Commentary Magazine


Topic: SodaStream

ScarJo Tells the Truth About Anti-Semitism

Some may have thought actress Scarlett Johansson would do her best to move on from the controversy in which her role as spokesperson for SodaStream mired her a few months ago. Johansson’s commercial for the Israeli company made a splash during the Super Bowl but it also led to her being forced to step down as an ambassador for the London-based Oxfam charity because the group condemns SodaStream for have a factory in the West Bank. Johansson didn’t just refuse to disassociate herself from the company. In an interview with the Guardian, she refused to accept the premise that settlements were illegal and defended the factory as a model of coexistence. That has brought down on her the contempt of anti-Israel ideologues and left open the question as to whether the career of the woman who was twice named the “sexiest woman in the world” by Esquire would suffer in an industry dominated by the left and more dependent than ever on revenue from international markets.

But Johansson is clearly undaunted. Reportedly in an interview with Vanity Fair magazine to be published in May, the actress doesn’t shy away from getting to the heart of this matter. As YNet reports:

American Jewish actress Scarlett Johansson believes anti-Semitism is to blame for much of the fire she drew earlier this year over her endorsement of Israeli company SodaStream, which operates a factory in the West Bank.

“There’s a lot of anti-Semitism out there,” Johansson told Vanity Fair, in an interview for the cover of their May edition.

A member of the Hollywood elite has never spoken truer words. While this will undoubtedly cause even more criticism of the actress, by raising the question of anti-Semitism, Johansson has cut straight to the heart of the problem with the movement that seeks to boycott Israel.

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Some may have thought actress Scarlett Johansson would do her best to move on from the controversy in which her role as spokesperson for SodaStream mired her a few months ago. Johansson’s commercial for the Israeli company made a splash during the Super Bowl but it also led to her being forced to step down as an ambassador for the London-based Oxfam charity because the group condemns SodaStream for have a factory in the West Bank. Johansson didn’t just refuse to disassociate herself from the company. In an interview with the Guardian, she refused to accept the premise that settlements were illegal and defended the factory as a model of coexistence. That has brought down on her the contempt of anti-Israel ideologues and left open the question as to whether the career of the woman who was twice named the “sexiest woman in the world” by Esquire would suffer in an industry dominated by the left and more dependent than ever on revenue from international markets.

But Johansson is clearly undaunted. Reportedly in an interview with Vanity Fair magazine to be published in May, the actress doesn’t shy away from getting to the heart of this matter. As YNet reports:

American Jewish actress Scarlett Johansson believes anti-Semitism is to blame for much of the fire she drew earlier this year over her endorsement of Israeli company SodaStream, which operates a factory in the West Bank.

“There’s a lot of anti-Semitism out there,” Johansson told Vanity Fair, in an interview for the cover of their May edition.

A member of the Hollywood elite has never spoken truer words. While this will undoubtedly cause even more criticism of the actress, by raising the question of anti-Semitism, Johansson has cut straight to the heart of the problem with the movement that seeks to boycott Israel.

Those like Oxfam, a group that has vocally supported and funded the BDS—boycott, divest, sanction—movement, often claim that their goal is to help the Palestinians or to register a protest about the Israeli presence in the West Bank. But the battle over SodaStream actually helps strip away the thin veneer of humanitarianism from this anti-Israel cause and Johansson deserves credit for not shying away from speaking the truth about this fact.

Were BDS advocates truly interested in helping Palestinians, they would applaud efforts like that of SodaStream to invest in the area and to provide good jobs and benefits to local Arabs in an environment where they are treated and paid equally with Jews. But they don’t care about the people who would be put out of work if SodaStream were forced to relocate their factory.

BDS is rooted in more than indifference to the actual plight of Palestinians or the dilemma Israel faces in a conflict where its opponents still seek its destruction. The effort to boycott Israel is an overt act of bias. The BDS movement seeks to treat the one Jewish state in the world differently than any other country in the world and subject it to punishment to which no other state is subjected. The goal of BDS isn’t to push Israel to withdraw from the West Bank or to pressure it to make peace (something that would be unnecessary in any case since the Israelis have three times offered the Palestinians independence and statehood in almost all of the West Bank, Gaza, and a share of Jerusalem only to be turned down each time). Rather, its purpose is wage economic war on the Jewish state and to aid those who seek to destroy or replace it. The driving force behind efforts to destroy Israel is the same one that has singled out Jews for special treatment and double standards in the past: anti-Semitism.

But speaking this obvious truth requires a degree of candor and courage that even many of those who are advocates for Israel in this country often lack. Many, especially those who label themselves “pro-Israel and pro-peace,” prefer to soft-soap the conflict with Jew haters and to pretend that this is a territorial dispute rather than an existential one. But Johansson, who has got an up close and personal lesson in what drives the BDS crowd, has risen above platitudes. Though we cannot know whether this will hurt her marketability abroad—where a rising tide of the anti-Semitism she rightly decries is being felt throughout Europe and Asia—the actress has more than earned the gratitude not only of friends of Israel but of decent people everywhere. It’s a matter of opinion as to whether she truly is the sexiest woman on the planet, but there’s no doubt anymore that she’s among the most honest.

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Liberals Must Learn to Compartmentalize

When it comes to popular culture, being conservative requires a healthy compartmentalization. The bands you like probably think you’re evil, and if you live in or around a major liberal metropolitan area they will very likely tell you so in concert. The actors you admire are probably attending a Democratic Party fundraiser tonight. Or tomorrow. Soon, at any rate. So you learn to love art for art and not make politics too personal.

The alternative to this compartmentalization is–well, it’s this Guardian interview with Scarlett Johansson that ran over the weekend, which finds a complement of sorts in Anthony Lane’s new profile of Johansson for the New Yorker. At issue is, of course, the SodaStream controversy. In the lead-up to the Super Bowl, it was revealed that Johansson–a committed liberal Democrat who spoke at President Obama’s 2012 nominating convention–would star in a SodaStream ad during the big game. This upset Israel’s enemies, because SodaStream has a factory in the West Bank.

