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Scarlett Johansson, There’s a Line Between Israel and Palestine, and SodaStream Is Over the Line

Oxfam dumped actor Scarlett Johansson as its

Last June, the Israeli anti-occupation group All That’s Left marked the anniversary of Israel’s military occupation of the West Bank by “repainting the Green Line” on the international border between Israel and Palestine, highlighting the border that supporters of Israel’s occupation of the West Bank are always trying to erase.

Unfortunately, it appears that celebrity Scarlett Johansson didn’t get the memo. As a result, Johansson will no longer be a “global ambassador” for Oxfam, because, as Oxfam noted,

Johansson’s role promoting the company SodaStream is incompatible with her role as an Oxfam global ambassador. Oxfam believes that businesses, such as SodaStream, that operate in settlements, further the ongoing poverty and denial of rights of the Palestinian communities that we work to support. Oxfam is opposed to all trade from Israeli settlements, which are illegal under international law.

Johansson’s statements on the controversy have tried to obscure a crucial issue: What relationship should people who support the two-state solution have to Israeli settlements in the West Bank?

On January 24, as the controversy “bubbled,” Johansson wrote on Huffington Post:

I remain a supporter of economic cooperation and social interaction between a democratic Israel and Palestine . . . 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.

Clearly, Johansson wants us to believe that she supports a two-state solution to the conflict.

In a statement Wednesday announcing that Johansson and Oxfam were parting ways, Johansson’s representative said, “[Johansson] and Oxfam have a fundamental difference of opinion in regards to the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement.”

This statement was deeply misleading. It was not “a fundamental difference of opinion in regards to the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement” that led to the split between Johansson and Oxfam. It was a fundamental difference of opinion on the proper relationship of people who support the two-state solution to Israeli settlements in the West Bank.

Oxfam’s view is that someone who supports the two-state solution should not be promoting economic ties with Israeli settlements in the West Bank. Johansson’s view, apparently, is that it’s OK to claim that you support a two-state solution and then turn around and promote economic ties with Israeli settlements in the West Bank, thereby bolstering and normalizing the occupation.

Oxfam’s view is normative among sincere advocates of a two-state solution. Johansson’s apparent view is marginal among sincere advocates of a two-state solution.

For example, the mainstream Israeli peace group Peace Now has supported the boycott of Israeli settlement products. So has its American counterpart, Americans for Peace Now. As APN President Debra DeLee said in July 2011,

Today we join Peace Now in urging all those who care about Israel’s character as a democracy to boycott settlements and products made in settlements. Settlements are not Israel. Such a boycott is the best way to show our support for Israel and to register our commitment to Israeli democracy. [my emphasis]

As DeLee wrote this week in the Forward:

Under normal circumstances, I would buy SodaStream and recommend it to my friends. But the circumstances under which the product is made are not normal. And because Israel’s occupation of the West Bank is such an anomaly, as much as I may like Scarlett (and seltzer), I will not buy SodaStream, not until it moves its headquarters away from a West Bank settlement. [my emphasis]

By claiming to support a two-state solution while helping to bolster the occupation, Scarlett Johansson is acting as a Susan Collins for the occupation, pretending to be moderate, while acting to bolster extremists.

Oxfam did the right thing in taking a principled stand. You can thank Oxfam for their principled stand at MoveOn here and on Thunderclap here. The Thunderclap is set to go off on Sunday evening during the #SuperBowl. Let’s extend that conversation about the two-state solution that Johansson called for to people watching her TV commercial for SodaStream.

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