Cartoonists Petition Major Festival Over SodaStream Sponsorship

Angoulême 2014 banner (image via DigitalSpy)
A slew of notable figures from the world of comics has piled onto the controversy that’s erupted over Scarlett Johansson’s departure from Oxfam over her relationship with the controversial Israeli carbonation appliance firm SodaStream. In a letter released today and addressed to the director of the ongoing Angoulême International Comics Festival — the largest of its kind in Europe — some 40 signatories, including Joe Sacco, author of the seminal work of graphic reportage Palestine, called on the organization to dump SodaStream as a sponsor:

We, cartoonists and illustrators from all countries, are surprised, disappointed and angry to find out that SodaStream is an official sponsor of the Angoulême International Comics Festival.

As you must know, SodaStream is the target of an international boycott call for its contribution to the colonization of Palestinian land, due to its factory in the illegal settlement of Ma’ale Adumim, its exploitation of Palestinian workers, and its theft of Palestinian resources, in violation of international law and contravening international principles of human rights.

Angoulême has had an important role in the appreciation of comics as an art form for over 40 years. It would be sad if SodaStream were able to use this event to whitewash their crimes.

We ask you to cut all ties between the Festival and this shameful company.

Reached by telephone today, the American organizer of the petition, Ethan Heitner, explained that the letter was organized in response to an inquiry from a French affiliate of the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) movement. “I’m very happy that people were able to sign on with very little notice, and I hope Angoulême pays attention to this. If artists are objecting to this, we hope they change their course,” Heitner said.

But such a change of course is likely to prove elusive, as the letter’s addressee, festival director Franck Bondoux, repudiated the charges in a statement today to the French newspaper Le Monde:

Regarding SodaStream, I do not see how this enterprise is shameful. It’s based in an old settlement in Zone C, born of the Oslo accords between Israel and the PLO. Nothing prevents an enterprise from setting up there in anticipation of an accord between the two parties, especially since such an agreement has been particularly delayed. SodaStream, rather, opens gateways. It employs 500 Palestinian workers who work in good conditions. This enterprise has never been condemned in France. To speak of its criminality, as do these authors [of the letter], is to take a partisan position. To reject [SodaStream as a sponsor] would be to condemn it: it would an injustice in reverse. [translation and links by the author]

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