Rankin on Scarlett Johansson's SodaStream advert: Why Hollywood stars can't afford to be linked to Pro-Palestinian causes

 

Scarlett Johansson has faced heavy criticism for choosing to continue her contract with SodaStream ahead of her ambassadorial work with Oxfam, but if there’s one person who sympathises with her for how she dealt with the dilemma, it’s Rankin.

On the surface, her decision seems a difficult one to defend: leaving a humanitarian group trying to ensure the rights of others to live a free and equal quality of life, and backing an Israeli soft drinks firm based in the US with a large factory on the West Bank - a captured territory in which any such operation is considered illegal under international law and, as such, "denies Palestinian rights" under Oxfam regulations.

Read The Full Interview With Rankin Here

So why did the actress with the cleanest PR track record in Hollywood opt for the latter and part ways with the former? According to the acclaimed photographer and director – who has not only worked with Johansson on a number of occasions, but has also shot for Oxfam in the Congo and in Kenya – the power of a far-right pro-Israeli lobby within the US makes it increasingly tough for creative artists to take the ethical high ground in favour of Palestinians.

"I asked, actually, Oxfam if I could go to Palestine because I'm interested in what happens in Palestine," he told The Independent. But speaking of his desire to shine a light on the plight of the Palestinian people, he said he was informed by others that choosing to do this could have a bad impact on his livelihood.

"I'm fascinated from a humanitarian perspective. I'm interested in why two religions can't find common ground," he said.

Rankin: 'I’m not political or religious. I’m just about human beings' (Getty) Rankin: 'I’m not political or religious. I’m just about human beings' (Getty)
"I think the reason that she has not backed down is because in America, the Jewish zealots are so powerful. Especially in the entertainment industry… What they could do to her career," he added, admitting he had "negative views" on SodaStream's West Bank operation.

"The main problem for me in all this is that kind of extreme Judaism. That extreme belief that this is their homeland and those people are worthless to them. That's very powerful in America. They will blacklist you. It's worse than McCarthyism. Are you pro-Palestinian? Forget it.

"People have said to me that if you go to Palestine you will be put on a list and it doesn't matter if you're a humanitarian. You will be put on a list. And I'm not political. I'm not anti-American. I'm not religious. I don't even believe in God. I'm just about human beings."

Rankin's comments could stoke controversy, judging by the reaction to Seth McFarlane's performance hosting the Oscars last year, when his character Ted suggested that only Jewish actors would be able to get jobs in Hollywood.

The Anti-Defamation League said McFarlane was "offensive" for propagating the "falsity of such Jewish stereotypes," saying "there's a higher potential for the ‘Jews control Hollywood' myth to be accepted as fact".

Scarlett Johansson appearing in the SodaStream commerical Scarlett Johansson appearing in the SodaStream commerical
The strength of pro-Israel lobby groups in the US, led by the hugely powerful Israel Public Affairs Committee – known as Aipac, boasting 100,000 members and a $67m annual budget – is often criticised by Palestinian groups, however.

Functions held by the American Friends of the Citizen's Empowerment Centre in Israel are reported to have been attended by heads of Hollywood studios including Warner Bros, Fox, Paramount, Sony Pictures.

The Creative Community for Peace has also reportedly assembled top entertainment executives – including leaders at NBC, Sony/ATV Music Publishing and Time Warner – in support of Israel to provide "balanced information" about the region.

Yet Palestinian groups are also successful at making their case known. Leading musicians including Roger Waters, Elvis Costello, Annie Lennox and Stevie Wonder have reportedly cancelled dates in Israel following pressure from the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, a pro-Palestinian "grassroots pressure" group.

Workers at the SodaStream factory next to the West Bank settlement of Maale Adumim (Getty) Workers at the SodaStream factory next to the West Bank settlement of Maale Adumim (Getty)
While he empathises with Johansson on her decision, Rankin also points out that being a charity doesn't necessarily make Oxfam's election to raise their concerns for the actress' contractual agreement with SodaStream quite so publicly excusable either.

"I've worked with some of the best people in Oxfam and I've worked with some of the worst. And I've worked with some people in Oxfam who've had to send me letters of apology because of the way they've treated me. You have to understand that just because someone works at Oxfam, it does not make them an angel. It does not make them perfect.

"And I'm a massive fan," he counters.

The photographer has made his name capturing many famous faces over the years, such as Homeland actor Damian Lewis on the front of this month's "Mighty Blighty" issue of Hunger magazine.

He insists he would not be afraid if faced with his own ethical dilemma, however, and asked to photograph even a dictator with a questionable human rights record such as North Korea's Kim Jong-un.

"There's this fascination to go there and see it all. Things that no one else sees," he says. "You can't move through life without having connections with certain brands and certain things. You've got to suck it up and realise that the world is a horrible place, and in it, you have to try and do good things and live by a bit of a moral code. Sometimes, bad things are going to happen. It's like I wouldn't do cigarette advertising now, but in the past I've done it."


Watch Scarlett Johansson discuss her SodaStream advert before its controversial release

PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

HR Manager - Kent - £45,000

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: HR Manager / Training Manager (L&D /...

HR Manager - Edgware, London - £45,000

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Manager - Edgware, Lon...

HR Manager - London - £40,000 + bonus

£32000 - £40000 per annum + bonus: Ashdown Group: HR Manager (Generalist) -Old...

Talent Manager / HR Manager - central London - £50,000

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Talent / Learning & Development Mana...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam