Friday, January 31, 2014

Scarlett SodaStream Occupation Super Bowl

As part of a civil rights delegation to Palestine last October sponsored by the Dorothy Cotton Institute, I visited the Tamimis in Nabi Saleh, a village in the West Bank. We had to swerve in and out a back way to avoid the Israeli "Defense" Forces which were trying to keep international observers out. We sat on the roof of Bassem Tamimi's house as nonviolent demonstrators marched toward the Wall that blocks the villages from cultivating some me age-old olive trees while a gleaming pink settlement - awful and what should be viral - sits up on top of a hill. See here and here.


By the Wall, amidst the sand and the scraggly trees, we had picked through spent shells and tear gas canisters from Consolidated Systems Inc (deceivingly named like the Xe Corporation), stamped made in USA, from the Israeli army's weapons.


Boys ran out. A few threw rocks. The Israeli soldiers - young men, hyped on racism and fear - fired guns.

A few soldiers like Nadav who joined Breaking the Silence and spoke to our delegation later in Hebron come to see through what they are commanded to do. See here.


Israel controls the water. It allows little to Palestinians. One can tell a Palestinian house because it has a big black tank on the roof to collect rain water. Young Israeli soldiers - as a Jew, I imagine young Germans in the Warsaw ghetto - fire stench gas into the water tanks...


The army knows we are on the roof. We are in range of their weapons. They are firing live ammunition at some of the boys, soldiers running across a hill to catch one. They will hold him for 8 days, compared to Israeli children who are not arrested for throwing feces and urine from the Jews-only street in occupied Hebron down into the old market; arrested minors are also tortured by the state of Israel.


Mustafa Tamimi, at 27, was murdered two weeks before we visited by a gunshot from the Occupying army. Rushdi Tamimi was murdered a few weeks later.


For admiring Martin Luther King and organizing nonviolent demonstrations, Bassem Tamimi was in an Israeli prison for 16 months. He was released briefly, was then beaten and his ribs broken for demonstrating against the Israeli occupation at a supermarket in the nearby settlement and taken to jail again. He had held up an incriminating sign: "End the Occupation." See here.

Nonviolent protest is the most dangerous crime...

Such stands were once taken by courageous Jews in Germany...


These pictures, too, might fizz with the "environmentally friendly" Soda Stream, go viral with Scarlett...


May Johansson, who is otherwise a decent person, and Soda Stream, a company that battens off concentration camps - Krupp and Bayer Aspirin and many others who produced in German camps could have made a similar advert for the Berlin Olympics or the Joe Louis/Max Schmeling fights - despite themselves, make the facts of the Israeli Occupation visible to Superbowl viewers.


For "Her" voice might huskily have streamed over pictures of Kristallnacht.


Like some Jews and Christian Zionists in America, Johansson believes in what she is doing (she has plenty of money). She resigned from Oxfam which has a decent position on boycotting products from the Settlements - they are a brutal, impoverished prison camp - because she wants to support a democratic Israel.

She does the opposite. An Israel which does not repudiate these practices toward Palestinians is an inheritor of Europe toward the Jews. It is no more a democracy than apartheid South Africa or the ethnic cleansing American regime toward indigenous people, no more decent than China in Tibet. See here and here.


Fox and the Superbowl fearfully censored Scarlett's last statement about Coke and Pepsi. The station is thus also as corrupt as Google in China. But none of that is the serious moral problem.


Danny Birnbaum, CEO of SodaStream, refers to the branch in the Occupied Territores as "a pain in the ass." But unless the company leaves, it is something far worse.

Israeli officials are now becoming aware that if negotiations fail, a "Jews only" "Greater" Israel will be subject to intense international isolation and boycott.


That boycott is part of the nonviolent resistance to the Occupation and joins with the Tamimis of Nabi Saleh and other villagers in an increasing nonviolent opposition - international and internal. This opposition freaks out the violent aggressors from Israel and the United States - America has mainly protected the Occupation and armed Israel - because it is firm, as adumbrated in Henry David Thoreau's "Civil Disobedience," on noncooperation with evil.


