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  • Apr 17, 2014
  • Updated: 4:48am
My Take
PUBLISHED : Monday, 03 February, 2014, 3:48am
UPDATED : Monday, 03 February, 2014, 7:57pm

Why sexy US star Scarlett Johansson rejects Israel boycott

A major difference between the British-American cousins is their vastly different public attitudes towards Israel. This feeds into how their respective celebrities position themselves with the Jewish state.

The latest row involves Scarlett Johansson, the sultry Hollywood A-list star with the husky voice. Given her star power, Johansson became a godsend for the international Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement last week when she appeared in a TV commercial for SodaStream, an Israeli maker of fizzy drink dispensers, which runs a factory in occupied Palestinian territories.

BDS put pressure on Oxfam - of which Johansson was a longtime supporter - to force the actress to drop SodaStream. Instead, she dropped Oxfam. Johansson was never political but was forced to make a strategic decision that will benefit her Hollywood career. Madonna was put in a similar position when she was pressured not to perform in Israel. She played there every time.

What BDS didn't realise was that no one in Hollywood or Washington had ever suffered in their careers for supporting Israel; indeed, the more uncritical and gung ho, the better. On the other hand, criticism of Israel and Jewish influence in the US, whether made fairly or not, could be a career- or job-ending move for celebrity journalists and authors such as former White House reporter Helen Thomas and ex-CNN anchor Rick Sanchez. Alice Walker, author of The Colour Purple, was uninvited last summer by the University of Michigan to give a speech because of her open support for the Palestinian cause.

How different in Britain. Last year, cosmologist Stephen Hawking started a row when he joined BDS' boycott of a major Israeli science and tech conference but it blew over quickly. Fellow Brits such as musicians Roger Waters and Brian Eno, film director Mike Leigh and authors Ian McEwan and Julian Barnes have all spoken out against the Israeli military occupation as a matter of course. A generation ago, British actress Vanessa Redgrave started criticising Israel's treatment of Palestinians. She has become a liberal icon in Europe.

British public attitudes towards the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are in line with the rest of the world. But for Israel, the only public that really counts is in the US.

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bolshoi
One obvious reason perhaps - Sexy Scarlett is half-Jewish...
goncalo
Alex Lo is right.
jtc

The comments to Lo's article whether for or against all but shows that one cannot engage in reasoned discussion in criticising Israel's policy without bringing on anti semiticism, the Holocaust, demonisation of the Jews, never again, the Jewish lobby etc.
Such knee jerk virulent reaction explains the situation in the US where the only public opinion permissible by politicians and high profile persons in the US is the locked-step support of all things Israel. Anything other than that will bring out the likes of XYZ.
As for the reasons why such a political atmosphere there and in few other countries is possible is the subject of many studies the result of which will not please XYZ as well.
anson
XYZ
Don't you get it? You render what you see as your core arguments irrelevant when you slide into the holocaust argument. Now don't get me wrong, I know the holocaust happened. Many of my family suffered as a result of it. But equally many today are still suffering as a result of this. We don't have the space available here to try and prove one or the other has superior historical knowledge (history after all is just one groups version of the truth), to revisit the Russian pogroms, the holocaust or the founding of Israel. It's a tough thing to say, but you've got to get past the holocaust when arguing Israel's position in the modern world. Such emotive posturing detracts from finding solutions to the continuing bloodshed amongst Israelis and Palestinians. You do know that the Palestinians didn't take part in the murder of millions of Jews in the 30s and 40s, so try to keep the issue clear.
As to whoaman I am not in his company. Deal with him as you like. I prefer to just ignore him.
XYZ
Well, yes, then, I suppose I don't get it. We'll just have to agree to disagree.
.
"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." George Santayana
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XYZ
Of course decent people can criticize Israel or oppose its policies without being labelled anti-semitic (unlike opposing, say, same-sex marriage and climate change, which can only mean that you're an unreconstructed homophobic shill for the oil companies, but that's another story).
.
The anti-semitic part comes in when the author says, without a shred of evidence, that Ms. Johannson's decision and similar decisions by others must be because of the fear of "Jewish influence" on their careers. How the h*ll does he know? Isn't she allowed to tell the arrogant, politically-correct jerks of the anti-Israel BDS movement to take a hike without being labelled a greedy coward quaking in fear of the shadowy Jewish entertainment lobby? Yes, that's rank anti-semitism and, yes, that kind of intellectually respectable bigotry was rampant throughout Europe prior to the Holocaust and may help explain the enthusiasm with which so many European countries pitched in to help Hitler execute his ghastly plans.
.
What's next on the list of "anti-Israel but not anti-semitic" discussion topics, the international Jewish banking conspiracy and the Elders of Zion?
.
If you don't believe me, just ask the commenter below who is only too happy to reference the Bergs & the Steins in Hollywood. Nice company you're keeping. "But I was only following orders!" Yeah, sure.
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sparksc
Sad to see some people playing the anti-semitic card against people genuinely advocating the rights of Palestinians. Sadder still to see the first comment, which actually is anti-semitic. Being opposed to Israel's illegal and brutal occupation and its appropriation of Palestinian land, is nothing to do with anti-semitism. Israel is in violation of numerous UN resolutions which the international community has failed to enforce and is blatantly uninterested in a two-state solution, only establishing more and more facts on the ground, including demolishing Bedouin villages repeatedly, stealing water resources and building huge walls which cut Palestinian farmers off from their land. Alex Lo is right that the Israelis only care about US opinion, but there are some signs that even that is now shifting against Netanyahu and towards the BDS movement, which is far from mindless. The South African apartheid government found out that it can be effective, and if Israelis find that comparison offensive, so be it. If the cap fits, wear it.
whoaman
It's so basic...just ask yourself who runs Hollywood? The 'bergs' and the 'steins'.... if you cross them with regards to Israel, you might as well go back to Nebraska and waiting tables...
dienw
Not really sure what the point of this article is: US stars support Israel, British ones Palestinians. Ermm... Relevance to anything? And who cares....
clc2
Lo at his smuggest.

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