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Oxfam criticizes US actress Scarlett Johansson's connection to West Bank settlement firm

JERUSALEM - Oxfam International is criticizing Scarlett Johansson over her new ad campaign for an Israeli company that operates in the West Bank.

Israeli drink maker SodaStream International Ltd. recently signed the U.S. actress as its first "global brand ambassador." She is to appear in a television ad during the Super Bowl on Feb. 2.

SodaStream has come under fire from pro-Palestinian activists for maintaining a large factory in an Israeli settlement in the West Bank, a territory captured by Israel in 1967 and claimed by the Palestinians.

Johansson has served as a global ambassador for Oxfam since 2005, raising funds and promoting awareness about global poverty.

The humanitarian group said that while it respects the independence of its ambassadors, it opposes "all trade" from Israeli settlements, claiming they are illegal and deny Palestinian rights. "We have made our concerns known to Ms. Johansson and we are now engaged in a dialogue on these important issues," it said.

SodaStream machines allow consumers to make their own carbonated drinks at home and add a variety of flavours. Johansson has called her partnership with the company a "no brainer," saying it is a healthy and environmentally friendly product.

Representatives for Johansson did not return messages seeking comment.

SodaStream says its West Bank factory is one of about 25 production facilities worldwide and employs nearly 550 Palestinians and gives them equal benefits as Israeli workers.

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