A model factory for a colonialism in trouble: the SodaStream saga revisited

ActivismIsrael/Palestine

It may have taken up a nauseating amount of our attention by now, but the Scarlett Johannson/SodaStream saga sure has a lot of people talking about how those seltzer machines are made in the Occupied West Bank.

Of the recent wave of boycotts against Israeli institutions and companies, this one against SodaStream has crystallized, in a particularly interesting way, the growing momentum and challenges for critics of Israel’s policies, especially the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. Pressuring Johannson to step down from SodaStream, the movement argued that her promotion of products made in Israeli-occupied territory might contradict her other commitment as ambassador for the global antipoverty organization Oxfam. Oxfam, which provides basic services to Palestinians under Israeli occupation, didn’t find Scarlett’s “saving the world” comment too funny. But a serious kind of joking around, an anticolonial satire, has seemed to work well for the BDS movement. Memes of the actress enjoying soda amid iconic scenes of the occupation circulated on social media under the Twitter hashtags #NoScarJo, and #BDS.

Graphic by Stephanie Westbrook (@stephinrome)

Graphic by Stephanie Westbrook (@stephinrome)

This tactic yoked the company’s advertisements for consumer pleasure to the more principled pleasure of satirizing and mocking the occupation’s commercial propaganda. If the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs itself spends millions of dollars a year on its “nation-branding”—portraying Israel as a fun tourist haven, with no occupation in sight— the BDS movement has followed its adversary to this awkward territory of fun and fantasy. Awkward because the goals of ending Israel’s occupation and gaining the right of return for Palestinian refugees are quite serious. Yet, like dissidents under occupation in Syria, the movement has understood that in tough times, an aesthetics of laughter may not only provide respite but satirical punch. These memes, or Tamer Nafar’s new rap about ScarJo, might even break the ice at awkward house parties where the host has a SodaStream machine.

Still, amidst this funnily promising moment for the movement, a drier, more dinner table-ish version of the Palestine-Israel debate was droning on: the war over facts. Certain facts came to be debated, particularly in Israeli and Jewish-American media, and in ways that framed the SodaStream factory in the Occupied West Bank as good, not bad for Palestinians. These were not the structural or historical facts of Israel’s occupation and its devastating economic effects on the Occupied Territories (the New York Times, at least, mentioned these), but the slippier, subjective facts embodied in interviews with SodaStream managers and, most crucially, some of their 900 or so Palestinian workers, 500 of them from the Occupied West Bank. For some, evidently, the idea was to let the last word on the controversy be interviews with Palestinian workers – which sounds good at first.

Palestinian workers cheer SodaStream and Scarlett Johansson,” read the headline in The Forward, the liberal Jewish-American paper. A Forward/Haaretz article title said the controversy was “Fueled by Lies and Distortion.” The reporter secured his facts with the assurance that he spoke to some Palestinian workers “without supervisors present.” (Even this slip, where “supervisors” subtly implied Jewish-Israelis, points to the absurdity of trying to absolve an employment environment in which Palestinians are systematically under-represented in higher-paying positions – discrimination that applies in different forms in the West Bank and Israel.) It became clear that the “lies and distortion” the article referred to were none other than critiques of SodaStream, apparently debunked by these magical interviews with no supervisors around! A few pages later came the punchline – an even more heavy-handed Forward editorial, “Bursting Bubbles of SodaStream’s Haters,” that conveniently cited the “facts” from a few pages earlier:

A blanket boycott of Israeli goods produced in the Palestinian territories — formulated as a more targeted version of the boycott, divestment and sanction movement known as BDS — is shortsighted, unfair, largely unenforceable, and ultimately self-defeating. Some Palestinian leaders have called for sympathizers to take up this cause. Some Palestinian workers, clearly, don’t agree.

Clearly, over one hundred Palestinian civil society institutions in the Occupied Territories, Israel and the Diaspora called for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel in 2005. The Palestinian trade union movement has backed BDS. But all of a sudden the Forward has found a few Palestinians working for Israeli settlements, who astonishingly won’t call for their employers to be boycotted—you know, while they are at work. This was saddening but not all that surprising, for while the Forward and Haaretz are generally important critics of Israel’s occupation, they often seem just as interested in discrediting a non-violent resistance tool that seems to actually be working.

A Christian Science Monitor article added to the mix a Palestinian who hates that he has to work at SodaStream. But overall, it echoed the Forward’s angle, selling its interviews with Palestinian workers as an innocent human interest story, merely out to capture the real lives of Palestinians in print. Of course, “merely” trying to represent Palestinians “as they really are” might end up coming out on one side or another of this heated political debate, and sure enough, the title of the article was: “Palestinian workers back Scarlett Johansson’s opposition to SodaStream boycott.” This made a handful of interviews sound like some kind of organized Palestinian counter-movement against the BDS movement, which (surprise) doesn’t exist.

Sure, many of the Palestinian workers interviewed express a more ambiguous position—that they would not work in Israeli settlements if they had alternatives in the Palestinian economy. One simply changed the subject, in a poignant moment that seemed lost on the Haaretz reporter. For the articles were looking past the odd circumstances of these interviews, wielding any positive statement by a Palestinian worker like a weapon, as if to say: ‘see? Even Palestinian workers don’t want a boycott of the factory!’ Only one or two of the many reporters involved mentioned the convenient fact that they had been specially invited to the settlement by SodaStream itself for a factory tour.

Do We Want This Kind of War of Facts?

Still, the wielding of these pro-SodaStream Palestinian testimonies have yet to be adequately addressed, and the first step is acknowledging their potential resonance.

