Global Charity Oxfam Chief Admits Clash With Movie Star Scarlett Johansson Over Israeli Company SodaStream Endorsement Backfired, Cost Organization Thousands of Donors
The head of an international confederation of charities announced on Wednesday that his organization’s clash with celebrity ambassador Scarlett Johansson over her endorsement of the Israeli company SodaStream backfired, the UK newspaper the Guardian reported on Thursday.
Addressing a seminar on the issue of campaigning for “less popular causes,” Mark Goldring told charity professionals that the Johansson scandal – which took place in 2014 and culminated in the actress’ resignation from Oxfam after eight years of fundraising — cost his organization “literally thousands” of donors.
According to the report, Goldring said that the greatest mistake Oxfam made was letting the controversy surrounding Johansson’s contract with the company — whose main factory in Israel was located in the West Bank city of Ma’ale Adumim — drag on and pick up momentum, giving the popular movie star a platform from which to argue her case.
“The judgment was when to be proactive, when to be forceful, and when to be balanced and reflective,” Goldring said. “We got that wrong.”
Where Oxfam succeeded, he said, was in its campaign to persuade most UK supermarket chains to label clearly and subsequently withdraw from its shelves any items produced in Israeli settlements. To achieve this, he said, Oxfam worked mainly behind the scenes as a “responsible interlocutor.”
As The Algemeiner reported in the beginning of 2014, Johansson ended her relationship with Oxfam over “a fundamental difference of opinion” on the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel.
Johansson’s rift with the relief group began when she was unveiled as the new face of the Israeli carbonated drinks maker.
Oxfam — which the watchdog NGO Monitor has accused of “consistently paint[ing] a highly misleading picture of the Arab-Israeli conflict, departing from its humanitarian mission focused on poverty” — responded harshly, criticizing Johansson, who is Jewish, for her decision to promote SodaStream.
In response to attacks from anti-Israel groups and the charity umbrella, whose purview is global poverty, Johansson fought back, highlighting the cooperation that takes place between Jews and Arabs at the West Bank factory. “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,” she stated. “I remain a supporter of economic cooperation and social interaction between a democratic Israel and Palestine.”
The boycott campaign against SodaStream’s Ma’ale Adumim factory continued until a year ago in October, when — due to what it claimed at the time were financial considerations — it was moved to Lehavim in the northern Negev, causing hundreds of Palestinian workers to lose their jobs.