Johansson was also working as an ambassador for the “anti-poverty” group Oxfam, which objected to the SodaStream factory that brought good jobs to Palestinian workers, and let Johansson know they didn’t want her representing both companies. Johansson chose SodaStream because it was a boon to local Palestinians as well as a great example of Israeli-Palestinian cooperation. She chose wisely, in other words. So how did her interviewers at stridently liberal publications handle the topic? They portrayed her as an airhead. Here is how Lane dismisses the incident:

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When it comes to popular culture, being conservative requires a healthy compartmentalization. The bands you like probably think you’re evil, and if you live in or around a major liberal metropolitan area they will very likely tell you so in concert. The actors you admire are probably attending a Democratic Party fundraiser tonight. Or tomorrow. Soon, at any rate. So you learn to love art for art and not make politics too personal.

The alternative to this compartmentalization is–well, it’s this Guardian interview with Scarlett Johansson that ran over the weekend, which finds a complement of sorts in Anthony Lane’s new profile of Johansson for the New Yorker. At issue is, of course, the SodaStream controversy. In the lead-up to the Super Bowl, it was revealed that Johansson–a committed liberal Democrat who spoke at President Obama’s 2012 nominating convention–would star in a SodaStream ad during the big game. This upset Israel’s enemies, because SodaStream has a factory in the West Bank.

Johansson was also working as an ambassador for the “anti-poverty” group Oxfam, which objected to the SodaStream factory that brought good jobs to Palestinian workers, and let Johansson know they didn’t want her representing both companies. Johansson chose SodaStream because it was a boon to local Palestinians as well as a great example of Israeli-Palestinian cooperation. She chose wisely, in other words. So how did her interviewers at stridently liberal publications handle the topic? They portrayed her as an airhead. Here is how Lane dismisses the incident:

She issued a statement, lauding working conditions in the SodaStream factory and the company’s role in “building a bridge to peace between Israel and Palestine,” but this attempt at clarification made things messier still. Step back a little, and the whole farrago acquires a comic flavor, and Johansson sounds plausibly dumbfounded by her time at the heart of the storm: “I think I was put into a position that was way larger than anything I could possibly—I mean, this is an issue that is much bigger than something I could just be dropped into the middle of.” The only folk who relished the affair, I guess, were the board of Moët & Chandon, who could have told her, holding their noses, to stay away from inferior fizz.

That’s one way to reconcile an admiration for her art with her insufficiently leftist political opinion. Lane just condescends, pats her on the head and treats her like a child; oh that ScarJo, always wandering off! That’s not a very enlightened way to treat a woman who thinks for herself.

Something similar, but more confrontational took place in Johansson’s interview with the Guardian’s Carole Cadwalladr, who also made a point of insulting Johansson’s intelligence, only doing so repeatedly until the interview was over. At first, Cadwalladr tries the comforting theory that Johansson was just misinformed–those Zionists can tricky, after all:

From afar, it looked liked she’d received very poor advice; that someone who is paid good money to protect her interests hadn’t done the necessary research before she’d accepted the role and that she’d unwittingly inserted herself into the world’s most intractable geopolitical conflict. By the time Oxfam raised the issue, she was going to get flak if she did step down, flak if she didn’t. Was the whole thing just a bit of a mistake?

But she shakes her head. “No, I stand behind that decision. I was aware of that particular factory before I signed it.” Really? “Yes, and… it still doesn’t seem like a problem. Until someone has a solution to the closing of that factory to leaving all those people destitute, that doesn’t seem like the solution to the problem.”

Don’t you love that “Really?” The interviewer is astonished that Johansson knew anything about the company before accepting a check from them. Cadwalladr tries another avenue:

But the international community says that the settlements are illegal and shouldn’t be there. “I think that’s something that’s very easily debatable. In that case, I was literally plunged into a conversation that’s way grander and larger than this one particular issue. And there’s no right side or wrong side leaning on this issue.”

Except, there’s a lot of unanimity, actually, I say, about the settlements on the West Bank. “I think in the UK there is,” she says. “That’s one thing I’ve realised… I’m coming into this as someone who sees that factory as a model for some sort of movement forward in a seemingly impossible situation.”

Now Johansson has turned the tables. She has pointed out not only the truth–that it’s the interviewer who has no idea what she’s talking about–but that the cloistered, suffocating debate in the UK has warped Cadwalladr’s conception of the complexity of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. At this point, Cadwalladr can’t decide whether to stick by her original assessment, that Johansson must be stupid, or whether there is something more insidious at work here: Johansson’s greed and Jewish tribalism:

Half of me admires Johansson for sticking to her guns – her mother is Jewish and she obviously has strong opinions about Israel and its policies. Half of me thinks she’s hopelessly naive. Or, most likely, poorly advised. Of all the conflicts in all the world to plant yourself in the middle of…

“When I say a mistake,” I say, “I mean partly because people saw you making a choice between Oxfam – a charity that is out to alleviate global poverty – and accepting a lot of money to advertise a product for a commercial company. For a lot of people, that’s like making a choice between charity – good – and lots of money – greed.”

Welcome to the illuminating state of leftist discourse on Israel. The interview never gets back around to its ostensible topic–Johansson’s upcoming movie and her recent success on screen–because the interviewer just can’t move on until the actress’s politics align with her own. It’s incidents like this that have actually given me some sympathy for my liberal friends seated around the concert hall or the theater, having their political sensibilities flattered by the obscenely rich people they’re throwing money at, joining in common cause with their idols. No one taught them not to take their entertainment so seriously.

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Oxfam-Johansson Saga Takes Sinister Turn

When Scarlett Johansson came under pressure from the charity Oxfam to sever her ties with the Israeli company SodaStream, Johansson took the high-profile move of ending her longstanding relationship with the charity instead. For this stand, Johansson was pilloried by critics. The BBC’s Charlie Brooker portrayed the young actress as having essentially jettisoned a benevolent humanitarian group so as to side with the forces of uncompromising evil.

Now, however, it turns out that it may be the likes of Brooker who is owed some parodying in return. It has become apparent that not only is Oxfam guilty of highly politicized moves against Israel, but that Oxfam also stands accused of indirectly supporting the Palestinian terrorist organization the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). In a letter sent to Oxfam by the Israel Law Center, the charity is accused of having given support and funding to what are essentially satellite groups of the PFLP who then channel that funding back to the terror group itself.

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When Scarlett Johansson came under pressure from the charity Oxfam to sever her ties with the Israeli company SodaStream, Johansson took the high-profile move of ending her longstanding relationship with the charity instead. For this stand, Johansson was pilloried by critics. The BBC’s Charlie Brooker portrayed the young actress as having essentially jettisoned a benevolent humanitarian group so as to side with the forces of uncompromising evil.