Despite the Forward’s heavy-handed wielding of such testimonies, there is still the sticky situation that the Palestinian workers made such apolitical statements at all: that they need a job, and they don’t have an alternative to this one. These are difficult statements to process for foreign observers. Sure, the CSM article linked to some broader context too. And it would really help to know the long history of politicized Palestinian labor organization being ignored by Zionist labor unions, then brutally put down by Israel. But with history out of the picture, the Palestinian testimonies might just seem to express the cliché that “real life” goes deeper than political conflict. And to readers a bit less naïve, these testimonies might be downright confusing: a job some Palestinians can’t but appreciate, yet their legal and civil rights situation is objectively horrendous! How can we make sense of this dissonance?

Until recently, the clearest critical response to such pro-SodaStream worker testimonies has simply been to find Palestinian workers who say the opposite. And until this controversy, this strategy unfortunately consisted of only a single interview with a Palestinian worker who told it much closer to the story about labor violations: Sodastream “treats us like slaves,” said the worker. The company told Palestinian workers that participating in PR videos would help the company get enough money that it wouldn’t fire the workers – a subtle threat, backed up by the workers’ lack of recourse. The Israeli NGO, Workers’ Hotline, has elaborated on Palestinian working conditions in Israeli settlements: Palestinians are hired by often exploitative middlemen; they are fired for taking sick days, with no warning or process through human resources. Shifts are 12 hours, with commutes of up to two hours to get through checkpoints.

This more critical story has been a crucial counterbalance to the SodaStream propaganda, and some of the recent articles found quotes that corroborate the picture of a very, very bad labor environment. But the status of the critical testimonies in relation to the pro-SodaStream ones has been left unresolved. Is it simply up to Western readers to pick which interviews they take as true, and if readers take the critical account as true, are the pro-SodaStream stories factually false?

Before the Scarlett Johannson controversy and the journalistic swarm, the pro-Sodastream account was not in the best shape for such a contest of facts. It consisted of a PR video on YouTube whose source was suspiciously not made clear; and the video was so adamantly playing down the Israeli occupation that it sounded exactly like the Israeli government – the furthest from a neutral arbiter. But now, even as BDS is gaining traction, the pro-Sodastream claims have multiplied too. Taken together, these critical and uncritical interviews shape the debate as an all-too-familiar war of facts, in which the testimony of Palestinian workers is wielded as the transcendent fact – able to speak beyond any kind of structural facts like Israel’s systematic denial of civil rights and its stifling of Palestinian economic growth.

And in a war of this kind of facts, the deck is somewhat stacked. The company decides who to invite; it influences what workers say; and workers are undoubtedly afraid to come out about abuses, because it is common for Israeli employers in the West Bank to fire Palestinians and revoke their work permits when they complain or try to organize. This is why the anti-SodaStream interview leaves the worker’s identity anonymous—which the Forward journalist predictably used to discredit the testimony.

Lest the recent articles lull us into thinking that maybe commercial life under occupation can be a walk in the park, let’s look further at how these facts are constituted, at the questions the authors assume are worth asking and those they leave out. This cannot be just some abstract academic exercise in historicizing facts; to paraphrase Gramsci, we don’t need detached knowledge but knowledge that helps subalterns win.

But this grave task – winning – doesn’t mean we can’t have a laugh (even a wry one). In that spirit, let us plunge further into the assumptions of a strange colonial universe in which Palestinian workers are portrayed as satisfied—even grateful—at being employed in the very Israeli settlements that colonize their land. What better gateway to this fanciful world than – ah, what’s this? – a manual for whitewashing occupation.

Manual for Whitewashing Occupation

Individualize and tokenize. The implicit assumption in these articles is that if one can find a few workers who will call their working conditions OK, then the company is OK and the issue is solved—no sense of connecting the particular to the general here! Such connections are what we can try to demonstrate. And the articles do operate on some more general rules of systemic racism: individualize (divide and conquer) and tokenize (let the marginalized individual stand for the group to justify the status quo). Here’s how it works.

An organized group of marginalized people is demanding systemic change? There are widespread accusations that their labor conditions are horrendous? Their civil rights in general are systematically denied? Find a few individuals who rely on the dominant group for work, go to their jobs and ask them if they want to be working there; when they equivocate and say ‘I want to make a living,’ ask no further questions, take the soundbite as positive, and imply that their claims speak for the whole group!

After all, as Dan Rabinowitz and others have shown, a key Israeli strategy for managing Israel’s non-Jewish, Palestinian citizens – after years of military rule, that is – has been granting them individual rights but not group rights. Call it divide and conquer – and the name of this Zionist game, our naïve journalists forget, is conquest. But the journalists do get this principle well enough to apply it across the Green Line too. In this strange universe, granting full and equal rights to non-Jews remains out of the question. The result: maintain a shaky regime of conquest, and try to make that seem legitimate.

With the collective or organized claims for equality or justice safely ignored, the marginalized individual can be paraded around as being treated all kinds of nice. This is a smart strategy, actually, because it is very hard, particularly for non-Palestinians, to ignore if Palestinians at the Sodastream factory say there are things they like about their job, that they’re happy to have a job, or that their wages there are higher than they would otherwise have. Most of the interviewees were also very clear that if they had an alternative to working in the settlements, they would. But the subtlety of this point is lost when disconnected from the systematic ways in which Israeli occupation suppresses the Palestinian economy.

Ask a Palestinian! The articles are peppered with happy phrases quoted from the Palestinian workers such as, “we are all family” (referring to the Jewish bosses) and “the pay is good.” These statements are supposed to settle the issue. By “even” speaking to Palestinian workers, these reporters claim to have settled the issue. But what makes it so remarkable that they spoke to Palestinian workers? None other than the blinders of the settler society’s liberal apologists!

