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There is no more valuable piece of cultural commercial real estate than a sixty-second ad during the Super Bowl. The NFL's championship game is perhaps the last collective viewing experience in our fractured culture, and at a cost of $3-$5 million a commercial, the NFL and television networks know it.
Over the years, the league and their broadcast partners have aired ads that have been sexist, violent, or simply disgusting. Their only stated rule is no political advertising. Yet even this rule has been subject to a brazen double standard. While Move On and other liberal advocacy groups have had their ads rejected on a regular basis, Tim Tebow was allowed two years ago to do an ad for the anti-gay, anti-choice organization Focus on the Family. Anti-union ads were allowed to run regionally last year, as well.
For the 2013 game, there is another example of the political double standard at play. The league and the networks agreed to broadcast an ad produced by the company SodaStream. SodaStream is a gadget that allows people to carbonate their own beverages. As SodaStream CEO Daniel Birnbaum says, "This is the new way to do soda. We're revolutionizing it. There exists a smarter way to enjoy soft drinks, getting the bubbles without the bottles."
There is just one problem with Birnbaum's "revolutionary" company: It's housed in an illegal Israeli settlement on the West Bank.
Not only are SodaStream products manufactured there, but Palestinian workers have been fired when trying to agitate for better wages and working conditions.
"It's crucial to burst the bubble of SodaStream as a progressive, eco-friendly company," Rae Abileah, co-director of Code Pink and co-founder of the organization Young Jewish and Proud, told me. "By manufacturing in occupied territory, they're violating international law and human rights. Because they are located in an industrial area that basically bisects the West Bank, it makes the stated goal of a two-state solution an impossibility."
Stores that sell SodaStream have been picketed regularly in the United States to raise awareness of the conditions under which it's produced. Now organizations like Jewish Voices for Peace are using the company's prime presence on Super Bowl Sunday to draw awareness to the Occupation and those who profit from it.
"The new SodaStream publicity blitz has given the U.S. boycott, divestment, sanctions movement a marvelous opportunity to bring our campaigns targeting settlement products to a new, unprecedented level of visibility and success," Anna Baltzer, an organizer of the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, told the Associated Press.
SodaStream and the Israeli government may regret the efforts to raise the profile of this company. The noise you hear is the bursting of SodaStream's bubble.
Dave Zirin is the host of Sirius XM Radio's popular weekly show, "Edge of Sports Radio." His newest book is "Game Over: How Politics Has Turned the Sports World Upside Down" (The New Press).