News / Middle East

    Boycott Against Israel Impacts Palestinian Workers

    Economic Boycott Against Israel Impacts Palestinian Workersi
    X
    February 18, 2014 1:56 PM
    The Israeli government has announced it will allocate $100 million to counter a growing international boycott against Israeli organizations operating in the Palestinian territories. The issue was highlighted recently by a debate over the maker of a popular soft-drink machine operating in the disputed territories. VOA's Scott Bobb reports from the West Bank town of al-Azariya.
    Economic Boycott Against Israel Impacts Palestinian Workers
    Scott Bobb
    The Israeli government has announced it will allocate $100 million to counter a growing international boycott against Israeli organizations operating in the Palestinian territories.

    The issue was highlighted recently by a debate over the maker of a popular soft-drink machine operating in the disputed territories.
     
    Targeting SodaStream

    A chilly dawn is breaking over al-Azariya, outside Jerusalem. Workers gather in the dark waiting for the bus to take them to their jobs at the SodaStream factory in the nearby Jewish settlement, Ma'ale Adumim.
     
    SodaStream builds machines that make seltzer, or soda water, for personal use. The machines are popular. But the workers are worried.
     
    Jewish settlements in the West Bank are considered illegal by much of the international community. As a result, Israeli enterprises operating here are the target of a growing movement called Boycott-Divestment-Sanctions (BDS).
     
    Ahmed—who does not want his real name used—arrives early to take the first bus. He's been at SodaStream for eight months and likes his job. He says it pays three times what he would earn working for a Palestinian company and that conditions are good. However, production is down and his work hours have been cut.
     
    "I do not support this boycott," he said. "It's not good because the workers are Arabs and there will be no jobs and we will sitting at home. Secondly, it is the big people who are fighting, not the workers, the young people."
     
    SodaStream says its employs more than 500 Palestinians as well as Israeli Jews and Israeli Arabs.  
     
    "They work together here," said C.E.O. Daniel Birnbaum. "We have about 1200, 1300 people working in this facility in harmony and peace. And we are very proud of being able to be here and to contribute in our way to the co-existence and hopefully to the peace in this region."

    Growing pressure
     
    SodaStream faces growing competition from large, multi-national beverage companies, which have been interested in the growing popularity of the company's product.
     
    At the same time, the company is under growing pressure from the BDS movement which is making gains.
     
    A large Danish pension fund, German banks and several U.S. academic groups recently announced they were severing ties with Israeli partners that operate in the territories.
     
    In addition, there is a growing movement to require special labels on Israeli exports from the Palestinian territories. This would make it easier for consumers to boycott Israeli products made in the Palestinian territories.
     
    Israeli news media reported Tuesday that several multinational construction companies have withdrawn their bids to build two new ports in Israel, citing pressure from domestic shareholders and activists or a fear of hurting business interests in the Arab world.
     
    These developments worry the Israeli government.

    Economic hit
     
    Finance Minister Yair Lapid last month told an international conference in Tel Aviv that a European boycott would reduce Israeli exports by one-fifth, shrinking the Israeli domestic product by several billion dollarsor more than one percentcausing the loss of 10,000 jobs. Europe is a major partner, accounting for about one-third of Israel's foreign trade.
     
    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday told a gathering of world Jewish leaders in Jerusalem that any talk of a boycott in Europe was an outrage and called its advocates "classical anti-Semites in modern garb."

    Invoking the boycotts of Jewish businesses in Nazi-led Germany prior to World War II, Netanyahu said, "In the past, anti-Semites boycotted Jewish businesses and today they call for the boycott of the Jewish state….I think we have to fight them."

    Palestinian organizers of the BDS movement say they are working with various groups, including Israeli ones, to pressure the Israeli government to change its policies.
     
    Some groups choose to boycott only products made by Jewish settlers in the Palestinian territories. Others advocate a general boycott of all Israeli products.
     
    The movement has also succeeded in pressuring some international entertainers to cancel performances in Israel.
     
