Signs and Wonders
Scarlett Johansson
Associated Press/Photo by Alessandra Tarantino, File
Scarlett Johansson

Signs and Wonders: Scarlett Johansson and the permanence of Israeli ‘settlements’

Newsworthy

Oxfam fractures. Actress Scarlett Johansson will no longer be the spokeswoman for relief organization Oxfam, and the reason is political rather than economic. Oxfam, while it helps the poor, tends to adhere to politically correct, even leftist, ideas. Scarlett Johansson has a Jewish mother and has been supportive of Israel—though she also publicly supported Barack Obama for President. Johansson is now a spokesperson for SodaStream, a company with a manufacturing plant in one of the Israeli towns in the so-called West Bank. One interesting aspect of this story is the language used. Many Arabs live in Israel. Jerusalem has entire neighborhoods that are predominantly Arab/Palestinian. And they are called just that: “neighborhoods,” or sometimes “enclaves.” But when Israelis build neighborhoods in West Bank areas, it’s called an “occupation,” or a “settlement.” The word “settlement” suggests tents or temporary structures that could be easily dismantled and moved. That’s not the case, as this story makes plain: The company in question, SodaStream, has a manufacturing plant in one of the settlements. Manufacturing plants are not temporary structures. Many of the “settlements” around Jerusalem are modern, upscale homes. I’m not picking sides here, but I do think this Oxfam/Johansson controversy is giving us a chance to see that things are not always what they seem in that troubled part of the world.

Evangelicals and marijuana. This Religion News Service story includes a couple of thoughtful evangelical leaders, so it’s easy to come away thinking that religious conservatives are torn about whether to legalize marijuana. Not so. Despite the fact that Colorado recently legalized the drug, 50 percent of Americans still think it should be illegal, and among religious conservatives, that number is undoubtedly much higher. In short, evangelicals are still pretty solidly against the legalization of marijuana, for a variety of moral, ethical, and practical reasons.

Two takes on tolerance. The federally funded General Social Survey annually asks Americans an amazing array of questions. The answers are widely used by sociologists and demographers. The GSS has been asking questions about sexual ethics for at least 40 years. Among the most recent findings: Tolerance for homosexual marriage is going up, but tolerance for adultery, after rising for most of the past 40 years, has topped out and is now in decline. While we’re on the subject of tolerance, I note too that even the famously tolerant country of France is waking up to the destructive influence of homosexual marriage. More than 100,000 conservatives marched in France last Sunday, calling for support of the traditional family and calling the government and others who advocate non-traditional living arrangements “family-phobic.”

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Warren Cole Smith
Warren Cole Smith

Warren, who lives in Charlotte, N.C., is vice president of WORLD News Group and the host of the radio program Listening In. Follow Warren on Twitter @WarrenColeSmith.

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