Mondoweiss Online Newsletter


SodaStream’s Superbowl ad brings spotlight on Palestine and the Occupation

Annie Robbins

Superbowl SodaSteam Spoof Ad (VOTE NOW) “Priceless” by John Dworkin

Hoping to maximize publicity surrounding its Superbowl ad, SodaStream released a video previously rejected last week by CBS on the grounds that the ad challenged two other major sponsors: Pepsi and Coca-Cola. The ad went viral, but something else happened along the way: SodaStream, which produces seltzer-makers, is getting attention for operating in the Palestinian Occupied Territory.

AOL’s Daily Finance:

The company’s [SodaStream’s] main production facility is located in a West Bank settlement; Israeli settlements in the occupied territories have long been considered illegal under international law, a view recently affirmed by a panel of judges working under the auspices of the UN Human Rights Council.

CEO Daniel Birnbaum told the Times of Israel that SodaStream doesn’t “strengthen or support the occupation. What we’re doing is taking a facility in the occupied territory and giving Palestinians a career and economic benefits.”
Whether or not SodaStream supports the occupation, pro-Palestinians activists contend that the converse is certainly true. According to a report by Who Profits?, an Israeli peace group, the company’s “success is based, at least in part, on the structural advantages that production in Israeli settlements enjoys”: “low rent, special tax incentives, lax enforcement of environmental and labor protection laws, as well as additional government support.” And SodaStream pays property taxes that are used to fund “the growth and development” of the settlement that hosts its factory.

With the occupation now more than 45 years old, pro-Palestinian activists aren’t persuaded. “Palestinians are not asking for charity,” said Anna Baltzer, national organizer of the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation. “They are calling for boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) against Israel and companies like SodaStream until they end their complicity with Israel’s discriminatory practices. Thousands around the world have joined the campaign to boycott SodaStream, including an exciting new, diverse coalition of Christian, Muslim, and Jewish organizations.” Baltzer also noted that people in several countries have created spoof adshighlighting SodaStream’s connection to the occupation.

SodaStream has of course known the risks of being a settlement producer. In its 2011 filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, the company described its West Bank factory as a source of “rising political tensions and negative publicity,” which “may negatively impact demand for our products or require us to relocate our manufacturing activities to other locations.” Arguing against relocation: the cost of moving, and the loss of tax benefits.

Report: Hillary pushed for Middle East peace deal, Obama wasn’t interested

Philip Weiss
More evidence that we will see no push on Israel/Palestine in a second Obama administration. The New Yorker’s John Cassidy, on the Takeaway on Fridaywas asked by John Hockenberry if former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton pushed the White House on any issue. Cassidy said:

Well that’s very interesting, John. There was a story out last week presumably leaked by some of the people around Hillary that some time last year she did make an effort to push the White Houee on the Arab Israeli conflict. One of the big gaps in her resume you would say is well, she didn’t do anything about solving the Middle East conflict. She did actually help broker.. a ceasefire in Gaza… That’s an achievement, shouldnt be forgotten, but you know there was no great Obama Hillary peace plan. Now her aides have now leaked that actually she pushed the White House to try and at least get Obama to define what the outlines of such a plan would be, but the White Houe pushed back. That shows, you know, the limits of her power within the administration really.

I don’t know what to make of that report, somehow doubt it. In one of her last media appearances, Clinton offered the usual pabulum.


Is Ed Koch’s passing another sign of lobby’s generational fade?

Philip Weiss

Koch headstone
Koch headstone

As you all know now, Ed Koch, the former mayor of New York and a dedicated Zionist, died three days ago at 88. American obituaries have been a little less than forthcoming about the Zionism. NPR’s Joel Rose didn’t mention Israel. The New York Times only mentions Israel twice. But a sense of being an embattled Jew was at the core of Koch’s political engagement: Koch’s endorsement of Obama in last fall’s presidential election hinged on Obama’s support for Israel; and as several obits have pointed out, his headstone, prepared in advance, has the words of Daniel Pearl, “My father is Jewish, my mother is Jewish, I am Jewish.” Scott Roth wrote archly,

it’s unusual for the words beheaded, Muslim, and terrorist to appear on a gravestone. But maybe this is the start of a trend.

It is important to remember that Koch got into Congress in 1968 by opposing the Vietnam war, but had no problem with any war that Israel ever launched– typical of his generation of apologists. Haaretz expresses the importance that Koch had for Israel in the U.S., with a remembrance by Israeli diplomat Ido Aharoni:

Ed Koch: One of the most important and influential American Zionists of our time…

Hit by a rock on the head in Jerusalem during the first intifada, Ed Koch, the icon of New York, never wavered in his support for Israel.

NPR quotes Jonathan Soffer, Koch’s biographer, but you have to go to the Forward to read Soffer telling you how important Jewishness and Israel were to the former mayor. He says that during WW2 Koch had a fight in the army with a bully that ended the

numerous anti-Jewish remarks he and fellow Jews had endured during basic training. It was the beginning of a lifetime combating anti-Semitism…

During five terms in Congress, Koch compiled a strongly liberal voting record but a centrist style, assiduously courting the friendship of conservatives. Popular among his colleagues, he obtained a seat on the powerful Appropriations Committee, giving him national stature in the Jewish community as a key supporter of Israel. He travelled many times to the Middle East, met every Israeli prime minister, and became a dedicated Zionist.

