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

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
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

Ashdown Group: HR Manager Shared Services - Uxbridge, - 1 Year contract

£50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: HR Manager Shared Services - Uxbridge, Stock...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Human Resource Officer and Executive Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join one of...

Ashdown Group: HR Assistant (Events business) - Central Manchester - £20K

£18000 - £20000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Assistant (Events busi...

Recruitment Genius: Project Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This privately-owned company designs and manuf...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions