Skip to comments.At SodaStream, Palestinians hope their bubble won’t burst
Posted on 02/04/2014 4:28:07 PM PST by SJackson
A manual worker at the settlement-based factory that sparked the Scarlett Johansson controversy, Nahida Fares of Ramallah earns triple the pay of her husband, an officer in the PA
ISHOR ADUMIM, West Bank The SodaStream factory, situated just off the highway leading down from Jerusalem to the Dead Sea, was abuzz on Sunday with journalists from across the globe trying to get a glimpse of the action.
The tour of the carbonated beverage-maker plant was organized especially for curious foreign correspondents on the eve of the Super Bowl, which featured an ad starring its glamorous spokeswoman Scarlett Johansson. The factory, SodaStreams charismatic US-born CEO Daniel Birnbaum proudly declared, used to produce munitions for the Israeli army. It was bought in 1996 by the fizzy drink start-up, seeking to better the world by doing away with polluting plastic bottles.
A statue at the entrance to the plant, Birnbaum pointed out, encapsulated the company spirit with the immortal words of the prophet Isaiah: And they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.
SodaStreams business has grown exponentially since Birnbaum was hired by the private equity firm that bought the company in 2007. Under the previous management, SodaStream manufactured 20,000-30,000 counter-top soda machines a month. Now it produces that number every day.
A Palestinian worker speaks with his Jewish employee at the SodaStream factory in the Mishor Adumim industrial park, February 2, 2014 (Photo credit: Nati Shohat/Flash90)
As SodaStreams global market expanded, so did its need for manual laborers. Today, the Mishor Adumim plant the first of eight Israeli locations and 22 worldwide employs 1,300 workers; 950 Arabs (450 Israeli and 500 Palestinian) and 350 Israeli Jews. Salaries and work benefits management asserts and workers confirm are equal for all workers in comparable jobs, regardless of ethnicity or citizenship. The factory secures Israeli work permits for its Palestinian employees as well as rides from their home and back, SodaStreams Chief Operating Officer Yossi Azarzar told The Times of Israel.
Proponents of the BDS (boycott, divestment and sanction) campaign posit that any Israeli business located beyond the 1949 armistice frontier known as the Green Line is by definition exploitative, in addition to being illegal under international law. They castigated Johannson for representing the firm; she rejected the onslaught declaring that SodaStream is a company that is not only committed to the environment but to building a bridge to peace between Israel and Palestine and resigned as an ambassador for British-based charity Oxfam when they critiqued her role.
A statue at the entrance to the SodaStream factory conveys the pacifist vision of the prophet Isaiah (photo credit: Elhanan Miller/TOI)
Birnbaum, the CEO, was clearly cognizant of the dispute. He spoke of Jewish-Arab coexistence as he stood next to a veiled young Arab woman working on the assembly line across from an older woman with a black head covering who immigrated to Israel from the former Soviet Union in 1993.
Zooming in on Birnbaum and the two women, the camera crews and microphone-holding reporters overlooked another young Palestinian woman standing nearby, fitting plastic valves into a large metal tray. Nahida Fares, 28, graduated Nabluss A-Najjah University in primary school education. She began working for Israeli companies two years ago, when she could find no work in her field in Ramallah, where she lives with her husband and infant child.
There are no job opportunities in the West Bank, Fares told The Times of Israel. Even the jobs that do exist pay no more than NIS 1,500-2,000 ($430-570) a month. Fares now earns triple those sums.
Many educated women like Fares were forced to seek work outside the home following the outbreak of the Second Intifada in 2000 to support the household as the Palestinian economy collapsed, she explained.
Palestinians and Israelis work at the SodaStream factory in the Mishor Adumim industrial park, February 2, 2014. (Photo credit: Nati Shohat/Flash90)
Faress husband, a first lieutenant in the Palestinians prestigious Preventive Security Force, earns NIS 2,000 ($570) per month after 10 years of service.
Given the relatively low levels of political violence in recent years, the Israeli Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) has increased the number of work permits granted to Palestinians by some 37% between 2010 and 2012. Still, Palestinian men must be above the age 24 and married with a child to be eligible for work permits within Israel. Israeli workers unions do not protect Palestinians from exploitation by employers, critics note.
To work in a settlement, however, a Palestinian man need only be older than 18 and have no negative security record. To work in Israel, Palestinians must apply to the Israeli Population and Immigration Authority; to work in an Israeli settlement in the West Bank (like the Mishor Adumim industrial zone) they must apply to the Civil Administration, the branch of COGAT entrusted with Palestinian civilian matters. A COGAT spokesman told The Times of Israel in a written response that 24,000 permits are given to Palestinians wishing to work in the settlements on average every month. More than double that number (49,250) were allowed to work in Israel in January, mostly in the construction industry.
