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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]

Mostafa Heddaya

Mostafa Heddaya is the former managing editor of Hyperallergic.

5 replies on “Cartoonists Petition Major Festival Over SodaStream Sponsorship”

  1. Except that Israel illegally captured that area from Palestine in the Six-Day War, and retains military control over that area. It’s morally bankrupt in its claims to control it.

    1. Those pesky Jews just keep illegally defending themselves against invading freedom fighters of peace, outrageous!

    2. Except that Israel captured the area from JORDAN in the Six-Day-War (1967) after begging Jordan not to join Egypt and Syria in their war against us. And except that Jordan in a previous war to destroy us (1948) captured the area and ethnically-cleansed its entire Jewish population and demolished all the ancient Jewish sites there. Morally bankrupt?? My great-grandmother Mina and her mother too are buried in the Mount of Olives cemetery, which has been in continuous use by Jews for 3,500 years, but for those 19 years was held by Arabs (the tombstones used as latrines) and so now is considered by you “occupied territory”. Way to go Scarlett: Go right on telling the truth.

  2. I would hope that the 40 signatories boycott Angoulême to put some teeth into their objections and set an example for other artists and future events.

    1. And I would hope that artists of all kinds would stand up and join Scarlett for her courageous stance and for telling it like it is. Nowadays it may not be “hip” to stand with Israel but it’s time to look at what’s going on in some of the other countries around us and to start seeing the picture as it really is and our history as it’s actually developed here. Yes that takes work and also open eyes.

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