In December I drove by Maalei Adumim on the way down to Ein Gedi.
It was a beautiful ride, through the tunnel on Mount Scopus, putting Jerusalem in my rearview mirror. I drove under the slopes of Maalei Adumim and then dived down through the Judaean Desert to the Dead Sea. It’s a drive I’ve made many times, as a driver and a passenger, through a gorgeous desert landscape.
It was also a drive right through the West Bank.
I’m not naïve; I knew exactly where I was: 7 miles east of the 1948-1967 armistice line, slicing right through the famous/infamous E1 parcel. As I zipped down Route One, though, here’s something I didn’t know: SodaStream has a factory in Mishor Adumim, right next door to Maalei Adumim.
For many Israelis and center/center-right American Jews, Maalei Adumim is assumed to be one of those settlements that will stay a part of Israel in an eventual peace deal, even though it’s a few miles inside the Green Line. But despite this final-status assumption, there’s always that chance that it won’t be.
Maybe Maalei Adumim will be evacuated like Yamit and Netzarim before it. Maybe the status quo will persist ad infinitum. Maybe Maalei Adumim will be a Jewish enclave in a Palestinian state, much like Mount Scopus used to be a lonely Israeli outpost in the middle of Jordanian-occupied East Jerusalem from 1948-1967. Who knows? When it comes to the Middle East conflict, predictions are pointless. All I know for sure is what is happening today.
And what I know is that SodaStream is in some fizzy hot water for its West Bank factory.
Last year, SodaStream bought a Super Bowl commercial for $3.5 million. And despite the fact that last year, the factory was also in Mishor Adumim, there was no uproar, no protest, no social media revolt. But for this year’s commercial, $4 million and Scarlett Johansson as spokeswoman have bought the company some pretty intense coverage. Twitter, Tablet, Commentary, and the Jewish Daily Forward, not to mention mainstream world media, have latched onto this story with a fervor that exists only for those issues that, as usual, place Israel squarely in the eye of a hurricane of controversy.
Stepping back from the maelstrom, my addition to this avalanche of virtual ink on this topic is that settlements are one side of a complicated polygon of issues surrounding Israel and the Palestinians, and in this case, we all have to make our own judgments on some important questions.
Is Maalei Adumim evil? Are all settlements created equal? Are the residents of Ariel equal to the residents of Beit HaArava equal to the residents of Tekoa equal to the residents of Maalei Adumim equal to the residents of Amona? Which settlement blocks will be annexed, if any, into Israel at the cost of theoretical land swaps in the Negev and Galilee? Does Maalei Adumim and E1 construction threaten an eventual two-state solution?
Over the past two weeks, “facts” have been deployed in vitriolic fashion on both sides of the SodaStream argument. But for me the issue is simply about the following.
On one side, there are those who believe that all settlements are equally terrible, illegal, and oppressive. For them, the residents in Maalei Adumim, and the very existence of Maalei Adumim, are reprehensible and an impediment to peace as much as the newest hilltop settlement in the middle of Samaria, and SodaStream’s factory inside the Green Line should be boycotted, protested, and shunned at every opportunity.
On the other side, there are those who look at Gush Etzion, Ariel, and Maalei Adumim as territory that will probably hopefully be exchanged with the Palestinians in a peace agreement. For them, the furor over SodaStream is viewed as a proxy for anti-Zionism, anti-Semitism, and as unfair criticism, especially given the contrast between how SodaStream treats its Palestinian workers and how American corporations routinely give cover for slave labor, child labor, and unsafe working conditions in their subsidiaries.
I get both sides, but I’m definitely a two-state land-swapper and am hedging my bet on Maalei Adumim’s eventual annexation. It’s certainly an aspirational vision, but I’ll continue to drink SodaStream with a clear, sparkly conscience.
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