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Scarlett Johansson quits Oxfam over Israeli settlement trade spat

JERUSALEM--U.S. actress Scarlett Johansson has ended her role as Oxfam ambassador following a dispute over her ad campaign for a firm operating in an Israeli settlement in the occupied West Bank.

Johansson's departure, announced overnight by her publicist, was welcomed by Palestinian activists on Thursday, although some criticized Oxfam for not acting itself to sever ties with the Hollywood star they branded the “new poster girl for Israeli occupation.”

In a statement, Oxfam confirmed accepting Johansson's decision to step down, saying her promotion of Israeli drinks firm SodaStream, which has a factory in a settlement east of Jerusalem, was “incompatible” with her role at the international aid agency.

“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,” it said.

“Oxfam is opposed to all trade from Israeli settlements, which are illegal under international law.”

And Human Rights Watch's Middle East director Sarah Leah Whitson said: “It is impossible to ignore the Israeli system of unlawful discrimination, land confiscation, natural resource theft, and forced displacement of Palestinians in the occupied West Bank, where SodaStream is located.”

The incident shines a spotlight on the creeping success of a campaign to boycott trade linked to Israeli settlements that are built on Palestinian land seized during the Six-Day War of 1967, and viewed by the international community as illegal.

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This picture taken on Sept. 3, 2013 shows U.S. actress Scarlett Johansson arriving for the 70th Venice Film Festival. (AFP)

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