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Occupation magazine - Features & Translations

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Open Letter to Scarlett Johansson
Beate Zilversmidt

I`m writing to you as an Israeli peace activist who herself doesn`t buy SodaStream products anymore but being touched by your words, and feeling sorry that your good intentions brought you such trouble that you decided you had to sever ties with Oxfam, for whom you advocated so many years.

What touched me: that you are a `supporter of economic cooperation and social interaction between a democratic Israel and Palestine.` Also: `As part of my efforts as an Ambassador for Oxfam, I have witnessed first-hand that progress is made when communities join together and work alongside one another and feel proud of the outcome of that work in the quality of their product and work environment, in the pay they bring home to their families and in the benefits they equally receive.`

I feel convinced that you have worked for Oxfam from the goodness of your heart, and that your coming out for SodaStream is not for personal gain either, but for sincerely believing in what the `enlightened` manager of the firm told to journalists and probably also to you personally. He boasts about it that SodaStream is paying its Palestinian workers according to the same standards as the Jewish Israeli ones. One wonders whether this has always been the case or that this was actually a result of the campaign of boycotting settlement products, started by Gush Shalom in the mid nineties. However, the fact that this is mentioned in favour of the company says something about the whole of the settlement companies.

Your authentic decisions actually bring to the fore what is questionable about settlement industries in general:

- that the general policy of settlement industries is to underpay Palestinian workers

- that their location is related to efforts of avoiding a state of Palestine coming into being - especially true for SodaStream as it is in Ma`ale Adumim`s industrial zone, cutting the West Bank into two - maybe that was why you felt the need to emphasize that you DO believe in the two-state solution, but I can`t believe you are dreaming of a Palestinian state cut into several enclaves;

- that settlement industries are not bridges towards a future of cooperation between two states, as they won`t stay on after the army withdraws; this is what happened with the industries in Gaza very near the Erez checkpoint which were once advocated by Shimon Peres as `bridges towards cooperation.`

I hope you find some consolation in the thought that your controversy ultimately may help draw worldwide attention to the facts of the occupation - and that this difficult experience will not discourage you from in the future again using your fame for helping create a better world.


Beate Zilversmidt

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