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

Nigeria Incumbent in Tight Spot as Poll Nears

Muhammadu Buhari is running a strong challenge to Goodluck Jonathan, amid a faltering economy and Boko Haram security worries More

Video Liberia's Almost-Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo tells VOA that despite her fame, life is still a struggle as she waits for government's promise of support to arrive More

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

At least seven different indigenous groups in Ratanakiri depend mainly on forest products for their survival, say they face loss of their land, traditional way of life More

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.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More