For these apologists as for some Israeli government agencies, Palestinians as individuals are the subject of great care, interest and intervention – yet the collective fate of Palestinians can only ever be ultimately decided by expert opinion, and according to every last whim of Israel’s needs for recognition and security. Of course, according to the needs of Israel and the Western-backed sham peace process, the expert opinion that gets to decide Palestinian fate is usually not democratically determined by Palestinians. (See the Western-backed takeover of the democratically elected Hamas government in 2006…)

So, an interview with a Palestinian in this context is a kind of special occurrence – it enters the equation not out of concern for Palestinian collective fate, but to achieve the effect of telling an audience of liberal Jews or Israelis, “see, I even asked the Palestinians, and they ‘re ok with the situation!” Even. The exception. Because as a norm, seriously consulting with Palestinians, taking seriously their claims and their right to make them, would be far too unsettling. Activists should take note: The repetition of this circus of maintaining the legitimacy of the settler regime is far more damning than the specific facts they report within this circus. Hence a “centrist” position that argues the facts but does not go after the circus is rather problematic. Let us not be dragged into it.

Got a model factory? Let’s recapitulate what is in plain view – what some of the reporters mention, what the Israeli NGO Kav LaOved has reported on, and what workers are very forthright about: SodaStream’s is a model factory, retrofitted for display – and not characteristic of Israel’s West Bank industrial zones. Every modern oppressive apparatus worth its salt has a good model factory (the U.S. had model kitchens, and the analogies get more provocative from there.) Every social activist and journalist in Israel-Palestine knows: you are not going to get anywhere near this place without an invitation. And as Palestinian workers in the industrial area, and Kav LaOved staff, will tell you: SodaStream has become one of the good places to work – it is in the other 200 or so companies in this industrial area where some of the worst abuses occur. But having a factory that can produce flash videos and elicit positive statements from colonized workers is extremely important; without it, those other factories would be subject to even more withering critique. SodaStream plays a hugely important function in what the Israeli government considers an increasingly important “war,” the war for legitimacy.

Regardless of SodaStream, labor abuses are rampant in the neighboring factories of the industrial zone. But let’s say that conditions were great at SodaStream and even OK in the other couple hundred factories in the industrial zone (which they aren’t). Let’s add that Palestinian workers have gained some small concessions from their West Bank employers, including some collective bargaining agreements and some mostly unenforced rulings from Israeli courts. The point is that these positives can be taken away at any moment until the occupation ends. Occupation means that Palestinians at this plant are under the authority of Israel’s military, which grants them special permits to work every month; these permits are commonly revoked in retaliation for demanding decent labor conditions. How many violations there are in SodaStream is a sort of red herring, and not only because anyone deemed to be causing trouble is probably no longer there! Why would an extremely successful multinational company, well aware of the scrutiny it is under, with a well-oiled PR machine, leave any dirty laundry for journalists to see? In the storm of fascination with Scarlett, a basic sense of skepticism evaporated, even if only momentarily. This is not surprising but it should be alarming. As Israel’s abuses drag on and on, they charge us to be skeptical and thorough, but not necessarily to get dragged into a dry war of facts.

What might be more fun and equally effective at this moment is satire: having a laugh on, mobilizing a laugh against, the miserable ideological contortions of a colonialism in trouble.

About Benjamin Katz-Nussbaum

Benjamin Katz-Nussbaum is a Jewish-American scholar and activist.

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58 Responses

  1. Citizen
    March 7, 2014, 12:27 pm

    Heh. Scarjo is the ultimate shiksa, although she has a Jewish mom. As she says, she’s a “NY jew,” although it’s obvious her goy daddy had a hand in her looks. Relevance?

    Huckabee was on Fox News channel a week ago praising Sodastream for its good old fashion capitalistic solution that makes everybody “happy, happy” (a la that hillbilly duck show guy). And the same channel, yesterday, had a segment with the banner, “The New War On Israel,” which was about BDS. They interviewed that old guy from Commentary, Poderitz (sic), who told the Fox audience how evil BDS was; he never mentioned the occupation or why so many Palestinians have no job, and the Fox anchor asked no questions not loaded up for straight Zionist spiel, and of course, no follow up questions by said anchor. Add in Bibi’s talk at AIPAC convention, where he repeated much times how evil BDS is; and add in Obama’s talk with that pundit who is a former IDF prison guard, and what we have is an escalating issue, and the primaries are fast approaching…BDS as an issue there? Wouldn’t that be a great success? I dare say, even Dick n Jane might wake up!

    • Woody Tanaka
      March 7, 2014, 12:54 pm

      “makes everybody “happy, happy” (a la that hillbilly duck show guy). ”

      Not hillbilly, redneck. There’s a difference.

      • Citizen
        March 7, 2014, 1:21 pm

        @ Woody

        What’s the difference? Hillbillies are just poor whites, but rednecks are that plus bigots? Can’t tell by the neck.

      • Woody Tanaka
        March 10, 2014, 9:59 am

        “What’s the difference?”

        “Hillbilly” is someone who lives in the mountains (basically Appalachia), whereas a “redneck” is derogatory slang for rural poor whites, and not limited to one area (although it’s generally applied to those in the South and midwest)

    • DaBakr
      March 7, 2014, 4:28 pm

      citzn:”Heh. Scarjo is the ultimate shiksa, although she has a Jewish mom. As she says, she’s a “NY jew,” although it’s obvious her goy daddy had a hand in her looks. Relevance?”

      and this, in a nutshell sums up the deep seated and pathological attitude the bds movement represents when things don’t go exactly as they hoped. and as for the consideration of the anti-sodastream campaign being even ‘somewhat’ successful? Maybe when they take off the tin foil hats they will see that the ‘awareness’ created more support then it did any real gain for bds.

