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January 31, 2014 3:10 pm

Jewish Groups Praise Scarlett Johansson Over Oxfam Decision; SWC Says People Should Donate to Other Charities

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Jewish actress Scarlett Johansson with a carbonated bubbling machine from Israel's SodaStream. Photo: SodaStream.

Jewish actress Scarlett Johansson with a carbonated bubbling machine from Israel's SodaStream. Photo: SodaStream.

Jewish humanitarian groups on Friday praised actress Scarlett Johansson’s decision to end her eight-year role as Global Ambassador for Oxfam because of differences over boycotts of Israel, with the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Rabbi Abraham Cooper going so far as to advise people to choose other charities to help the world’s poor.

“Until the anti-Israel campaign is dropped by Oxfam, people should seek out other NGOs dedicated to helping the world’s poor,” Rabbi Cooper said, in an email to The Algemeiner.

Late-Wednesday, the Jewish actress, through a spokesman, issued a statement saying that she had “respectfully decided to end her ambassador role with Oxfam” because “she and Oxfam have a fundamental difference of opinion in regards to the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement.”

The conflict emerged after Johansson was named as the celebrity spokeswoman for Israel’s SodaStream, which manufactures its home carbonation system in a factory in Ma’ale Adumim, across the Green Line, in an area that Palestinian Arabs claim for a state.

The company has come under criticism from the BDS movement for operating there, but its supporters, including Johansson, say the company’s equal opportunity employment of both Arabs and Jews aids the cause of peace.

After a public back-and-forth in the press Johansson made the decision to cut ties with the charity in favor of her new role for the Israeli company.

“SodaStream is a company that is not only committed to the environment, but to building a bridge to peace between Israel and Palestine, supporting neighbors working alongside each other, receiving equal pay, equal benefits and equal rights,” Johansson said in her statement“I remain a supporter of economic cooperation and social interaction between a democratic Israel and Palestine.”

The SWC’s Rabbi Cooper, said, “The Wiesenthal Center commended Ms. Johansson for defying the BDS bullies. Oxfam International, based in the UK has long misused its humanitarian mandate to pillory Israel in the international arena. I have asked a senior official of Oxfam America if they are in agreement with a policy that puts hatred of Israel at the top of its agenda, making it impossible for a wonderful actress and humanitarian to continue her volunteer efforts to raise awareness and money to feed the world’s poor.”

The Anti-Defamation League, in another statement to The Algemeiner, said, “Scarlett Johansson should be widely praised for her principled, public stand against the BDS movement.  Johansson roundly rejected efforts to demonize the Israeli company SodaStream, affirming that her relationship with SodaStream reflects her commitment to ‘economic cooperation and social interaction between a democratic Israel and Palestine.'”

“She unabashedly stood strong in the face of frenzied criticism,” the ADL said. “At a time when many celebrities shirk from any hint of controversy, we applaud Ms. Johansson for stepping up as a voice of reason, in support of peace and reconciliation.”

On Friday, B’nai B’rith International said its president, Allan J. Jacobs, and executive vice president, Daniel S. Mariaschin sent Johansson a personal letter to commend her actions.

“On behalf of B’nai B’rith International, we applaud your principled and broadminded defense of economic and social cooperation between Israelis and Palestinians. Anti-Israel activists and supporters of the discriminatory boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement have long engaged in a vicious campaign, rooted in anti-Semitism and aimed at demonizing and delegitimizing the Jewish state. Those who have chosen to align with BDS ultimately impede the peace process by opposing constructive dialogue between Israel and Palestinians,” they wrote.

“Your recognition of the positive impact of economic cooperation like that offered by the Ma’aleh Adumim SodaStream factory in the West Bank is an important rebuke to the BDS movement and a testament to the value of economic empowerment. B’nai B’rith stands in solidarity with you and others who favor cooperation between Israel and Palestinians as a means to further the cause of peace. We encourage other public figures to follow your lead.”

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