Soda Stream Commercial Causes Controversey

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By Carlos Rodriguez

Controversy followed after actress and spokeswoman Scarlett Johansson appeared in a commercial with Israeli company SodaStream, known for having a factory in the disputed West Bank area, according to a post on The New York Time’s The Lede blog by Robert Mackey.

The commercial aired late in this year’s Super Bowl, which featured Johansson in a lab coat talk about the simplicity of using the SodaStream machine before switching to a black dress, taking a sip of the soda, and saying, “I just love helping people,” as she stared into the camera.

This commercial differs from the original, which had Johansson saying “Sorry, Coke and Pepsi.” It was edited to the one shown on TV possibly due to Pepsi’s endorsement of the Super Bowl and Coke also having a spot in the commercial lineup, as seen in the Super Bowl.

Johansson, known for her extensive acting career spanning roles from heroine Black Widow in the Avengers movie to an intelligent operating system in Her, recently parted ways with Oxfam, an anti-poverty group who is against Israeli settlements. She has helped raise funds for them for over a decade, according to The Lede Blog.

`               Oxfam “aims to improve the lives of marginalized Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem,” according to its website. Oxfam’s position on the issue is for a two-state system, one for Israelis and one for Palestinians, in order to end the conflict and lead to peace, according to their website Oxfam.org.

Oxfam is against Israeli settlements, as they believe that they negatively impact Palestinian businesses. Being a poverty-driven organization, it focuses on how the settlement development has taken away Palestinian land and resources, continuing the cycle of poverty, according to their website.

SodaStream is an Israeli company with a factory in the West Bank, specifically the Maale Adumim settlement, according to Mackey’s New York Times blog post, “Scarlett Johansson Chooses SodaStream Over Oxfam After Dispute About West Bank Factory.” The location is especially inconvenient for Palestinians because it nearly bisects the West Bank, further complicating the future of a Palestinian state, as Israel would most likely want to annex the settlement.

However, SodaStream also employs Palestinians from the West Bank, somewhat making it look like cooperation is going on between the two demographics, according to Mackey’s piece.

Israeli settlements are a very decisive issue in the Jewish community, as many university students share differing thoughts dependent on their political viewpoints.

Caleb Koffler, a junior Jewish Studies major at the university, expressed that the settlements are illegal, and are an obstacle to peace in the area.

“The question is not who belongs in the land, right, because there is always going to be that existential discussion about were the Jews there first or were the Palestinians there first,” said Koffler. To Koffler, all that matters is that both parties will not go away.

Koffler also noted the divide in viewpoints in the university’s Hillel community. Koffler has  left-wing political views, and said some people on the more conservative end of the spectrum often say that the West Bank is for the Jews and only for the Jews.

Mordy Labaton, a junior history and Jewish studies major, believes cooperation between both Palestinians and Israelis would lead to peace.

Labaton said that the presence of the SodaStream factory in the West Bank further entrenches the Israeli presence in the area, making it an obstacle towards peace. He also noted how the SodaStream factory makes it difficult for the Palestinians to build their infrastructure and economy, although many Palestinians are employed by the factory.

“It is important to keep in mind that the employees are still occupied people,” said Labaton.

In The Associated Press article published on The Telegraph’s online site, “Scarlett Johansson defends SodaStream deal,” Johansson said that she is a “supporter of economic cooperation and social interaction” between a democratic Israel and Palestine.

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