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Originally published in Tikkun Daily

A high-profile controversy bubbled over this week into the mainstream over actress Scarlett Johansson's endorsement of the carbonate-it-yourself company, SodaStream. While the controversy itself is rather narrow, its meaning and implications are far-reaching, as I'll explain in a moment. But first, allow me to explain the controversy ...

Johansson has become the celebrity face of SodaStream, an Israeli company which has its factory in the West Bank settlement of Ma'ale Adumim. This week, SodaStream made a promotional push in advance of her upcoming Super Bowl ad for the company, which considers Johansson a "brand ambassador," going so far as to describe the relationship between the two as a "love story" between a socially conscious company and a passionate consumer.

The only problem is that, aside from being SodaStream's "brand ambassador," she is also an "Oxfam Ambassador" for the global charity organization, Oxfam International. This week, Palestinians and international boycott advocates challenged either Johansson to leave SodaStream, or Oxfam to end its relationship with Johansson, given the conflict due to Oxfam's political position on Israeli settlements.

This pressure resulted in Johansson publishing a public statement in The Huffington Post, and Oxfam making a statement of its own.

Johansson decided to stand firmly behind the company, painting it as a model for peace and environmental stewardship:

I remain a supporter of economic cooperation and social interaction between a democratic Israel and Palestine. SodaStream is a company that is not only committed to the environment but to building a bridge to peace between Israel and Palestine.
In turn, Oxfam – which does not recognize the legality of Israeli settlements, and understands quite well that Israel's military rule in the Occupied Territories is anything but democratic – has published a statement of its own:
Oxfam respects the independence of our ambassadors. However Oxfam 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.

We have been engaged in dialogue with Scarlett Johansson and she has now expressed her position in a statement, including stressing her pride in her past work with Oxfam. Oxfam is now considering the implications her new statement and what it means for Ms Johansson's role as an Oxfam global ambassador.

It is clear that Oxfam is preparing to sever its ties with Johansson, who has worked with the aid organization on important projects since 2005. It is also clear that this never would have happened if not for the visibility, and legitimacy, of Palestinians who are nonviolently opposing Israel's geo-political policies. For Oxfam didn't know about Johansson's endorsement for SodaStream – nor of the company factory in the Occupied Territories – until international activists began protesting its affiliation with Johansson.

And this is precisely why what has occurred between Johansson and Oxfam is so significant, for it has provided a high-profile test case measuring the impact, and veracity, of Palestinian efforts to mobilize international players against Israel's undemocratic occupation.

Those efforts resulted in articles popping up in mainstream media outlets, including The New York Times, and compelled both Johansson and Oxfam to make their positions known.

Not after months of protest. But after only days of highlighting this online, via Twitter and social media.

The speed with which media picked up on Johansson's relationship with SodaStream as a legitimate story of controversy is significant enough. Even more so that all players involved felt compelled to make their positions immediately known.

The implication being clear: Palestinian opposition to Israel's geo-political policies is becoming not just more accepted in the mainstream as legitimate, but it is becoming more effective as a result.

If the ultimate result of all this is a peaceful resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, whether via a two-state resolution (my deep desire) or some other agreed upon resolution, these small efforts will be looked upon as historically significant.

Even fights over endorsement deals for soda companies.  

                                                                --§--

What Do You Buy For the Children 
David Harris-Gershon is author of the memoir What Do You Buy the Children of the Terrorist Who Tried to Kill Your Wife?, just out from Oneworld Publications.


Originally posted to David Harris-Gershon (The Troubadour) on Sat Jan 25, 2014 at 09:15 AM PST.

Also republished by Writing by David Harris Gershon and Adalah — A Just Middle East.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (39+ / 0-)

    "If the Jew who struggles for justice for Palestine is considered anti-Semitic, & if Palestinians seeking self-determination are so accused...then no oppositional move can take place w/o risking the accusation." - Judith Butler

    by David Harris Gershon on Sat Jan 25, 2014 at 09:15:01 AM PST

  •  This reminds me somewhat (3+ / 0-)

    of the controversy of whether Paul Simon "broke" the anti-apartheid boycott against South Africa by hiring and touring with (black) South African musicians.

    I am not familiar with the details but it appears that Oxfam is opposed to any Israeli presence on the West Bank, whether or not a business is "fair" to its Arab workers or not, correct?

