On a local, straight in front of your face level, being a good person is usually pretty black and white. Be polite. Open doors. Give others the benefit of the doubt. Reward your server for good service, etc. On a broader, charity-type level, however, trying to be a good person can often involve complicated, morally ambiguous situations in which you can’t act without pissing someone else off. That’s a hard lesson many well-intentioned politicians have learned over the years, and it’s a hard lesson Scarlett Johansson learned this week when her longtime partnership with Oxfam was abruptly ended over a philosophical difference concerning the Middle East and a soda company.
The problems began when Johansson agreed to film a Super Bowl commercial for the Israeli company SodaStream. Oxfam International doesn’t approve of the company since it operates in the so-called occupied territories, or areas filled with Palestinians that are still controlled by Israel. Some believe the right thing to do is keep factories in these areas in order to provide jobs. Others believe it’s unfair and exploitive since a majority of the businesses are Israeli-owned but mined for local poor residents to operate. Regardless, the issue is very complicated, and Scar Jo and Oxfam’s leaders are on opposite sides of the fence.
Here’s a portion of what the actress’ publicist had to say…
“She and Oxfam have a fundamental difference of opinion in regards to the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement. She is very proud of her accomplishments and fundraising efforts during her tenure with Oxfam."
And here’s the counter from Oxfam…
"While Oxfam respects the independence of our ambassadors, Ms. Johansson's role promoting the company SodaStream is incompatible with her role as an Oxfam Global Ambassador. Oxfam believes that businesses, such as SodaStream, that operate in settlements further the ongoing poverty and denial of rights of the Palestinian communities that we work to support. Oxfam is opposed to all trade from Israeli settlements, which are illegal under international law. Ms. Johansson has worked with Oxfam since 2005 and in 2007 became a Global Ambassador, helping to highlight the impact of natural disasters and raise funds to save lives and fight poverty."
Sometimes it’s best for business relationships to end before there are any genuine hard feelings. At this point, no one thinks Johansson is a bad person because she has a different take on this subject, and no one thinks Oxfam is completely unreasonable because its leaders want the best for the Palestinian people. It’s a classic viewpoint alteration, and quietly severing over that is better than making a big show about it publically. The name of the game from everyone’s perspective is to improve the world.