      • James North
        March 7, 2014, 10:33 pm

        DaBakr: If BDS is failing why did Netanyahu mention it 18 times in his speech?

      • LeaNder
        March 8, 2014, 6:12 am

        DaBakr, you may not know it, but in citizen’s case there is a special twist to the story. He may well be the “goy daddy” of Jewish kids. He is simply longing to recognized in the Jewish world at large as an essential part in the production.

      • Shingo
        March 8, 2014, 5:32 pm

        and this, in a nutshell sums up the deep seated and pathological attitude the bds movement represents when things don’t go exactly as they hoped.

        As compared to what? Israeli leaders citing Hitler, Munich, the Holocaust and 1939 every time a western diplomat gives them a slight tap on the wrist?

        Maybe when they take off the tin foil hats they will see that the ‘awareness’ created more support then it did any real gain for bds.

        Actually it did, which is why the was a flood of anti BDS articles by the likes of Roger Cohen, Jodi Rudoren, Tom Friedman, Peter Beinart, and Jeffrey Goldberg just to name a few – not to mention that even John Kerry was forced to warn of the sanctions Israel would face once the latest round fo talks fail.

        How’s the weather inside that hermetically sealed reality bubble?

    • LeaNder
      March 8, 2014, 5:59 am

      Poderitz (sic)

      Norman or John Podhoretz?

      • eGuard
        March 8, 2014, 10:12 am

        The one who didn’t change his name.

  2. seafoid
    March 7, 2014, 12:33 pm

    Sodastream might have gotten away with the schtick 10 years ago when Israel was still taking part in the peace parody but now it has backfired on them. Zionism is dying. Hasbara is dead.

    60% of American Jews think g-d has nothing to do with Jewish sovereignty over the West Bank. Occupation is not sexy. Even on a size 8.

    And this isn’t something that sprouted up over night. It’s not something that can be spun back to equilibrium. It’s a problem that goes to the heart of Zionism. It’s a pity that Sharon didn’t live to see it. It’s a tragedy Teddy Kollek is dead when his life’s work is so problematic.

    link to palestinechronicle.com

    The greatest settler
    By Gideon Levy

    Among the many obituary notices published by various groups after the death of Teddy Kollek, one group’s notice was conspicuous in its absence: the Yesha Council of Jewish Settlements. It is a bit difficult to comprehend this ingratitude by the settlers toward the person who brought approximately 200,000 Jews to the occupied territories – perhaps more than any other person. The settlement enterprise owes a great historic debt to Kollek. Neither Rabbi Moshe Levinger nor Hanan Porat nor Aharon Domb nor Ze’ev “Zambish” Hever are responsible for settling so many Israelis beyond the Green Line as Kollek, the enlightened Viennese liberal.

    The fact that most of the eulogies for the former Jerusalem mayor left out this detail and that Yesha did not embrace the mega-settler Kollek is no coincidence. Israeli society has adopted sundry and strange codes to whitewash the settlement enterprise. The settlement of the occupied territories in Jerusalem has never been considered hitnahalut (the term used for Jewish settlement in the territories). And the gargantuan neighborhoods of the capital, which were built during Teddy’s term and span extensive Palestinian territory, have never been considered a controversial issue.

    The fact that almost no one in the world recognizes this enterprise and the new borders it charts does not change a thing: In our eyes, but only in our eyes, not every settlement is the same and each settlement has its own moral code. But this is a game we play with ourselves. Every home built beyond the Green Line – in Yitzhar or Itamar in the West Bank, in Nov in the Golan, or in French Hill in Jerusalem – is built on occupied land and all construction on occupied land is in violation of international law. Occupation is occupation. Not everything is legal, even if it is anchored in Israeli law, as in the case of the Golan Heights and Jerusalem.

    The Israelis invent patents for themselves, but this sophisticated semantic laundering will not meet the legal and ethical test. The Ramot neighborhood is a settlement. There is no difference between the “neighborhood” of Pisgat Ze’ev and the “settlement” of Givat Ze’ev. This artificial distinction does not end with the Jerusalem region. ……..con’t….

    • Annie Robbins
      March 7, 2014, 12:52 pm

      seafoid (and everyone, can you please not post entire articles here, it is against fair use. this happened twice yesterday (i think by american and someone else) sometimes i fix them and sometimes i’m just not in the mood, but can people please not do this and thank you for leaving the url so that it drives traffic at the palestine chronicle.

      i will be shortening your comment with a blockquote. but if you do it yourself you can pick the paragraphs you like best.

      thank you!

      • seafoid
        March 7, 2014, 2:09 pm

        Fair enough Annie

        Occasionally the article is so good that it is impossible to drop any of it :)
        Lots of stuff written in the past is coming true now.

      • Annie Robbins
        March 8, 2014, 4:31 pm

        it is a really good article seafoid. and everyone should open the link and read the whole thing! ;)

    • pabelmont
      March 7, 2014, 3:47 pm

      Levy writes, inter alia: And the gargantuan neighborhoods of the capital, which were built during Teddy’s term and span extensive Palestinian territory, have never been considered a controversial issue.

      Bird watchers take note. There it is! In full feather, the speckled PASSIVE VOICE LIE.

      Maybe there was once in Israel a sufficient anti-settlement crowd to create a “controversial issue” of the settlements in EJ. But not recently. But that does not mean that there is no controversy about the settlements in EJ. It’s just not within the small, happy family of Israeli (Ashkenazi ?) Jews, all of whom know each other, adn to whom (I suppose) Levy is writing here.

      But I detest the settlements, all of them, and if that fact alone does not create a “controversial issue”, then I don’t know what such a thing is.

