I never heard of Scarlett Johansson prior to the Super Bowl, but then again, I do not follow movie stars very closely. Movies have to be awfully darn good for me to go see them. To me Hollywood is more about sex and violence than worthwhile entertainment. Call me a Hollywood skeptic.
Every once in a great while, however, someone from Hollywood does something really remarkable, brave and bold. Such a person is Scarlett Johansson, who resigned from Oxfam rather than surrender to the anti-Semitic boycott Israel movement which has taken hold in many super-liberal and right-wing venues.
Oxfam International was formed in 1995 by a group of independent non-governmental organizations. Oxfam’s job is to provide for famine relief.
Scarlett Johansson was a “Global Ambassador” of Oxfam, used by the organization to increase donations and to feed, among others, its fat bureaucracy. Enter SodaStream, an Israeli company that Johansson has contracted with. SodaStream produces carbonated drinks using a variety of syrups and markets them internationally. SodaStream advertised at the Super Bowl.
What was SodaStream’s offense that caused Oxfam to demand that Johansson violate her contract with the Israeli company? SodaStream has a factory in Ma’ale Adumim, a suburb of Jerusalem. Oxfam has decided that Israel violates international law and hurts Palestinian Arabs by operating in the city. Forgotten is the incredible hypocrisy of Oxfam’s position. SodaStream provides equal opportunity employment to Christian, Muslim and Jew. The Israeli company pays higher wages than Arab companies and provides much sought after employment for the Arab community. Oxfam, which is supposed to provide the means for people to lift themselves out of poverty, apparently has a double standard where Israel is concerned.
What is it exactly that makes Oxfam decide that Israel is violating international law by permitting Jews to live in Ma’ale Adumim and for companies to operate there? The United Nations Security Council Resolution 242, passed in 1967, provided for a comprehensive peace which Israel immediately agreed to. The Resolution called for Israel, which had been attacked by a host of Arab nations, to return land that it rightfully won in the 1967 war in return for peace and security from Arab nations. When Egypt, for example, agreed to peace, Israel immediately returned the Sinai Peninsula. The Sinai has now turned into a no man’s land with roving terrorist groups. When Jordan agreed to a peace treaty with Israel, Israel immediately returned the land which Jordan demanded. In order to test the resolve of Palestinian Arabs in Gaza, Israel returned Gaza which has turned into another terrorist stronghold.
The liberal leftist community has now adopted a boycott Israel movement. Why Israel? Syria has invaded and occupies Lebanon, and there is no boycott Syria movement. Nations around the world occupy other places, much the way the United States occupies Guam, and nobody calls for a boycott. Why is it that the leftist establishment has jumped on the bandwagon to demand that Israel make more security concessions while the Arabs make none?
The thoughtful reader will have to make their own decision, but it is clear that those who support democracy and fight poverty, are uncomfortable with Jews living in the Middle East. Israel has both fed and given medical treatment to refugees of the Syrian War, notwithstanding the hatred the Syrians have steadfastly shown towards the nation of Israel. Israel indeed has turned the other cheek. Syrian refugees are treated in Israeli hospitals at no cost to any other nation, but the world cannot know about that or the lives of the refugees will be in jeopardy. Oxfam characterizes the Jewish occupation of its own land as illegal and demands that its Jewish spokesperson resign. Oxfam makes no such demands upon its other celebrities and sits in silence of powerful, abusive nations throughout the world.
Oxfam is supposed to stand up for democracy, and yet apparently would support an Arab regime on the West Bank of the Jordan River which has a view of women, elections and education that would shock a Neanderthal. What a crazy world we live in, where an organization like Oxfam goes hat in hand seeking money from wealthy liberal donors while working against the interests of the only shining example of democracy, peace, freedom and fairness that the Middle East has ever known.
In the Bible, the Pharaoh welcomed Joseph into his midst to help feed the people. Joseph also enhanced the power of the Pharaoh by helping to arrange the transfer of feudal lands from local chieftains to the Pharaoh when the wealthy ran out of money for food during the Egyptian plague. When Ramses II took the reins in Egypt the persecution of the Jews began with the conclusion that this alien race might make common cause with Egypt’s enemies should a war occur. Boycott of the Jews eventually led to slavery. In every age, anti-Semitism has begun with a so-called logical and rational basis. During the genocide against the Jews which occurred in Europe during the First Crusade, the Britain Matthew Paris wrote that the moguls invading Europe were really Jews getting even for centuries of mistreatment. In modern times, the Enlightenment freed the Jews in Europe and at the same time laid the basis for modern anti-Semitism. A Jew was permissible so long as he did not live as a Jew or cling to the ancient faith. An assimilated Jew might be acceptable to high-minded left-wing anti-Semites. The era of post-Enlightenment boycotting of Judaism was followed by the Holocaust of World War II.
There is an odd welding of the left-wing and the right-wing. Hitler and Stalin were both monsters, although Hitler certainly wins the grand prize. The modern left-wing failure to find a place for Jewish nationalism in the Middle East is not much different than the racist right-wing which seeks the annihilation of the Jewish state. In the ’50s and ’60s, Israel took a beating from politicians and the press who were more interested in Arab oil money than the safety of the State of Israel. In modern times, college campuses, left-wing politicians and some in Hollywood see Israel as an inconvenience to those who think that world peace is just a step away. Organizations like Oxfam should cheer the existence of Israel, its enlightened policies, and its fairness shown towards the Arab world in general. Instead, Oxfam is content to demand the resignation of those who stand tall for Israeli policies and programs that have been a tremendous benefit to the very Palestinian Arabs who make up 70% of the nation of Jordan. Jordan is Palestine, but apparently those who run organizations such as Oxfam would like to see a second Palestine where Israel currently exists.
I have never been a great follower of movie stars but, for the time being at least, Scarlett Johansson is my favorite!
Clifford A. Rieders, Esquire
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Waters & Dohrmann
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Cliff Rieders, who practices law in Williamsport, is Past President of the Pennsylvania Trial Lawyers Association and a member of the Pennsylvania Patient Safety Authority. None of the opinions expressed necessarily represent the views of these organizations.