Three comments on SodaStream and Scarlett Johansson:
Scarlett Johansson has given a clinic on how to stand up to bullies.
The world is filled with people who preach love but are full of hate. They project humility but are full of arrogance. They are consumed with passionate intensity - but for the wrong things. They prostitute words and pervert values. They say they are for peace, but their actions promote war.
Roger Waters, the legendary Pink Floyd rocker, criticized Johansson for giving him the wrong impression that she believed in truth, human rights and the law of love. They are Comfortably Numb to truth, human rights and the law of love. Under the guise of tolerance and humaneness many of them are really the most intolerant of people. Under the guise of liberalism many of them are really the most illiberal preachers of a fundamentalist philosophy.
And Scarlett Johansson showed the proper response to these folks. When Oxfam wagged its big moral finger at their global good-will ambassador, warning Johansson that Oxfam opposes trade with Israeli settlements in the West Bank and that she should reconsider her relationship with SodaStream if she knows what's good for her, it was Johansson who reconsidered her relationship with Oxfam. In a rather stunning turn of events, it was she who terminated the relationship, citing "a fundamental difference of opinion in regards to the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement."
In effect, this Scarlett said to Oxfam: "Frankly, I don't give a damn." What a relief; what an inspiration.
Boycotts of Israel are absurd.
BDS (Boycotts, Divestments and Sanctions) activist, Omar Barghouti, makes no attempt to hide the true objective. As he asserts: "The right of Palestinian refugees to return to the homes and lands from which they were displaced and dispossessed in 1948."
Leave aside that the Palestinians are the only group in the world whose refugee status is transmitted automatically to subsequent generations -- that the grandchild of a Palestinian refugee who might be a native-born accomplished and wealthy citizen in any country in the world -- can, nonetheless, be considered a refugee by the United Nations: under that definition millions of Americans whose grandparents escaped Europe could still be considered refugees;
Leave aside that the reason many Palestinians became refugees in the first place was that the Palestinian Arabs joined surrounding Arab states in a war of extermination against the infant State of Israel in 1948, a war that they lost; leave aside that Israel came into possession of the West Bank in the first place because of a war of extermination that three Arab states launched against Israel in 1967 and lost;
Leave aside that the PLO launched a vicious war against Israeli civilians in the heart of Israel that killed a thousand and maimed ten thousand -- and lost -- and as a result of that -- the security barrier and other security measures were implemented; leave aside that they launched this war after rejecting President Clinton's Camp David proposals, accepted by Israel -- and that they rejected two additional peace proposals primarily because they refuse to sign an end-of-conflict provision that would settle all outstanding claims against Israel once and for all; leave aside that every day Palestinians try to inflict terror on Israel and that the reason they don't succeed is Israeli security measures;
Leave aside that Omar Barghouti, himself, is a graduate of Tel Aviv University and the university resisted a world wide petition to expel him, upholding the values of free thought and speech, awarding him a Masters degree in philosophy;
Leave all that aside: the return of millions of Palestinians to Israel is code for ending the State of Israel. It is anti-Israel venom wrapped in the honey of human rights rhetoric.
Those who support boycotting Israel are often blinded by hatred. They single out Israel as the world's worst oppressor. They do it to delegitimize Israel in the eyes of the world. As a small country surrounded by enemies and dependent on international trade, Israel is vulnerable to this pressure and Israel haters know this.
A hundred miles from the SodaStream factory there are millions of Syrian Arab Muslim refugees; over a hundred thousand have already been killed. If you are a humanitarian worker where would you advise Palestinians that they are better off - Aleppo, Homs, Damascus, Cairo, Beirut, Riyadh, Tehran - or Ramallah?
None of this implies that Israel cannot do more to bring about a two-state solution; it does not excuse Israeli wrongdoings. But frankly, the Palestinians, too, have done many wrongs.
And where is the context? Where is the proportionality? The Middle East is burning with the fires of anti-Western, anti-democratic anti-humanitarian savagery, torture and anarchy and SodaStream is the cause of all evil in the world and the primary preoccupation of those who supposedly advocate for truth, human rights and the law of love?
How wonderful it is to sit in London and to boycott Israel, the only reliable Western ally left in the Middle East. Oh what feelings of self-satisfaction and high principle. There is no need to think about Palestinian excesses and Palestinian incitement.
Things might look a bit different from Sdereot, but never mind. There are no good Israelis and there are no legitimate Israeli concerns, so what do I care if Israeli children cannot go to school because they are fired upon indiscriminately by Palestinian terrorists? It is their own fault. Israel was born in original sin and therefore, by definition, is the problem of every problem.
Partial boycotts are boycotts.
Oxfam's official position is that it is not in favor of boycotting Israel (despite troubling reports that it is funding BDS organizations), only Israeli products that have even the smallest connection to the West Bank. Scarlett Johansson pointed out the hypocrisy of this position. She did not distinguish between partial boycotts and BDS. She called it for what it is: A partial boycott is a boycott.
To advocate for a policy of partial boycott is to speak the language of boycott. It is to place yourself with those who call for boycotting all of Israel. It is to give aid and comfort to Israel's enemies. It is to legitimate the delegitimizers. It also takes the Palestinians off the hook, as if they are merely potted plants and not independent actors who could end this struggle quickly if they really wanted to.
Partial boycotts are also unworkable in practice. It is impossible to limit such a boycott to products beyond the Green Line. More importantly, it often undermines those who are in favor of compromise and coexistence - the very thing that the partial boycotters say they want.
SodaStream is a perfect example. Its main manufacturing plant is in Maaleh Adumim, which under any conceivable arrangement will remain within the permanent borders of Israel. SodaStream employs there approximately a thousand people. Five hundred of them are Palestinians who receive equal benefits and equal pay. There is a mosque on the premise.
The Palestinian workers, themselves, do not want SodaStream boycotted. What is Oxfam's solution: To close down the factory and send five hundred well-paid Palestinians into unemployment and poverty? If SodaStream were to pick up and relocate would this would further the interests of the Palestinian workers, and better promote coexistence and peace?
What should we who believe in truth, human rights and love be doing? We should continue to support and advocate for a two state solution. We should continue to promote coexistence. We should continue to support those in Israeli society who believe in territorial compromise and continue to urge them to make the necessary compromises for peace. We should continue to support those in the Palestinian community who believe in territorial compromise and continue to urge them to make the necessary compromises for peace.
If you own an I-Phone made in China; if you wear high fashion made in Asian sweat shops; if your home is heated with oil from Russia or the Persian Gulf, you may want to reconsider these purchases first. They affect millions more people than SodaStream.
And you may also want to reconsider the next contribution to Oxfam.