Palestinian employees at work on the SodaStream assembly line, February 2, 2014 (photo credit: Elhanan Miller/TOI Miller/Times of Israel)
Fares, for instance, first began working at a laundromat in the Mishor Adumim industrial zone (where SodaStream is located), but left because of management mistreatment. At SodaStream she is much happier, working a 12-hour shift from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. and receiving a 15-30 minute break for every two hours of work. Food in the cafeteria is great, she said, as she showed me the valve that she boasted is the most important component of the soda dispenser.
Another employee, Saida, 28, began studying Hebrew in her hometown of Jericho but only started using it at the plant, where she first came in contact with Israeli Jews. Jews and Arabs mix freely here, she noted; they even change clothes together, she said, and blushed.
Scarlett Johansson with Sodastream's Daniel Birnbaum (photo credit: Mike Coppola/Getty Images for SodaStream/via JTA)
While declining to discuss the political ramifications of her sensitive employment at Mishor Adumim (working in settlements is illegal under Palestinian law), Saida said she and her colleagues were wondering why SodaStream had been singled out by the media from all the other companies in the industrial zone.
Its because of Scarlett Johansson, she was told.
If youd like to be on or off, please FR mail me.
A few similar articles in other publications speaking with employees. Seem to have the attitude, Europe, pleas don't help me, I prefer food for the family. I admit, a part of me thinks move the factory, fire the workers. But they're not complaining, why give the Euros the satisfaction. Wonder if the State Dept orders sodastreams. Does John Kerry own one?
People who have secure jobs do not need “leaders” to agitate for them. This is distressing to the “leaders”. This tells you all you need to know about Pali leaders and black leaders.
Tells you a lot about American leaders too. Some politicians everywhere crave discontent, not gainfully employed voters secure in their lives. Without discontent, we’d have no community organizers.
I suck soda, ... made with a SodaStream.
Leftists would rather have their pet “identity groups” living in squalor in order to further their “cause”. And when you really loke at it, the members of such “identity groups” are not really considered to be people, instead they are viewed as pets, props. Just a further manifestation of the racism of the Left.
Ah, manufacturing jobs don’t pay that well. Besides, you can’t make a profit and pay decent wages. You can’t find employees for many of these jobs. If you don’t have illegal immigrants, the jobs just wouldn’t remain. I mean what employer is going to keep jobs like this outside of China anymore?
After reading the list of groups the employees are comprised of, I can’t believe you feel this strongly about supporting Jews.
Can you believe these folks who went after Johansson? It boggles the mind there are people out there that wrong and manipulative.
What are the BDSers doing to help employ the Palis??? They want them unemployed, poor and agitated it seems.
Each learns about the other and SOME kind of "work detente" occurs. They need each other. The Israelis own the land. Farming is done and there simply isn't enough Jewish man power.
They're "cousins" and have had to deal with each other for eons. It's a good thing I saw. Mind you I was only there for a few weeks so I didn't see much. But the country was peaceful. My American friends thought I was nuts to go there, from our home in Saudi Arabia, but I told them NOT to believe all the American newspapers about how DANGEROUS it was for us and everyone.
There WERE Israeli soldiers EVERYWHERE and Jewish settlements were put smack in the middle of the major roadways so Palestinians HAD to go through Jewish settlements and roadblocks.
It worked. The Palestinians would rather work for the Israelis than starve. The Israelis would rather live in peace than in a CONSTANT state of war. Who wouldn't?
Their best to put them out of work. Not these workers, but the Palestinian authority is fine with that. Recall the Gaza withdrawl, Israel wanted to leave the industrial parks, non starter. And the greenhouses left but looted, rather than producing produce.
I’ve had a SodaStream machine for about a year and love it.
Isaiah, huh? What is he, some right-wing talk show host?
The enemies of Jews and Arab Palestinians today call themselves BDSers. The leaders know what a vil, lying bunch they are. Many follow them as useful idiots being badly used to create terrorism and chaos for the very people they think they are helping. They want to foment hate and violence and hate the idea that people can and do get along and thrive together for the good of all.
The BDSers are the biggest hypocrits in the world. They do nothing to actually help anyone. They are destroyers of kindness, destroyers of good will, destroyers of all that is good and just in the world. They use the word “justice,” in a cynical joke that only the leaders understand is a joke among the leaders. Israelis are the justest people on the planet, as is their law system and their military. The BDSers want to destroy those who are successfully helping put the Arab Palestinians have a life and a future. The spoilers go after those Americans and Israelis and Brits and French and Australians and Germans that are models of rectitude and justice, because they fear the world will see how corrupt and full of lies and the desire to keep Palestinians the BDSers actually are. The BDSers follow the methods of Saul Alinsky - trying to marginalize those you want to destroy by making up stories about them. The Palestinian leaders themselves, the mullahs and the politicians just keep stashing away tens of millions of dollars regularly into foreign bank accounts for themselves.
The Palestinians, if they were independent thinkers who cared about themselves, their children, their parents, would get rid of their leaders who urge them toward killing and go to the streets saying they want to decide for themselves and make peace with their Israeli cousins. Then there would be no where in the world better to live than where there is peace and safety and prosperity for all. Viva Israel, the last best hope for mankind.
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