As one can see from the growing resistance to SodaStream and Johannson, this protest against Israel's colonialism "has legs."(h/t Ilene Cohen)



January 28, 2014
Scarlett Johansson goes viral in anti-Israel settler campaign
By John Reed in Jerusalem

“If only I could make this message go viral,” Scarlett Johansson muses in her new advertisement for SodaStream, the Israeli home fizzy-drink dispenser company that helps the environment, she says, by using “less sugar, less bottles”.

Ms Johansson’s new brand ambassador role and advert for SodaStream, launched online earlier this month and due to air during next Sunday’s Super Bowl, has indeed now gone viral – but in ways neither the husky-voiced Hollywood actress nor the Nasdaq-listed company probably imagined.

The international Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement has seized on Ms Johansson and her association with SodaStream as a rare opportunity to add some unpaid star wattage to their long-running campaign to isolate Israel economically until it withdraws from occupied Palestinian land.

SodaStream makes some of its dispensers, CO2 cylinders and bottles at a former munitions factory in the Mishor Adumim industrial zone, outside Jerusalem, in one of Israel’s sprawling settlements in the occupied West Bank, which are illegal under international law.

BDS campaigners are now gathering signatures to pressure Oxfam, for which Ms Johansson has also served as an ambassador since 2005, to drop her. The charity says it is opposed to all trade with Israeli settlements, and that it is now “engaged in dialogue” with Ms Johansson over her association with Oxfam.

The ScarJo/SodaStream conundrum has given birth to its own internet memes: Photoshopped images of Ms Johansson sipping soda complacently alongside Palestinians crammed into an Israeli checkpoint, or smiling as she dispenses drinks in front of Israel’s concrete separation wall that runs through the West Bank, and saying: “Set the bubbles free! Palestinians can wait.”

Activists have launched the Twitter hashtag #ScarJos FavoriteSodaStream Flavor, garnering suggestions such as Doctor Pepper Spray, Gaza Calorie Count and Palestinian Punch.

SodaStream employs about 500 Palestinians at the Mishor Adumim factory, who work alongside about 400 Israeli Jews and another 400 Arabs with Israeli citizenship. It says it pays its workers four to six times the wages available in the Palestinian Authority, arguing – like other Israeli companies in the expanding industrial zones laced into the settlements – that it promotes jobs and peaceful coexistence.

“The boycotters are actually demonstrating a complete lack of humanitarian sensitivity to the thousands of people that benefit from the stable economic opportunity that we provide,” said Yonah Lloyd, SodaStream’s president.

As the controversy began to bubble last week, Ms Johansson defended SodaStream, saying the company was “not only committed to the environment, but to building a bridge to peace between Israel and Palestine”.

Campaigners are having nothing of this. “Palestinians are in a captive economy, so it’s not a bridge to peace,” said Rafeef Ziadah, a campaigner with the London-based Palestinian Boycott National Committee, of the Mishor Adumim factory. “It’s a bridge to continuing the occupation and cementing the apartheid policies that exist.”

Ms Johansson’s involvement with SodaStream, while bringing the BDS movement attention it rarely receives outside activist circles, is also being watched anxiously in Israel.

Moderate figures in Benjamin Netanyahu’s rightwing government, led by Yair Lapid, finance minister, and Tzipi Livni, justice minister, have recently warned of the increasing danger of an international economic boycott of Israel if its current peace talks with the Palestinians fail.

Naftali Bennett, economy minister, who heads the pro-settler Jewish Home party, has in turn accused Ms Livni and others of fanning the threat of a boycott by talking about it. In a speech to his party faction last week, Mr Bennett warned that Israel’s economy would be “decimated” by a Palestinian state, which he claimed would leave Israel vulnerable to attack from radicals in the West Bank. “What if once a year a plane will crash at Ben Gurion airport?” he asked.

BDS activists claim their campaign is scoring more victories in its push to force companies it says support the occupation to change their policies. A handful of multinational companies, including Vitens, the Dutch water company, and British security group G4S, have recently cancelled contracts involving settlements after coming under pressure from campaigners.

