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January 30, 2014 1

What Targeting SodaStream Reveals About the BDS Movement

by Abra­ham H. Fox­man
National Direc­tor of the Anti-Defamation League

This arti­cle orig­i­nally appeared in The Huff­in­g­ton Post on Jan­u­ary 30, 2014

SodaS­tream, the Israeli gad­get for home­made seltzer and soda is the boogey man– du jour for activist sup­port­ing the boycott-divestment-sanctions (BDS) move­ment. Retail­ers around the world have been lob­bied to remove SodaS­tream prod­ucts from their shelves.   A pub­lic radio sta­tion in San Fran­cisco recently suc­cumbed to pres­sure to remove the soda machine as a pledge gift.  Most promi­nently, Star­let Scar­lett Johans­son is being vil­i­fied for her Super Bowl com­mer­cials for the product.

What com­pletely upends the defama­tion of SodaS­tream by these entrenched anti-Israel activists is this this boom­ing global company’s humane and prac­ti­cal com­mit­ment to true Israeli-Palestinian reconciliation.

The ral­ly­ing point for BDSer’s is that one of SodaStream’s 22 man­u­fac­tur­ing facil­i­ties is located in an indus­trial park in the Israeli set­tle­ment of Maale Adu­mim, and they accuse the com­pany of “prof­it­ing from the occupation.”

But SodaS­tream is far from an evil prof­i­teer, colo­nially exploit­ing the Pales­tini­ans.  The fac­tory employs 500 West Bank Pales­tini­ans out of its 1300 on-site employ­ees.  Describ­ing the work­ing con­di­tions in the plant, in a 2012 inter­view with Al-Monitor, CEO Daniel Birn­baum, explains:

We are build­ing bridges between us and the Pales­tin­ian pop­u­la­tion, and we pro­vide our Pales­tin­ian employ­ees with respectable employ­ment oppor­tu­ni­ties and an appro­pri­ate salary and ben­e­fits. We “even” pur­chase med­ical insur­ance for them from a pri­vate Israeli com­pany, because I am not con­fi­dent that the money we pay to the Pales­tin­ian Author­ity for such social ben­e­fits will actu­ally be used for med­ical insurance.”

Our fac­tory has a syn­a­gogue, but it also has a small mosque. We all eat the same food in the same din­ing hall, and if nec­es­sary, we will go through the same secu­rity inspection.”

Birn­baum told the For­ward this week, SodaS­tream will not close the facil­ity and move employ­ees to its new plant in the Negev, because of the impli­ca­tions for those Pales­tin­ian work­ers: “We will not throw our employ­ees under the bus to pro­mote anyone’s polit­i­cal agenda,” he said.  Chal­leng­ing the BDS activists, he added:  he “just can’t see how it would help the cause of the Pales­tini­ans if we fired them.”

As for SodaS­tream as the poster child of Israel’s “occu­pa­tion,” Birn­baum posited to the For­ward that should a Pales­tin­ian state be estab­lished, SodaS­tream will remain in the West Bank and “pay its taxes to the new Pales­tin­ian state.” “We already have fac­to­ries under the con­trol of the Chi­nese, the Ger­mans, the Amer­i­cans and many other coun­tries,” he said. “So what’s the prob­lem to have a fac­tory in the in the Pales­tin­ian state-to-be? We don’t give a hoot where the fac­tory is going to be.”

The pil­lo­ry­ing of SodaS­tream by BDS activists only reveals the absur­dity of their blind cam­paign, and their mis­guided refusal to engage in con­struc­tive dia­logue regard­ing the Israeli-Palestinian con­flict, and, at their core, rejec­tion of Israel as the Jew­ish national home­land and the two-state solution.

Retail­ers and con­sumers have voted with their pock­et­books to make SodaS­tream a global suc­cess in the home bev­er­age market.

Sadly, those tar­get­ing SodaS­tream only con­tinue to pro­mote divisiveness.

 

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January 21, 2014 1

Israel on Trial at the MLA Conference: An Insider’s View and a Perspective on the Trends

The Mod­ern Lan­guage Asso­ci­a­tion (MLA), a group com­prised of nearly 30,000 human­i­ties schol­ars, held their annual con­fer­ence in Chicago, Jan­u­ary 9th-12th.  ADL and other pro-Israel orga­ni­za­tions were con­cerned by two items on the MLA agenda:  a round­table dis­cus­sion enti­tled “Aca­d­e­mic Boy­cotts: A Con­ver­sa­tion about Israel and Pales­tine” which was com­prised solely of those sup­port­ive of an aca­d­e­mic boy­cott of Israel (includ­ing aca­d­e­mic boycott/BDS front-man Omar Bargh­outi); and a flaw-filled res­o­lu­tion con­demn­ing Israel for allegedly deny­ing Pales­tin­ian Amer­i­can aca­d­e­mics access to the West Bank.

Left to Right: Pro­fes­sors Cary Nel­son, Rus­sell Berman and Ilan Troen at a panel dis­cus­sion on the side­lines of the MLA Conference

ADL con­demned the one-sided panel, say­ing that the MLA had “given its de facto impri­matur of legit­i­macy to the cam­paign to boy­cott Israeli aca­d­e­mics and aca­d­e­mic institutions.”

