COMMUNITY VOICES | Nelson Mandela, Israel, and me

When I was growing up, my mother instilled a very strong sense in me of right and wrong. The morals she imparted were firmly rooted in the history of the Jewish people and our persecution.  She taught me about the pogroms in Russia,about the harsh working conditions Jews had to endure in sweatshops in America, and the discrimination Jews faced. She also taught me about the involvement of Jews in the civil rights movement and how Michael Schwerner and Andrew Goodman who gave their lives alongside James Chaney. And of course she taught me about the Holocaust, of the heroic ways that Jews fought back, and of the horrific ways in which they died. The lessons I learned were clear.  We must stand up for justice.  Discrimination and prejudice were wrong.   All people were equal and deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. Continue Reading

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. Free Speech ZoneThe Free Speech Zone offers a space for contributions from readers, without editing by the TC Daily Planet. This is an open forum for articles that otherwise might not find a place for publication, including news articles, opinion columns, announcements and even a few press releases. The opinions expressed in the Free Speech Zone and Neighborhood Notes, as well as the opinions of bloggers, are their own and not necessarily the opinion of the TC Daily Planet.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. Continue Reading