Now, however, it turns out that it may be the likes of Brooker who is owed some parodying in return. It has become apparent that not only is Oxfam guilty of highly politicized moves against Israel, but that Oxfam also stands accused of indirectly supporting the Palestinian terrorist organization the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). In a letter sent to Oxfam by the Israel Law Center, the charity is accused of having given support and funding to what are essentially satellite groups of the PFLP who then channel that funding back to the terror group itself.

The letter calls on Oxfam to sever its ties with the groups in question–the Union of Health Workers Committees and the Union of Agricultural Workers Committees–or face the prospect of legal proceedings against it. Indeed, the PFLP is categorized as a terrorist organization by the U.S. government; responsible for some of most gruesome and calculated attacks on Israeli civilians in recent memory. As such, Oxfam could well find itself to be in breach of a number of European and American laws concerning the support of terrorism.

Oxfam has a long record of using its position as a charity to smear Israel and advance the political causes of Palestinians. The charity’s alignment with the boycott campaign that targets companies like SodaStream betrays a total disregard for the welfare of the Palestinians that these companies employ, and that Oxfam claims to care about assisting. Yet, it had already become apparent that Oxfam’s political agenda against Israel trumped any concern for the needs of Palestinians simply trying to make an honest living. They were to be sacrificed as part of the greater campaign to damage the State of Israel and Israelis who had the misfortune of being on the “wrong side” of a defunct and briefly maintained armistice line.

Now these latest allegations suggest that Oxfam may have actually been willing to go much further still to support the war on Israelis. The way in which a group supposedly championing human rights could so invert the values it claimed to stand for is a disturbing statement on just how all-consuming the hatred of Israel appears to become for those who first choose to dabble in it. More gratifying, however, is that those who wished to mock Johansson as having forsaken a much deserving and benign charity have been made to look the most farcical of all in this whole saga. 

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BDS on a Roll? Not So Fast

One of the BDS movement’s greatest assets is the fact that its every success gets massive media coverage while its failures (ScarJo excepted) are largely ignored. That’s why anyone following the news in recent weeks would probably conclude that boycott, divestment, and sanctions were rapidly gaining ground. Yet in reality, BDS has suffered several major failures lately–and some of these failures bode ill for its future.          

Just last week, for instance, Britain’s Supreme Court issued a major ruling against BDS when it upheld a trespassing conviction against four activists who chained themselves in an Ahava shop in London to protest the Israeli cosmetics firm’s West Bank plant. Far from being a narrow decision about trespassing, the ruling tackled the activists’ allegations against Ahava head-on.          

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One of the BDS movement’s greatest assets is the fact that its every success gets massive media coverage while its failures (ScarJo excepted) are largely ignored. That’s why anyone following the news in recent weeks would probably conclude that boycott, divestment, and sanctions were rapidly gaining ground. Yet in reality, BDS has suffered several major failures lately–and some of these failures bode ill for its future.          

Just last week, for instance, Britain’s Supreme Court issued a major ruling against BDS when it upheld a trespassing conviction against four activists who chained themselves in an Ahava shop in London to protest the Israeli cosmetics firm’s West Bank plant. Far from being a narrow decision about trespassing, the ruling tackled the activists’ allegations against Ahava head-on.          

First, the court rejected the claim that Ahava was “aiding and abetting the transfer of Israeli citizens to the OPT [Occupied Palestinian Territories],” and thereby violating the Geneva Convention. The company was doing no such thing, it said, but even if it were, “this could not amount to an offense by Ahava’s retailing arm.” That precedent will clearly be valuable for other Israeli companies fighting BDS.          

Second, the court rejected the claim that Ahava had mislabeled its goods by labeling them “made in Israel” when they were made in the West Bank–another precedent of obvious value. Moreover, its reasoning demonstrated a remarkably clear understanding of what BDS is about: The label isn’t misleading, it said, because “a consumer willing to buy Israeli products would be very unlikely not to buy Israeli products because they were produced in the OPT.” In short, the court understood that most boycotters aren’t just “anti-occupation”; they have a problem with Israel, period. That understanding is crucial to unmasking BDS for what it is.          

Also last week, Holland’s largest pension fund–and the world’s third largest–took the unusual step of issuing a press statement announcing that it had no intention of divesting from Israeli banks, having “concluded that these banks themselves do not act in breach of international laws and regulations, and that there are no judicial rulings that should lead to their exclusion.” ABP’s statement was a direct challenge to Holland’s second largest pension fund, PGGM, which last month announced plans to divest from Israeli banks because of their involvement in financing the settlements. PGGM had claimed such activity was problematic from the standpoint of international law. Now its larger crosstown rival has just publicly termed that nonsense. Such a rebuttal from a major European financial institution is far more convincing than anything Israel could say.          

Two weeks earlier, BDS suffered another loss in a French court. The French distributor for the Israeli firm SodaStream, which also has a West Bank plant, had sued a local pro-boycott group for claiming that SodaStream products were being sold fraudulently because they were labeled “made in Israel.” The court found the claim that the distributor was deceiving or defrauding customers to be baseless. It therefore fined the group and ordered it to halt its campaign. As with the British ruling, this precedent will be very useful to other Israeli companies.          

Moreover, many recent BDS “victories” are actually optical illusions. Take, for instance, the announcement by Denmark’s largest bank that it’s divesting from Bank Hapoalim. But as Hapoalim pointed out, “Denmark’s Danske Bank has no investments, of any kind, with Bank Hapoalim.” Similarly, the Norwegian Finance Ministry recently ordered its sovereign wealth fund to divest from two other Israeli companies–but again, the fund had no investments in those companies.          

Such “faux boycotts” are obviously still damaging, because they create the illusion that BDS is gathering steam. Nevertheless, they’re a far cry from real boycotts that do real economic damage.        

In short, despite John Kerry’s warnings that if peace talks fail, anti-Israel boycotts will metastasize, BDS remains a fringe movement that can still be thwarted. It will grow to threatening proportions only if Israel and its allies make no effort to challenge it.

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The PA’s Self-Inflicted Financial Wounds

Since writing last week’s post on the hypocrisy of trying to “help the Palestinians” by throwing actual Palestinians out of work, I’ve discovered more support for my claim that ordinary Palestinians agree with me on this issue. The Forward and the Christian Science Monitor both interviewed Palestinian employees of SodaStream, the now-famous Israeli company with a plant in a West Bank settlement, and were told emphatically that these employees opposed a boycott of the company that might cost them their jobs. The Monitor also spoke with Palestinians not employed by SodaStream, who said that far from wanting the company boycotted, they wished they could trade their own jobs for SodaStream’s better pay and shorter commute.