    “The answer must be, I think, that beauty and grace are performed whether or not we will or sense them. The least we can do is try to be there.” ― Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

    by 6412093 on Sat Jan 25, 2014 at 09:57:53 AM PST

    •  Oxfam's position seems to be that, in keeping (9+ / 0-)

      with international law, it views the settlements as illegal, and thus views any companies or profits that come from Israel's occupation to be a target for isolation.

      Looking up as we speak.

      "If the Jew who struggles for justice for Palestine is considered anti-Semitic, & if Palestinians seeking self-determination are so accused...then no oppositional move can take place w/o risking the accusation." - Judith Butler

      by David Harris Gershon on Sat Jan 25, 2014 at 10:26:42 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Not at all. It's as if Simon had toured with WHITE (13+ / 0-)

      South Africans, who touted themselves as "pro-black" despite not speaking out against Apartheid, and in fact directly benefiting from its policies.

      Your analogy is totally off.

      A business based in a settlement and employing Palestinians, cannot be really fair - no matter how well-wishing its owners are.

      Because the Palestinians are non-citizens and enjoy no legal protection, they will always be at the mercy of both the military Occupation authorities and secret police (granting/denying work permits at will with no accountability), and at the mercy of their employer's goodwill (since there is no enforcement mechanism on labor laws for Palestinians working in settlements).

      And in the case of SodaStream, the supposed well-wishing is mostly for PR purposes. Their CEO has subtly changed his spin from outright defiance, to "but I'm really helping them..."

      Their PR video circulating around is pretty ridiculous to watch. At some point, (minute 6:30 or so), the CEO actually says he's losing money by being based in a settlement... but he won't move, because he wants to continue and sacrifice himself for Palestinians' benefit!

      Oh, the laughs.

      •  Simon's case is v different, although at the time (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Assaf, murrayewv

        supporters of the S Africa boycott considered him to be in violation.  But that was contraverted by the support of the well known anti-apartheid musicians Miriam Makeba and Hugh Masakela.

        In the 1980s, [Masakela] toured with Paul Simon in support of Simon's album Graceland, which featured other South African artists such as Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Miriam Makeba, Ray Phiri, and other elements of the band Kalahari, which Masekela recorded with in the 1980s.
        Simon clearly went out of love for the music of Black SA musicians like Ladysmith Black Mambazo, and greatly widened their audience.
        During the 1970's and early 1980's Ladysmith Black Mambazo established themselves as the most succesful singing group in South Africa. In the mid-1980s, Paul Simon visited South Africa and incorporated the group's rich tenor/alto/bass harmonies into his famous "Graceland" album – a landmark recording that was considered seminal in introducing world music to mainstream audiences. A year later, Paul Simon produced Ladysmith Black Mambazo's first worldwide release, "Shaka Zulu", which won a Grammy Award in 1988 for Best Folk Recording. Since then, the group has been awarded two more Grammy Awards ("Raise Your Spirit Higher (2004) and "Ilembe (2009)") and has been nominated a total of fifteen times.
        Mambazo eventually were invited by Mandela to play in Sweden when he was awarded the Nobel.

        There's no such thing as a free market!

        by Albanius on Sat Jan 25, 2014 at 07:35:11 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  It seems thing are moving (finaly) (6+ / 0-)

    I think we have a few things happening at once.

    1.  The Iraq/Afganistan wars (both neoconservative projects) ended badly (we lost) and that has discredited many neoconservatives.  
    2.  The Iranian Nuclear negations are backed by the foreign policy establishment, White House and substantial portions of the American Left.  
    3. Many American Jews (myself included) find it hard not find a conflict in supporting human rights, self determination and republicanism (in the 1848 sense of the word) and support a nation-state whose majority is also Jewish but does not embody these values.  
    4.  We are seeing demographic changes.  Zionism is a much more comfortable ideology our parents who grew up watching the '67 and '73 wars.  We grew up with Lebanon and latter the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip take center stage.  The first foreign war I remember being persistently in the news was the dismemberment of the Yugoslavian multi ethnic state by demagogues, war criminals and opportunists.
    5.  Recognizing the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian people to engage in self determination will help to make AlQuada less attractive.  Victories by moderate and leftists at the negating table will undercut extremists.  Even if the extremists claim them.

    I suspect that we may see a resolution sooner than later as international opinion changes and pressure is applied.  

    I'm a 4 Freedoms Democrat.

    by DavidMS on Sat Jan 25, 2014 at 10:16:04 AM PST

  •  I never pegged Johansson for a moron (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    poco, tardis10

    But that statement beats all.

    Peace talks? Policy changes? Boycotts? Pffft. All the region needs is SodaStream and the "bridge to peace" it is building.