Companies based exclusively in the settlements account for a small part of Israel’s economy, and are rarely large or international enough to serve as effective targets for activists. However, the Dutch pension fund PGGM earlier this month divested several million euros from Israel’s five largest banks because they have branches in settlements, in a move some Israelis saw as an ominous sign of things to come.

SodaStream has seen its share price drop by about 20 per cent this month, although this had largely to do with a profit warning that rattled shareholders. The advert is due to run during this Sunday’s Super Bowl, minus Ms Johansson’s words “Sorry, Coke and Pepsi”, to which broadcaster Fox objected.

Whether the Israeli company’s association with the settlements proves good or bad for its image or that of its new spokeswoman, the ad has been a media success: it has now been viewed on YouTube more than 1.2m times."


"SodaStream boss admits West Bank plant is 'a pain in the ass'

'What’s the problem to have a factory in the Palestinian state-to-be? We don’t give a hoot where the factory is going to be,' says SodaStream CEO.
By The Forward and Nathan Jeffay | Jan. 29, 2014 |

If he could turn back the clock, SodaStream CEO Daniel Birnbaum would “never” have established a production plant on an Israeli Jewish settlement in the occupied West Bank. In fact, he said Tuesday, its location has turned out to be “a pain in the ass.”

“We’re here because we’re here — for historical reasons,” Birnbaum told the Forward in an exclusive interview, when asked about the public row that has erupted over the controversial location of his company’s main facility.

The decision to locate SodaStream’s now contentious plant in this industrial park within the boundaries of the West Bank settlement Ma’ale Adumim, about 10 minutes outside of Jerusalem, did in fact predate Birnbaum’s arrival. It was a choice made by company founder Peter Weissburgh, back in the 1990’s, long before SodaStream was taken over by the Fortismo Capital Fund, it current owners, who appointed Birnbaum to head the firm in 2007.

But though he wouldn’t have opened the factory at its current site, Birnbaum said that its presence here is now a given reality, and he won’t bow to political pressure to close it — even though the company is about to open a huge new plant in the Negev, within Israel’s internationally-recognized boundaries, which will replicate all functions of the West Bank plant, and dwarf it.

The reason is loyalty to approximately 500 Palestinians who are among the plant’s 1,300 employees, Birnbaum claimed. While other employees could relocate on the other side of the Green Line if the plant moved, the West Bank Palestinian workers could not, and would suffer financially, he argued.

“We will not throw our employees under the bus to promote anyone’s political agenda,” he said, adding that he “just can’t see how it would help the cause of the Palestinians if we fired them.”

Birnbaum, who spoke to the Forward from his office in the plant, offered his comments during his first interview since controversy over the plant’s location was reignited by the company’s recent decision to sign actress Scarlett Johansson as its new global ambassador.

In the lead-up to Johannson’s debut as a company spokesperson in a high-profile commercial to be broadcast during this Sunday’s Super Bowl, critics, including advocates for boycotting Israeli products on account of the occupation, have targeted the actress and the company for the soda maker’s manufacturing location. West Bank settlements, including Ma’ale Adumim are regarded as illegal by the international community.

But Birnbaum said that if a Palestinian state comes into being, as is the aim of current U.S.-brokered talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, SodaStream will also be happy to stay and pay its taxes to the new Palestinian state.

“We already have factories under the control of the Chinese, the Germans, the Americans and many other countries,” he said. “So what’s the problem to have a factory in the Palestinian state-to-be? We don’t give a hoot where the factory is going to be.”

Those comments may prove controversial among settlers and other right-wingers in Israel, who are currently skewering Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for his recent suggestion that some settlements could stay in place under Palestinian rule after a peace deal. But in contrast to the settlement movement’s negative response to the idea, Birnbaum is keen for his company to be the guinea pig. “I really don’t care where the border is,” he commented.

Unlike the question of Israeli homes in a foreign entity, he noted, there’s already ample precedent for Israeli-owned factories operating in foreign areas.

