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SodaStream vs. Oxfam, head to head

by Ben Sales, JTA

February 5, 2014 | 9:57 am

If you’re primed to watch a duel in the love triangle of public relations that is the Scarlett Johannson SodaStream controversy, here’s your chance. Last night, British interviewer Jeremy Paxman brought ScarJo’s two metaphorical lovers — SodaStream and Oxfam — face to face on the BBC’s Newsnight program.

In the corner to Paxman’s right, via video feed, was Daniel Birnbaum, CEO of Israeli seltzer-machine company SodaStream, which just hired ScarJo as its spokesperson and featured her in a Superbowl ad.

Oh, by the way, SodaStream operates a factory in an Israeli West Bank settlement.

In the corner to Paxman’s left was Ben Phillips, director of policy for human rights organization Oxfam, aka. ScarJo’s spurned lover. Oxfam objects to SodaStream’s West Bank factory. So ScarJo dumped Oxfam.

The eight-minute segment was a great rehash of the debates that have been occupying (no pun intended) my Facebook news feed for the past two weeks. Phillips objects to the factory because it’s located in a settlement, which Oxfam considers illegal. Birnbaum said the factory aids the cause of peace because it employs Palestinians alongside Israelis, and gives them Israeli wages and working conditions.

A couple of interesting points: Birnbaum, early on, declared his support for the two-state solution. He also made sure to note that the factory was built in the West Bank 17 years ago, before he took SodaStream’s helm. This tracks with his statement to the Forward that the factory is “a pain in the ass.”

And Phillips said repeatedly that Oxfam opposes boycotts of Israel. So maybe there’s some common ground after all.

Here’s the full segment:

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