    The Jewish-American actress and singer, Scarlet Johannson, recently had to choose between her role as a celebrity ambassador for SodaStream and for the British charity group, Oxfam.

    SodaStream's 2014 Super Bowl commercial featuring actress Scarlett Johansson.SodaStream's 2014 Super Bowl commercial featuring actress Scarlett Johansson.

    Oxfam supports the BDS movement against Israel. Johannson resigned from Oxfam and said the boycott works against peace and understanding between Israelis and Palestinians.
     
    Eyeing long-term gains

    Many of the Sodastream's Palestinian workers are too worried to speak to the media. They say privately that they oppose the Jewish settlements but feel the boycott unfairly targets their families and livelihoods.
     
    Mahmoud—again, not his real name—has worked at SodaStream for several years, even though he has a degree in banking and finance.
     
    "We have no other work but at Sodastream," he said. "If there was another job outside the settlements, we would work there. But all of Palestine is our land. So we ask them to leave all the land, not just the settlement."
     
    Omar Barghouti, a local BDS leader, acknowledges the movement hurts Palestinians, but he says Palestinians may have to suffer in the near-term in order to obtain their rights in the long-term.
     
    "We are under Israel's control," Barghouti said. "We'll suffer as Israel suffers from the boycott. But the entire Palestinian civil society has said we are ready to pay that price to gain freedom, justice and equality."
     
    His words offer little consolation to the workers from al-Azariya who, as the sun rises, board the bus for SodaStream, hoping to return in 12 hours after a full shift, rather than in a few hours following a work-day shortened by sanctions.

    You May Like

    Mother of IS Supporter: Son Was Peaceful, 'Role Model'

    Somali-American Abdirizak Mohamed Warsame pleaded guilty Thursday to charges of conspiring to provide material support to Islamic State militants

    Factions Shift as Civilians Die in Syrian War

    Scenario likely only to further confuse military situation on ground and potentially worsen humanitarian crisis that already has grown to epic proportions

    Presidential Hopefuls Woo Minorities, Evangelicals

    Four GOP candidates to speak at forum at Bob Jones University in Greenville, South Carolina

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments page of 2
     Previous    
    by: annie robbins from: SF bay area
    February 18, 2014 3:22 PM
    Scott Bobb, Oxfam does not supports the BDS movement against Israel. Maybe you could do some of your own research instead of repeating allegations drummed up by pro Israeli pr specialists. a quote from a spokesperson from Oxfam maybe, or didn't you even bother contacting them. You should issue a retraction. your article sounds like a commercial for sodastream and Israel.

    "Jewish settlements in the West Bank are considered illegal by much of the international community. "

    Since you are writing on a website called "Voice of America" you might mention our very own US State Department considers the settlements illegitimate. And the reason our embassy is not in Jerusalem is because Israel unilaterally annexed the West Bank and East Jerusalem against international law.

    Balance Scott, balance.

    by: Seamorgh21 from: Utah
    February 18, 2014 2:35 PM
    So I'm sure your next article will be to immediately lift all sanctions on Iran since average Iranians are the ones suffering from these sactions. I won't hold my breath Bob.
    BTW, supporters of the Apartheid regime of South Africa made the exact same arguments in the 80's that you are making now. Great company.

    by: charlie from: california
    February 18, 2014 11:18 AM
    Invading Iraq impacted Iraqi civilians. If we had bombed Dachau it would have impacted people being slowly murdered. Overthrowing the Cambodian government to install a pro-western junta ultimately impacted a million plus Cambodians into violent deaths. The Civil War impacted millions. Doing anything impacts someone. And doing nothing can impact them even more. Impact is a dumb modern replacement for affect. Makes it sounds like a digestive problem.
    In Response

    by: PermReader
    February 25, 2014 12:13 PM
    You`ve invented the new argument of the justification of American indifference towards the Jewish persecutions,dear.The Palestinian problems is the "digestive problem" for the anti-semite, happy with his paper justification.
    Comments page of 2
     Previous    