    •  She's deeply invested in the 'environmental' (6+ / 0-)

      benefits of the company, and appears to be ignorant (now willfully) of the true nature of what's going on in the Occupied Territories.

      That she could view the company as a part of democratic Israel and a boon to peace is evidence that she feels compelled to take the company line, rather than question it.

      At least publicly.

      "If the Jew who struggles for justice for Palestine is considered anti-Semitic, & if Palestinians seeking self-determination are so accused...then no oppositional move can take place w/o risking the accusation." - Judith Butler

      by David Harris Gershon on Sat Jan 25, 2014 at 10:28:18 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I would say, rather, that she's deeply invested (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        poco, Aunt Martha

        in the income she's no doubt receiving from her endorsement of Soda Stream.

        If reality clashes with your belief, then the problem clearly is reality.--God

        by Flyswatterbanjo on Sat Jan 25, 2014 at 12:35:44 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  I would say that (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Lujane

          She likely entered into a contractual agreement, unaware of this complication, and feels an obligation to fulfill her contract absent breach on the part of the other party.

          It may well come to the point that she severs ties, if she finds they are lying to her.  So far I think she's taking them as acting in good faith, but this is only what, Day 2 since the statement?  

          She's Jewish, she has Jewish representation, she's liberal, she got involved under the auspices that this was a liberal cause, she's young, she's busy, she's bright but not brilliant -- I have to think her initial reaction was and should have been to trust the folks around her.  Inquiry will come when and as the situation persists.

          Iron sharpens Iron. Normal is a dryer setting. STOP illegal immigration NOW! -- Make it LEGAL. If Corporations are People--Let's draft them.

          by benamery21 on Sat Jan 25, 2014 at 02:00:25 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Being "young" (she is almost 30) (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Flyswatterbanjo, poco

            doesn't give her a pass, particularly when she put her name to something so globally inflammatory.

            At the point that Oxfam reached out to her what you say holds water. After that point, no way. She is now inextricably linked with the issue and she has taken a side. And she did so knowing full well that Oxfam was going to respond. I have no doubt that they tried very hard to convince her to back off/down before going public.

            She is an actress who worked hard to position herself as politically savvy and above average smart. That is all gone for her now unless she is able to pull a rabbit out of the hat.

            •  I don't think I said that that or other factors (0+ / 0-)

              I mentioned, give her "a pass."  A suspension of full judgement, perhaps?  I think those factors explain why she would be inclined to initially accept statements made to her by people she has reason to trust, about conditions in the factory and the likely political reaction to her posture.  I also think people would be slamming her for saying nothing if she had waited longer for additional inquiry.  This isn't over, and I expect inquiry will follow.

              Iron sharpens Iron. Normal is a dryer setting. STOP illegal immigration NOW! -- Make it LEGAL. If Corporations are People--Let's draft them.

              by benamery21 on Sat Jan 25, 2014 at 03:20:22 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

  •  My questions to Oxfam. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    grover, bear83, diffrntdrummr

    Does this mean that you only want to work with people with whom you are in complete agreement about everything?

    Should I stop supporting all of your work if I can find one position of yours on anything with which I disagree?

    This strikes me as a fundamentalist approach to life.

    So I see only tatters of clearness through a pervading obscurity - Annie Dillard -6.88, -5.33

    by illinifan17 on Sat Jan 25, 2014 at 10:27:17 AM PST

    •  Not really (7+ / 0-)

      It is more like if one of PETAs celebrity spokespeople also took a gig modeling fur apparel.  

    •  Ummm....Being opposed to something (10+ / 0-)

      that is illegal under international law seems to be the easiest thing to agree on. Doesn't really require a lot of twisting and bending of one's positions to fit in.

      It's *Gandhi*, not Ghandi

      by poco on Sat Jan 25, 2014 at 10:37:50 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I suppose (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        poco, Pizzapotamus

        That being anti poverty and pro human rights advocacy, should tolerate other points of view, like pro poverty and anti human rights as equally legitimate points of view.  

      •  "International law" is a rather slippery entity. (0+ / 0-)

        I don't think I need to agree with every point of what somebody else defines as "international law" to be a person of good will.

        So I see only tatters of clearness through a pervading obscurity - Annie Dillard -6.88, -5.33

        by illinifan17 on Sat Jan 25, 2014 at 10:47:37 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Mostly b/c people slipperize it with bad faith. (8+ / 0-)

          Israel is an international expert on this slipperizing schtick.

          And the statements by SodaStream's CEO are a textbook example.

