Scarlett Johansson's Trouble is more than Oxfam
As Michael Curtis wrote yesterday for American Thinker, Scarlett Johansson finds herself crosswise Oxfam International, a global nonprofit outfit with a decidedly left-wing perspective. Johansson serves as an "ambassador" for Oxfam. Johansson's endorsement of SodaStream, an Israeli-based beverage company with a West Bank facility, has drawn the ire of the informal leftist-anti-Israel alliance. Oxfam is just the tip of the iceberg in the attack on Johansson.
At this writing, Oxfam hasn't jettisoned Johansson. But the pressure on Oxfam to do so continues. Those groups and organizations arrayed against Johansson read like a Who's Who of leftist and anti-Semitic activism.
Agree with Johansson's politics or not, enjoy her movies or not, the coordinated effort to intimidate Johansson to abandon her support for SodaStream by the left and its anti-Israel allies illustrates starkly the hardball tactics they'll employ. Boycotts and blacklisting are tools that this alliance not only uses against Israel and its friends, but is willing to use against those who typically support their causes. On the left, departure or dissent isn't tolerated; either is met with harsh reprisals.
Mondoweiss, a declared "progressive" (read socialist) Jewish online news site dedicated to "foster[ing] the movement for greater fairness and justice for Palestinians in American foreign policy" and "[t]o offer alternatives to pro-Zionist ideology as a basis for American Jewish identity," posted an article on January 25 with this lead:
Groups working for Palestinian rights are urging Oxfam International to take immediate action and break its ties with Hollywood actress Scarlett Johansson after she issued a statement supporting Israel's military occupation and human rights abuses.
Johansson had released a statement on January 24 -- exclusive to the Huffington Post -- that read, in part:
"I remain a supporter of economic cooperation and social interaction between a democratic Israel and Palestine," the actress said. "SodaStream is a company that is not only committed to the environment but to building a bridge to peace between Israel and Palestine, supporting neighbors working alongside each other, receiving equal pay, equal benefits and equal rights. That is what is happening in their Ma'ale Adumim factory every working day."
Mondoweiss is a project of the Center for Economic Research and Social Change (501)c(3), with a mission of promoting socialism and leftwing aims.
This from the Electronic Intifada (a pro-Palestinian, anti-Israeli propaganda website), in an update to an article about the Johansson controversy written by Ali Abunimah:
In light of Oxfam's comments to The Electronic Intifada and Johansson's statement, US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, Adalah-NY, and Jewish Voice for Peace today expressed outrage at Johansson's endorsement of settlements and Oxfam's failure to act on it.
"We demand Oxfam respond immediately and drop her as their Global Ambassador in accordance with their own stated position that settlements are a major barrier to peace and contributor to poverty," said the US Campaign's Ramah Kudaimi.
And again from Abunimah at the Electronic Intifada, calling explicitly for a consumer boycott of SodaStream merchandise at retail outlets:
Wired names SodaStream one of its 2013 "Editor's Picks" without mentioning the fact that the soft-drink machine is manufactured in Maale Adumim, one of Israel's illegal West Bank colonies where Palestinian workers, with few other options under brutal Israeli military occupation, have said they are treated "like slaves."
Earlier in his article, Abunimah penned this:
As the occupation-profiteering company steps up its aggressive marketing, activists are also gearing up for the Boycott SodaStream Days of Action from 29 November to 10 December.
The brief video above highlights retailers such as Target, which claim to uphold "the highest ethical standards," and yet sell SodaStream products whose profits "reinforce a system of brutal ethnic segregation."
Per Bloomberg, SodaStream sales were off during the fourth quarter of 2013 -- the Christmas shopping season. Wrote Bloomberg's Gabrielle Coppola:
SodaStream's sales slowdown this year is a "shorter-term blip" and is to be expected after the 51 percent growth in 2012, said Michael Kass, a New York-based portfolio manager at Baron Capital Inc., which manages $20 billion in assets, including emerging-market stocks.
SodaStream sales rose a healthy 30% in 2013, reported Coppola.
Generally, holiday sales in the U.S. were slow for "brick and mortar" and internet retailers, reports Steve Eggleston at Hot Air on January 8. Reuters reported under a headline that summed it up: "Deep discounts fail to woo U.S. holiday shoppers."
SodaStream sales dropped in the fourth quarter of 2013 due to an inevitable slowdown after a long period of dynamic growth in the company's sales and because U.S. consumers were watching budgets during the holidays. A leftist-anti-Israel boycott of SodaStream didn't impact the company -- but that doesn't mean the alliance's efforts won't continue.
Nor will the leftist-anti-Israel alliance stop targeting Johansson, whose star-power not only promotes SodaStream sales, but legitimizes SodaStream's West Bank facility. "End the Occupation: U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation" is running a petition at its website to pressure Johansson out of her support for SodaStream.
Of SodaStream's West Bank facility, the company's CEO, Daniel Birnbaum, remarked in a lengthy interview with Al-Monitor in January 2013:
"We are facing an increasing tide of protests from all sorts of places around the world and from all sorts of sectors too. We are sometimes attacked in the international media for perpetuating the Occupation. Some retailers have protested that we should label our products as "Made in Palestine." We've come under attack from celebrities and even from business partners like Kraft, the largest food corporation in the U.S.
And yet, we have the same answer for everyone. Our factories are apolitical. We don't take sides in this conflict. Quite the contrary, we inherited a factory in Area C, and we don't know what its final fate will be, if and when an agreement is reached. Nevertheless, we are building bridges between us and the Palestinian population, and we provide our Palestinian employees with respectable employment opportunities and an appropriate salary and benefits. We "even" purchase medical insurance for them from a private Israeli company, because I am not confident that the money we pay to the Palestinian Authority for such social benefits will actually be used for medical insurance.
The Birnbaum interview is worth reading in its entirety. Birnbaum is an iconoclast. His including Palestinians at his West Bank operations (900 Palestinians are employed) and their fair treatment would be understandably attractive to Scarlett Johansson, who evidently is sincere about supporting an Israeli-Palestinian entente. But SodaStream's success employing Palestinians only gives the lie to the leftist-anti-Israel propaganda that seeks to paint Israelis as exploiters and oppressors.
From PMW (Palestinian Media Watch):
Fatah Central Committee member Abbas Zaki reiterated this position [eliminating Israel] on Al-Jazeera TV:
"It is impossible to realize the inspiring idea or the great goal in one stroke... Israel will come to an end... If I say that I want to remove it from existence, this will be great, great, [but] it is hard. This is not a [stated] policy. You can't say it to the world. You can say it to yourself." [Al-Jazeera TV, Sept. 23, 2011]
Whether its efforts are sophisticated or ham-handed, the left-anti-Israel alliance at core is dedicated to one proposition: the destruction of Israel. What the fate of Israeli Jews would be if their nation was destroyed isn't hard to answer, if one refers to history.
Along the way to Israel's destruction, the left, its radical Muslim allies, and their fellow travelers will destroy others, even if, like Scarlett Johansson, the motivations for an Israeli-Palestinian rapprochement, are sincere. The ends justify the means, after all.