Birnbaum’s advisor, Maurice Silber, said that within the company “everybody is against the occupation.” But it does not follow, he said, that because SodaStream operates in an occupied area, it violates human rights. Eventually, he said, SodaStream could become the “seed of the future Palestinian economy.”

At the plant, awareness of the current international controversy over Scarlett Johannson’s new role at the company was clearly widespread among employees. During the Forward’s visit, Birnbaum took to the plant floor to give some 250 Palestinian workers a kind of pep talk about the issue, urging them to ignore the political attacks. “We are making history for the Palestinian people and the Israeli people,” he told them in Hebrew, followed by a translator who rendered his comments into Arabic. “This is about livelihood.”

The Palestinians applauded these comments. But then Birnbaum added with a flourish: “Scarlett Johannson would be proud of you!” And at the sound of Johannson’s name — even before the translation — applause among the assembly of mostly male, 30-something Palestinian workers burst out again, palpably louder.

Back in his office, Birnbaum denied that SodaStream’s West Bank location brings his company economic benefits that it could not just as easily get in industrial areas available to it within sovereign Israel. A number of these industrial areas, including the Negev site where SodaStream’s new plant will be completed soon, receive the same tax breaks as the Mishor Adumim industrial park. And while the company’s 2012 annual report suggested that reducing operations at Mishor Adumim could have a negative impact on the company, Birnbaum said that SodaStream “could move without any economic hardship.”


"January 27, 2014, 2:22 pm
Scarlett Johansson’s Defense of SodaStream Factory in Occupied West Bank Fails to Sway Critics


A new ad for SodaStream featuring Scarlett Johansson posted online by the Israeli company on Monday.

In a statement released late Friday, the actress Scarlett Johansson rejected criticism of her new endorsement deal with SodaStream, which manufactures home carbonation systems in an Israeli settlement, from opponents of Israel’s continued occupation of the West Bank territory it seized in 1967.

While Ms. Johansson wrote that she “never intended on being the face of any social or political movement, distinction, separation or stance as part of my affiliation with SodaStream,” her decision to act as a “global brand ambassador” for the Israeli company, unveiled in an ad posted online Monday, put her at odds with the charity Oxfam, which she has represented in that role since 2007. Oxfam made clear last week that it “opposes all trade from Israeli settlements, which are illegal under international law.”

In her statement, Ms. Johansson attempted to reconcile the conflicting views about the settlements with a defense of the Israeli company’s factory that echoed the language used by SodaStream’s chief executive, Daniel Birnbaum, in a video promoting the plant as a bridge to peaceful cooperation between the two communities. “I remain a supporter of economic cooperation and social interaction between a democratic Israel and Palestine,” Ms. Johansson wrote.

She continued:

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 Maale 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.

The actress’s argument won her praise online from staunch defenders of Israel’s policies — including Scott Stringer, New York City’s comptroller — but failed to sway Oxfam, which maintains that “businesses that operate in settlements further the ongoing poverty and denial of rights of the Palestinian communities that we work to support,” and said that it is “considering the implications of her new statement” for her role as an Oxfam global ambassador.”

Several critics of Israel’s settlement-building policy noted that Mr. Stringer’s comments seemed at odds with the long-held position of the United States government, which calls the movement of Israeli citizens into the occupied territory an obstacle to the creation of a viable Palestinian state.

Writing on the Israeli news blog +972, Mairav Zonszein called the American actress’s statement “beyond na├»ve,” for calling Palestinians who work for SodaStream in the occupied West Bank “neighbors” of their Israeli coworkers with equal rights.

“Palestinians live under military rule, are not eligible to vote for the authorities that rule over their lives, are subject to military rather than civilian courts, and experience systematic discrimination in every aspect of life,” Ms. Zonszein wrote. “Even if an Israeli company is green, or treats its workers better than other establishments, it does not make up for the fact that it is situated on land held by force, whose native population is ruled against their will and demand an end to the occupation. Is that really such a difficult concept to understand?”