      Boo hiss. Why, oh! why, couldn’t Levy have written to the world audience (which he has, from time to time) and say, instead:

      And the gargantuan neighborhoods of the capital, which were built during Teddy’s term and span extensive Palestinian territory, have never been considered a controversial issue by Israeli Zionists, even by those who oppose other settlements..

      • seafoid
        March 7, 2014, 4:46 pm

        They are pretty controversial in Europe and across the Arab and Muslim world.
        Gilo is a settlement.

      • LeaNder
        March 8, 2014, 6:53 am

        pabelmont, that’s a very unfair comment: he is obviously referring to the Israeli perception, and not reality in this context. But the critique of this Israeli perception is his core point here.

        It feels you didn’t read the complete article, it’s very very good. Not only for people who still store “the charming and charismatic” side only of Teddy Kollek, but much more on Israeli’s use of language to obfuscate.

  3. James North
    March 7, 2014, 12:56 pm

    A terrific and important post. Thanks to Benjamin Katz-Nussbaum.

  4. a blah chick
    March 7, 2014, 1:55 pm

    I seem to recall an article that mention a shopping mall in Ariel and how great it was that local Palestinians patronized it. “See, coexistence in action!” Never mentioned was the fact that said Palestinians had to shop there because all the local Arab businesses had been shut down.

  5. JeffB
    March 7, 2014, 2:07 pm

    SodaStream’s is a model factory, retrofitted for display – and not characteristic of Israel’s West Bank industrial zones.

    Benjamin. You (BDS) picked this fight. You were enthusiastically going after Soda Stream as a model for the occupation. You aren’t going to be able to target Soda Stream as a symbol for the broader occupation and then a month later turn around and say that Soda Stream is totally atypical. All battlefields have their individual characteristics. Your job as generals is to pick individual characteristics you think you can work with and those that don’t have characteristics that benefit the enemy.

    Soda Stream had some obvious advantages in that it is a niche product sold mostly to liberal consumers. Now your battle plan went wrong. Its time to take some ownership in picking this battle. Did you not do your homework before starting a major campaign of intimidation against Ms. Johansson?

    Anyway in terms of the score. You were able to get Oxfam international onboard with Johansson. But to do so you put ally under a lot of pressure. Oxfam USA balked openly against international. That crack could widen as it often has over the Israel issue. Oxfam international itself may end not being able to sit on the fence (that may be a good or bad thing for BDS, I suspect its good but many BDS supporters aren’t happy about Oxfam international being put in this position).

    Johansson was the biggest loss for BDS. She didn’t cave nor did she skunk away. Instead she turns out to be a solid Zionist. I think asking her to choose between betraying her mother or dropping some charity she volunteers for was a terrible idea. BDS in general seems to completely underestimate how personal the issue of Israel is for Jews, this being example 10536. That comes from constantly modeling BDS after a fictionalized version of the South African struggle where South Africa really wasn’t personal for anyone. Israel is going to play out more like abortion, immigration or capital punishment where people have strong opinions passionately held that are going to be difficult to change.

    Israel walked away not just with a short term win here. Lieberman and Netanyahu are good for speaking to Zionists but now Israel has the Black Widow as their celebrity spokesperson. Sabra would obviously be a better choice but I think Israel will settle for the superhero that right now is the #1 request for her own movie.

    But the main problem you have on talking about the occupation in general is that BDS is incoherent on the occupation because it stands in solidarity with the Palestinians who are iffy (incoherent) on the 2SS concept. You attack Israelis putting up factories to the east of the green line as intrinsically exploitive because you would argue that any action by a government that doesn’t represent the nation it rules is intrinsically exploitation. Which would be a fine argument, and might be quite convincing. And that works great for J-Street. But for BDS you have a problem, the whole point of RoR in Israel proper rather than in the West Bank is to force Israeli Jews to live under a government they despise.

    Most Americans are pro-israel. Those that aren’t are generally pro-fairness. There is a constituency which hates Jews / hates Israel that’s around 10% of the population. They are mostly not terribly passionate about the issue and what animates them most is a desire for American Isolationism, which means they certainly aren’t going to support America joining in any sort of international organized sanctions movement. They may not want trade but if so they don’t want trade across the board.

    The war of facts is going to be unavoidable. That’s not your choice. You don’t get to decide if the other side is going to contest your narrative in a propaganda war.

    • Eva Smagacz
      March 7, 2014, 4:08 pm

      But for BDS you have a problem, the whole point of RoR in Israel proper rather than in the West Bank is to force Israeli Jews to live under a government they despise.

      If ( potentially, possibly) forcing Israeli Jews to live under a government they despise is wrong, do you agree that forcing Palestinian Arabs (as is hard reality on the ground) to live under a government they despise is equally wrong?

      Because unless you think that Palestinian Arabs are less deserving than Israeli Jews, it seems to me that you have just criticised Zionist occupation of Palestine.

      • a blah chick
        March 7, 2014, 4:38 pm

        I think we need to start calling these people by their rightful names: Jewish Supremacists.

      • Naftush
        March 10, 2014, 4:20 am

        Supremacist? States tend to be that way, including a Palestinian state were one to exist. You may wish to argue that Denmark, say, isn’t supremacist, but don’t try it when Danes feel their nationhood is being threatened. As for states in Israel’s neighborhood, try these: The Arab Republic of Egypt, The Islamic Republic of Iran, the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.
        Which makes me suspect that it’s the other word you find troubling. You gotta start somewhere…

      • Shingo
        March 10, 2014, 5:55 pm

        Supremacist? States tend to be that way, including a Palestinian state were one to exist.

        Supremacist states tend to yet. A Palestinian state already exists and It clearly is not supremacist. On the contrary, Israel is still imposing it’s supremacy on the state of Palestine and is demanding that Palestine submit to Israel’s continued presence and control Asa condition for withdrawal.

