The recent announcement that actress and Oxfam Ambassador Scarlett Johansson has been hired to promote Israeli occupation profiteer SodaStream has ignited a major controversy that is receiving a growing amount of press attention.
Human rights activists were quick to point out that SodaStream’s principal manufacturing facility is located in the West Bank settlement of Mishor Adumim, where its heavily Palestinian workforce labor under exploitative conditions.
SodaStream’s complicity in Israel’s occupation of the West Bank appears to be at odds with Oxfam’s stance on settlements: The charity previously cut ties with another Ambassador, Kristin Davis, over her work on behalf of settlement-based cosmetics firm Ahava.
While most coverage has focused on the nature SodaStream’s complicity in the Israeli occupation, and the possible ramifications for the future political career that Johansson has expressed interest in pursuing, The New York Post focused on Johansson’s response to the concerns raised by activists.
In an article entitled “Scarlett Johansson stands tall against Israel boycotters,” the Post’s Benny Avni praises Johansson for her “casual dismissal of the BDS crowd,” referring to the movement to pressure Israel to comply with international law through the use of boycott, divestment, and sanctions.
According to Avni:
[I]nstead of answering BDS jeers, she simply said she loves the brand and has used it for years, and that SodaStream’s “commitment to a healthier body and a healthier planet is a perfect fit for me.”
There’s just one problem: Johansson has issued no statement at all since activists raised the boycott issue following the announcement of her relationship with SodaStream.
The quote which Avni presents as a response to BDS activists is actually from the original press release issued by SodaStream to announce the deal on 11 January. Activists did not begin contacting Johansson or the media until after the release was issued and the first mainstream outlet to report on the deal and mention the existence of a boycott campaign was Israel’s Haaretz on 12 January.
The first mainstream press article to include any specific comment on Johansson by human rights activists, a post on Al-Jazeera’s blog The Stream did not appear until 13 January, and most mainstream outlets did not begin publishing such comments until even later.
When asked on Twitter about why he had misrepresented an earlier statement from Johansson as being issued in response to a story that emerged later, Avni stated:
Apparently, Avni also believes that reporting the events he feels should happen is as good as reporting the events that did happen.