BDS supporters have a simple answer to this: Israel, they charge, is strangling the Palestinian economy; just force it out of the West Bank, and Palestinians will create plenty of jobs to replace Israeli companies. The problem with this argument is that the real impediment to Palestinian job creation isn’t Israel, but the Palestinians’ own government. And nothing better illustrates this than the case of Palestinian-Canadian investor Mohamed Al Sabawi. 

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Since writing last week’s post on the hypocrisy of trying to “help the Palestinians” by throwing actual Palestinians out of work, I’ve discovered more support for my claim that ordinary Palestinians agree with me on this issue. The Forward and the Christian Science Monitor both interviewed Palestinian employees of SodaStream, the now-famous Israeli company with a plant in a West Bank settlement, and were told emphatically that these employees opposed a boycott of the company that might cost them their jobs. The Monitor also spoke with Palestinians not employed by SodaStream, who said that far from wanting the company boycotted, they wished they could trade their own jobs for SodaStream’s better pay and shorter commute.

BDS supporters have a simple answer to this: Israel, they charge, is strangling the Palestinian economy; just force it out of the West Bank, and Palestinians will create plenty of jobs to replace Israeli companies. The problem with this argument is that the real impediment to Palestinian job creation isn’t Israel, but the Palestinians’ own government. And nothing better illustrates this than the case of Palestinian-Canadian investor Mohamed Al Sabawi. 

In December, the Palestinian Authority summarily arrested Sabawi and held him for eight hours. Two weeks earlier, on November 18, he had publicly called for ousting PA President Mahmoud Abbas, and his arrest stemmed from a complaint about this criticism filed by a member of Abbas’s Presidential Guard.

Moreover, immediately after Sabawi publicly criticized Abbas, the Palestinian Land Authority mysteriously stopped registering and parceling a large amount of land that a Sabawi-owned company had bought for resale. The company was told, unofficially, that this was on direct orders from Abbas’s bureau. As a further penalty, Abbas’s Presidential Guard canceled all the insurance policies it had purchased for its members from another Sabawi company.

Sabawi is the kind of investor one would think the PA would court. His Ahlia Insurance Group employs hundreds of Palestinians in the West Bank, while the land resale project was arguably even more valuable to the PA. That project, run by Sabawi’s Union Construction Investment company, had three goals: making it easier and cheaper for ordinary Palestinians to buy land by sparing them the byzantine registration process (which can take years); developing parts of the West Bank distant from Ramallah, where housing has become very expensive; and putting unregistered land out of Israel’s reach by registering it as private property. The idea was to buy up large tracts of land and shepherd it through the registration process–which the company could do more cheaply thanks to economies of scale–draft master plans for construction and obtain the requisite PA permits, then parcel the land into quarter-acre lots and sell them to ordinary Palestinians. But with the registration process indefinitely suspended, nobody wants to buy from UCI anymore, and the company has suffered heavy losses.

Sabawi’s son Khaled also owns a company, Mena Geothermal, whose “green energy” air conditioners won an international prize last year. But Khaled has now transferred his firm from the West Bank to Jordan, and says his father is gradually liquidating his West Bank assets as well.

In short, with its own two hands, the PA has driven lucrative businesses out of the West Bank–businesses that would have provided it with much-needed jobs and tax revenue. As Khaled said bitterly, any talk about bolstering the Palestinian economy under such circumstances is “nonsense.”

Such self-inflicted disasters have nothing to do with Israel, and ordinary Palestinians are honest enough to admit it: As one of SodaStream’s Palestinian employees told the Forward when asked about the claim that “the occupation” thwarts Palestinian development, “I think we have to stop putting all our faults on the Israeli side.”

It’s long past time for the West to be equally honest. If well-meaning Westerners really want to improve conditions in the PA, they need to finally put the onus where it belongs: not on Israel, but on the Palestinians’ own dysfunctional government.

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The Orwellian World of Israel’s Opponents

Yesterday on Twitter, foreign-affairs writer Armin Rosen engaged other Mideast watchers in the reason American officials call Jewish settlements “illegitimate” instead of “illegal.” It’s the sort of distinction that ought to be common knowledge–judging their legality would preempt final-status talks in contravention of the various agreements already reached–but isn’t. And amid the controversy over SodaStream, it was also a good reminder of just how loaded such language becomes when applied to the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Evelyn touched on this subject earlier, on the hypocrisy of those who designate themselves pro-Palestinian by demanding that hundreds of Palestinians lose their jobs, benefits, and professional connections, especially since they go against the express wishes of actual Palestinians, for whom they claim to speak. But the whole issue is littered with loaded and Orwellian language. Put aside the opinion pieces, for a moment, since they are by writers who seek openly to claim language for their side. It can be more interesting to watch the “reporting,” which claims neutrality and is anything but.

The New York Times is usually the place to go for this sort of journalism, and the paper’s story doesn’t disappoint. Of the SodaStream controversy, the Times tells us:

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Yesterday on Twitter, foreign-affairs writer Armin Rosen engaged other Mideast watchers in the reason American officials call Jewish settlements “illegitimate” instead of “illegal.” It’s the sort of distinction that ought to be common knowledge–judging their legality would preempt final-status talks in contravention of the various agreements already reached–but isn’t. And amid the controversy over SodaStream, it was also a good reminder of just how loaded such language becomes when applied to the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Evelyn touched on this subject earlier, on the hypocrisy of those who designate themselves pro-Palestinian by demanding that hundreds of Palestinians lose their jobs, benefits, and professional connections, especially since they go against the express wishes of actual Palestinians, for whom they claim to speak. But the whole issue is littered with loaded and Orwellian language. Put aside the opinion pieces, for a moment, since they are by writers who seek openly to claim language for their side. It can be more interesting to watch the “reporting,” which claims neutrality and is anything but.

The New York Times is usually the place to go for this sort of journalism, and the paper’s story doesn’t disappoint. Of the SodaStream controversy, the Times tells us:

The factory is in Mishor Adumim, an industrial zone attached to the large, urban settlement of Maale Adumim in the beige hills east of Jerusalem. Israel views the territory that it captured from Jordan in the 1967 war as disputed and says it intends to keep Maale Adumim under any peace deal with the Palestinians.

