Hollywood actor Scarlett Johansson has been forced to step down from her role as spokesperson for the humanitarian organization Oxfam as a result of bad publicity from her recent acceptance of a sponsorship deal with the Israeli beverage company Sodastream, which is based in the Israeli settlement of Maaleh Adumim in the West Bank. This is another victory for the Boycott, Divest and Sanctions movement in support of Palestinian liberation. Oxfam stated that Johansen’s involvement with Sodastream was incompatible with their image as a progressive charity.
The forced resignation of such a recognizable celebrity because of her support for Israel is sure to make others think twice before making deals with companies based in the illegal settlements. The BDS movement has successfully brought the issue of both the settlements in particular and the occupation in general into the mainstream spotlight. However, this has not stopped the multinational company from continuing to market its products throughout the world, although it is sure to make consumers think twice before purchasing Sodastream.
According to the Associated Press, a top executive at the company, Dan Birnbaum, has stated that “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.”
Birnbaum is trying to put a positive spin on the use of cheap Palestinian labor by presenting it as if it were a favor doled out to Palestinians by benevolent Israelis trying to build solidarity with their neighbors. He neglects to mention that on their way to work they stand in long lines at checkpoints manned by armed soldiers.
The argument of “you can’t complain, you have a job” is familiar to many people in the United States working low-wage jobs that pay hardly enough to support one person let alone a family. Whether it is the workers of Sodastream in the Occupied Territories of Palestine or the workers of Wal-Mart in the United States, workers are struggling against exploitation.