The Israeli company SodaStream, a target of the BDS movement, announced it will close its West Bank plant and move manufacturing to a new, state of the art plant under construction in the Negev in Israel proper. The closure is seen as a victory by the BDS movement and BDS advocates within the PC(USA).
What is known for certain is that 500 Palestinian employees of SodaStream will lose jobs paying four to five times the prevailing wage rate in the West Bank, and their families will face an uncertain future. What is also known is that SodaStream will be relatively unaffected. The new plant is modern and efficient, while the West Bank plant was an old two-story facility converted by SodaStream to manufacture their beverage carbonation products. The new plant in the Negev will offer employment opportunity to local Israeli Bedouins.
What is not known is how this action will benefit Palestinians or the cause of peace. Unemployment is high in the West Bank and Israeli companies employ 35,000 people there. If the BDS boycott succeeds, the Sodastream story reveals that Palestinian unemployment and poverty will accelerate. There will be more separation and less contact between Arabs and Jews, another BDS goal. This will not further the cause of a Palestinian state, but instead promote even greater hostility and mistrust.
We call upon BDS advocates to state clearly what they want the State of Israel to do. Remove all Israeli security from the West Bank? Ethnically cleanse the West Bank and half of Jerusalem, including the Old City, of Jews as demanded by some Palestinian leaders? Neither is even a remote prospect given the result of Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza, which has been controlled by the jihadist/terrorist group Hamas since 2007. If BDS activists really want to pressure Israel to leave the West Bank, they should urge Hamas to disarm, renounce violence, and embrace coexistence. Nothing would put greater pressure on Israel to meet Palestinian demands than a peaceful and prosperous Gaza governed democratically under the rule of law. Instead, BDS does nothing more than strengthen the hand of those most opposed to peace and claim as a victory an action that costs Palestinians precious jobs.
A friend passed along to me an electronic newsletter he received from a PC(USA) worker based in Israel who is currently visiting congregations in the United States. What caught my eye was a segment in the newsletter entitled “What everyone is asking: why is there a conflict between Gaza and Israel?” The answers given were striking and called for a response.