Scarlett Johansson started an uproar that has now engaged Secretary John Kerry that's taken BDS mainstream.

Scarlett Johansson started an uproar that has now engaged Secretary John Kerry that’s taken B.D.S. mainstream.


“For Israel there’s an increasing delegitimization campaign that has been building up. People are very sensitive to it. There is talk of boycotts and other kinds of things. Today’s status quo absolutely, to a certainty, I promise you 100 percent, cannot be maintained. It’s not sustainable. It’s illusionary.” – Secretary John Kerry

THE STATE of Israel has an acute problem. When Secy. John Kerry bluntly said as much recently, the weight of what’s been evolving since Scarlett Johannson walked away from Oxfam, a human rights organization, because of her association with Soda Stream, whose main facility is inside the West Bank, got heavier.

BDS, short for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions, #BDS on Twitter, is beginning to get traction. It’s allowing something that’s been a long-held belief to find airing through concrete action.

Today the New York Times picked it up, advancing the conversation, as did MSNBC’s Chuck Todd.

The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (B.D.S.) movement is beginning to bite. – Roger Cohen [New York Times]

Obviously, Secy. John Kerry in no way endorsed or hailed B.D.S., but he was sending a warning to Israel, which was not appreciated. What has begun through B.D.S. has the possibility of starting a wider movement that includes a boycott of Israeli goods, divestment of assets, and a conversation of sanctions, however far fetched. It taps into what is seen as continued bad faith by the Israelis in respecting the Palestinians right for economic development and human dignity to have their own land, as Israel remains a viable state as well.

More from Cohen:

B.D.S. is a wake-up call. I oppose it because I do not trust it. That does not mean, as Lapid intimated, that Israel can ignore its message.

Israel can only be a state of laws again when the lawless enterprise beyond the Green Line ends. West of that line, Israel is a democracy affording greater minority rights than other regional states (Omar Barghouti, a B.D.S. leader, has a master’s degree from Tel Aviv University). But that is not enough. All citizens should enjoy equality in the Jews’ national home, a state where civil marriage becomes possible, state and synagogue are divorced, and Israelis are permitted to identify themselves as Israelis if they so wish, rather than as Jews or Arabs or Druze “” that is as undifferentiated citizens.

Kerry has dragged the Israelis and Palestinians to the table, the U.S. having a long diplomatic history of this type of effort.

What got this all started is the wattage of Scarlett Johansson’s star power and the collision of two opposing forces: a company whose primary facility is inside a West Bank settlement, and the human rights group she represented, who cannot be attached in any way to Israeli settlements.