Commentary Magazine


Topic: Maale Adumim

Demonizing Israel; Demonizing ScarJo

The boycott-Israel movement has had only sporadic success in getting celebrities to stay away from the Jewish state. But actress Scarlett Johansson may have provided the anti-Zionists with an easier target by endorsing SodaStream, a company with a factory in Maale Adumim, the Jerusalem suburb that is on the wrong side of the green line and therefore considered an “illegal” settlement particularly deserving of the BDS treatment. As Seth noted on Friday, Oxfam and the Forward scolded Johansson for daring to stick to her endorsement. But the fact that an ad for SodaStream starring Johansson is set to appear during the Super Bowl raises the stakes for what might otherwise be yet another minor skirmish in a low-intensity propaganda war against Israel. As the actress is learning, Israel-bashers are pulling out all the stops in their smear campaign.

One example of this disturbing trend is when Iranian-American author Reza Aslan branded the actress a Nazi in a tweet mocking Johansson’s defense of SodaStream as a model employer that accords equal treatment to both its Jewish and Arab employees. As the Algemeiner reported yesterday, Aslan, who become something of a minor celebrity himself because of criticism of his biography of Jesus as well as his false claims of scholarly credentials, tweeted a fake quote attributed to the actress in which he “quoted” her as defending Hitler’s attack on Poland while linking to a Huffington Post article on the controversy:

Scarlett Johansson: “Adolf is committed to building a bridge to peace between Germany and Poland.”

Aslan subsequently deleted the tweet without apologizing, but it was captured in a screen shot that can be seen at the Algemeiner link.

But the significance of this incident isn’t about Aslan’s heinous use of the standard trope of contemporary anti-Semites in which Jews are deemed Nazis. Rather, the question is whether a lionized film star and celebrity like Johansson is prepared to withstand the kind of abuse for which the BDS movement is notorious.

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The boycott-Israel movement has had only sporadic success in getting celebrities to stay away from the Jewish state. But actress Scarlett Johansson may have provided the anti-Zionists with an easier target by endorsing SodaStream, a company with a factory in Maale Adumim, the Jerusalem suburb that is on the wrong side of the green line and therefore considered an “illegal” settlement particularly deserving of the BDS treatment. As Seth noted on Friday, Oxfam and the Forward scolded Johansson for daring to stick to her endorsement. But the fact that an ad for SodaStream starring Johansson is set to appear during the Super Bowl raises the stakes for what might otherwise be yet another minor skirmish in a low-intensity propaganda war against Israel. As the actress is learning, Israel-bashers are pulling out all the stops in their smear campaign.

One example of this disturbing trend is when Iranian-American author Reza Aslan branded the actress a Nazi in a tweet mocking Johansson’s defense of SodaStream as a model employer that accords equal treatment to both its Jewish and Arab employees. As the Algemeiner reported yesterday, Aslan, who become something of a minor celebrity himself because of criticism of his biography of Jesus as well as his false claims of scholarly credentials, tweeted a fake quote attributed to the actress in which he “quoted” her as defending Hitler’s attack on Poland while linking to a Huffington Post article on the controversy:

Scarlett Johansson: “Adolf is committed to building a bridge to peace between Germany and Poland.”

Aslan subsequently deleted the tweet without apologizing, but it was captured in a screen shot that can be seen at the Algemeiner link.

But the significance of this incident isn’t about Aslan’s heinous use of the standard trope of contemporary anti-Semites in which Jews are deemed Nazis. Rather, the question is whether a lionized film star and celebrity like Johansson is prepared to withstand the kind of abuse for which the BDS movement is notorious.

The dynamics of public relations are such that while minor celebrities can benefit from controversies in which their positions or actions alienate segments of the public, being branded as the face of the settlement movement rather than the sexiest woman alive may hurt Johansson. Though her identification with Israel will probably only enhance her popularity in the United States, the opposite may be true in Europe and elsewhere in the world where anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism are both endemic and on the rise. That could mean her films and products she has endorsed may be identified with settlements rather than glamour. That’ a chilling prospect for producers, marketing firms and those who manage her career.

Such commercial concerns have the potential to cut short Johansson’s association with SodaStream. Not only will BDSers treat any severance of ties between the actress and the company as a triumph, it will also make it unlikely that SodaStream will be able to find another high-grossing celebrity to take her place.

In the meantime, Johansson deserves applause for being willing to take the heat for standing up for SodaStream. The attack on SodaStream shows the true face of the BDS movement. They don’t care how good the company is for the regional economy or even the Palestinians who work there. They don’t care that the “settlement” in which it exists would almost certainly remain within Israel if a peace treaty with the Palestinians were to be signed. All they care about is demonizing the very existence of the Jews who live there. As the abuse from Aslan and the rest of the BDS movement shows, that same demonization will apply to anyone, even an Obama-supporting politically correct liberal Democrat like Johansson. Though this may not have been a fight that she would have chosen to engage in, Johansson must now show that she and others prepared to stand with Israel won’t be intimidated.