A common complaint from the pro-Israel side is that Israeli claims are identified as such while Palestinian claims are not subject to the qualifications and caveats so prevalent in coverage of Israeli statements. Of course the territory captured from Jordan is disputed. Israel keeping Maale Adumim is treated here as a demand (or even a threat) by Israel. But past parameters of the peace process consider Maale Adumim to be retained by Israel. Thus, not only is the land obviously disputed, but Israel is given greater claim to the city in question.

Worse, however, is the following sentence:

The dispute over the ad, scheduled to air during the Super Bowl on Sunday, has pitted pro-Palestinian activists against people and groups who support Israel unreservedly.

According to the Times, opponents of the SodaStream factory are self-evidently “pro-Palestinian,” but those who stand against the boycott of the Israeli company are not pro-Israel or supporters of Israel but rather are those who support Israel unreservedly. This is, first of all, flatly false. It isn’t true among Westerners, Israelis, or even Palestinians. Are the Palestinians at SodaStream who oppose the boycott to be considered “unreservedly” pro-Israel? To ask the question is to simultaneously wonder if mainstream reporters and editors have lost their minds.

And that, according to Yaacov Lozowick, is exactly what happens when “otherwise reasonably normal people” confront the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Lozowick notes that the SodaStream controversy is causing people to forget what words mean, and explains:

In any other context, worldwide, a private company maintaining a factory in an underdeveloped country so as to take advantage of its lower labor costs would be regarded as a boon for the hosting country (if perhaps not for the rich country the factory had previously been in). Sodastream, however, isn’t paying hundreds of Palestinian workers what they’d get from a Palestinian employer. It’s paying the Palestinian laborers Israeli wages, with the social benifits mandated by Israeli law.

Nobody lives in the Sodastream factory: it’s a factory. If ever there is peace between Israel and Palestine, Israeli owned factories in Palestine employing Palestinians is precisely the sort of thing everyone should be wishing for. Not for the “soft” advantages of people working alongside one another, which is the kind of thing one can’t easily measure: for the “hard”, quantifiable advantage of employment and foreign curreny.

In any other context, this is called FDI (foriegn direct investment) and is eagerly sought by politicians and toted up by economists. When it comes to Israel-Palestine, however, normal discourse goes silent.

And indeed, this is a point made by SodaStream’s CEO Daniel Birnbaum:

Unlike the question of Israeli homes in a foreign entity, he noted, there’s already ample precedent for Israeli-owned factories operating in foreign areas.

Birnbaum’s advisor, Maurice Silber, said that within the company “everybody is against the occupation.” But it does not follow, he said, that because SodaStream operates in an occupied area, it violates human rights. Eventually, he said, SodaStream could become the “seed of the future Palestinian economy.”

The company is “against the occupation,” will happily stay in a Palestinian state and pay taxes to the Palestinian government, and would like to jumpstart the process by providing a jolt to the Palestinian economy. It’s a move and a mindset that would be celebrated were the company not owned by Israeli Jews. Nonetheless, the fact that Israel’s enemies must torture and distort everyday language just to attempt to make their case says a lot about how an honest rendering of the facts favors Israel’s moral standing.

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“Pro-Palestinians” Versus Real Palestinians

If you want to understand the difference between people who are actually pro-Palestinian and those who routinely but falsely claim that label, it’s worth reading the Forward’s interview with SodaStream CEO Daniel Birnbaum. The headline, of course, was Birnbaum’s admission that having a plant in a West Bank settlement is “a pain in the ass,” and he would “never” locate there today. But the most striking comment was his answer to the question of why, in that case, he doesn’t shut the West Bank plant and transfer its operations to SodaStream’s new facility in the Negev, which has ample capacity:

The reason for staying is loyalty to approximately 500 Palestinians who are among the plant’s 1,300 employees, Birnbaum claimed. While other employees could relocate on the other side of the Green Line if the plant moved, the West Bank Palestinian workers could not, and would suffer financially, he argued.

“We will not throw our employees under the bus to promote anyone’s political agenda,” he said, adding that he “just can’t see how it would help the cause of the Palestinians if we fired them.”

In other words, Birnbaum is concerned about real live Palestinians whose families need to eat. That’s a concern noticeably absent among the usual “pro-Palestinian” types, who couldn’t care less about ordinary Palestinians’ welfare unless it happens to serve their primary goal of attacking Israel: See, for instance, the shocking indifference by “pro-Palestinian” groups to the literal starvation of Palestinians in Syria (since Israel can’t be blamed for it), or the Dutch and German governments’ efforts to halt sewage treatment and landfill projects that would primarily benefit Palestinians because Jewish settlers would also benefit. But it’s a concern ardently shared by ordinary Palestinians themselves, as a 2010 poll showed: By an overwhelming majority of 60 percent to 38 percent, Palestinians opposed the idea that they themselves should refuse to work in the settlements. Real Palestinians care about feeding their families, and they don’t want to be barred from jobs that enable them to do so.

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If you want to understand the difference between people who are actually pro-Palestinian and those who routinely but falsely claim that label, it’s worth reading the Forward’s interview with SodaStream CEO Daniel Birnbaum. The headline, of course, was Birnbaum’s admission that having a plant in a West Bank settlement is “a pain in the ass,” and he would “never” locate there today. But the most striking comment was his answer to the question of why, in that case, he doesn’t shut the West Bank plant and transfer its operations to SodaStream’s new facility in the Negev, which has ample capacity:

The reason for staying is loyalty to approximately 500 Palestinians who are among the plant’s 1,300 employees, Birnbaum claimed. While other employees could relocate on the other side of the Green Line if the plant moved, the West Bank Palestinian workers could not, and would suffer financially, he argued.

“We will not throw our employees under the bus to promote anyone’s political agenda,” he said, adding that he “just can’t see how it would help the cause of the Palestinians if we fired them.”

In other words, Birnbaum is concerned about real live Palestinians whose families need to eat. That’s a concern noticeably absent among the usual “pro-Palestinian” types, who couldn’t care less about ordinary Palestinians’ welfare unless it happens to serve their primary goal of attacking Israel: See, for instance, the shocking indifference by “pro-Palestinian” groups to the literal starvation of Palestinians in Syria (since Israel can’t be blamed for it), or the Dutch and German governments’ efforts to halt sewage treatment and landfill projects that would primarily benefit Palestinians because Jewish settlers would also benefit. But it’s a concern ardently shared by ordinary Palestinians themselves, as a 2010 poll showed: By an overwhelming majority of 60 percent to 38 percent, Palestinians opposed the idea that they themselves should refuse to work in the settlements. Real Palestinians care about feeding their families, and they don’t want to be barred from jobs that enable them to do so.

