FREE SPEECH ZONE | SodaStream is outside the mainstream

SodaStream, a new product that turns tap water into seltzer water, has been showing up on the shelves of Twin Cities’ department stores.  The circumstances under which SodaStream products are made is anything but refreshing.

SodaStream is an Israeli company with its main factory in the industrial park of Ma’aleh Adumim, the largest Israeli Jewish settlement in the West Bank. 

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According to research by the Israeli group Coalition of Women for Peace, being in the settlements provides SodaStream structural advantages – low rent, a labor force that is easily exploited, special tax incentives, and lax enforcement of regulations.

For over 40 years, Israel has occupied the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem. The Occupation means that the Israeli military has total authority over every aspect of Palestinian life in these areas. 

Numerous human rights organizations, including Amnesty International, have condemned the Occupation for violating international humanitarian law and Palestinians’ human rights through the construction of hundreds of settlements in the West Bank.  The Israeli government offered substantial benefits to encourage hundreds of thousands of Israeli Jews to relocate to these settlements.  

Similarly, SodaStream built its factory in the settlement in order to receive financial incentives from the Israeli government, and like all businesses in the settlements’ industrial parks, SodaStream qualifies for ongoing tax deductions.

As with the Maquiladoras along the U.S.-Mexican border, the high unemployment rate means that many Palestinians are forced to try to earn a living through jobs in the settlements, despite the low pay and harsh working conditions.

Palestinian workers in the settlements do not enjoy the full protection of Israeli labor laws.   They must get special permits and security clearance just to be able to enter these factories.   Involvement in a labor dispute constitutes a security risk and can result in the loss of not only a worker’s current job but their ability to work in settlements in the future.   Thus, many Palestinian workers do not demand their legal employment rights due to fear of losing their work permit. 

At the SodaStream factory, when workers protested that they were being paid less than half of the minimum wage and were forced to work 12 hour days, they were fired. On another occasion, when workers who were fired and were still owed a month’s wages went to the factory to request their pay, SodaStream had them removed from the factory and banned from the entire industrial park.

As with all business in the illegal settlements, SodaStream pays taxes to Israel, not to the Palestinian Authority.  The municipal taxes that SodaStream pays are used exclusively to support the growth and development of the settlement through things such as roads, education, and sewage treatment.

Many people view buying products such as SodaStream that are manufactured in the settlements as contributing to sustaining the illegal settlements.  That is why a number of organizations, Meretz USA, Americans for Peace Now, and Jewish Voice for Peace, as well as the Presbyterian and Methodist churches, have endorsed a boycott of SodaStream and other products made in the illegal settlements.  

Boycotts have long been used as a way for individuals and communities to act on their values and influence policies.  From the Montgomery Bus Boycott to the Farmworkers’ grape boycott to boycotts of companies doing business in apartheid South Africa to an Israeli boycott of cottage cheese in the summer of 2011 as a protest against the continuing rise in food prices.

The settlements are illegal. They are a major obstacle to a just peace and are an impediment to Palestinian economic and social development.   Boycotting SodaStream and other settlement products is a way for us to stand up for human rights and say that we do not support the Occupation.    

Jordan Ash of St. Paul is a member of Mount Zion synagogue and on the national board of Jewish Voice for Peace. 

  • "...As with the Maquiladoras along the U.S.-Mexican border, the high unemployment rate means that many Palestinians are forced to try to earn a living through jobs in the settlements, despite the low pay and harsh working conditions...." This leads to a wrong conclusion. Check out the GDP/capita for the Maquiladora states, and you will see that they are well above the MX national GDP/capita. Mexicans move from the poorer states in the south of the country to those maquiladora states because they can achieve a substantially higher standard of living, as measured in money terms. Similarly, Palestinian Arabs covet jobs with Israeli companies because they earn more. Nobody is enslaved. - by on Sun, 01/12/2014 - 11:39pm
  • Thanks for this. One comment: new suburbs built around East Jerusalem are not innocent development nor are they certain to be part of Israel in a settlement. They are settlements themselves, designed to eliminate a viable Palestinian state, which has always been Israel's goal. Watch what they do, not what they say. - by Dave Lippman on Wed, 10/30/2013 - 11:35am
  • I like it how this is just a rant, and doesn't actually speak to either a company representative or a worker there. Oh, I don't think West Bank Arabs need a permit to work in Maale Admumim, only in pre-1967 Israel. - by Simon Daniels on Thu, 10/18/2012 - 3:50am
  • This column falsely states that SodaStream is located in Ma’aleh Adumim to "exploit" Palestinian labor by underpaying them. The company has a good reputation for its labor practices and this issue is in no way the basis for the boycott movement against it. In fact, should the boycott succeed in getting SodaStream to move its plant over the Green Line, the net effect will be unemployment to hundreds of Palestinian workers, unnecessary hardship for their families and economic ripple effect into their communities. I would also like to make clear that Ma’aleh Adumim, which is a recently built suburb adjacent to Jerusalem, would almost certainly be part of a the land swaps envisioned by Israel and the Palestinian Authority as being a necessary part of any possible comprehensive settlement. Falsely holding up Ma’aleh Adumim as an integral part of a future Palestinian state seems to be pointless. Like the boycott movement itself, it's more about PR than about supporting Palestinian statehood. Reply · Like · Unfollow Pos. - by Adam Holland on Wed, 09/12/2012 - 9:54am

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My mum warned me about Jews like you

Jews make the best anti-semites, in this case anti-Israelis

Re: My mum warned me about Jews like you

Thank you for comment Ghost of Xmas Past.  What part of my posting did you think was anti-semitic or anti-Israeli? The values I expressed in it are a direct part of my Jewish heritage and upbriniging. Jordan 

accurate information

Simon and Adam, did you check the article by Who Profits for up-to-date information ? Who Profits is an Israeli non-governmental organisation.