Sunday, January 26, 2014

SodaStream, Scarlett Johansson and BDS

Scarlett Johansson, the new official spokesperson of SodaStream, the Israeli company who has purchased a Super Bowl advertisement spot, is facing controversy from the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) movement.  SodaStream is located in the West Bank.  It is specifically located in the Maale Adumim industrial park.  Maale Adumim sits right outside of Jerusalem and has a population of some 40,000 residents.  To most Israelis it is a Jerusalem suburb.  To the vast majority of peace negotiators it is one of the three large settlement blocs that will be incorporated within the borders of the State of Israel.  Such facts are of course immaterial to the BDS movement.  Scarlett Johansson released an official statement yesterday:
While I never intended on being the face of any social or political movement, distinction, separation or stance as part of my affiliation with SodaStream, given the amount of noise surrounding that decision, I'd like to clear the air. 
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, 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. As part of my efforts as an Ambassador for Oxfam, I have witnessed first-hand that progress is made when communities join together and work alongside one another and feel proud of the outcome of that work in the quality of their product and work environment, in the pay they bring home to their families and in the benefits they equally receive. 
I believe in conscious consumerism and transparency and I trust that the consumer will make their own educated choice that is right for them. I stand behind the SodaStream product and am proud of the work that I have accomplished at Oxfam as an Ambassador for over 8 years. Even though it is a side effect of representing SodaStream, I am happy that light is being shed on this issue in hopes that a greater number of voices will contribute to the conversation of a peaceful two state solution in the near future.
To my mind SodaStream helps to further a two state solution.  Below is a video produced by SodaStream.  It is a testament to the power of what can happen, and what might happen, when Jews and Arabs work side by side.


To my ear the BDS movement is not interested in dialogue and cooperation between Israelis and Palestinians but instead in demonizing and marginalizing the State of Israel. It draws broad strokes and refuses to examine particulars. "All settlements are wrong," it shouts. There are differences throughout the territories. Look within each community instead. I disagree with the movement's refrain that Israel is wrong and the Palestinians are right, that Israel is the oppressor and the Palestinians are victims. There are victims on both sides. Israel has certainly made mistakes and I believe continues to do so (the continued expansion of remote settlements in the West Bank is on my list) but it does not get us any closer to a negotiated peace to portray one side as guilty, and entirely responsible for our present circumstances, and the other as innocent. When Jews and Arabs come face to face with each other and as in the case of SodaStream work together and celebrate together, and in some cases become friends, then we are one step closer to a two state solution and living side by side as friendly neighbors.

I for one am looking forward to the much talked about commercial during the upcoming Super Bowl.  I am almost inclined to purchase a soda maker, even though I never drink soda.

Addendum: below is the commercial that will appear, at least in part, during the Super Bowl.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

So inspiring and hopeful. A refreshing idea that is working on so many levels. Kudos to Mr. Birnbaum and all those of Soda Stream. Looking forward to seeing your ad at the Super Bowl.
And an extra kudo to Scarlett Johansson, her words are so preciously needed today.