Yet that’s exactly what boycotting companies like SodaStream would primarily accomplish. Though SodaStream says it won’t leave, other Israeli companies have decided they don’t need the hassle and relocated inside the Green Line, throwing their erstwhile Palestinian employees out of work. Countless others choose not to locate in the West Bank to begin with, as Birnbaum admits he would do today.

Currently, 20,000 Palestinians work in the settlements. Eliminating their jobs would cause the number of unemployed people in the West Bank to jump 14 percent–hardly a helpful proposition for an economy already suffering 19 percent unemployment.

This same disregard for actual Palestinians also characterizes other forms of anti-Israel boycotts. Take, for instance, the effort to impose an academic boycott on Israel. As one Palestinian pharmacy professor, who understandably feared to give his name, told the New York Times this month, “more than 50 Palestinian professors were engaged in joint research projects with Israeli universities, funded by international agencies,” and “without those grants, Palestinian academic research would collapse because ‘not a single dollar’ was available from other places.”

Boycott proponents claim that by reducing Israelis’ academic freedom, they seek to “enlarge” Palestinians’ academic freedom. Yet in fact, as this Palestinian professor admitted, Israeli academia is the lifeline keeping its Palestinian counterpart alive. So how would killing off academic research in Palestinian universities “enlarge” Palestinians’ academic freedom? It wouldn’t, of course–but the “pro-Palestinian” crowd doesn’t care about that.

In fact, the only thing these self-proclaimed “pro-Palestinians” do care about is undermining Israel–which is why it’s high time to stop dignifying them with the name “pro-Palestinian.” They are anti-Israel, pure and simple. And that’s what they should be called.

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A BDS Thought Bubble

What a relief that Scarlett Johansson has stepped down as Oxfam ambassador. When it comes to relieving poverty, there is one thing we know: the most important thing is ideological purity.

As the Zionist oppressors at COMMENTARY are doubtless aware, Johansson recently accepted a role as global ambassador for SodaStream. SodaStream contributes to the oppression of Palestinians by employing about 500 West Bank Palestinians at much higher wages than they could earn elsewhere. That is why we say, along with Oxfam, that SodaStream helps “further the ongoing poverty” of Palestinian communities. We regret that Oxfam did not also mention that having Israelis working alongside Arabs in the factory furthers Israeli apartheid.

You will undoubtedly deploy your colonialist “logic” to point out that higher wages do not further poverty and that having Israelis working alongside Arabs does not foster apartheid. It is true that Reuters, that mouthpiece of Zionist colonialist expansion, reports that “in the plant, assembly lines buzz to the mixed voices in Hebrew and Arabic of its employees – a rare example of people from the two sides working and talking together.” But Reuters is obviously drinking the SodaStream Kool Aid, which, curse them, they make in three delicious varieties.

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What a relief that Scarlett Johansson has stepped down as Oxfam ambassador. When it comes to relieving poverty, there is one thing we know: the most important thing is ideological purity.

As the Zionist oppressors at COMMENTARY are doubtless aware, Johansson recently accepted a role as global ambassador for SodaStream. SodaStream contributes to the oppression of Palestinians by employing about 500 West Bank Palestinians at much higher wages than they could earn elsewhere. That is why we say, along with Oxfam, that SodaStream helps “further the ongoing poverty” of Palestinian communities. We regret that Oxfam did not also mention that having Israelis working alongside Arabs in the factory furthers Israeli apartheid.

You will undoubtedly deploy your colonialist “logic” to point out that higher wages do not further poverty and that having Israelis working alongside Arabs does not foster apartheid. It is true that Reuters, that mouthpiece of Zionist colonialist expansion, reports that “in the plant, assembly lines buzz to the mixed voices in Hebrew and Arabic of its employees – a rare example of people from the two sides working and talking together.” But Reuters is obviously drinking the SodaStream Kool Aid, which, curse them, they make in three delicious varieties.

But the SodaStream plant is located in Maale Adumim, a piece of the occupied territories east of Jerusalem, which already contains tens of thousands of radical Israeli suburban commuters. Almost no one thinks that Maale Adumim will become part of a future Palestinian state, but a movement can dare to dream, can it not? That is why some Oxfam insiders worried that keeping Johansson on would threaten its relationships with Palestinian partners. These Palestinian partners sensibly stand by this principle: no one who supports a company that employs Palestinians in a territory certain to be ceded to Israel as part of a peace agreement will be permitted to help Palestinians. We hold that truth to be self-evident.

The fact is, it’s not just the settlements. We in the BDS movement oppose all joint Israeli-Palestinian projects, wherever they take place. As the guidelines for our academic and cultural boycott plainly state, we must “refrain from participation in any form of academic and cultural cooperation, collaboration or joint projects with Israeli institutions.” Johansson therefore crossed a line when she expressed support for “economic cooperation and social interaction between a democratic Israel and Palestine.” Even COMMENTARY readers, if they are willing to relax their ideological pose for a moment, will grasp why those words are so hateful. We don’t care how effective Scarlett Johannson is as an anti-poverty advocate, or how good she was in Iron Man 2, a movie we permitted ourselves to enjoy before we realized that it glorified an industrial capitalist.

Although we are deeply disappointed that Johannson beat Oxfam to the punch by resigning, we still say good riddance. And don’t think that Oxfam needs you either, Ms. Johansson. They’ve still got Annie Lennox and Desmond Tutu.

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Will ScarJo Pay a Price for Her Principles?

The BDS campaign against SodaStream took an unexpected turn yesterday when actress Scarlett Johansson announced her resignation as a representative of Oxfam. The British-based coalition of philanthropic groups had condemned Johansson’s role as a commercial spokesperson for SodaStream, an Israeli soda machine manufacturer, because of its location in the Jerusalem suburb of Maale Adumim in the West Bank. Initially, Johansson sought to remain with both organizations, but it was soon clear that she had to choose and released the following statement through a spokesman:

“Scarlett Johansson has respectfully decided to end her ambassador role with Oxfam after eight years,” the statement said. “She and Oxfam have a fundamental difference of opinion in regards to the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement. She is very proud of her accomplishments and fundraising efforts during her tenure with Oxfam.

