Culture

Boycott, Divestment & ScarJo: Pop Culture Questions #BDS

scarlettsodastream

The boycott/divestment/sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel has been the stuff of universities, investment groups and the American Jewish community until now. Thanks to the stardom of Scarlett Johansson the BDS battle has made its way into the mainstream. While pop culture addicts more attuned to the size of Kim Kardashian’s rear end will pass by the politically fueled story, chances are that the more intelligent among us, including ScarJo’s Avengers following, may take a second look at the morality behind the latest #BDSFail.

The players in this story have drawn a more definitive line in the sand than Walter Sobchak, with left-wing Jewish American sources like the Forward throwing early punches at Johansson’s presumed first move into the political realm:

…Johansson would do well to realize that “normalizing” the Israeli occupation is a bad use of her celebrity.

Justifying the sucker punch with statistics from the openly biased “Whoprofits.org” (“a project that researches and exposes ‘the commercial involvement of Israeli and international companies’ in the occupation”), the Forward got its own slap down from the Israeli leftist paper Ha’aretz, which lives too close to the facts to avoid them completely:

It is true that SodaStream employs hundreds of Palestinians under terms they probably wouldn’t get at a similar Palestinian firm and Birnbaum, to his credit, was willing even to embarrass the Israeli president in defence of his Palestinian workers.

ScarJo’s decision to leave OxFam was the star’s reaction to BDS movement leaders who demanded the international non-profit organization cut ties with the SodaStream spokeswoman who defended the Israeli company, saying:

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.

Take a moment to appreciate the irony in a movement that claims to embrace justice ...by turning their back to the scales of justice. #BDSFail

Take a moment to appreciate the irony in a movement that claims to embrace justice …by turning their back to the scales of justice. #BDSFail

It’s the kind of equality that OxFam, when taken at face value, appears to support. It isn’t until you dig past their flashy website and click on the barely noticeable link to their strategic plan that the non-profit’s socialist philosophy demands the redistribution of wealth and resources on a global scale. For this non-profit, charity is deserved on the basis of gender, geographic location, and relationship to the corporate world. And Scarlett Johansson isn’t the first celebrity spokesperson they’ve removed. Kristin Davis didn’t have the chance to resign before being taken off their rolls in 2009 for endorsing Israeli cosmetics firm Ahava. So much for respecting the “independence” of their spokespeople; OxFam isn’t so much about lending a helping hand as it is about demanding the kind of groupthink that seeks to cultivate minority group populations into community organizers for the international socialist cause.

As Michael Curtis notes:

Oxfam echoes the Palestinian call for a campaign of boycotts, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) against Israel until it complies with international law and Palestinian rights. Oxfam believes that “businesses that operate in settlements further the ongoing poverty and denial of rights that we work to support. Oxfam is opposed to all trade from Israeli settlements, which are illegal under international law.”

Scarlett Johansson is not a political activist of any kind but her position on this issue is very much more rational and valid, especially regarding questions of poverty and “rights,” than is that of Oxfam. …She is eminently sensible and diplomatic in her general assertion that progress is made when committees join together and work alongside each other. In this particular case, SodaStream is both reducing the poverty of Palestinians and also ensuring equal rights.

And as Omar Jibarat, a Palestinian resident of the West Bank, explains: “I would love to work for SodaStream. They’re quite privileged. People look up to them. It’s not the people who want to boycott, it’s the officials.”

While I have no doubt that ScarJo will remain an ardent liberal, this BDS brouhaha should drive her and her liberal pop following to question the meaning of hip concepts like “liberal” and “social justice” in light of the day to day reality that stands in stark contrast to their steady diet of activist hyperbole and the grandiose platitudes of non-profit organizations that mask clear-cut political agendas under the guise of charitable giving.