Here is Oxfam’s official and very brief statement on the ending of its eight-year relationship with Scarlett Johansson, who served as a “global ambassador”. It seems clear that Oxfam – very belatedly – gave her an ultimatum following her recent decision to accept another ambassadorship, this time promoting SodaStream, whose factory is in an illegal settlement in the West Bank.
Oxfam states Johansson’s “role promoting the company SodaStream is incompatible with her role as an Oxfam Global Ambassador”. It was either us or them. Johansson stepped down, making clear she prefers to work for a company that breaks international law over an organisation concerned with humanitarian issues.
Oxfam’s dithering and its final efforts to allow Johansson to present this as a resignation rather than a dismissal reinforces the point I made yesterday about how money talks, even for Oxfam. The charity needs pretty ambassadors to raise funds and to gain media attention. Treating Johansson harshly, even now when the relationship is over, might put off other Hollywood starlets who hope to burnish their humanitarian credentials – at least as long as the work doesn’t interfere with their opportunities to make money, even when it comes at the expense of other people’s freedom.
No one comes out of this affair looking good.