Re: Of ScarJo, Soda, Settlements, and Super Bowls

by Greg Pollowitz

Michael Rosen has a great piece over on the homepage summarizing the blowup over Scarlett Johansson, Oxfam, and her support for the Israeli company, SodaStream.

I’d just like to add a few thoughts. First off, It should be emphasized that SodaStream could easily close the “pain in the ass” plant and end all the controversy, but they will not. Via Haaretz:

If he could turn back the clock, SodaStream CEO Daniel Birnbaum would “never” have established a production plant on an Israeli Jewish settlement in the occupied West Bank. In fact, he said Tuesday, its location has turned out to be “a pain in the ass.”

“We’re here because we’re here — for historical reasons,” Birnbaum told the Forward in an exclusive interview, when asked about the public row that has erupted over the controversial location of his company’s main facility.

The decision to locate SodaStream’s now contentious plant in this industrial park within the boundaries of the West Bank settlement Ma’ale Adumim, about 10 minutes outside of Jerusalem, did in fact predate Birnbaum’s arrival. It was a choice made by company founder Peter Weissburgh, back in the 1990’s, long before SodaStream was taken over by the Fortismo Capital Fund, it current owners, who appointed Birnbaum to head the firm in 2007.

But though he wouldn’t have opened the factory at its current site, Birnbaum said that its presence here is now a given reality, and he won’t bow to political pressure to close it — even though the company is about to open a huge new plant in the Negev, within Israel’s internationally-recognized boundaries, which will replicate all functions of the West Bank plant, and dwarf it.

The reason is loyalty to approximately 500 Palestinians who are among the plant’s 1,300 employees, Birnbaum claimed. While other employees could relocate on the other side of the Green Line if the plant moved, the West Bank Palestinian workers could not, and would suffer financially, he argued.

Secondly, the Christian Science Monitor asked those workers what they thought of the Cracker Jack idea to punish Israel through their involuntary separation from company. Not surprisingly, they’d prefer to keep their high-paying jobs:

Palestinians workers at the SodaStream factory in an Israeli settlement in the West Bank say they would be the losers of a successful consumer boycott of the fizzy-drink maker.

And finally, there’s this nugget from the CSM​. SodaStream feeds its employees:

“Before boycotting, they should think of the workers who are going to suffer,” says a young man shivering in the pre-dawn darkness in Azzariah, a West Bank town cut off from work opportunities in Jerusalem by the concrete Israeli separation wall. Previously, he earned 20 shekels ($6) a day plucking and cleaning chickens; now he makes nearly 10 times that at SodaStream, which also provides transportation, breakfast, and lunch.

So Oxfam, an organization dedicated to ending world hunger, has caused Scarlett Johannson to sever ties with it over her support of SodaStream. Will Oxfam feed (and cook for?) the 900 workers who will lose their food security if the boycott of SodaStream is successful? I will eagerly await Oxfam’s menu plan for those it wishes to see out of work.

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