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Ma’ale Adumim, E-1, and the Two-State Solution

Ma’ale Adumim, located immediately east of Jerusalem, and the E-1 corridor that connects it to the city, have always been (as Jonathan noted) part of the “Everyone Knows Two-State Solution”–“everyone knows” it will remain in Israel while the Palestinians get close to 95 percent of the disputed territory. In an editorial yesterday entitled “The Logic of E-1,” the Jerusalem Post shows that the Netanyahu government’s decision to authorize planning for E-1 “follows in the footsteps of a long chain of governments – both left wing and right wing,” going all the way back to Yitzhak Rabin; its retention was endorsed by Shimon Peres when he was prime minister; was allocated to Israel in the 2000 “Clinton Parameters;” and was retained in the 2008 Olmert offer.

Ma’ale Adumim is not going to be dismantled in any conceivable peace agreement – not only because there are nearly 40,000 Israelis living there, but because it is located on the hills that overlook Jerusalem and the Jordan Valley. It is one of the most strategic areas in the Land. Whoever holds it commands the high ground, which is why no Israeli prime minister will ever yield it. Its retention (along with other major settlement blocs) would not preclude a contiguous Palestinian state on land equal to about 95 percent of the West Bank, as David Makovsky proved last year in his extensive report for the Washington Institute; and it is obviously part of defensible borders for Israel.

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Ma’ale Adumim, located immediately east of Jerusalem, and the E-1 corridor that connects it to the city, have always been (as Jonathan noted) part of the “Everyone Knows Two-State Solution”–“everyone knows” it will remain in Israel while the Palestinians get close to 95 percent of the disputed territory. In an editorial yesterday entitled “The Logic of E-1,” the Jerusalem Post shows that the Netanyahu government’s decision to authorize planning for E-1 “follows in the footsteps of a long chain of governments – both left wing and right wing,” going all the way back to Yitzhak Rabin; its retention was endorsed by Shimon Peres when he was prime minister; was allocated to Israel in the 2000 “Clinton Parameters;” and was retained in the 2008 Olmert offer.

Ma’ale Adumim is not going to be dismantled in any conceivable peace agreement – not only because there are nearly 40,000 Israelis living there, but because it is located on the hills that overlook Jerusalem and the Jordan Valley. It is one of the most strategic areas in the Land. Whoever holds it commands the high ground, which is why no Israeli prime minister will ever yield it. Its retention (along with other major settlement blocs) would not preclude a contiguous Palestinian state on land equal to about 95 percent of the West Bank, as David Makovsky proved last year in his extensive report for the Washington Institute; and it is obviously part of defensible borders for Israel.

Back in 2008, in the midst of the year-long Annapolis Process–which eventually produced the third Israeli offer within eight years of a Palestinian state on substantially all the West Bank and Gaza–Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice met with Ahmed Qurei, who was then the Palestinian prime minister leading the Palestinian negotiating team. According to Al Jazeera, in a report on the “Palestine Papers” leaked in 2011, the following conversation took place:

Rice: I don’t think that any Israeli leader is going to cede Ma’ale Adumim.

Qurei: Or any Palestinian leader.

Rice: Then you won’t have a state!

No Israeli prime minister is ever going to trade Ma’ale Adumim and E-1 for the magic beans of a Palestinian peace agreement, particularly now that the Palestinians have broken the one they already signed, which prohibited them (as Alana Goodman showed) from taking “any step” to change the legal status of the disputed territories outside of final status negotiations.

In going to the UN for a symbolic state (they don’t qualify for a real one), the Palestinians not only violated their central commitment under the governing document of the “peace process,” but enshrined in their resolution a demand for land Israel will obviously retain if there is ever a peace agreement that can be enforced, as opposed to merely signed. Assuming a (second) state is their goal, the Palestinians set it back, and now are predictably complaining about the consequences of their own action.

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Israel’s Building No Obstacle to Peace

The reaction to Israel’s announcement on Friday that it had approved building plans in Jerusalem and its suburbs was nearly unanimous. Even those who disapproved of the vote by the General Assembly of the United Nations to upgrade the Palestinian Authority to a pseudo-state at the world body damned the housing as either a childish tantrum on the part of the Israeli government to demonstrate their anger or a genuine threat to peace. The argument is that by allowing building in the E1 development area that connects the Maale Adumim suburb to the city, Israel will be foreclosing the possibility of a two-state solution since this would effectively cut the West Bank in half and forestall its viability as an independent Palestinian state.

