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

    Vietnam Urges US to Lift Lethal Weapons Ban Amid S. China Sea Tensions

    US president’s upcoming visit to Vietnam underscores strength of relationship, and lifting embargo would reflect that trust, ambassador says

    Are US Schools Turning a Blind Eye to Radical Qatari Preachers?

    Parade of radical Islamist clerics using mosque at Qatar’s Education City draws mounting criticism for American universities that maintain satellite branches there

    Why Islamic State Is Down But Not Out

    Despite loss of territory, group’s ferocious attacks over past three months seen as testimony to its continued durability and resourcefulness

    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.
    Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroadi
    X
    May 02, 2016 1:36 PM
    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.
    Video

    Video Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroad

    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.
    Video

    Video Ethiopia’s Drought Takes Toll on Children

    Ethiopia is dealing with its worst drought in decades, thanks to El Nino weather patterns. An estimated 10 million people urgently need food aid. Six million of them are children, whose development may be compromised without sufficient help, Marthe van der Wolf reports for VOA from the Metahara district.
    Video

    Video Little Havana - a Slice of Cuban Culture in Florida

    Hispanic culture permeates everything in Miami’s Little Havana area: elderly men playing dominoes as they discuss politics, cigar rollers deep at work, or Cuban exiles talking with presidential candidates at a Cuban coffee window. With the recent rapprochement between Cuba and United States, one can only expect stronger ties between South Florida and Cuba.
    Video

    Video California Republicans Weigh Presidential Choices Amid Protests

    Republican presidential candidates have been wooing local party leaders in California, a state that could be decisive in selecting the party's nominee for U.S. president. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports delegates to the California party convention have been evaluating choices, while front-runner Donald Trump drew hundreds of raucous protesters Friday.
    Video

    Video Kurdish Football Team Helps War-Torn City Cope

    With the conflict still raging across much of Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, between the rebel PKK and the Turkish state, many Kurds are trying to escape the turmoil by focusing on the success of their football team Amedspor in Diyarbakir. The club is increasingly becoming a symbol for Kurds, not only in Diyarbakir but beyond. Dorian Jones reports from southeast Turkey.
    Video

    Video ‘The Lights of Africa’ - Through the Eyes of 54 Artists

    An exhibition bringing together the work of 54 African artists, one from each country, is touring the continent after debuting at COP21 in Paris. Called "Lumières d'Afrique," the show centers on access to electricity and, more figuratively, ideas that enlighten. Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, the exhibition's first stop.
    Video

    Video Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Master Mohammad Ayub runs a makeshift school in a public park in Islamabad. Thousands of poor children have benefited from his services over the years, but, as VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem reports, roughly 25 million school-age youths don't get an education in Pakistan.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora