Post Soda Stream, a Scarlett Johansson interview with The Guardian, where Israel is the No. 1 topic in world affairs, possibly right after the death penalty in the US, was always going to be awkward. Instead of discussing the movie, the Guardian wanted to discuss Soda Stream resulting in the publicist aborting the interview.
Before that happened, Johansson, whose resignation from Oxfam was much commented on, said something interesting.
When I say a mistake,” I say, “I mean partly because people saw you making a choice between Oxfam – a charity that is out to alleviate global poverty – and accepting a lot of money to advertise a product for a commercial company. For a lot of people, that’s like making a choice between charity – good – and lots of money – greed.”
“Sure I think that’s the way you can look at it. But I also think for a non-governmental organisation to be supporting something that’s supporting a political cause… there’s something that feels not right about that to me. 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.”
The conventional media narrative has been that Oxfam forced Scarlett Johansson to choose between working with it and doing the Soda Stream promotions. Johansson hasn’t really told her side of the story.
Her official statement had already suggested as much, albeit indirectly. “She and Oxfam have a fundamental difference of opinion in regards to the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement.”
This time she’s saying it much more directly. And the evidence certainly is there. Parsing Johansson’s wording, she didn’t think that Oxfam should have been supporting political causes targeting Israel. It’s an outdated concept when the modern international NGO is a wholly political entity supporting its own networks of political grantees.
A lot of people still approach groups like Oxfam with that naive attitude and Johansson’s departure may have done more damage to Oxfam than to her. There’s only so much that people expect from an actress. They expect more from an aid group.