Blowup Over Scarlett Johansson’s Super Bowl ad Highlights Israel Boycott Movement

By Daniella Cheslow
McClatchy Foreign Staff.

MISHOR ADUMIM, West Bank.

Saida Roma has worked for four years at the SodaStream factory in the Israeli settlement of Mishor Adumim, 20 minutes east of Jerusalem, checking metal discs that go into the valves of the home carbonating machines that are built here. She says the pay and conditions are good.

Roma, 28, said she was against a boycott of SodaStream, which is at the center of an international controversy triggered by the recent endorsement of the company by the actress Scarlett Johansson.

Criticized by the humanitarian organization Oxfam for promoting a company that does business in what many believe is an illegal settlement on Palestinian land, Johansson resigned as the group’s international ambassador. Her ad for SodaStream aired during Sunday’s Super Bowl.

That, Roma said, “is something else. We want to work.”

Five hundred Palestinians work at SodaStream’s factory in the West Bank, and CEO Daniel Birnbaum said that despite calls to boycott the company because of its location, his company had been growing by 30 percent annually over the past five years.

Nevertheless, outside the walls of the factory, growing criticism of Israel has raised fear that all Israeli companies, not just those in the settlements, will be isolated if U.S.-mediated peace talks fail.

In recent months, European banks and investment funds have pulled financing from Israeli companies that are involved with the settlements.

On Saturday, Denmark’s Danske Bank blacklisted Israel’s Bank Hapoalim because it funds construction in Israeli settlements.

In January, Norway’s Ministry of Finance announced that its pension fund would sell its interests in the Israeli construction firms Africa Israel and Danya Cebus because they build homes in the settlements.

In November, Israel nearly didn’t sign on to the Horizon 2020 program, which provides generous European Union funding to Israeli scientists, because the agreement stipulated that money couldn’t go to institutions in the settlements.

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