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February 7, 2014

Challenging Anti-Immigrant Bias with Education

Criticism of immigrant policy is not an excuse to undermine the humanity of others with the kind of vitriol that dominated the internet, especially Twitter, after the Atlanta-based Coca Cola Company aired a commercial with “America the Beautiful,” sung in different languages and featuring a diversity of people during the Super Bowl.

The term immigrant is a descriptor, not a slur. However, it is often used in a pejorative way. For those who are willing to denigrate others because of immigration status, perceived immigration status, or the misguided perception that spoken language relates to immigration status, we need to make one thing clear. Bias and hate have no place in civil society.

President John F. Kennedy reminded us in his 1963 acceptance speech for ADL’s America’s Democratic Legacy Award, “The contribution of immigrants can be seen in every aspect of our national life. We see it in religion, in politics, in business, in the arts, in education, and even in athletics, and entertainment. There is no part of our nation that has not been touched by our immigrant background.”

Prejudice is learned and counter speech is an important part of challenging prejudice and bias wherever we see it, including online and in our everyday lives.

Everyone can engage in counter speech by responding when they see bias and challenging misinformation. Unfortunately, instances of racism and xenophobia related to the topic of immigration are common. In addition, educators can play a unique role in addressing bias in society by using the classroom to challenge biased ideals, and in this case, challenging anti-immigrant bias among youth. The lesson plan  “Huddled Mass or Second Class: Challenging Anti-Immigrant Bias” for grades 3 to 12 can help educators move our nation closer to a more perfect, less biased nation. Don’t have the time to do a full anti-bias lesson? Familiarize yourself with some myths and facts on immigrants and immigration.

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January 30, 2014

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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