- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 5, 2014

With such a blowout result, most fans outside Seattle reckoned Super Bowl XLVIII to be a bit of a dud. The real entertainment was the much-anticipated war between the commercials and the championship battle of the big-budget, game-time television pitches for the usual array of things that shimmer and shine.

There was the appeal of puppies and Clydesdales, of 1980s nostalgia and returning war veterans. There were no wardrobe malfunctions, but there was an unlikely flash of politics, with a commercial for SodaStream stirring the ire of the usual suspects promoting a boycott of Israeli products.

SodaStream makes a soda-making device at an old manufacturing plant on the West Bank. “Enjoy the freshness and convenience of homemade soda,” the company urges, “and protect the environment at the same time. No heavy bottles or cans to carry, store at home or throw away. Fizz to your taste … .”

Since it’s hard to compete with the convenience of a 2-liter bottle or a 12-ounce can, Coke and Pepsi don’t have much to worry about from this upstart competitor, but the campaign to boycott products made in Israel is loud and ugly.

Rock-and-rollers from the previous century are leading the call for a boycott. Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters weighed in to protest Israel’s “unjust” treatment of Palestinians. So has Elvis Costello.

Secretary of State John F. Kerry isn’t a rock star, though he might wish he were, and he has warned that if there’s no “progress” in the peace talks such a boycott would expand. That undiplomatic threat — with no similar word of caution for the Palestinians — prompted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to tell his Cabinet earlier that attempts to boycott Israel are “immoral and unjust.”

Protests have been aimed in particular at Scarlett Johansson, the sultry 29-year-old actress who is the commercial face of SodaStream (and a lovely face it is).

Daniel Birnbaum, the CEO of SodaStream, accuses Oxfam, the international charity, of trying to force Miss Johansson to resign as SodaStream’s global ambassador, and further accused Oxfam of funding the BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) campaign against Israel.

A spokesman for Oxfam denied it, sort of. “No, we don’t provide financial support to the BDS campaign or fund activities that call for a boycott of Israel,” an Oxfam spokesman said. “Oxfam is not opposed to trade with Israel, and we don’t support a boycott of Israel or any other country. However, we do oppose trade with Israeli settlements in the West Bank.”

SodaStream, which does not make government policy, employs 1,300 men and women, including 950 who are either Palestinians from the West Bank or Israeli Arabs. It’s not at all clear how putting Palestinians out of work would advance peace in the region, or anywhere else.

Ms. Johansson has refused to give in to pressure. The World Jewish Congress praised the actress for “her forthright defense of economic cooperation between Israelis and Palestinians and for standing up to the international bullies.” We join the accolade but expect nothing less from the femme fatale of “The Avengers.”

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