In a heated ses­sion, the res­o­lu­tion passed by a vote of 60–53, and it now moves on to the MLA exec­u­tive com­mit­tee to deter­mine if it goes to the full mem­ber­ship for a vote.   For­tu­nately, the del­e­gates declined to con­sider an “emer­gency res­o­lu­tion” of sup­port for the Amer­i­can Stud­ies Association’s boy­cott of Israeli aca­d­e­mic institutions.

Amy Schwartz, an asso­ciate direc­tor in ADL’s Chicago office and a mem­ber of the MLA, writes in the JTA of her first-person account from the con­fer­ence, Ram­pag­ing Minor­ity Politi­cized MLA Con­fer­ence, that the out­comes of the con­fer­ence com­pel us to “ con­tinue to edu­cate and inform the MLA mem­ber­ship and ini­ti­ate out­reach to other aca­d­e­mic orga­ni­za­tions to pro­mote respon­si­bil­ity, aca­d­e­mic free­dom and integrity.

Writ­ing of those activists behind the round­table and res­o­lu­tion at the MLA con­fer­ence, and who pushed for­ward the vote by the Amer­i­can Stud­ies Asso­ci­a­tion to boy­cott Israeli aca­d­e­mic insti­tu­tions, Abra­ham H. Fox­man writes in Expos­ing the Israel Bash­ers: Opin­ions With­out Facts, Facts With­out Con­text :  “This is group which is devoted 24/7/365 to find­ing ways to exploit a lack of aware­ness, naïveté and gen­eral dis­in­ter­est to advance a cor­ro­sive, divi­sive and prej­u­diced per­spec­tive of the highly com­plex dynamic of achiev­ing peace between Israel and the Palestinians.”

The sil­ver lin­ing of these devel­op­ments remains the force­ful reac­tion by over 200 uni­ver­sity pres­i­dents from across the United States, who, every day, have come for­ward to speak out and denounce the aca­d­e­mic boy­cott of Israel.

 

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December 27, 2013 5

Campaigns In Atlanta And London Target Israeli Policy In Bethlehem

st-james-church-wall-bethlehem

St. James Church Wall

Right in time for Christ­mas, two cam­paigns have begun that demo­nize Israeli pol­icy in the West Bank city of Beth­le­hem, the birth­place of Jesus.

In Atlanta, Geor­gia, five elec­tronic bill­boards are cur­rently on dis­play for a two week dura­tion that depict Jesus’s par­ents Mary and Joseph being unable to gain entry into Beth­le­hem in mod­ern times because of Israel’s secu­rity bar­rier on the bor­der of the West Bank (the image was cre­ated by the artist Banksy). These bill­boards are spon­sored by If Amer­i­cans Knew (IAK), a vir­u­lently anti-Israel orga­ni­za­tion that has been run­ning anti-Israel bill­boards in cities across the United States over the past year.

In Lon­don, Eng­land, St. James’s Church erected a large dis­play out­side of the church to depict the secu­rity bar­rier that sur­rounds Beth­le­hem. The church’s rev­erend, Lucy Win­kett, claimed that the dis­play, which resem­bles the secu­rity wall in Israel, was designed to show passersby “what the peo­ple of Beth­le­hem are expe­ri­enc­ing today.”

The mock secu­rity wall out­side St. James’ Church is part of a fes­ti­val called “Beth­le­hem Unwrapped,” which is being spon­sored by the Holy Land Trust, a Bethlehem-based group that advo­cates for Boy­cott, Divest­ment and Sanc­tions (BDS) cam­paigns against Israel. The fes­ti­val will take place in Lon­don from Decem­ber 23, 2013 until Jan­u­ary 5, 2014. It will fea­ture, among other pro­grams, a com­edy show called “Stand Up Against the Wall,” a “Beth­le­hem Christ­mas din­ner,” and a debate titled “Both sides of the Bar­rier – Sep­a­ra­tion or Secu­rity?” which will fea­ture Jeff Halper, the founder of the Israeli Com­mit­tee Against House Demo­li­tions; Leila San­sour, a res­i­dent of Beth­le­hem; Yif­tah Curiel, the Pub­lic Affairs spokesman at the Embassy of Israel in Lon­don; and Alan John­son, a rep­re­sen­ta­tive from the Britain Israel Com­mu­ni­ca­tions and Research Centre.

Both the bill­board and mock wall dis­play delib­er­ately fail to account for Israel’s legit­i­mate secu­rity con­cerns. While IAK claims that their bill­boards, “will be seen an esti­mated 4 mil­lion times,” those who view the bill­boards will not receive any infor­ma­tion about why the secu­rity bar­rier was built and what it has done to thwart ter­ror­ist attacks.

Indeed, Israel’s secu­rity bar­rier was built as a defen­sive mea­sure that was first approved by the Israeli gov­ern­ment in 2002 to pre­vent Pales­tin­ian ter­ror­ists from reach­ing their civil­ian tar­gets inside Israel. Since it was built, there has been a sharp decrease in Pales­tin­ian ter­ror­ism – not because there have been no attempted attacks, but because the secu­rity bar­rier has impeded ter­ror­ists from reach­ing Israeli cities, or has forced them to take more cir­cuitous routes, lead­ing to their capture.

Although both cam­paigns seek to rein­force the point that Beth­le­hem has become inac­ces­si­ble because of the wall, thou­sands of Chris­t­ian pil­grims from around the world visit Beth­le­hem for Christ­mas Eve cel­e­bra­tions every year. This year was no excep­tion, accord­ing to news reports, the turnout was “the high­est in years.”

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