The Scarlet Soda

One thing causing a flap over the last week or so was Scarlet Johansson’s endorsement of Sodastream, via a viral internet ad. Now you may ask, what’s the problem with that? Well Sodastream has based one of their factories within the occupied Israeli territories on the West Bank. Currently there is significant pressure from many governments and NGO’s (akin to that applied to South Africa during the Apartheid era) to boycott any Israeli businesses trying to profit from this Israeli occupation of the West Bank. This put Oxfam, who had nominated Miss Johansson as one of its celeb ambassador’s, in an awkward position, only resolved when she resigned from this role.

This controversy, with those on the pro-Sodastream side pointing to the fact that the company employ’s many Palestinian workers whose jobs are put at risk by this boycott. And in fact the company states that they are supportive of the idea of a two state solution to the present Arab-Israeli conflict. However others, notably the Pick Floyd artist Roger Waters who has sent an open letter via his Facebook page to Miss Johansson, tend to highlight the impact of the occupation on the Palestinian populace. An occupation that she is indirectly now endorsing.

Of course as always when you discuss the Arab-Israeli conflict it gets embroiled in the propaganda from both sides. The Israeli side, take a look at some of the comments on Roger Waters post for an example, tend to take the view that anyone who criticises Israeli is some sort of anti-Semite. After all the Israeli government, like certain other governments in the world is always right about everything, ever. The attitude of the Palestinian supporters is often to point to the atrocities of Israel, while forgetting about the impact of suicide bombings and rocket attacks on the Israeli population.

Of course I’m not suggesting that ever Israeli is a neo-fascist colonialist, nor that every Palestinian supports suicide bombings. I suspect the majority of both sides are neither. So perhaps we should imagine that rather than this factory being in the occupied West Bank, it is instead based in Chinese occupied Tibet, or perhaps the disputed territory of Kashmir, or how about Russian occupied territories in Georgia. Now my question is, if this were the case would Miss Johansson be so willing to endorse this product? My suspicion is, no! Chances are she’d run a thousand miles from the controversy and quickly develop one of those celebrity phobia’s against carbonated water. ;D

Consider for example the wonders it did to the careers of John Claude Van Damme and Hilary Swank when they decided to inadvertently endorse the policies of the murderous regime of Chechen dictator Kadyrov.

But is it fair for me to compare Israeli’s occupation of the West Bank to China’s occupation of Tibet or the conflict in Kashmir? Well no!…Its not very fair to the Chinese, Indian’s, Pakistani’s or Russians! For the weight of international opinion is not nearly as clear cut on these issues as regards the West bank. A quick glance at the UN’s resolutions regarding the West bank, since 1967 shows that the almost all criticise or condemn Israeli occupation, often subject to near unanimous support (save Israel and the US). The The International court of Justice has also ruled Israeli settlements in the West Bank as being illegal.

Bottom line, letting Israel getting way with occupying land that is, at best, in dispute, and at worst, stolen and ethnically cleansed, is setting a very dangerous precedence. For there are many other areas of the world were several dangerous border disputes exist. This included the examples mentioned earlier, but also flash points such as Kurdistan, the Iraq/Saudi border, the South China Sea and several of the borders in Africa. The danger is, Israel is sending the signal that if you have the right allies you can try to replicate what they are doing and hopefully get away with it. However a conflict at these flashpoints could unleash a war that would make the Arab-Israeli conflict look like a storm in a Tea cup (consider that several of the nations mentioned above either have nuclear weapons or vast WMD stockpiles!).

So the pro-Israeli/Johansson position is only acceptable if one is willing to argue that its acceptable to sacrifice all the gains in international law and diplomacy made since 1945 just so that a couple of radical right-wing Israeli’s can put up some cheap condominiums. I think not! :no:

And as for Sodastream, if they truly believe what they claim, there’s a simple way for them to have their way and keep everyone happy – register their company within the Palestinian territories or some neighbouring Arab state (such as Jordan). Then they can pay taxes here (chances are tho, the Arab state my offer them a tax holiday and they’ll end up paying none!) and continue running their factory without offending international opinion. Of course that isn’t going to happen, as I suspect they would be punished severely by the Israeli government for such an act. Much as Putin or China allows their national corporations to pay lip service on human rights issues for the sake of PR, Israel is happy to allow companies to engage in token verbal support for the Palestinian position, so long as they don’t actually do anything!

And furthermore, I would add that it is arguably in the long term interest of Israel to achieve a peaceful settlement. And it is generally accepted by everybody, save the radical settler movement (or certain equally nutty US Baptists), that the obvious border between Israel and the West bank will run along the 1967 border. Any peace plan that does not recognise this is a peace plan doomed to fail. What Scarlet Johansson seems to support is thus a conflict without end, and an Israel which must send generation after generation to fight and increasingly pointless war. And futhermore, a conflict that threatens world peace.

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