          Listening to him, you might think he's actually siting his main factory in a settlement specifically in order to help Palestinians.

          Actually, scratch "might think". He actually says that explicitly. That he's losing money on this totally altruistic mission. What a clown.

          •  Are there financial benefits to being (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Assaf, poco, Aunt Martha

            based where he is?

            •  Wages are lower in OPT (7+ / 0-)

              But, more importantly, labor law in the OPT is governed by mandate era 1930's British law, not the much more progressive Israeli labor law as regards workers rights, paid time off, pension and retirement schemes, dispute resolution, worker safety, etc.  

              But, by labeling the products as "made in Israel" they get the benefits of tariff free exports to OECD countries.  

              Not unlike our textile factories in the Mariana's.   Few worker protections, but "made in USA" on the label.

              •  There's also other more direct incentives. (3+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                whizdom, poco, Aunt Martha

                See my comment.

              •  Not in the EU, since 2010. nt (0+ / 0-)

                Iron sharpens Iron. Normal is a dryer setting. STOP illegal immigration NOW! -- Make it LEGAL. If Corporations are People--Let's draft them.

                by benamery21 on Sat Jan 25, 2014 at 01:04:37 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

              •  Even electronic intifada admits (0+ / 0-)

                that the factory is now paying 3 to 4 times Palestinian Authority wage levels since a 2010 expulsion of a labor contractor, although they claim continued non-attainment of Israeli levels of other work conditions, despite noting that some 'black Jews' work at manual assembly alongside the majority of the Palestinian employees (Israeli Arabs and Ashkenazi apparently don't).

                Note that ALL of the garment factories in Saipan closed after wages were raised dramatically by Congress, and electricity prices spiked.  

                Iron sharpens Iron. Normal is a dryer setting. STOP illegal immigration NOW! -- Make it LEGAL. If Corporations are People--Let's draft them.

                by benamery21 on Sat Jan 25, 2014 at 02:12:18 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

            •  Govt. incentives, tax breaks, cheap rent u name it (8+ / 0-)

              he's got it.

              As the CEO himself admits in that PR video, from a purely logistic-industrial perspective there is zero reason to place your main factory in Mishor Adumim, Occupied West Bank.

              It is in the desert some 20 minutes east of Jerusalem. None of your raw materials are anywhere near. The port, airport and the country's main industrial zones are in the coastal plain, some 1.5-2.5 hours drive away on good traffic - and traffic is never good.

              Trucks going to and from your factory must scale the Jerusalem hills (>2500 feet) and then drop some 1500 feet on the steep road into the desert where you're situated. And do the same route the other way when delivering your products.

              The only reason that settlement industrial zone is even there, is political: the government wanted to stick that finger of "Greater Jerusalem" as deep east into the West Bank as possible. It is literally a blockage to any Palestinian contiguity between the West Bank's north and south halves.

              Of course, the land was not bought but rather confiscated. Which makes the rent there super-cheap compared to Jerusalem industrial zones. Some of the land was supposedly public rather than private, but that means it should have been used for the local public's good, not for invading settlements.

              Read more detailed research here and here.

              •  Really interesting. Thx. (5+ / 0-)

                I don't know if SodaStream got professional PR advice for this campaign but, wow, was it a HUGE and clueless mistake. On the other hand, it is a total boon for the boycott campaign. The story is everywhere today. And no way does fizzy water trump human rights.

                I've been superficially following the boycott for awhile (mostly because it is very loud in South Africa) but never asked any questions. That sure has changed now. Thanks SodaStream!

                •  Thank you for this encouraging perspective. (4+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  poco, ExpatGirl, Flyswatterbanjo, whizdom

                  Doing anti-Occupation work, whether on the ground or in advocacy, often feels like trying to empty a polluted swamp with a teaspoon, while others are busy diverting even more sewage water into it with huge machinery, most people you know think you are wrong to do it to begin with or couldn't care less - and the rest of the world is clueless or helpless.

                  So it's easy to get discouraged by the ease in which an Occupation-profiteering company like SodaStream gets huge markets and gets to have their spin validated by the powers that be. Not only to they help the Occupation and gain from it; they get to pretend they are a morally superior company on a Super Bowl commercial.

                  But as you say, eventually the truth comes out. Their hubris causes them to overplay their hand - and voila.

    •  Oxfam had the same issue with Kristin Davis (6+ / 0-)

      (actress from Sex and the City). She was an Oxfam ambassador and then became a spokesperson for Ahava cosmetics.

