Scarlett Johansson's decision to stick with SodaStream and leave Oxfam has become a bubbly controversy, and that's good news. It's good news because Johansson proved mainly one thing: she thinks for herself, and doesn't allow anyone to do her thinking for her. She's a supporter of a free Palestinian state, but that doesn't mean she automatically agrees with any movement that calls itself pro-Palestinian, because some of them have become so engrossed in "the cause," that they've ceased to see the facts or the implications of what they propose.
1. The SodaStream factory is located in Ma'ale Adumim near Jerusalem, a town that will most probably remain a part of Israel once there is a two-state solution. In the accords being negotiated these days, the territory is to remain Israeli, while the Palestinian Authority will be compensated with another piece of land close by, equal in size. In a peaceful scenario of two states, this plant will continue to enable many Palestinian families to make a good living for themselves.
2. The SodaStream factory has equality and human rights written all over it. It employs Jews, Arabs, Israelis and Palestinians -- all with equal pay and benefits. It believes in building bridges, in working together in peace, and in creating a mutual brand. Five-hundred Palestinians would immediately lose their jobs and wouldn't be able to feed their families if this factory were to be moved or closed. Why anyone who is truly pro-Palestinian would want to boycott this plant, is unclear.
3. The Palestinian Authority has not been particularly successful with the utilization of its funds up until today. In the West Bank, the funds were used primarily to create a huge public sector, instead of an independent productive economy. The resigned PM, Salam Fayyad, who managed to contribute a lot to an actual financial state-building, regretfully had to leave his post because he was a political threat to Abbas. In Gaza, which is ruled by the terrorist organization of Hamas, the situation is much worse: the huge funds that were donated over the years were "invested" in arms and smuggling tunnels. As a result, funds have now dwindled, and the Palestinians need all the help they can get in order to build a healthy economy, and for the new state to thrive. Killing the few existing mutual economic interests of Israel and the PA will not aid future peace. Far from it.
4. It's okay to pressure the Israeli government to do its share in order to promote a peace accord, but it seems many have forgotten that there are two sides to this conflict, and that the welfare of the Palestinians depends on many things. People who are truly pro-Palestinian should be very bothered with many questions that are being completely neglected today. How will Hamas cooperate with PLO once there's a state? Can a terrorist organization be expected to change its basic agenda or character? Will the new Palestinian state be democratic and free? Will it have free speech, for example, or equality for women? Because this is not the case today.
Bottom line -- those who are pro-peace should think, and not make automatic decisions just because they've been previously taken by others. After the wave of criticism the ASA received for automatically boycotting Israel, it would have probably reconsidered before taking an action that only hurt academic freedom and the exchange of ideas.
People who want to promote peace find ways to build bridges, encourage communication, and emphasize common grounds instead of taking sides and emphasizing the conflict. Scarlett Johansson was wise enough to check the facts before endorsing a product. I wish I could say the same for most of those endorsing the boycott.