        You may wish to argue that Denmark, say, isn’t supremacist, but don’t try it when Danes feel their nationhood is being threatened.

        Being a supremacist state requires it’s leaders to perpetuate the myth that the state is threatened even when it isn’t. The state of Israel is not threatened, only it’s criminal activities.

        As for states in Israel’s neighborhood, try these: The Arab Republic of Egypt, The Islamic Republic of Iran, the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.

        Which is exactly how Israel likes it. As we saw during the removal of Mubarak, Israel fears the prospect if democratic states in the region that are not rules by US puppet dictators.

        When El Sisi led the coup to overthrow the democratically elected Morsi, headlines in Israel proclaimed Morsi the hero if the Jews.

        But keep throwing that mud. Some of it is bound to stick.

      • JeffB
        March 7, 2014, 6:25 pm

        @Eva

        If ( potentially, possibly) forcing Israeli Jews to live under a government they despise is wrong, do you agree that forcing Palestinian Arabs (as is hard reality on the ground) to live under a government they despise is equally wrong?

        Yes. I believe in self determination for all people Palestinians included. I certainly would like to see a situation where Palestinians if they come to a final resolution that they don’t want to be part of Israel, have a government which fully represents them. I don’t think Israel should be forcing people to live under Israeli law who want no part of it.

        Because unless you think that Palestinian Arabs are less deserving than Israeli Jews, it seems to me that you have just criticised Zionist occupation of Palestine.

        I’m opposed to the occupation. I want full integration or renunciation of territory. Occupation is meant to be temporary not last for 2 generations and counting. I blame the UN and the Palestinians primarily for prolonging the occupation but I’m perfectly willing to criticize it as wasteful and cruel.

      • seafoid
        March 8, 2014, 12:21 am

        “I blame the UN and the Palestinians primarily for prolonging the occupation but I’m perfectly willing to criticize it as wasteful and cruel.”

        Joke. Nobody asked Yossi Israeli to move to that house in gilo.
        Nobody asked Bank Leumi to finance it. Nobody forced Mekorot to take the water. Nobody put a gun to Zambish’s head and ordered him to plan the whole thing.

        YESHA is Zionism par excellence.

        It’s a pity you still don’t understand responsibility.

      • JeffB
        March 8, 2014, 10:49 am

        @seafold –

        Joke. Nobody asked Yossi Israeli to move to that house in gilo.
        Nobody asked Bank Leumi to finance it. Nobody forced Mekorot to take the water. Nobody put a gun to Zambish’s head and ordered him to plan the whole thing.

        Sorry I forgot. Who among the remnants of the Roman empire living in the Palestine of the 6th century asked for a massive desert uprising that would sweep away their culture and bring the Palestinians with them.?

      • seafoid
        March 8, 2014, 11:15 am

        @ JeffB

        I reckon you’re a parody

        The remnants of the 7th century were the original Jews who became Christian who are now the Palestinians.
        They never ever ate gefilte fish.

        Shufti.

      • Naftush
        March 10, 2014, 4:23 am

        “Nobody asked Yossi Israeli to move to that house in gilo [sic]. Nobody asked Bank Leumi to finance it. Nobody [...].” It’s been argued that Israeli individuals and entities violate Geneva IV by operating over the Green Line. Thank you for refuting the argument; I couldn’t have done better.

      • Shingo
        March 10, 2014, 5:58 pm

        It’s been argued that Israeli individuals and entities violate Geneva IV by operating over the Green Line. Thank you for refuting the argument; I couldn’t have done better.

        I see you are clutching at the strawman claim that the population has to be forced to settle against their will to violate Geneva IV. That argument has already been debunked, so while I am sure you can’t do it any better, the fact is that seafoid’s comment doesn’t do it at all.

      • just
        March 8, 2014, 6:17 am

        “I’m opposed to the occupation. I want full integration or renunciation of territory. Occupation is meant to be temporary not last for 2 generations and counting. I blame the UN and the Palestinians primarily for prolonging the occupation but I’m perfectly willing to criticize it as wasteful and cruel.”

        How very magnanimous of you! I’m so glad that you admit to the Occupation. Of course you assign blame to the UN that is generally denigrated by Israel! Then you blame the victims! Bravo! Please do tell how the Occupation is ‘wasteful’? What exactly is being wasted?

        Looking forward to your answer.

      • eljay
        March 8, 2014, 9:23 am

        >> I’m opposed to the occupation. … Occupation is meant to be temporary … I blame the UN and the Palestinians primarily for prolonging the occupation …

        The Zio-supremacist says it’s the victim’s fault the rapist still has her chained up in his basement.

    • seafoid
      March 7, 2014, 4:45 pm

      “Most Americans are pro-israel. ”

      Most Americans are pro fries. They don’t care about “Isreal”. Ask the GOP.

    • seafoid
      March 7, 2014, 5:35 pm

      “Israel is going to play out more like abortion, immigration or capital punishment where people have strong opinions passionately held that are going to be difficult to change. ”

      Most americans know women who have been pregnant. Jews are found in far less quantities. Only 40% of them support YESHA. Why would Israel not fail like support for the war in Iraq failed ?

      • JeffB
        March 7, 2014, 6:29 pm

        @Seafold

        the cost to Americans is much lower in supporting Israel than in supporting the Iraq war. There is no question support for Israel at its highest points ever doesn’t touch support for the Iraq war at its lowest point.

        As mentioned far more than 40% of Jews support Israel. the way you are phrasing that you are mixing indifferent with pro-Palestinians. That’s not a true statistic. Moreover the degree of passion matters. Even a small group passionate about an issue can control policy. Gun control for example. You also need to consider Christian Zionists.

