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Scarlett Johansson support of illegal settlement draws criticism and praise
By Ray Hanania
American Arabs joined in protesting against Scarlett Johansson’s support of SodaStream, a company that has its largest manufacturing plant in an illegal al-Jewish settlement in the Israeli occupied West Bank.
Although SodaStream counters that it employs some 550 (Christian and Muslim) Palestinians at the factory, none of those Arab employees are permitted to live in the racist settlement of Maale Adumim. The factory is located inside the industrial zone there called Mishor Adumim.
Palestinian workers there have said they support the company because it provides jobs, but Israel’s military oppression of the West Bank has forced Christians and Muslims to take whatever they can get to survive because much of the economy is near collapse. Israel continues to impose harsh sanctions against the West Bank except for the exclusive settlements in the West Bank which produce profits and revenues for Israeli settlers and Israel.
The BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) movement has weakened itself by targeting Israeli products that are both made inside of Israel and inside of the illegal settlements like Maale Adumim, the protest against SodaStream is a legitimate target since Maale Adumim is built on lands stolen by Israel from Palestinians. Although Israelis can build settlements in Palestine, Palestinians are forbidden from building any major developments inside Israel.
SodaStream has created an advertisement to promote SodaStream, a product that allows people to sidestep major soda pop companies like Coca-Cola and Pepsi to instead create their own pop, an idea that is popular in Israel but that is not so popular in the West. However, the Arab activists have done such a poor job of promoting and explaining the issue because their boycott efforts have been so broad against Israel (suggesting the boycotts are anti-Semitic), many Americans are ignoring it or don’t care about the issue.
The American Jewish Committee, however, has purchased a press release on PR News Wire which applauds Scarlett Johansson for “supporting peace” between Palestinians and Israelis. It’s a clever strategy to reinforce American ignorance of the SodaStream controversy and to counter the BDS movement campaign which is scattered from moral and principled positions to the more extreme and fanatic positions that border on hate and anti-Semitism.
“It’s a major problem with the BDS that makes it easy for Israelis to counter in the United States. They do have some support, mainly among ineffective, voiceless pro-Palestinian activists, but the mainstream media is solidly behind SodaStream, Israel and they use the extreme actions of the BDS that target Israel to cast the BDS movement as an anti-Semitic hate movement,” one American media specialists said asking not to be identified.
“It’s a classic case of one side, the pro-Israel side, recognizing the power of messaging while the Palestinian activists instead base all of their actions on emotion.”
The press release from the American Jewish Committee, for example, on PR News Wire, would reach more than 10,000 news outlets and more than 800 online Websites, giving the pro-SodaStream media spin and message a far greater likelihood of being seen by average Americans.
The BDS movement relies mainly on activists, a group that encompasses a large number of principled activists fighting for a just cause but that also includes a large number of extremists and haters who will use anything to denounce Israel and Jews.
“The BDS movement makes itself an easy target because they can’t control their own movement. Are they anti-Israel or are they anti-Settlements? You can’t tell and that is a major cause of their failure here in the United States,” the media specialist said. “If they could control or distance themselves from the fanaticism and hatred, they could be far more effective in rallying Americans to their cause. The SodaStream issue is an issue of Civil Rights and also an issue of international law.”
The settlements are illegal. The protesters have a right to boycott any products that are made on lands taken from Christian and Muslim Palestinians.
“The fact that many of the victims of Israel’s settlement racism are in fact Christian should appeal to Americans, who are a majority Christian. But the BDS movement and the pro-Palestinian movement have marginalized Christians and have allowed their activism to lean more closely to the religious activists who are often even more extreme,” the media specialist said.
The BDS activists have also put out mixed messages about Johansson, the Hollywood Actress, and her disengagement from Oxfam, an aid and development company that she represented since 2005, before joining SodaStream as their spokesperson in the Super Bowl Ad Campaign that airs today (Sunday, Feb. 2, 2014).