      When it was pointed ou to her that Ahava is an Israeli company located in the West Bank, making it a party to the illegal occupation, she dropped Ahava and stuck with Oxfam.

      International humanitarian law is pretty clear here. Israel has no sovereignty in the West Bank, thus no right to move its citizens there, and no right to grant land or incentives for an Israeli company to move there and utilize West Bank resources. It's a war crime, the crime of pillage, as spelled out in the Geneva Conventions.

      If reality clashes with your belief, then the problem clearly is reality.--God

      by Flyswatterbanjo on Sat Jan 25, 2014 at 12:46:24 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  David, thanks for posting this important story! (6+ / 0-)

    If I may suggest, you can add to the diary the awesome satirical meme of Johansson that I shared on my FB page last night.

    Johansson displays the typical American cluelessness of what the Occupation is, and how settlement businesses like SodaStream exploit it.

    But that didn't stop her from releasing this rather outrageous defiant statement, that displays her cluelessness to the entire world.

  •  So what next (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Assaf

    What wil Ms. Johannson do?  What will Oxfam do?  I imagine SS pays better.  And she must know how Emma Thompson and Vanessa Redgrave had a hard time getting roles after making statements sympathetic to Palestinian causes.

    almost anything either do will only raise the profile of the basic issue in the minds of Americans, especially those not following politics closely.

  •  A story from about a year ago (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    whizdom

    Iron sharpens Iron. Normal is a dryer setting. STOP illegal immigration NOW! -- Make it LEGAL. If Corporations are People--Let's draft them.

    by benamery21 on Sat Jan 25, 2014 at 12:49:06 PM PST

  •  A previous American actress working w/ Sodastream (0+ / 0-)

    Iron sharpens Iron. Normal is a dryer setting. STOP illegal immigration NOW! -- Make it LEGAL. If Corporations are People--Let's draft them.

    by benamery21 on Sat Jan 25, 2014 at 12:51:06 PM PST

  •  Huffpost statement (0+ / 0-)

    not sure if it's been edited or what, but the current Johansson statement at Huffpost concludes the second excerpted sentence with the words:

    "supporting neighbors working alongside each other, receiving equal pay, equal benefits and equal rights."

    Iron sharpens Iron. Normal is a dryer setting. STOP illegal immigration NOW! -- Make it LEGAL. If Corporations are People--Let's draft them.

    by benamery21 on Sat Jan 25, 2014 at 12:59:42 PM PST

  •  The Soda Stream Ad (0+ / 0-)

    was rejected by Fox, so it wont show on Super Bowl.
    http://www.usatoday.com/...

  •  David-- can you confirm (0+ / 0-)

    That the quotation from Johansson's statement that you show above was not artificially truncated mid-sentence?

    If so, the statement at Huffpost has been altered since posted.

    Iron sharpens Iron. Normal is a dryer setting. STOP illegal immigration NOW! -- Make it LEGAL. If Corporations are People--Let's draft them.

    by benamery21 on Sat Jan 25, 2014 at 01:44:22 PM PST

  •  Don't support Oxfam (0+ / 0-)

    if they won't disassociate themselves from her.

    "When dealing with terrorism, civil and human rights are not applicable." Egyptian military spokesman.

    by Paleo on Sat Jan 25, 2014 at 02:18:50 PM PST

  •  Shorter Scarlett (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    poco

    $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$

    "When dealing with terrorism, civil and human rights are not applicable." Egyptian military spokesman.

    by Paleo on Sat Jan 25, 2014 at 02:19:32 PM PST

  •  On the environmental aspect (0+ / 0-)

    The central refill of CO2 bottles with a proprietary connection, so as to capture above market revenue for the CO2, directly increases energy usage and emissions associated with refill.

    If these bottles could be refilled at any local CO2 purveyor, redundant and inefficient transportation/shipping energy would be unnecessary.

    Iron sharpens Iron. Normal is a dryer setting. STOP illegal immigration NOW! -- Make it LEGAL. If Corporations are People--Let's draft them.

    by benamery21 on Sat Jan 25, 2014 at 02:23:00 PM PST

  •  Stephanie Miller does Soda Stream.... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JayinPortland, Koopatroopa, cryonaut

    Commercials on her show all the time. Does that mean I shouldn't listen to the show anymore? Should I stop going to  the movies that Scarlett stars in? I'm so confused and want to make sure that I don't  hurt anyone's feelings on those matters.

  •  finally (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Koopatroopa, Al Abama

    someone stands up to the anti-Israel outrage lobby. Good for Scarlett.

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