        Finally when you talk about support for Israel falling you mean falling in a Pro-Palestinian direction. Support for Palestinians generally comes in about 1/6th support for Israelis.

      • seafoid
        March 8, 2014, 12:23 am

        Jeff

        I hope you are planning for the future because it’s not going to be like the past was.
        American support is a very thin reed against which to lean.

      • seafoid
        March 8, 2014, 12:40 am

        Note from JeffB to investors

        http://www.wtf.il

        This Weltanschauung contains “forward-looking statements” – that is, statements related to future, not past, events. In this context, forward-looking statements often address our expected future political and diplomatic performance and financial condition, and often contain words such as “expect,” “anticipate,” “intend,” “plan,” “believe,” “seek,” “see,” or “will.” Forward-looking statements by their nature address matters that are, to different degrees, uncertain. For us, particular uncertainties that could cause our actual results to be materially different than those expressed in our forward-looking statements include: current economic and financial conditions, including volatility in American public opinion, AIPAC execution capability, BDS, the support of young American Jews, the value of financial assets; potential hasbara disruptions or other impacts arising in the United States or Europe from developments in media consumer awareness of what’s happening on the ground in YESHA, our debt situation, economic growth , the housing bubble, the impact of conditions in the financial and credit markets on the availability and cost of Israel bonds, US Congress support, the impact of conditions on Israeli consciousness, housing market and unemployment rates on the level of commercial and consumer “feel good” factors for YESHA ; changes in Israeli consumer behavior that may affect our estimates of liability for 1948 ; pending and future ICC claims and litigation in connection with 1967 which may affect Phil’s mother’s view of us..continues for 34 further pages

      • just
        March 8, 2014, 11:10 am

        Both the costs of supporting the Iraq war and Israel are too high.

        Not just in money, but in lives and credibility. We need to cut the umbilical cord– our hypocrisy in foreign policy and our insane support for Apartheid, warmongering, imperialist Israel is dangerous in every way.

      • seafoid
        March 8, 2014, 11:19 am

        Just

        They have tried so many times to reshape the Middle East but they can’t.
        Reality is so hard to corral.

        I think the impact of the financial crisis on how Americans think about Israel is underrated. A lot of big dreams died with Lehman. A lot of faith in elites went down that weekend too . Israel is an elite project, a very big dream.

      • Annie Robbins
        March 8, 2014, 4:23 pm

        the cost to Americans is much lower in supporting Israel than in supporting the Iraq war

        no it’s not. not when supporting israel means attacking iran and attacking iraq. don’t forget the pnac clean break was originally written as a security agenda for israel before it became adopted by the US after the cabinet morphed into a full on neocon stovepipe. supporting israel is not 3 billion, it’s supporting an agenda for the ME that israel wants, and that is very expensive.

    • RoHa
      March 8, 2014, 1:19 am

      “But for BDS you have a problem, the whole point of RoR in Israel proper rather than in the West Bank is to force Israeli Jews to live under a government they despise.”

      How so? The idea is that some, and perhaps all, of the refugees be permitted to live in the territory that is now Israel. How would that turn the government into one they despised more than their current government*? Yes, they would elect more Arabs, and Arab interests would be more strongly represented, but so what? Why would that be so objectionable?

      (*The Australians, the British, the Danes, the Swedes, and the Japanese always despise their current government, no matter who gets elected. I assume Israelis would feel same way about theirs.)

    • hungrydave
      March 8, 2014, 5:16 am

      “Johansson was the biggest loss for BDS. She didn’t cave nor did she skunk away. Instead she turns out to be a solid Zionist.”

      Zionism = settlements??

      • Annie Robbins
        March 8, 2014, 4:40 pm

        hungrydave, whatever jb says, ss choosing such a massive star for their representative was the best boon for the bds movement ever, without a doubt. it thrust bds onto the mainstage, into the dailypress briefings, into kerry’s speech, was lambasted by is gov officials and numerous journalists including jeffry goldberg! finally, it was the big break we needed, and the time was right for it, perfect in fact coming towards the end of the 9 month ‘framework’ stuff.

        not almost an identical situation occurred a couple years ago w/kristan davis and ahava/oxfam and it didn’t garner anywhere near the attention and davis dropped ahava for oxfam, and that didn’t make any difference. why? because she was not a household name even tho her face was known to millions from the sex in the city tv show.

        no, it was scarlett johansson that did it, that finally got the term ‘bds’ spoken on the mainstream and now it’s been repeated over and over. what a difference a month makes. radical. so they can crow all they want about the affair being a loss for bds, but you do not hear bds saying that, anywhere. believe me, it saved us years of activism. we never could have afforded that kind of advertising.

    • hungrydave
      March 8, 2014, 5:49 am

      “the whole point of RoR in Israel proper rather than in the West Bank is to force Israeli Jews to live under a government they despise.”

      How can they know they would despise it when they have no idea who the individuals would be? Israelis quite like right-wing stuff, you could have a really right wing neo-conservative Palestinian majority government… who knows?!

      Of course, right or left, a Palestinian majority government would almost definitely mean the end of jewish privilege. They might not like it, but sometimes you have to deal with democracy – racists in america don’t like having a black president, but they don’t really have a lot of choice because he was democratically elected. However, all rulers want to be loved rather than feared, so I think it’s a good idea for Israel to start a truth and reconciliation process as soon as possible. Also maybe start on a constitution which recognises both the suffering of jews and palestinians and their shared connection to the land and guarantees both groups protection in the new liberal state of Israel/Palestine including equal rights regardless of majority/minority. A constitution that enfranchises the Palestinians without being forced into it at the last minute

  6. Susie Kneedler
    March 7, 2014, 2:51 pm

    Off topic: Phil will speak soon at the “National Summit to Reassess the U.S.-Israel ‘Special Relationship’” live now on C-SPAN 3 link to c-span.org.

