Among the vast array of memorable Super Bowl ads aired last night, a heightening controversy resulting from one in particular has also gained public attention. Scarlett Johansson recently starred in a commercial and became a “global brand ambassador” for SodaStream, a company based in Israel that makes soft drink machines for the home. The company’s main plant is located in an Israeli settlement in the West Bank—the area was captured by Israel in 1967 and is claimed by Palestinians. While Israel’s Jewish settlements are technically illegal under international law, there are no restrictions in place for businesses such as SodaStream.
Since 2007, Johansson has also been a “global ambassador” for Oxfam, an international humanitarian organization. Johansson helped the group raise funds to fight poverty and spread awareness on the effects of natural disasters. However, her recent resignation from the global ambassador position has proven controversial.
In a press release that Oxfam published on their website last week, the organization defended its stance that Johansson’s involvement with the two entities is contradictory: “Oxfam believes that businesses, such as SodaStream, that operate in settlements further the ongoing poverty and denial of rights of the Palestinian communities that we work to support.”
Johansson has every right to use her visibility to represent any organization she chooses. But her line in the ad that she “just loves to help people” does not hold up to much scrutiny.
The actress essentially gave up her role as a prominent humanitarian in order to represent a company whose main concern is profit and whose status under international law is flimsy at best.
SodaStream CEO Dan Birnbaum told the Associated Press that his company “had not lost a single customer” because of pro-Palestinian boycotts of the company and that “if anything, it advances our awareness around the world, because people are talking about SodaStream.”
Clearly, SodaStream is not concerned with helping any of those affected by the poverty and violence that pervades life on the West Bank. Putting political motivations aside, Johansson’s capacity as SodaStream representative simply has no potential for humanitarian good.
The above editorial is the consensus opinion of the Daily Kent Stater editorial board.