In response, Oxfam thanked Johansson for her service but made it clear that her decision with SodaStream meant she was no longer welcome:

While Oxfam respects the independence of our ambassadors, Ms. Johansson’s role promoting the company SodaStream is incompatible with her role as an Oxfam Global Ambassador. 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.

Oxfam is opposed to all trade from Israeli settlements, which are illegal under international law. Ms. Johansson has worked with Oxfam since 2005 and in 2007 became a Global Ambassador, helping to highlight the impact of natural disasters and raise funds to save lives and fight poverty.

This is a remarkable turn of events. For Johansson, a prominent Hollywood liberal who has campaigned for Democrats and progressive causes, Oxfam was a perfect fit because of her interest in poverty-related causes. But as one of the most visible international charities, it was also a good match for a career in that it added a touch of gravitas to an actress who might otherwise be trivialized as the only woman to be named the sexiest woman in the world by Esquire twice. One might have thought that in terms of an immediate monetary reward, Johansson would choose SodaStream over Oxfam because one pays her and the other doesn’t. But in terms of positive publicity and maintaining her status as a member in good standing of the Hollywood liberal establishment, Oxfam might have been the more sensible choice.

In sticking with SodaStream, Johansson will win the praise of many Americans, especially fellow Jews, but it opens a new and potentially bitter chapter in the struggle by the BDS movement against Israel. The question facing the actress as well as friends of the Jewish state is whether her decision will herald more defeats for those seeking to isolate Israel or will instead provide a new focus for a BDS movement that is gaining support in Europe even as it remains marginal in the United States.

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The BDS campaign against SodaStream took an unexpected turn yesterday when actress Scarlett Johansson announced her resignation as a representative of Oxfam. The British-based coalition of philanthropic groups had condemned Johansson’s role as a commercial spokesperson for SodaStream, an Israeli soda machine manufacturer, because of its location in the Jerusalem suburb of Maale Adumim in the West Bank. Initially, Johansson sought to remain with both organizations, but it was soon clear that she had to choose and released the following statement through a spokesman:

“Scarlett Johansson has respectfully decided to end her ambassador role with Oxfam after eight years,” the statement said. “She and Oxfam have a fundamental difference of opinion in regards to the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement. She is very proud of her accomplishments and fundraising efforts during her tenure with Oxfam.

In response, Oxfam thanked Johansson for her service but made it clear that her decision with SodaStream meant she was no longer welcome:

While Oxfam respects the independence of our ambassadors, Ms. Johansson’s role promoting the company SodaStream is incompatible with her role as an Oxfam Global Ambassador. 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.

Oxfam is opposed to all trade from Israeli settlements, which are illegal under international law. Ms. Johansson has worked with Oxfam since 2005 and in 2007 became a Global Ambassador, helping to highlight the impact of natural disasters and raise funds to save lives and fight poverty.

This is a remarkable turn of events. For Johansson, a prominent Hollywood liberal who has campaigned for Democrats and progressive causes, Oxfam was a perfect fit because of her interest in poverty-related causes. But as one of the most visible international charities, it was also a good match for a career in that it added a touch of gravitas to an actress who might otherwise be trivialized as the only woman to be named the sexiest woman in the world by Esquire twice. One might have thought that in terms of an immediate monetary reward, Johansson would choose SodaStream over Oxfam because one pays her and the other doesn’t. But in terms of positive publicity and maintaining her status as a member in good standing of the Hollywood liberal establishment, Oxfam might have been the more sensible choice.

In sticking with SodaStream, Johansson will win the praise of many Americans, especially fellow Jews, but it opens a new and potentially bitter chapter in the struggle by the BDS movement against Israel. The question facing the actress as well as friends of the Jewish state is whether her decision will herald more defeats for those seeking to isolate Israel or will instead provide a new focus for a BDS movement that is gaining support in Europe even as it remains marginal in the United States.

It is possible that Oxfam’s decision wasn’t entirely based on the anti-Israel bias of its London-based leadership. One of the leading corporate donors to Oxfam just happens to be the Coca Cola Company that has given millions to the group. That tie between a company that can be linked to obesity and bad nutrition and a charity that promotes feeding the hungry is seen as a contradiction by some and only explained by the cash that flows from Coke to Oxfam. But the fact that SodaStream is a competitor that is already eating into Coke’s market share could account, at least in part, for Oxfam’s speed in denouncing Johansson.

But even if contributions from Coke had nothing to do with Oxfam’s decision, the most important conclusion to be drawn from the way this controversy developed is the ease and speed with which a theoretically apolitical charity like Oxfam publicly embraced the BDS stand even though it meant losing the services of such an effective ambassador as Johansson. The decisiveness and alacrity  with which Oxfam’s leaders condemned her ties with an Israeli company may well have come as a rude shock to Johansson after she signed on to appear in SodaStream commercials, including one scheduled for broadcast during the Super Bowl. Though she is an active supporter of many liberal causes who embraced Oxfam because of its apparent compatibility with her personal values, it may not have occurred to her that in international progressive circles such associations with Israel aren’t kosher.

The point here is not simply the factual inaccuracy of Oxfam’s accusations that settlements further Palestinian poverty or deny Palestinian rights. Having seen SodaStream’s operations herself, Johansson knew that charges that it exploited its Arab workers were nothing but propaganda and absurd lies. She rightly understood that its owners were committed peaceniks who genuinely believe that the cooperative and mutually profitable relations between Jews and Arabs that go on at SodaStream are exactly what the region needs. But in the world of Oxfam, opposition to West Bank settlements isn’t about what’s good for the Palestinians. The factory’s location, a few miles from Jerusalem’s city limits in territory that almost certainly would be incorporated into Israel in the event of a peace treaty, is merely an excuse to continue a campaign of delegitimization against the Jewish state. And in that struggle, there can be no exceptions or even any grey areas where people of good conscience may differ.

The arrogant moral certainty of Oxfam’s statement simply assumes that the presence of Jews in what is, under international law, disputed territory rather than that of a sovereign state, is repugnant. That is exactly the mindset of BDSers whose purpose is not aiding poor Palestinians but to further impoverish them by destroying businesses that provide them with income and an opportunity to better themselves that is largely denied them by the corrupt governments led by both the Palestinian Authority and Hamas in the West Bank and Gaza.