I’ll never forget the way Koch deflected dual loyalty charges. He said that the minute that Israel invades the U.S., he’d be on the front lines. Cute and deceptive. Listen to Chuck Hagel the other day: Zionism ravished our discourse a long time ago.

Koch’s core commitment was everything in his political engagement in recent years. Beloved by Jeffrey Goldberg, Koch stood up for the settlements and the Republican Party, during the special election in Brooklyn’s congressional district that was all about Israel two years back. NYT:

On Monday, former Mayor Edward I. Koch, a Democrat, endorsed the Republican candidate in the race, Bob Turner, a retired cable television executive, at a press conference at which he stood next to an Israeli flag. Mr. Koch has acknowledged that Mr. Weprin is a strong supporter of Israel, but argued that the election of Mr. Turner would serve as a rebuke to Mr. Obama for saying that Israel’s pre-1967 border should be the basis for a peace agreement.

I would argue that Koch’s departure is epochal: the Israel lobby is panicked that Lieberman, Ackerman, Frank, and Berman have all left Congress this year, and AIPAC’s Jonathan Missner in a fundraising letter warns that the House and Senate saw nearly 20 percent turnover in the last election and “Many of the new members are brand new to foreign policy. Most are from districts with relatively small Jewish constituencies.”

Thanks to Abdeen Jabara. 

Emad Burnat in LATimes– will he be the first Palestinian to win an Oscar?

Annie Robbins

Emad Burnat, Bil’in, Palestine. His movie “5 Broken Cameras” is nominated for an Oscar in the documentaries category. (Edmund Sanders / Los Angeles Times / February 2, 2013)

“The Gatekeepers” is racking up mainstream attention like no tomorrow. And meantime, that other documentary about the occupation that is nominated for an Oscar, “5 Broken Cameras,” has been largely ignored, though it has highlighted, or maybe the better word is outright stirred—  fitna. Last week we called attention to the double standard applied by The New York Times. ABC has mustered one line about “5 Broken Cameras” other than the title, Palestinians’ Pains Get Oscar Nod

Israeli-Palestinian conflict plays out in documentary following family with four young boys.

And then the trailer just hangs there. So Palestinians are to remain voiceless. And though you’d never know by visiting Google, the LAtimes has just published an interview with Emad Burnat that sheds a positive light on both the film and his relationship with co director and filmmaker Guy Davidi.

There’s been some recent controversy around calling this an “Israeli” film since it was co-directed by an Israeli and got some Israeli funding. Is it Israeli or Palestinian?

This came from my mind, my heart and my soul. It’s a Palestinian film, and that was the idea from the beginning. The collaboration between me and Guy is not between two states. It’s between two human beings because I knew him as a friend. It was never supposed to be about making an Israeli-Palestinian film or about Israeli-Palestinian collaboration.

Why did you turn to an Israeli to help shape and complete the film? Were there trust issues that arose or a backlash from Palestinians?

I had 90% of the footage when I proposed Guy join me. What was missing was the funding and the editing. It could have come from a German or a Palestinian or anyone. But I trusted Guy. He was someone who came to support us in the village in the demonstrations against the wall and the settlements. I knew how he thought about Palestinian rights and the occupation. He was a strong supporter. … But after the Oscar nomination, the Israeli media started calling it an Israeli film because of Guy’s role. And that has brought some pressure on me from some Palestinian politicians and journalists. Some people didn’t respect the film because of that.

Did you set out to make such a personal film?
I started documenting the village’s story. The daily life. And also some of my personal daily life,like my son growing up. The idea was always to make a personal film because many people were making films about the same subject, but most were by outsiders. So in 2005 a friend suggested making the film about my friends, my family and my son. At first I didn’t want to include footage of myself. I didn’t want people to say, “Oh, he’s making a film about himself.” But Guy said that was normal and encouraged me to make it more about myself.
You narrate the footage in very personal terms, but the script was something Guy wrote. Was that strange?
He knows about words and is a good writer. But the narrative came from inside me, after discussions with me. If you didn’t live here, you couldn’t understand those feelings. I never really cared about who got credit. My goal was to finish the film and spread the word.
Was there any friction in working with Guy? Any arguments about the film’s message?

I’d by lying if I said there was never any problem, but that happens even between brothers. After the film became famous, we decided to distribute it and there were some problems over that. To me the main purpose was to show the footage as much as possible to as many people [as possible]. So I’m always fighting for free screenings. But the business partners are sometimes focusing more on business and money.

Do Palestinians care about the Oscars?
No, they don’t care. Sometimes I would see them on TV, but as a child we didn’t have a TV. My wife grew up in Brazil, and she followed them every year. She’s excited about going to the ceremony. She has a dress. My son Gibreel will go with us.
If you win, what will you say to the millions of people watching worldwide?
I have to prepare something. It would be a very special moment to say something about the Palestinian issue. It would be the first Palestinian to win an Oscar. So it would be a chance to inform people around the world about our situation, and give Palestinians some hope.
Will you do another film?

