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Saturday, September 22, 2018

“Who is BDS?” That was the question SodaStream CEO Daniel Birnbaum asked with noticeable swagger on Israel’s Channel 10 TV earlier this week.

SodaStream, the Israeli company that manufactures seltzer-making machines and employs Jews and Palestinians on equal wage scales, has for years been the target of false boycott, divestment, sanction (BDS) claims that its Palestinian employees were paid on a substandard basis.

The company meanwhile continued to offer management and rank-and-file jobs to people who live on either side of the Green Line. This week PepsiCo purchased the successful Israeli company for $3.2 billion. PepsiCo has agreed to keep SodaStream manufacturing operations in Israel for at least 15 years if not more.

SodaStream, which has strived to bring in Jewish, Palestinian, Druze and Bedouin workers and managers, is now under the umbrella of one of the world’s largest beverage companies. Hopefully, the equal treatment of its diverse staff will also fall under the world-wide magnifying glass.

BDS has done everything in its power to delegitimize SodaStream, even at the cost of jobs to Palestinian employees. It has also placed pressure on the entertainment world and its fan base to lower its interest in actress Scarlett Johansson, at one time the SodaStream celebrity spokeswoman. Johansson, who is Jewish, is also the world’s highest-paid actress. So we guess that she could probably ask “Who is BDS?” as well.

Birnbaum has said that SodaStream will remain as an independent branch of PepsiCo. The PepsiCo move will uncap employment opportunities for thousands of more employees within Greater Israel, and that means work for Jews and Palestinians, despite the dissatisfaction of BDS.

When actress Scarlett Johansson said that SodaStream was “building a bridge to peace between Israel and Palestine,” her comments flew in the face of the BDS mission, which is anything but about peace and a two-state solution. The BDS movement’s goal is the weakening and ultimate destruction of the Israeli economy.

Other companies around the world should look to SodaStream and see this great example of free enterprise where employment of diverse populations brings people together, in this case to make seltzer machines. That BDS is against SodaStream’s success is a clear definition of what this movement is about.

Why should BDS want other major corporations to invest in Israel’s manufacturing success stories? Why should BDS want Palestinians to have employment opportunities that place them on an equal wage scale as Israeli Jews?

Since SodaStream’s 1991 founding, the company has offered jobs and economic stability. This is exactly what BDS doesn’t want.

But as Mr. Birnbaum asked, “Who is BDS?”

It’s good and right and healthy that international enterprise is coming to Israel. The jobs created can work toward a stronger Israeli and regional economy so that Jews and Palestinians can find the work spaces of factories to be a safe, common ground where prosperity is in everyone’s best interest.

By Phil Jacobs