Actress took high road in Oxfam-SodaStream flap
During the Super Bowl, a seemingly innocuous ad caused an international controversy.
The ad in question featured Scarlett Johansson promoting the home-based soda-making device manufactured by the Israeli-owned company, SodaStream. The controversy arose due to Soda-
Stream's major facility in the West Bank and Johansson's role as an international spokeswoman for the organization Oxfam (Oxford Committee for Famine Relief). SodaStream's West Bank factory employs about 950 Palestinians from the West Bank and East Jerusalem, alongside some 350 Israeli Jews.
When SodaStream announced its partnership with Ms. Johansson, a group of anti-Israel activists met with Oxfam representatives at the Oxfam U.S. headquarters to urge the organization to cut ties with her. Oxfam gave in to the pressure and insisted that Ms. Johansson sever her relationship with SodaStream or step down as an Oxfam ambassador.
Ms. Johansson decided to end her eight-year role with Oxfam and advocate for SodaStream. Ms Johansson wrote: "I remain a supporter of economic cooperation and social interaction between a democratic Israel and Palestine. SodaStream is a company that is not only committed to the environment but to building a bridge to peace between Israel and Palestine, supporting neighbors working alongside each other, receiving equal pay, equal benefits and equal rights."
This is not the first time that Oxfam has singled out Israel for condemnation. For example, in 2003, Oxfam Belgium released a poster depicting an orange drenched in blood, reading, "Israel's fruits have a bitter taste ... don 't buy Israeli fruits and vegetables." Oxfam was widely criticized because of the poster's anti-Israel message and its allusion to anti-Semitic blood-libel rhetoric. Eventually, Oxfam removed the poster from its website and the chairman of Oxfam International issued a letter of apology.
Kudos to Scarlett Johansson for holding to her convictions and for her recognition that "building bridges to peace" is a more effective strategy than promoting hatred.
Bishop wrong to push school tax credits
Bishop Timothy Dolan's lobbying effort to get tax credits for contributions made for "educational purposes" is a dangerous proposition couched in misleading language [March 19 Gazette].
Chris Claus, in a March 23 letter, pointed out the intellectually dishonest tactic of trying to make us believe that private and parochial schools should be considered the same as public schools. As he points out, they are very much not the same, and someone of the bishop's stature should not be trying to fool the public (who will be paying for these tax credits) on this issue.
Further, your March 23 editorial on the subject makes it quite clear that Bishop Dolan's real objective is to rescue Catholic parochial schools from a deteriorating financial crisis (so contrary to his words, it's not just "our kids" he is looking out for).
This attempt at using public money for sectarian purposes is a clear violation of the First Amendment's history-changing requirement of separation of church and state. Granting this kind of personal liberty to the people was unheard of at the time, and has resulted in our country being one of the most religiously active and diverse countries in the world.
However, from the beginning it has been the object of almost continual attempts by individual religions to subvert it. The worst of these recently is from far-right fundamentalists trying to get Congress to declare that the United States is a Christian nation.
Then come attempts by various state governments to marginalize the teaching of evolution, or to insist on sectarian prayer as part of the school day activities. Trying to get public money to support religion is just another in the long line of attempts to weaken the First Amendment, and thereby diminish our liberty.
Why is it that when religions cannot get their own people to support their teachings, they turn to you and me for cash? Ben Franklin said it well: "When a religion is good, I conceive it will support itself, and when it does not support itself, and God does not care to support it, so that its professors are obliged to call for the help of civil power, 'tis a sign, I apprehend, of its being a bad one."
I sincerely hope the Legislature will have no part of this dangerous scheme.
In crosswalk, cyclists have right of way
Lost in the discussion of the Route 5S bike path crossing issue has been the fact that the bike path's name is the Mohawk-Hudson Bike-Hike Trail.
It is a trail equally dedicated to pedestrian travel, i.e. walkers and runners. It is used by pedestrians. And pedestrians have rights in New York state.
New York law states that drivers of vehicles shall yield the right of way to pedestrians in a crosswalk, when traffic signals are not in place.
There is a crosswalk where the bike path crosses Route 5S. Traffic should slow down when approaching the crosswalk, and stop when a pedestrian is in the crosswalk. A cyclist walking his or her bike in the crosswalk is a pedestrian, as are the joggers, walkers and hikers who use the bike path. Signs should be posted on Route 5S on either side of the crosswalk, alerting drivers that they are approaching a crosswalk. A crosswalk is marked by white lines, the so-called zebra crossing.
I encourage the county to take appropriate action in accordance with state law to mark both the bike path and Route 5S so that traffic knows there is a pedestrian crosswalk ahead, and knows to slow or stop.
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