I’m thinking about another project, but I have to find a good story to tell. I’m so busy with the current film that I don’t have a clear mind. And I think after the Oscars it will probably be even busier.

Do you see yourself now as a filmmaker?
To me it’s not just about making films. I put my life at risk. I was shot at. I was arrested twice. I was seriously injured in a car accident. But that was not to make a film or to make money. The film was a way to reach my goal, and that is to tell people the truth about our lives, to tell the story of Palestine.


Hagel’s ‘caged animals’ line echoes Israeli soldier at checkpoint– ‘the animals are locked’

Philip Weiss

In his confirmation hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee last Thursday, Defense Secretary nominee Chuck Hagel was forced to eat his words, describing Palestinians as caged animals:

Sen. [Mike] LEE [Republican of Utah]: OK, Senator, my time’s expired. I need to ask you one more question. I understand that you have made a statement indicating that there is no justification for Palestinian suicide bombers but that there is also no justification for Israel to, quote, “keep Palestinians caged up like animals,” close quote. Did you say that, and if so, do you stand by that statement today?

Mr. HAGEL: Well, I said it. And I don’t remember the context or when I said it. But if I —

Sen. LEE: Do you believe today that Israel keeps Palestinians caged up like animals?

Mr. HAGEL: No, if I had an opportunity to edit that, like many things I’ve said, I would — I would like to go back and change the words and the meaning. No, it was, I think, in a larger context. I’ve said many, many things over many years. It was a larger context of the frustration in what’s happening, which is not in Israel’s interest, to find ways that we can help bring peace and security to Israel. If I — if I had a chance to go back and edit it, I would. I regret that I used those words.

Sen. LEE: Thank you.
Mr. HAGEL: Thank you.

Max Blumenthal directs me to Yoav Shamir’s film “Checkpoint,” and a laughing Israeli soldier in the clip, above, at 5:00:

Animals. Animals. Like the Discovery Channel. All of Ramallah is a jungle. There are monkeys, dogs, gorillas. The problem is that the animals are locked, they can’t come out. We’re humans, they’re animals. They aren’t humans, we are… [on being told by fellow soldier that he is being filmed] I don’t care what people think. The chief of staff can see it for all I care.

So we don’t have anything like a free discourse in this country. 

The liberal publicity line on ‘Zero Dark Thirty’

David Bromwich

The director and the screenwriter of “Zero Dark Thirty,” Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal, in the two months since the release of the film have tried and discarded
a number of defenses against accusations by Jane Mayer, Karen Greenberg, Glenn Greenwald, Dan Froomkin and others who say that the film distorts history and
that it will have the effect of softening the popular acceptance of torture.

In order of justifications, Bigelow and Boal said: (1) That Zero Dark Thirty reflects a “journalistic approach”–apparently meaning that it has a fast trim
storyline and you can’t include everything. (2) That to make the film, they interviewed CIA agents who assured them that torture yielded substantial clues
toward the killing of Bin Laden. (3) It’s just a movie.
None of those reasons separately convinced anyone. Their incompatibility when taken together suggested that Zero Dark Thirty was made in a hurry–as if the
filmmakers had never stood back, walked around their project, and asked what star they were sailing by.
In a recent interview interview in Salon, Mark Boal tries out a possibly more resistant strain of apology. The hero, he now says, is a feminist heroine. Zero Dark Thirty is a simple police procedural all right, but the detective is a liberated Western woman, and her quest is to rid the world of Bin Laden. Challenge the heroine’s tactics or protest the low morale of the Bigelow-Boal redaction of history and you align yourself with the oppressive males of the East.

By a coincidence that fits nicely with this presentation, Kathryn Bigelow has joined a social media campaign [link here] for including women in combat. Her tweet for the women-in-combat movement–

“Women helped find the world’s most dangerous man. Are you surprised? #ZeroDarkThirty link to

Join Kathryn Bigelow in sharing this message together at the same time – automatically.

–is attached to advertising copy that oddly alternates between first-person and third-person voices. The ad affirms her status as a “lifelong pacifist” under a
new aspect: “I personally believe war should be avoided whenever and wherever possible, [but] there is no justification for inequality among those ready and
willing to serve our country in the armed forces.” The next voice we hear praises “the filmmakers” who “tell the story of many men and women.” Then the
author turns into Bigelow again: “When I discovered there were women at the heart of this 10-year odyssey, I was excited to take it on. It was like being dealt a royal flush.”

In conclusion, the action director speaks for herself and her screenwriter to assert that, whether Zero Dark Thirty is fast journalism, or a CIA story about
the CIA, or “just a movie,” Maya, the heroine, was a real woman and she got Bin Laden. “Our account of bin Laden’s pursuit and capture offers viewers an inside
look at women like Maya who dedicate their lives to selflessly protecting our freedom.”

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