The Washington Post

SodaStream, Scarlett Johansson and a rift with Oxfam

In an ad for SodaStream, Scarlett Johansson says, “If only I could make this message go viral.” She then takes off her robe, revealing a black dress, and drinks sultrily from a straw.

But the ad, described on YouTube as “the uncensored version of SodaStream’s commercial” for Sunday’s Super Bowl, isn’t what’s drawing attention right now. On Thursday, the international aid organization Oxfam accepted the actress’s resignation as a global ambassador after criticism over her role as a spokeswoman (or “global brand ambassador”) for SodaStream, which makes machines that let you carbonate beverages at home.

SodaStream’s main plant is in a West Bank settlement. Oxfam says it believes that businesses “that operate in settlements further the ongoing poverty and denial of rights of the Palestinian communities that we work to support.” Much of the international community considers products made in the Jewish settlements illegal.

Read Max Fisher’s explanation of how Scarlett Johnasson got mired in this complicated issue

About 350,000 Jewish settlers live in the West Bank. A war of words over the future of the settlements erupted within the Israeli government this week.

Oxfam first expressed concern about Johansson’s role with SodaStream last week.

In 2009, Oxfam cut ties with “Sex and the City” actress Kristin Davis over her endorsement of products from the skin-care company Ahava, which has a factory in the West Bank. But she’s back with the organization, listed as an ambassador on the Oxfam Web site.

Johansson has served as a global ambassador for Oxfam since 2007. A description now removed from the organization’s Web site says the actress “was motivated to become involved by the organization’s response to the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami.”

SodaStream chief executive Dan Birnbaum told the Associated Press that a boycott wasn’t hurting his company but rather increasing awareness of it. He said SodaStream doesn’t want to “sacrifice” 500 Palestinians’ jobs over “some political cause.”

Watch more Super Bowl ads here

Terri Rupar is The Post's national digital projects editor.


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