Originally published in The Times of Israel
Beautiful, respected and talented, Scarlett Johansson is a superstar. From Broadway to the silver screen, she has shone in prominent roles from “The Horse Whisperer” to “Match Point”, from “Girl With A Pearl Earring” to “Lost In Translation”. An award-winning actress, she has given crowd-pleasing turns to millions of viewers in The Avengers series movies too. Any product would benefit from her endorsement – she has been the face of L’Oreal and Louis Vuitton and recently became Sodastream’s first brand ambassador, filming an endorsement due to air as a centerpiece of this year’s much-anticipated Super Bowl commercials. Scarlett Johansson is – by any measure – a true A-Lister.
On the other side of the spectrum, meet the antisemitic, divisive and hateful boycott Israel movement, who go by the name of BDS. BDS exists to promote a hateful and insidious boycott of the one and only Jewish country in the world, Israel, and they use the language of human rights to justify their bigotry. Ordinarily, an A-Lister like Scarlett would not be mentioned in the same breath as the pond-life of BDS, but their being coupled together is exactly what BDS wants. For them, the glamour of being mentioned in news articles alongside sexy celebrities gives them status. It is also a handy mask for their hateful agenda. Which is why they have lobbied to have her disavow her association with Israeli company, Sodastream.
BDS is not new. When the State of Israel was re-established in 1948, it offered the hand of peace to its Arab neighbors. This was rejected outright and those Arab countries imposed a boycott on their Jewish neighbor. Even today, many Arab countries will not accept Israeli passports, including the UAE, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and others. Ultimately, the boycott was more self-defeating than effective. Israel’s economy has, to a lesser or greater degree, been on an upward trajectory surpassing the GDP of most Arab countries. While Arab leaders may have felt good about imposing a boycott on Coca-Cola, for instance, because it sold in Israel, to most of their citizens and certainly to those in the West, it looks backward and racist.
Truth is, BDS goes back further than that.
Jews know what it means to be boycotted. Antisemitism has been termed “the longest hatred” and this anti-Jewish hatred has historically been coupled with the attempt to boycott Jews and separate them from the rest of society. From the Middle Ages into the 19th century, Jewish commerce was subject to boycotts. In more modern times, the Nazis promoted a comprehensive boycott of Jewish businesses in order to push Jews to the sidelines prior to their extermination. Anti-Jewish pickets were set up in front of stores, not dissimilar from the modern-day pickets that BDS activists have set up in front of Sodastream’s Ecostream store in Brighton, in front of Lavan’s beauty products store in Vancouver or outside the Max Brenner chocolate store in Melbourne.
People with a moral compass, with sensitivity to Jewish history and to the Jews’ centuries-long experience with Antisemitism would not promote any idea with “Jews” and “boycott” in the same sentence. But in targeting Israel, BDS is nothing more than a modern manifestation of the desire to separate from Jews projected onto the single Jewish state. As cunning as they are racist – BDS utilizes different media and different approaches to forward their agenda to deny rights to Jews in Israel that they would afford to pretty much any other nation, even though Jews are indigenous to the land.
Protester joining Sussex Friends of Israel to counter a BDS demonstration outside Ecostream, Sodastream’s UK store. Photo credit: Oren Teichmann
One option is for Israel – and the world – to conclude that the only way to respond to the “BDS issue” is to change course.
“Come on Israel! Won’t you just make peace already?!”
Let’s consider that. Will peace make things better? What a question! Of course Israel wants real peace. But most people paying attention know that peace is not just reliant on Israel – therein lies the problem with the boycotting Israel for the sake of pressuring only Israel. For BDS does not want Israel to change one particular policy. BDS is not all about settlement communities and cities in what Israel refers to as Judea and Samaria and people who cannot speak Hebrew (or for political reasons) refer to the West Bank. BDS wants all of Israel, including Haifa and Tel Aviv, removed, gone, exterminated from the planet, much as its predecessor-boycotters did. This agenda, unfortunately, matches that of Hamas and other Palestinian groups who promote hate and violence.