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Two-thirds of World Faces Water Shortagei
    X
    February 12, 2016 7:31 PM
    Four billion people — or two out of every three on the planet — do not have enough water to meet their basic needs. That is far greater than previously thought, according to a new study that presents a more accurate picture of the problem. As VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports, the findings will help policymakers and the public craft solutions to address the threat.
    Video

    Video Two-thirds of World Faces Water Shortage

    Four billion people — or two out of every three on the planet — do not have enough water to meet their basic needs. That is far greater than previously thought, according to a new study that presents a more accurate picture of the problem. As VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports, the findings will help policymakers and the public craft solutions to address the threat.
    Video

    Video Gateway to Mecca: Historical Old Jeddah

    Local leader Sami Nawar's family has been in the Old City of Jeddah for hundreds of years and takes us on a tour of this ancient route to Mecca, also believed to be the final resting place of Adam's wife, Eve.
    Video

    Video New Technology Aims to Bring Election Transparency to Uganda

    A team of recent graduates from Uganda’s Makerere University has created a mobile application designed to help monitor elections and expose possible rigging. The developers say the app, called E-Poll, will make Uganda's democratic process fairer. From Kampala, VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
    Video

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video Russia Bristles at NATO Expansion in E. Europe

    Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is meeting Friday with the head of NATO after the Western military alliance and the United States announced plans for the biggest military build-up in Europe since the Cold War. Russia has called NATO's moves a threat to stability in Europe. But NATO says the troop rotations and equipment are aimed at reassuring allies concerned about Russia as VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video To Fight Zika, Scientists Target Mosquitoes

    Mosquitoes strike again. The Zika virus outbreak is just the latest headline-grabbing epidemic carried by these biting pests, but researchers are fighting back with new ways to control them. VOA's Steve Baragona takes a look.
    Video

    Video Mosul Refugees Talk About Life Under IS

    A top U.S. intelligence official told Congress this week that a planned Iraqi-led operation to re-take the city of Mosul from Islamic State militants is unlikely to take place this year. IS took over the city in June 2014, and for the past year and a half, Mosul residents have been held captive under its rule. VOA's Zana Omar talked to some families who managed to escape. Bronwyn Benito narrates his report.
    Video

    Video Scientists Make Progress Toward Better Diabetes Treatment, Cure

    Scientists at two of the top U.S. universities say they have made significant advances in their quest to find a more efficient treatment for diabetes and eventually a cure. According to the International Diabetes Federation, the disease affects more than 370 million people worldwide. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video NATO to Target Migrant Smugglers

    NATO has announced plans to send warships to the Aegean Sea to target migrant smugglers in the alliance's most direct intervention so far since a wave of people began trying to reach European shores.
    Video

    Video Russia's Catholics, Orthodox Hopeful on Historic Pope-Patriarch Meeting

    Russia's Catholic minority has welcomed an historic first meeting Friday in Cuba between the Pope and the Patriarch of Russia's dominant Orthodox Church. The Orthodox Church split with Rome in 1054 and analysts say politics, both church and state, have been driving the relationship in the centuries since. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Used Books Get a New Life on the Streets of Lagos

    Used booksellers are importing books from abroad and selling them on the streets of Africa's largest city. What‘s popular with readers may surprise you. Chris Stein reports from Lagos.
    Video

    Video After NH Primaries All Eyes on South Carolina

    After Tuesday's primary in New Hampshire, US presidential candidates swiftly turned to the next election coming up in South Carolina. The so-called “first-in-the-South” poll may help further narrow down the field of candidates. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video Smartphone Helps Grow Vegetables

    One day, you may be using your smartphone to grow your vegetables. A Taipei-based company has developed a farm cube — a small, enclosed ecosystem designed to grow plants indoors. The environment inside is automatically adjusted by the cube, but it can also be controlled through an app. VOA's Deborah Block has more on the gardening system.
    Video

    Video Exhibit Turns da Vinci’s Drawings Into Real Objects

    In addition to being a successful artist, Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci designed many practical machines, some of which are still in use today, although in different forms. But a number of his projects were never realized — until today. VOA’s George Putic reports.