An Al-Jazeera America Jan. 30, 2014 report may well have led many viewers to the incorrect conclusion that an advertisement for an Israeli product, SodaStream, was rejected by Fox Television because the ad promotes an Israeli company operating in the West Bank. The ad featured actress Scarlett Johansson and was to, and did, run during Fox’s February 2 broadcast of the National Football League’s Super Bowl. The Al-Jazeera America report included 69 seconds of essentially anti-Israel propaganda (a 19-second West Bank video clip, 23-second Oxfam statement [Johansson resigned as an Oxfam representative in protest of the group’s anti-Israel animus], 27-second Palestinian labor minister polemic), which more than doubled the 28 seconds of air time allotted for a statement by the Israeli CEO of SodaStream.
But the actual reason (never mentioned by Al-Jazeera America) that the ad was (temporarily) rejected was because it was dismissive of two Fox advertising clients (“Sorry, Coke and Pepsi”) in a jibe at the end of the commercial. In fact, the Super Bowl ad ran Sunday during a commercial break at 9:35 PM (with 9:48 remaining on the game clock in the final quarter) with the offending phrase omitted.
Transcript of a segment of the January 30 “America Tonight” news program at 9:50 PM:
Host Adam May: “Welcome back. Finally tonight, some 164 million people are expected to watch the Super Bowl this Sunday. It’s a prime spot for companies to advertise their products. And of course, celebrity endorsements are the gold standard. But one ad the Super Bowl rejected, featuring actress Scarlett Johansson, is generating a different kind of buzz [emphasis added] . America Tonight takes a look at the clash between celebrity endorsements and their humanitarian work…. Soon after this ad for SodaStream hit the air waves, Scarlett Johansson ended her eight-year ambassadorship with the international aid group, Oxfam, citing a fundamental difference of opinion.”
May (voiceover for West Bank video clip): “SodaStream, a company whose primary production plant is here in an Israeli settlement in the West Bank, has come under heavy criticism from Palestinian activists. They say products made in the ‘occupied territories’ only serve to support the occupation.”
May (Oxfam statement displayed on screen): “In a statement, Oxfam said that while it respected Johansson’s independence, Oxfam believes that businesses such as SodaStream that operate in settlements further the on-going poverty and denial of rights of the Palestinian communities that we work to support. Oxfam is opposed to all trade from Israeli settlements which are illegal under international law*.”
Oxfam International, a British-based non-profit funded mainly by European governments, describes itself as a “confederation of 17 organizations working together to find lasting solutions to poverty and injustice.” But these “solutions” include support of the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement (BDS) to isolate and defame Israel. Oxfam has long been antagonistic toward the Jewish state. “Oxfam called on Israel to halt military operations in Gaza, while offering no alternatives to protect Israel’s population” (States News Service, November 15, 2012; NGO Monitor). “Ignoring the real bloodshed, Oxfam has failed to produce a single report on human rights in Syria, [but] it has issued no fewer than nine on Israel” (National Post, Oct. 24, 2012). The “NGO war machine [mainly Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and Oxfam ] … honed its Israel-bashing strategy at the 2001 U.N. Durban conference, through the myth of the Jenin ‘massacre’ … and in the 2006 Second Lebanon War” (Jerusalem Report, Aug. 17, 2009; “‘War Crimes’ or Political Warfare?,” Gerald M. Steinberg).
May: “SodaStream CEO Daniel Birnbaum says the mixed staff of more than 1200 Israeli and Palestinian employees represent the possibility for peace in the region.”
Birnbaum: “This factory is a dream for activists and politicians – both sides of this dilemma. Because this factory is a model for peace, SodaStream is showing every day what peace will look like, and proving every day that there can be peace between our peoples.”
May: “But Palestinian officials don’t see it that way.”
Ahmed Majdalani (Palestinian Authority minister of labor): “This factory is located on annexed and occupied Palestinian land. This is a settlement and settlements are in violation of international law. This factory is set up on land stolen by force. If they want to set up bridges for peace, why don’t they establish this factory in Israel, and then employ Palestinian workers?”
*The claim that Israeli settlements are illegal under international law, though often asserted, is false. The most relevant international law, the League of Nations’ Palestine Mandate, Article 6, encourages “close Jewish settlement on the land” west of the Jordan River and that Article 6 is incorporated by Chapter 12, Article 80, the so-called “Palestine article” of the U.N. Charter. The United States upheld the Mandate, including Article 6, when Congress approved the Anglo-American Convention of 1924. Allegations that the Fourth Geneva Convention (1949) prohibits Jewish villages and towns in the West Bank (Judea and Samaria) also are mistaken. The convention prohibits forcible transfer of populations by a conqueror into or out of occupied territory of a sovereign nation. Israel has transferred forcibly neither Jews into nor Arabs out of the West Bank. In addition, the area is disputed territory, not belonging to any sovereign country. The convention applies only to “High Contracting Parties,” signatory states, which excludes the Palestinian Authority. Assertions that Jewish communities in the West Bank and Jewish neighborhoods in eastern Jerusalem are illegal under international law may be political or propagandistic but are not legal, regardless of who makes them.
The “illegal settlements” charge also misrepresents U.N. Security Council Resolution 242, on which all successful Arab-Israeli negotiations since the 1967 Six-Day War have been based. Resolution 242 stipulates that Israel withdraw militarily from some of the disputed territory, but not necessarily all, as part of a peace agreement with the other parties to the ’67 War that results in “secure and recognized boundaries.” Former U.S. Undersecretary of State Eugene Rostow, one of the drafters of the resolution, commented on this fact relative to the resolution’s wording: “Motions to require the withdrawal of Israel from ‘the territories or ‘all the territories’ occupied in the course of the Six-Day War were put forward many times with great linguistic ingenuity. They were all defeated both in the General Assembly and in the Security Council.”