And if you don’t believe me, just listen to the BDSers in their own words:
You see, they’re nasty. For BDS, it’s less about being pro-Palestinian and more about being anti-Israel. Even arch critic of Israel Norman Finkelstein knows what they stand for; as he said “They want to destroy Israel… There’s no Israel. That’s what it’s really about… I wouldn’t trust those people.”
And BDS is anti-peace. The scientific and academic cooperation that BDS seeks to stifle, benefits people the world over. Surely business cooperation between the Start-Up Nation and other countries can only be a good thing. The companies and products they want to boycott will have a negative impact on Palestinians as well as Israelis. Additionally, they want to politicize the arts with their hateful agenda. No wonder the A-Listers are shunning BDS. The word is out on what it really represents. Why would prominent artists want to be associated with something that is so retrograde and racist?
The world’s biggest artists flock to Israel. Pictured: Linkin Park at the Western Wall, Jerusalem
Madonna, Justin Timberlake, Rihanna, Lady Gaga, Elton John, Alicia Keys, Paul McCartney, Justin Bieber.. just a small sample of the A-List artists who have recently visited and performed in Israel or who are coming to Israel this year, all to the adoration of their diverse Israeli fans. When an artist announces their intention to play in Israel, BDS go into high gear and initiate email campaigns; bombarding them with misinformation about Israel, often from anonymous Twitter accounts. When the artist holds firm, they result to bullying tweets and stunts to try and make their divisive case. Yet in Israel, their concerts and packed and tickets sell out.
The A-Listers have not been shy to put BDS in its place. That’s exactly what Scarlett Johansson did when she wrote her considered and enlightened statement affirming her backing for Sodastream as part of the agenda for peaceful coexistence:
“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”
Other artists have had a similar response when faced with pressure to politicize their performances by BDS supporters – below are just a sample, you can read more here:
I look forward to my first visit to Israel. Music is a universal language that is meant to unify audiences in peace and love, and that is the spirit of our show.” Alicia Keys
“Shalom, we are so happy to be back here! Ain’t nothing gonna stop us from coming, baby,” “Musicians spread love and peace, and bring people together. That’s what we do. We don’t cherry-pick our conscience.” “They [sic] ain’t gonna stop me from coming here, baby.” Elton John
“When I tour I’m going to countries to play music for people. My presence in a country is not an endorsement or a condemnation of that country’s policies. My presence in a country is an effort to connect with people through playing music.” Moby
“Music goes beyond politics because it is the international language of the world. I could not be more excited or proud about bringing Ozzfest to Israel for the first time.” Sharon Osbourne
Ozzy and Sharon Osbourne in Jerusalem.
The BDS boycott agenda will not succeed in general, in the same way that similar anti-Semites that preceded them did not. As they have demonstrated countless times, they are more than willing to lie, pressure, bully and demonize to achieve their goal of trying to blacken the eye of the world’s only Jewish country. So people should be aware that they may also claim successes that are not successes at all. They will achieve some mini-successes, including support from those who are largely ignorant of the facts. Let’s face it, they are lobbying personalities privately and bullying them publicly every day; it will yield some results. Social media provides the oxygen for this attempted assassination of Israel’s character. If they can convince those with little knowledge of the situation that Israel is entirely to blame within the region for the lack of peace and therefore that Israel deserves to be boycotted, they win. Fortunately, the facts and the truth are on Israel’s side, but her supporters will need to push forward that view, coupled with their peaceful agenda (as opposed to BDS) with equal vigor.
Yes, they may co-opt D-List celebs like Roger Waters to pressure others in the industry to join BDS. Thankfully, though, A-Listers and those around them are getting better acquainted with BDS, and when they see the antisemitism that surrounds the movement, including the giant pig with a Star of David on it hoisted at the concert of Roger Waters, they run a mile.
And so to Scarlett Johansson’s classy and appropriate response to BDS: boycotts won’t bring peace, but cooperation, such as in companies like Sodastream who employ Arabs and Jews, Palestinians and Israelis to work together side by side with equal pay and benefits, is the road to peace. With her proud representation of the fizzy drinks machine-maker, Scarlett Johansson becomes yet another A-Lister to shun BDS and back peaceful cooperation. I’ll drink to that.