But now that Johansson has rejected the leftist groupthink of Oxfam that assumes the Jewish state to be beyond the pale, it remains to be seen whether there will be a price to be paid for her principled choice. As I noted earlier this week, it is possible that in the future Johansson may become the focus of a concerted boycott by Israel-haters. Though their efforts won’t put even a minor dent in her career prospects in the United States, it is entirely possible that she will be become better known in Europe and Asia as a supporter of Israel than as a gifted A-list actress. The implications of such a development would not be trivial for film producers who increasingly rely on international markets to realize profits, nor for other companies seeking film stars to promote their products.

If Johansson had abandoned SodaStream it would have signaled an immediate and high-visibility victory for the BDS campaign, certainly its most important victory in the United States. But having cast her lot with defenders of the Jewish state, the actress must understand that this isn’t the end of the story. She may have thought her work for Oxfam gave her common ground with progressives in Europe and around the globe. But she may now discover that, from this day forward, they will only see her as a public figure to be rejected and shunned as a principled Jew who stands with Israel.

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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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The Boycott-Israel Movement Targets Scarlett Johansson

Scarlett Johansson is used to being on what liberals consider the “right” side of an issue. She was supportive of Barack Obama and even joined the “celebrity army,” as Politico characterized it, to get Americans to board the leaky ship of ObamaCare. But now she is finding out what it means to be on the other side. No, she hasn’t risked the new Hollywood blacklist to become a conservative. She has merely undertaken a professional association with an Israeli company.

In early January, SodaStream announced it had hired Johansson as a “global brand ambassador,” to include a commercial to air on Super Bowl Sunday. To the emerging boycott-Israel crowd, the partnership was infuriating: SodaStream has a plant in the West Bank. Johansson probably thought this was a win-win: she can proudly promote an Israeli company (Johansson is Jewish) that also helps the Palestinian population by offering them jobs at higher wages as well as benefits and an on-site mosque.

But if so, Johansson misunderstood Israel’s critics: they do not seek the improvement of Palestinian lives, only the harassment of Israeli ones. And the SodaStream controversy is a case in point. The New York Times reports on it today, and notes that Oxfam International, an anti-poverty charity for which Johansson is also an “ambassador,” took a shot at the actress for her association with the Israeli company. From the Times:

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Scarlett Johansson is used to being on what liberals consider the “right” side of an issue. She was supportive of Barack Obama and even joined the “celebrity army,” as Politico characterized it, to get Americans to board the leaky ship of ObamaCare. But now she is finding out what it means to be on the other side. No, she hasn’t risked the new Hollywood blacklist to become a conservative. She has merely undertaken a professional association with an Israeli company.

In early January, SodaStream announced it had hired Johansson as a “global brand ambassador,” to include a commercial to air on Super Bowl Sunday. To the emerging boycott-Israel crowd, the partnership was infuriating: SodaStream has a plant in the West Bank. Johansson probably thought this was a win-win: she can proudly promote an Israeli company (Johansson is Jewish) that also helps the Palestinian population by offering them jobs at higher wages as well as benefits and an on-site mosque.

But if so, Johansson misunderstood Israel’s critics: they do not seek the improvement of Palestinian lives, only the harassment of Israeli ones. And the SodaStream controversy is a case in point. The New York Times reports on it today, and notes that Oxfam International, an anti-poverty charity for which Johansson is also an “ambassador,” took a shot at the actress for her association with the Israeli company. From the Times:

In a statement added Wednesday to a web page on Ms. Johansson’s work for the charity, Oxfam said that while it “respects the independence of our ambassadors,” the group also “believes that businesses that operate in settlements further the ongoing poverty and denial of rights of the Palestinian communities that we work to support. Oxfam is opposed to all trade from Israeli settlements, which are illegal under international law.” For that reason, the statement concluded, “We have made our concerns known to Ms. Johansson and we are now engaged in a dialogue on these important issues.”

This is economic illiteracy of the highest order. And the Palestinian workers there would tell them so, if they would ask–as JTA did for a story last year summing up the issue with its apt headline: “In SodaStream boycott push, Palestinians may be the victims.” So is Oxfam willing to impoverish Palestinians because of its opposition to Israel? That sounds like a terribly irresponsible position, especially for an organization devoted to alleviating poverty.

But as irresponsible as it is, Oxfam is free to choose its causes. Scarlett Johansson, according to the boycott-and-blacklist-happy left, is not. The Times notes that the D.C.-based Palestine Center’s Yousef Munayyer declared that Johansson cannot represent both Oxfam and SodaStream: “One relationship must end.” (Johansson probably also didn’t expect that pro-Palestinian voices in the West would propose measures that would simultaneously hurt her livelihood and the livelihood of Palestinians, but such is the reality of today’s anti-Israel obsessives.)

But perhaps the most surprising element of the controversy for Johansson is the reaction of Jewish voices. Earlier this month the Forward joined the chorus of scolds, producing this fairly remarkable passage:

In the “Behind the Scenes” video for the new Super Bowl ad, Johansson announces that her “favorite thing about SodaStream is that I don’t feel guilty when I enjoy beverages at home.” While it’s true that SodaStream has some terrific guilt-easing benefits — it’s reusable, pays for itself, and tastes great — it also has a pile of guilt-inducing disadvantages worth considering. And with the New York Times comparing Johansson’s new role at SodaStream to those of Jennifer Aniston-Smartwater and George Clooney-Nespresso — in other words, Johansson will soon become SodaStream — there is all the more reason for Johansson to do some serious research into what she’s advertising. For one who is already so politically active — not only on a national level, but also internationally (Johansson is also the “global ambassador” for Oxfam) — this seems like a poor choice.

Advertising executive and consultant on the deal Alex Bogusky was quoted as saying that “using [Johansson’s] celebrity…can really normalize the machine and the process.” While she’s openly gunning for former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for 2016, Johansson would do well to realize that “normalizing” the Israeli occupation is a bad use of her celebrity.

Here is Johansson asserting that she is proud to represent this Israeli company, and the Forward telling her that maybe she shouldn’t be. Because while it may seem like the company is an economic boon to Palestinians and a model of multicultural cooperation and integration (because it is), her critics say SodaStream is taking advantage of her celebrity endorsement to “normalize the machine” of Israeli malevolence.

There is also the suggestion that she might have to choose between SodaStream and Hillary Clinton’s presidential candidacy, which would only be true if Clinton would be embarrassed, like the Forward, to be associated with Israeli companies that take great care of hundreds of Palestinian employees. Maybe that’s the case, but Clinton certainly hasn’t said so. More likely, it’s merely the fervent wish of the boycotters and their allies, so bravely working to prevent Israel’s “normalization.”

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