It sounds logical but it’s absolute nonsense. If the Palestinians did want a two-state solution, the new project as well as the other ones announced yesterday for more houses to be built in 40-year-old Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem wouldn’t stop it. That’s true even of those that say that the final borders of Israel and a putative state of Palestine must be based on the 1949 armistice lines with agreed-upon land swaps. Those swaps wouldn’t amount to more than a few percentage points of the total land area of the West Bank and probably preclude Israel keeping many far-flung settlements in the territory. But everyone knows that the swaps would have to account for the Jewish suburbs of Jerusalem, including Maale Adumim and the other towns in the vicinity that are already inside the security fence that does not protect most settlements. But the operative phrase here is “if” the Palestinians wanted such a solution. They have refused every offer of a state they’ve gotten and refused even to negotiate for four years, not to mention employing the UN gambit specifically in order to avoid talks. The notion that Israeli building in areas that everyone knows they would keep if there was a deal in place is stopping peace from breaking out is ludicrous.

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The reaction to Israel’s announcement on Friday that it had approved building plans in Jerusalem and its suburbs was nearly unanimous. Even those who disapproved of the vote by the General Assembly of the United Nations to upgrade the Palestinian Authority to a pseudo-state at the world body damned the housing as either a childish tantrum on the part of the Israeli government to demonstrate their anger or a genuine threat to peace. The argument is that by allowing building in the E1 development area that connects the Maale Adumim suburb to the city, Israel will be foreclosing the possibility of a two-state solution since this would effectively cut the West Bank in half and forestall its viability as an independent Palestinian state.

It sounds logical but it’s absolute nonsense. If the Palestinians did want a two-state solution, the new project as well as the other ones announced yesterday for more houses to be built in 40-year-old Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem wouldn’t stop it. That’s true even of those that say that the final borders of Israel and a putative state of Palestine must be based on the 1949 armistice lines with agreed-upon land swaps. Those swaps wouldn’t amount to more than a few percentage points of the total land area of the West Bank and probably preclude Israel keeping many far-flung settlements in the territory. But everyone knows that the swaps would have to account for the Jewish suburbs of Jerusalem, including Maale Adumim and the other towns in the vicinity that are already inside the security fence that does not protect most settlements. But the operative phrase here is “if” the Palestinians wanted such a solution. They have refused every offer of a state they’ve gotten and refused even to negotiate for four years, not to mention employing the UN gambit specifically in order to avoid talks. The notion that Israeli building in areas that everyone knows they would keep if there was a deal in place is stopping peace from breaking out is ludicrous.

Nor should the Israeli gesture be viewed as petulant. To the contrary, it is exactly what is needed to start changing the one-sided nature of the argument in international forums about the dispute over territory.

Though you wouldn’t know if from listening to the UN debate or even to most spokespersons for the Jewish state over the last forty years, the argument about the West Bank is not solely about pitting rights of Palestinians against Israel’s security needs. The West Bank is, after all, part of the area designated by the League of Nations for Jewish settlement under the Mandate of Palestine. It is also the heart of the ancient Jewish homeland to which Jews have historical, legal and religious ties that cannot be erased by a century of Arab hatred.

Some of Israel’s friends and all of its enemies claim that for Israel to speak of its rights to the West Bank is tantamount to saying that it doesn’t want peace. Not so. Just because it has rights there doesn’t mean that it must assert them under all circumstances, or that it wouldn’t, if convinced that peace was to be had, give up some or all of the territory in exchange for an end to the conflict. Indeed, throughout the last 20 years, Israel has been in engaged in peace talks or attempts to revive them, during the course of which it has made numerous concessions about territory to the Palestinians.

For its pains, Israel has been subjected to even greater vituperation and delegitimization during this period than before. So long as it does not speak of its rights, it will always be treated as a thief who must return stolen property rather than as a party to a conflict with its own justified claims.

Even if the E1 area is developed, there will be no obstacle to peace talks that could produce a Palestinian state in almost all of the West Bank except for the major settlement blocs that no one expects Israel to give up. Nor would the Palestinian state be blighted by this project since highways and tunnels could easily be constructed to allow access between Arab areas to the north and the south of Jerusalem. Indeed, Jewish housing in the disputed areas is no more of an obstacle to peace than the far greater Arab housing boom in other parts of Jerusalem.

If the Palestinians truly wanted to live in peace in their own independent state next to Israel they could go back to the negotiating table and get it. If they were ever to actually offer an end to the conflict in which they recognized the legitimacy and the security of a Jewish state no matter where its borders were drawn, they would find the Israeli people would welcome their offer and no Israeli government could refuse. Instead, the so-called moderates among them — Mahmoud Abbas and his Fatah-run PA — avoid talks and go to the UN where they seek an international fiat rather than an agreement. Meanwhile, the far more popular extremists of Hamas govern an independent Palestinian state in all but name in Gaza with an iron fist and use it as a terrorist launching pad rather than to help their people.

A few Jewish homes aren’t the obstacle to Palestinian statehood. Their existence would make no difference to a peace deal that spoke of the 1967 lines with swaps, if that was actually the Palestinian goal. The problem is that to the Palestinians and their terrorist leaders, the E1 area is no more or less a settlement than the rest of Israel. Until they can rid themselves of the rejectionist spirit of 1947 in which they rejected the first UN vote to give them a state, talk of peace is empty rhetoric.

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