By stating that the illegality of settlements is ‘very easily debatable’ and that there is no ‘right or wrong side,’ the actress has proven she is not naive at all – but is rather choosing money over humanitarian concerns. By default, she is enabling the occupation.
In her first explicit response since the Sodastream-Oxfam controversy, actress Scarlett Johansson told The Guardian Sunday that she stands by her decision to sign as brand ambassador with the Israeli company that has a factory in a West Bank settlement, stating, “I was aware of that particular factory before I signed it.”
Reiterating her original defense that the Sodastream model is a “fantastic sanctuary of coexistence,” Johansson told the British paper that “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.”
Responding to the journalist’s insistence that the international community deems settlements illegal, Johansson says, quite disturbingly, that the issue is “very easily debatable,” adding, “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.” That is shirking responsibility and a copout.
Since when is a 47-year military occupation saturated with a discriminatory system, human rights violations and the continued building of settlements on expropriated land slated to become an independent Palestinian state an issue that has “no right side or wrong side?” And how is a factory built as part of this system a “model for some sort of movement forward?” Why aren’t non-violent resistance or various forms of civil disobedience seen as the model for progress? Frankly, I cannot give her the benefit of the doubt that she isn’t aware of such efforts.
In the interview, Johansson also takes a clear stance against the BDS movement and, once again, wrongly implicates Oxfam for being an advocate. “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.”
As I reported in a previous piece, Oxfam is not a proponent of boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel, as it does not oppose blanket trade with Israel. Rather, the organization specifically opposes trade with settlement entities.
Johansson has therefore proven she is neither naive nor misinformed, but rather consciously prefers her own profits to human rights. Her statements leads me to conclude that she is well aware of the status quo, in which Israel continues to profit from military and economic control over the Palestinian population in the occupied West Bank, and has no problem taking active part in it by being the face of a company directly and indirectly involved with this system.
These days, someone who says the illegality of settlement is debatable or thinks there are “sides” to the tyranny and violence of a protracted occupation cannot be deemed naive, or pro-peace, or pro-Israel. By default, that person is enabling the settlements and the occupation.