Scarlett Johansson as pitchwoman for SodaStream..
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Scarjo and peace Scarlett Johansson is not only an award-winning actress and, according to Esquire, the Sexiest Woman Alive for 2013, she is also a promoter of various brands and products. Martin Scorsese recently shot an ad for Dolce & Gabbana perfume in which Johansson sits in the passenger seat of a vintage convertible belonging to The Wolf of Wall Street’s Matthew McConaughey. She has also appeared in campaigns for Moet & Chandon champagne and Mango clothing.
Johansson happens to be politically active as well. She has campaigned for the Democratic presidential candidates in the last three elections, has hosted fund-raisers for Barack Obama, and has addressed the Democratic National Convention.
Johansson also serves as Oxfam’s “global ambassador,” appearing in a video shot at the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya.
But now Johansson has come under fire for becoming the “global ambassador” of SodaStream. The reason for the controversy? SodaStream is located in Mishor Adumim, an industrial park just east of Maaleh Adumim, which is beyond the Green Line.
In an oped that appeared in The Jewish Daily Forward, Elisheva Goldberg, an international relations analyst at Molad, a left-leaning think tank based in Jerusalem, argued that Johansson was attempting to “normalize” the Israeli “occupation” and that this was a bad use of her celebrity status. Mike Merryman-Lotze, director of the American Friends Service Committee’s Palestine-Israel Program, wrote in Al-Jazeera that SodaStream is perpetuating the “occupation” and all its negative effects by placing itself purposely in an area beyond the Green Line – and Johansson is culpable as well.
Even if one were to concede that SodaStream’s presence in Mishor Adumim is illegitimate and that the company has taken advantage of cheap Arab labor (though SodaStream insists it provides Palestinian workers with above-average salaries and benefits), and makes Palestinians’ lives difficult – the question could be raised, as it was by The New Yorker’s Emily Greenhouse, whether Johansson should be considered a proponent of “occupation” simply because she endorses SodaStream’s home carbonating technology? More fundamentally, however, don’t Palestinians also have a part in the continuing difficulties of reaching a lasting peace arrangement that would end the “occupation”? We should recall that it was not until 1988 – nearly two decades after the Six Day War – that the PLO, deemed to be the official representative of the Palestinian people, declared at least ostensibly, that it had given up violence.
And Yasser Arafat claimed that the PLO also recognized Israel’s right to exist.
Nevertheless, the PLO and other Palestinian movements continued to resort to terrorism. Many, particularly Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and other terrorist organizations operating principally in the Gaza Strip, still use violence and terrorism and refuse to recognize Israel even within the pre-June 1967 lines.
It should also not be forgotten that Arafat rejected the Clinton parameters that proposed to give Palestinians control over more than 90 percent of the West Bank, with land swaps inside the Green Line to compensate. Jerusalem would have been a shared capital for both Israelis and Palestinians, and even the refugee problem was addressed. In 2008 Mahmoud Abbas rejected a similar Israeli proposal made by then-prime minister Ehud Olmert. Moreover, to this day, Palestinian Authority officials continue to incite against Israel.
What’s more, in proposals such as the Geneva Initiative, backed by a broad consensus on the Israeli Left and considered a general blueprint for any future two-state solution, Mishor Adumim is included on the Israeli side.
Admittedly, Israel’s continued control over the lives of over 2.5 million Palestinians is problematic, chock with moral dilemmas, and ultimately unsustainable. However, resolving the conflict takes the cooperation of both sides. Blaming Israeli businesses like SodaStream and the celebrities who help promote them is misguided, unfair, and unhelpful.
SodaStream already has enough to contend with apart from the Palestinian issue, given that the Fox network objects to its Super Bowl ad on the grounds that its script offends other advertisers. The company is reportedly tweaking its ad to ensure it is commercially, if not politically, correct.
Perhaps something good will come out of all the media attention given to SodaStream and Johansson after all. As Johannson noted, the “light being shed on this issue” might “contribute to the conversation of a peaceful two-state solution in the near future.”
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