Hollywood actress Scarlett Johansson has strongly reaffirmed her support for Israeli colonies built illegally on land stolen from Palestinians in the occupied West Bank.
In an interview with Carole Cadwalladr in The Guardian this weekend (see excerpt below), Johansson also claims – falsely – that the charity Oxfam supports the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement.
Knew about settlement
Johansson says she was fully aware that SodaStream operates in an Israeli settlement before she agreed to become the company’s spokesmodel.
SodaStream is an Israeli company that manufactures home fizzy drink machines in the illegal colony of Maaleh Adumim, built on land from which Palestinian Jahalin Bedouinswere forcibly expelled.
Johansson tells The Guardian that she still sees the factory in the illegally colony as a “model.”
The star also offers stale excuses – recycled from arguments used to defend apartheid South Africa in the 1980s – that Israeli colonization is actually beneficial for Palestinians.
Hits back at Oxfam
In January, amid a global media furore, internal dissent at Oxfam and a campaign by the Palestine solidarity movement, Johansson quit her role as humanitarian ambassador for Oxfam.
The charity strongly criticized Johansson for endorsing SodaStream.
Oxfam said that while it “respects the independence of our ambassadors, Ms. Johansson’s role promoting the company SodaStream is incompatible with her role as an Oxfam Global Ambassador.”
In the Guardian interview, Johansson hits back at Oxfam, claiming, “for a non-governmental organization to be supporting something that’s supporting a political cause … there’s something that feels not right about that to me.”
Praised by Netanyahu
Johansson’s unapologetic support for Israel’s abuses of Palestinians confirms that she fully deserves the praise Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu heaped on her in his 4 March speech to the Israel lobby group AIPAC in Washington.
Netanyahu said Johansson should be “applauded” for opposing BDS, which he claimed stood for “bigotry, dishonesty and shame.”
No matter how much she claims not to be “political,” Johansson is now seen by many Palestinians and their supporters as an advocate against them.
Days after Netanyahu’s speech Tamer Nafar of the Palestinian hip hop group DAM, published the video at the top of this post ridiculing the fizzy drinks spokesmodel.
Nafar calls his track “Scarlett Johansson Has Gas.”
Scarlett won’t back down
Here’s the excerpt of Cadwalladr’s Guardian article on her interview with Johansson. Cadwalladr – in contrast to many interviewers – does a fine job of challenging Johansson and testing her claims against reality:
When I Google “Scarlett Johansson” the fizzy-drinks maker is the third predictive search suggestion in the list, after “Scarlett Johansson hot” – before even “Scarlett Johansson bum.” A month ago, Johansson found herself caught up in a raging news story when it emerged Oxfam had written to her regarding her decision to become a brand ambassador for SodaStream. The company, it transpired, manufactures its products in a factory in a settlement on the West Bank, and while “Oxfam respects the independence of our ambassadors,” it wrote, it also “believes that businesses that operate in settlements further the ongoing poverty and denial of rights of the Palestinian communities that we work to support.”
Johansson responded by stepping down from her Oxfam role. From afar, it looked liked she’d received very poor advice; that someone who is paid good money to protect her interests hadn’t done the necessary research before she’d accepted the role and that she’d unwittingly inserted herself into the world’s most intractable geopolitical conflict. By the time Oxfam raised the issue, she was going to get flak if she did step down, flak if she didn’t. Was the whole thing just a bit of a mistake?
But she shakes her head. “No, I stand behind that decision. I was aware of that particular factory before I signed it.” Really? “Yes, and … it still doesn’t seem like a problem. Until someone has a solution to the closing of that factory to leaving all those people destitute, that doesn’t seem like the solution to the problem.”
But the international community says that the settlements are illegal and shouldn’t be there. “I think that’s something that’s very easily debatable. In that case, I was literally plunged into a conversation that’s way grander and larger than this one particular issue. And there’s no right side or wrong side leaning on this issue.”
Except, there’s a lot of unanimity, actually, I say, about the settlements on the West Bank. “I think in the UK there is,” she says. “That’s one thing I’ve realised … I’m coming into this as someone who sees that factory as a model for some sort of movement forward in a seemingly impossible situation.”
Well, not just the UK. There’s also the small matter of the UN security council, the UN general assembly, the International Committee of the Red Cross, the International Court of Justice… which all agree that they’re in contravention of international law. Half of me admires Johansson for sticking to her guns – her mother is Jewish and she obviously has strong opinions about Israel and its policies. Half of me thinks she’s hopelessly naive. Or, most likely, poorly advised. Of all the conflicts in all the world to plant yourself in the middle of…
“When I say a mistake,” I say, “I mean partly because people saw you making a choice between Oxfam – a charity that is out to alleviate global poverty – and accepting a lot of money to advertise a product for a commercial company. For a lot of people, that’s like making a choice between charity – good – and lots of money – greed.”
“Sure I think that’s the way you can look at it. But I also think for a non-governmental organization to be supporting something that’s supporting a political cause … there’s something that feels not right about that to me. There’s plenty of evidence that Oxfam does support and has funded a BDS [boycott, divest, sanctions] movement in the past. It’s something that can’t really be denied.” When I contacted Oxfam, it denied this.