bit off a bigger chunk than expected as stocks tanked on Nasdaq.

Scarlett Johansson In A Fateful Relationship

Seltzer Wars: SodaStream Exec Reveals How Scarlett Johansson Signed On for Controversial Super Bowl Campaign (Q&A)

Scarlett Johansson watch: SodaStream plunges

(Mondoweiss) - SodaStream is the seltzer maker that produces its fizz-boxes in occupied territory in Palestine, and the other day starlet Scarlett Johansson signed a multi-year contract with the corporation that kicks off during the Superbowl. Monday was SodaStream's first day of trading since the announcement that Johansson was SodaStream's new face, and the stock took a beating, and it hasn't recovered in the two days of trading since.

"Even Star Johansson Can't Help SodaStream as Stock Sinks 26%" was Boomberg Business Week's headline, while InvestorPlace contributor Lawrence Meyers cites SodaStream as "long-term business failure....a momentum fad stock." The five-year chart of SODA shows you all you need to know -- this dead-cat-bounce behavior is pretty routine.

SodaStream International Ltd Nasdaq Chart [SODA]

SodaStream ScarJo Backlash: Banned Super Bowl Ad Hype Overshadowed By Oxfam Controversy

(IB Times) - The way things work these days, there's no need to wait until the big game to dive into the controversy surrounding Super Bowl ads. For media types, following the travails of the most expensive broadcast airtime of the year has long been an annual tradition. But in recent years, another tradition has begun to emerge: prefabricated controversy over rejected Super Bowl ads.

Call it "Banned Super Bowl Ads Inc.," the process of creating a commercial spot that will almost assuredly violate gameday-broadcast policy only to then turn around and generate publicity by playing up its "too risqué" status.

SodaStream International Ltd. (NASDAQ:SODA) is attempting to milk that tactic for the second year in a row, although this year's rejected ad is being served up alongside a very real controversy, one that is threatening the Israeli company's reputation at a time when its stock is already tumbling.

You may recall that, last year, SodaStream -- which makes home-carbonation machines -- conjured up a commercial for Super Bowl XLVII that took a direct shot at the world's largest soft-drink makers: the Coca-Cola Company (NYSE:KO) and PepsiCo Inc. (NYSE:PEP). CBS rejected the commercial, prompting a Twitter response from Alex Bogusky, the ad exec behind the campaign:

    Alex Bogusky
    Soda Stream has the right to show
    competitors. So I wonder why this
    Superbowl spot was rejected?
    Pepsi half-time show? Watch [YouTube link]

 « click for stock report

'Sapere aude'
by Oui (Oui) on Sun Feb 2nd, 2014 at 09:41:00 AM EST
I thought at first it had to be a hoax, but this seems to be part of a genuine campaign by The Israel Project, a right-wing group:

by gk (gk (gk quattro due due sette @gmail.com)) on Sun Feb 2nd, 2014 at 05:08:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks! I linked your post to Tikun Olam. RS was impressed/inspired and wrote an article "The Israel Project 'Kills It'...Again" with some additional analysis of TIP advocacy group. Link to +972.

'Sapere aude'
by Oui (Oui) on Mon Feb 3rd, 2014 at 04:04:16 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Netanyahu Criticizes Kerry Over Boycott Remarks   by Isabel Kershner

JERUSALEM (NY Times) -- Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel and some of his senior ministers strongly criticized groups who are threatening a boycott of Israel over its policies toward the Palestinians. Their remarks were a sharp retort to Secretary of State John Kerry, who warned a day earlier that the risk of boycotts would intensify should the current Middle East peace effort fail.

In a swift response to the Israeli criticism, the State Department said that Mr. Kerry had always opposed calls for boycotts and expected "all parties to accurately portray his record and statements."

The heated exchange comes as the Obama administration prepares to complete and present a "framework" accord in the coming weeks, which would be a first step toward a comprehensive agreement and serve as a basis for a continuation of negotiations.

"Attempts to impose a boycott on the state of Israel are immoral and unjust," Mr. Netanyahu said at the start of the weekly cabinet meeting here. "Moreover," he continued, "they will not achieve their goal. First, they cause the Palestinians to adhere to their intransigent positions and thus push peace further away. Second, no pressure will cause me to concede the vital interests of the state of Israel, especially the security of Israel's citizens. For both of these reasons, threats to boycott the state of Israel will not achieve their goal."

Israel's minister of strategic affairs, Yuval Steinitz, was more direct in his criticism of Mr. Kerry. He told Israel Radio on Sunday that Mr. Kerry's remarks were "hurtful," "unfair" and "intolerable" and added, "Israel cannot be expected to negotiate with a gun to its head."

The dispute clearly touched raw nerves on both sides. Soon after the Israeli remarks were broadcast, Jen Psaki, a State Department spokeswoman, issued an unusually pointed statement.

"Secretary Kerry has a proud record of over three decades of steadfast support for Israel's security and well-being, including staunch opposition to boycotts," she said, adding: "At the Munich Security Conference yesterday, he spoke forcefully in defense of Israel's interests, as he consistently has throughout his public life. In response to a question about the peace process, he also described some well-known and previously stated facts about what is at stake for both sides if this process fails, including the consequences for the Palestinians. His only reference to a boycott was a description of actions undertaken by others that he has always opposed."  

'Sapere aude'
by Oui (Oui) on Sun Feb 2nd, 2014 at 04:44:35 PM EST

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