Leading voices in the Palestinian community also rejected Ms. Johansson’s stance. Rashid Khalidi, a professor of modern Arab studies at Columbia University who was an adviser to the Palestinian delegation during peace negotiations with Israel from 1991 to 1993, said in a statement emailed to reporters that the American actress “appears to believe that the continuation of brutal military occupation is just fine, and that peace can be built on such a basis. In fact, it can only be based on an immediate and complete end to illegal occupation, colonization, and the attendant dispossession of the Palestinian population, in all of which SodaStream and similar companies play an integral part.”

In a statement circulated by The Institute for Middle East Understanding, Diana Buttu, a former adviser to the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas based in Ramallah, said Ms. Johansson seemed unaware of the fact that the construction of the settlement where SodaStream’s factory is situated took place only after “more than a thousand Palestinians were forcibly removed from their land and today, just a few miles away from Maale Adumim, Palestinians live without running water, without electricity or sanitation facilities.”

Meanwhile, pro-Palestinian bloggers turned their attention to pressing Oxfam to immediately cut ties with Ms. Johansson by creating a mock ad for the charity that remixed an image of the actress enjoying a SodaStream drink with one of Palestinians crammed together in pens at an Israeli checkpoint."


"Oxfam, Scarlett Johansson Cut Ties Over SodaStream Partnership
The Israeli beverage company has come under fire for its operations in the West Bank

January 30, 2014

Scarlett Johansson has ended her eight-year ambassador role with Oxfam International due to ideological differences regarding SodaStream's factory use in the West Bank.

Controversy has been bubbling around actress Scarlett Johansson's endorsement deal with carbonated beverage company SodaStream – and not just because of the Super Bowl ad the company was forced to cut because she dissed Coke and Pepsi.

Johansson has ended her eight-year relationship with Oxfam International, a global human rights organization, over her partnership with SodaStream. The Israeli company has come under fire for its operations in the West Bank, which Oxfam and other human rights groups object to, saying the company is in violation of international law.

Johansson released a statement this week defending the company – which is thought to employ about 500 Palestinians in its factory in the West Bank settlement of Ma'ale Adumim — saying that it was "building a bridge to peace between Israel and Palestine" and "as an ambassador for Oxfam, I have witnessed firsthand that progress is made when communities join together and work alongside one another."

Her remarks only attracted more scrutiny, and late Wednesday her publicist released a statement saying that Johansson "has respectfully decided to end her ambassador role with Oxfam after eight years," as she and the organization "have a fundamental difference of opinion in regards to the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement." Oxfam posted a statement of its own Thursday accepting her resignation.

According to an Oxfam official, the organization is not opposed to trade with Israel, nor does it support boycotts of any country, including Israel. However, it does oppose trade with Israeli settlements in the West Bank and finds Johansson's commitment to SodaStream incompatible with her role as an ambassador of Oxfam's values and principles.

SodaStream has asserted claims similar to Johnasson's defense of the company and says closing the West Bank factory would mean firing its Palestinian employees, who could not cross the border to work at a plant being built within Israel's internationally recognized boundaries. It also has posted a video of the West Bank factory, which the company says shows all its workers receiving fair and humane treatment.

However, critics say that by operating a factory in the West Bank, SodaStream is complicit in the Israeli occupation of Palestine. A report published by the research center Who Profits from the Occupation said Palestinian SodaStream employees face discrimination and exploitation, particularly because they are not treated as full citizens in occupied territories. Furthermore, an interview with Palestinian Sodastream employees posted by The Electronic Intifada suggested that Palestinians are subjected to inhumane working conditions. Code Pink and other groups have called for a boycott of the company.

SodaStream's CEO also said in an interview with The Jewish Daily Forward that the factory's location was "a pain in the ass" and he wouldn't have chosen to build it there (he inherited the factory from his predecessor).

Johansson is not the first celebrity who has had to step down from her role with Oxfam due to a sponsorship deal. Oxfam cut ties with Italian celebrity Paola Maugeri, also over her relationship with SodaStream, in 2012. "Sex and the City" star Kristin Davis and Oxfam ended their relationship in 2009 because of her partnership with Israeli cosmetics company Ahava, which also operates in Israeli-occupied territories.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Danny Birnbaum, CEO of SodaStream, refers to the branch in the ...

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