SodaStream and the Two Competing Visions for the West Bank

Last week Pepsi announced its plans to purchase the Israeli company SodaStream, the well-known manufacturer of devices for making carbonated beverages at home, for the impressive sum of $3.2 billion. Clifford May notes what the purchase implies about the failures of the movement to boycott the Jewish state, which has long had SodaStream in its sights, and that movement’s success in hurting Palestinians.

[SodaStream’s] CEO, Daniel Birnbaum, is an Israeli entrepreneur and visionary who came up with a wild idea: open a factory on the West Bank and hire Palestinians. Give them “Israeli wages” which are about four-times higher than the average in the territories. Provide them and their extended families with medical insurance, a benefit few employers in the West Bank provide. . . . By 2014, with more than 500 workers, SodaStream was among the largest private employers on the West Bank.

Unsurprisingly, champions of the Palestinian cause denounced Birnbaum as anti-Palestinian. In particular, advocates for BDS (the campaign to de-legitimize and demonize Israel through boycotts, divestments, and sanctions) accused him of stealing Palestinian land, profiting from the “occupation,” and exploiting Palestinian workers. . . . BDS lobbyists were particularly effective in Europe. For example, they persuaded retailers in Sweden to ask Mr. Birnbaum not to send them SodaStream products from the West Bank. . . .

When Birnbaum needed a new and bigger factory, he [therefore] decided not to build in the West Bank but instead to relocate to the Negev desert. . . . The new factory employs 1,400 Bedouin, many of whom have never before had regular jobs with regular paychecks. BDS [activists] began attacking Birnbaum again, this time accusing him of exploiting the Bedouins. The local Bedouin sheikh told them to pound sand.

The news of Pepsi’s purchase of SodaStream makes one thing abundantly clear: while the BDS campaign managed to deprive Palestinians of good jobs, it failed to prevent the company that had provided those jobs from becoming an enormous international success.

In this topsy-turvy world, if you’d like to see Palestinians living in peace, gainfully employed, with access to quality medical care and reason to believe tomorrow will be brighter than today, you’re denounced as anti-Palestinian. If, by contrast, you prefer that Palestinians remain impoverished and on the dole of America and other “donor nations,” hating their next-door neighbor and bequeathing that hatred to their children, viewing themselves as victims while aspiring to “martyrdom” in an endless war, you get to call yourself a champion of the Palestinian cause.

Read more at Washington Times

More about: BDS, Bedouin, Israel & Zionism, Israeli economy, West Bank

An American Withdrawal from Iraq Would Hand Another Victory to Iran

Since October 7, the powerful network of Iran-backed militias in Iraq have carried out 120 attacks on U.S. forces stationed in the country. In the previous year, there were dozens of such attacks. The recent escalation has led some in the U.S. to press for the withdrawal of these forces, whose stated purpose in the country is to stamp out the remnants of Islamic State and to prevent the group’s resurgence. William Roberts explains why doing so would be a mistake:

American withdrawal from Iraq would cement Iran’s influence and jeopardize our substantial investment into the stabilization of Iraq and the wider region, threatening U.S. national security. Critics of the U.S. military presence argue that [it] risks a regional escalation in the ongoing conflict between Israel and Iran. However, in the long term, the U.S. military has provided critical assistance to Iraq’s security forces while preventing the escalation of other regional conflicts, such as clashes between Turkey and Kurdish groups in northern Iraq and Syria.

Ultimately, the only path forward to preserve a democratic, pluralistic, and sovereign Iraq is through engagement with the international community, especially the United States. Resisting Iran’s takeover will require the U.S. to draw international attention to the democratic backsliding in the country and to be present and engage continuously with Iraqi civil society in military and non-military matters. Surrendering Iraq to Iran’s agents would not only squander our substantial investment in Iraq’s stability; it would greatly increase Iran’s capability to threaten American interests in the Levant through its influence in Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon.

Read more at Providence

More about: Iran, Iraq, U.S. Foreign policy