    Panel on Re-assessing U.S.-Israel Relations
    Allen Brownfeld – The ACJ and battles over Zionism inside Jewish social welfare organizations.
    Justin Raimondo – Has the Israel lobby captured the Right?
    Scott McConnell – Did Neoconservatives take over GOP foreign policy?
    Philip Weiss – What is changing in “permissible” mainstream public debate—and what is not?

    • Walid
      March 7, 2014, 3:47 pm

      Thanks, Suzie, now I know what Phil looks like and how he sounds and also another great, Jeff Blankfort that I really miss here.

    • seafoid
      March 7, 2014, 5:15 pm

      “Justin Raimondo – Has the Israel lobby captured the Right?”

      The right is prolly going to attempt an escape. Israel is not the vote winner it once was. Iraq will be seen as the watershed.
      Funnily enough Israelis have healthcare.

  7. Daniel Rich
    March 8, 2014, 1:30 am

    “Back in the day, when I interviewed ordinary individuals in the streets of Baghdad, everybody loved Saddam. That had nothing to do with the allotted ‘Minder’ standing right next to me…” – Anonymous Person, not cleared to discus this matter in public.

    • ritzl
      March 8, 2014, 7:37 pm

      Good point, Daniel Rich. Or China, or Iran, or Viet Nam, or any authoritarian>totalitarian state, company setting, dependency situation, etc. etc. etc. etc.

      As always, known and accepted, universal (to the point of metaphysics) rules are thrown out the window in the effort to contextualize and/or disclaim Israeli wrongdoing. Israel is always somehow “different.” It’s not.

      • Daniel Rich
        March 8, 2014, 10:17 pm

        @ ritzl,

        Some people use words to showcase their ability to understand the proper lineup of syllables in order to string together coherent sentences rather than an understanding of the context and complexity of life itself, because that results in the need to communicate and understand one another.

  8. Citizen
    March 8, 2014, 4:24 am

    Now Scarjo says her motivation was saving the environment: link to haaretz.com

    Didn’t she originally claim her motivation was she was against BDS?

    • just
      March 8, 2014, 5:13 am

      iirc, she said she supported SS because of their commitment to the environment and building ‘bridges’ to peace……

      or some such fantasy.

  9. just
    March 8, 2014, 8:59 am

    Whoopsie!

    “Jack Angelides was about to board a flight out of Israel’s international airport when he was given a curious choice that baffles him to this day. Traveling with a laptop and a stack of printed reading material, he was told to part with one or the other, due to unspecified security concerns.

    The Israel-based British-Cypriot businessman says he negotiated a compromise in which he kept the computer and several pages, checking in the rest of the documents.

    “It was a very unpleasant, very uncomfortable” experience, said Angelides, the general manager of the Israeli soccer team Maccabi Tel Aviv.

    and

    “The issue recently burst onto the national agenda after an Arab schoolteacher who teaches at a Jewish high school was strip-searched at Israel’s airport in the southern resort town of Eilat during a class trip with her students. Israeli Arab citizens, including lawmakers and other community leaders, complain of frequent discrimination when traveling.

    Aryeh Shaham, the Airports Authority’s legal adviser, told a parliamentary hearing that there is no ethnic profiling at the airport.”

    link to abcnews.go.com

    You just have to laugh out loud whenever anyone in any official position in Israel makes a statement.

  10. American
    March 8, 2014, 11:56 am

    ‘But with history out of the picture, the Palestinian testimonies might just seem to express the cliché that “real life” goes deeper than political conflict. And to readers a bit less naïve, these testimonies might be downright confusing: a job some Palestinians can’t but appreciate, yet their legal and civil rights situation is objectively horrendous! How can we make sense of this dissonance?”

    Why do you even have to ask how to make sense out of it?
    People do what they have to do to survive and feed their families.
    Doesn’t mean they don’t resent the members of the occupier being the owners of the enterprises on their land and the natives being the labor instead of in on the ownerships.

  11. hophmi
    March 8, 2014, 6:42 pm

    In other words, faced with positive information about Israel, whatever can we do to spin into something negative? #BDSfail.

    • Daniel Rich
      March 8, 2014, 10:33 pm

      @ hopmi,

      Tell me all there is to know about the positive side of Apartheid, ‘I’m listening…’

  12. talknic
    March 8, 2014, 9:28 pm

    hophmi ” faced with positive information about Israel”

    Occupation and illegal activities in the Occupied Territories are positive? WOW!!

    Say……… Let’s go occupy hophmi’s place, illegally use his resources for our business and pocket the profits while offering him a token job as a matter of course

    By far more positive would be for Israel to get out of all non-Israeli territories for once. Allow the Palestinians to develop their own businesses using their own resources and their own labour and gave the profits go into their own pockets instead of those of illegal Israeli settler trash you seem to adore, despite the fact that they break the most basic of Judaisms tenets.

  13. unverified__5ilf90kd
    March 9, 2014, 11:30 pm

    Pro-Palestinian student groups at the University of Ottawa have launched a campaign to ban Sabra hummus from campus. Sabra is partly owned by the Strauss Group, a foods manufacturer that the students allege financially supports the Golani Brigade of the Israel Defense Forces, according to The New York Times. The students say the Golani Brigade has been accused of human rights violations by numerous organizations. My local Costco sells Sabra hummus. I have been suspicious of this for some time. Now I will visit the manager and try to convince him that there will be a series of demonstrations at his store. Hopefully Costco will give up the sales of Sabra.

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