What’s the true story about Oxfam and Johansson?
Here is the press release put out by the American Jewish Committee:
AJC Applauds Scarlett Johansson’s Support for Israeli-Palestinian Peace
NEW YORK, Jan. 31, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — AJC applauds Scarlett Johansson for her resignation as Oxfam International ambassador. The humanitarian aid group criticized the award-winning actress for teaming up with an Israeli company, SodaStream, as its spokesperson. A SodaStream TV ad featuring Johansson is slated to air during the Super Bowl on Sunday, but already has gone viral on the Internet.
“Bravo to Ms. Johansson for her principled stance against critics of Israel and support of those who not only seek peace, but right now are working to better relations between Israelis and Palestinians,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris. SodaStream employs hundreds of Palestinians in its main factory in the Maale Adumim Industrial Zone outside Jerusalem, and has been lauded for fostering an atmosphere of workplace respect and dignity.
Johansson, who represented Oxfam for eight years, said she is “a supporter of economic cooperation and social interaction between a democratic Israel and Palestine.” She also called SodaStream “a bridge to peace between Israel and Palestine, supporting neighbors working alongside each other, receiving equal pay, equal benefits and equal rights.”
SodaStream has attracted criticism from leaders and supporters of the so-called Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement that, at its core, represents a challenge to Israel’s very legitimacy as a sovereign nation.
(Ray Hanania is a former Chicago City Hall Reporter and syndicated columnist with Creators Syndicate. He is the managing Editor of The Arab Daily News. Reach him by email at RayHanania@TheArabDailyNews.com.)
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Ray Hanania is an award winning former Chicago City Hall reporter and Columnist who began writing in 1975 when he published The Middle Eastern Voice newspaper in Chicago (1975-1977). He covered Chicago City Hall from 1976 through 1992 (Mayor Daley to Mayor Daley) and has expanded to writing for newspapers around the world focussed on Middle East and American politics.
Hanania writes weekly columns on Middle East and American Arab issues for the Arab News in Saudi Arabia at www.ArabNews.com. And, he writes on American politics for the Des Plaines Valley News, Southwest News-Herald, The Regional News newspaper and the Reporter Newspapers.
He also writes for the online websites including TheArabDailyNews.com, TheDailyHookah.com and NewsAmericaNetwork.com (Illinois News Network at IllinoisNewsNetwork.com).
Palestinian, American Arab and Christian, Hanania’s parents originate from Jerusalem and Bethlehem. Hanania began in journalism as an activist publishing Chicago’s first English-language American Arab Newspaper “The Middle Eastern Voice” from 1975 through 1977. In 1976, he was hired by the Chicago community newspaper The Southtown Economist (Daily Southtown) and in 1985 was hired by the Chicago Sun-Times and covered Chicago City Hall for both. In 1993, he launched the “The Villager” Newspapers which covered 12 Southwest Chicagoland suburban regions.In 2004, he published “The National Arab American Times” monthly newspaper which was distributed through 12,500 Middle East ethnic food stores in 48 American States.
Hanania is the recipient of four (4) Chicago Headline Club “Peter Lisagor Awards” for Column writing. In November 2006, he was named “Best Ethnic American Columnist” by the New American Media;In 2009, he received the prestigious Sigma Delta Chi Award for Writing from the Society of Professional Journalists. He is the recipient of the MT Mehdi Courage in Journalism Award. Hanania has also received two (2) Chicago Stick-o-Type awards from the Chicago Newspaper Guild, and in 1990 was nominated by the Chicago Sun-Times for a Pulitzer Prize for his four-part series on the Palestinian Intifada.
His wife and son are Jewish and he performs standup comedy lampooning Arab-Jewish relations, advocating for peace based on non-violence, mutual recognition and Two-States. He has a daughter from a prior marriage, Haifa.
His Facebook Page is Facebook.com/rghanania
Email him at: RGHanania@gmail.com