ADVERTISEMENT

Pro-Israel Groups Ship SodaStream to Harvard Leaders Following Ban

SodaStream lands on Harvard’s Doorstep in Protest to Ban on Israeli Product

Scarlett Johansson unveiled as SodaStream Global Brand Ambassador - Jan 2014
AP
• December 23, 2014 2:15 pm

Two new Israeli-made SodaStream machines have been shipped to Harvard’s top brass following the school’s decision to ban the product and economically boycott the Jewish state, the Washington Free Beacon has learned.

Pro-Israel activists on Tuesday shipped two of the soda-making devices to Harvard President Drew Faust and dining services head David Davidson following the elite university’s decision to boycott the Israeli product due to pressure from pro-Palestinian group on campus.

The stunt is being viewed as a shot across the bow to Harvard leadership on the heels of its controversial decision to cut ties with SodaStream, which is jointly manufactured in Israeli territory by Jewish and Palestinian workers.

Anti-Israel activists on Harvard’s campus have been celebrating what they believe is a massive coup for their cause after a pressure campaign convinced Harvard’s Dining Services to stop buying SodaStream as part of a larger bid to wage economic warfare on Israel.

Pro-Israel groups aggressively pushed back against the ban on Tuesday by gifting two SodaStream machines directly to Harvard’s Faust and Davidson ahead of the Christmas holiday.

The stunt is likely to rile activists on both sides of the debate and potentially put Harvard’s leadership in the tricky position of publicly commenting on the boycott of Israel.

"Please enjoy this SodaStream machine, made by Jewish and Arab employees working side-by-side in an Israeli-owned factory," reads a gift message included in the shipments to Faust and Davidson. "We hope you will enjoy SodaStream products as much as we do—like millions of people around the world who support coexistence and peace."

The move was backed by a wide array of pro-Israel organizations, including: The Israel on Campus Coalition (ICC), Hillel International, the Israel Project (TIP), Christians United for Israel (CUFI), StandWithUs, the Jewish National Fund, Hasbara Fellowships, the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA), and Chabad International.

"Delivering SodaStream gifts to the Harvard administrators is a symbolic reminder for us of two things: To punish only Israel and the Palestinians for working at Sodastream is counterproductive, and the product symbolizes the dream of peaceful coexistence between the two neighbors," said StandWithUs CEO Roz Rothstein. "To reject what Sodastream is about is anti-peace."

Harvard President Faust has since launched an inquiry into the dining facility’s decision last fall to cut ties with SodaStream, according to Harvard’s student paper, the Crimson.

Faust and others have rushed to stem the resulting public relations nightmare by declaring that the university would not make purchasing decisions based on pressure from political partisans.

Pro-Israel activists began pushing back against the ban last week by sending to Faust a letter expressing concern.

ICC executive director Jacob Baime wrote that he is "deeply troubled" over Harvard’s foray into the anti-Israel sphere.

Harvard, Baime wrote, "is now an active participant in the international Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel," according to a copy of the letter.

"Harvard University and [its dining facilities] are creating an environment that Israelis could rightfully perceive as hostile," Baime wrote. "If the presence of Israeli-made goods on campus creates discomfort for Harvard, then so, too, could the presence of Israeli students and academics."

ICC has purchased another 100 SodaStream machines for a social media giveaway campaign to Israel's supporters.

Anti-Israel activists originally convinced Harvard’s dining services (HUDS) to ban SodaStream because it is a "microagression" against Palestinian students.

"These machines can be seen as a microaggression to Palestinian students and their families and like the University doesn’t care about Palestinian human rights." Rachel Sandalow-Ash, a Harvard College Progressive Jewish Alliance member, told the Crimson last week.

Pro-Israel leaders argue that by boycotting SodaStream, Harvard and the pro-Palestinian activities are harming those who seek to coexist in peace.

SodaStream has a policy of hiring Palestinians and Israelis to work jointly in its manufacturing plant. The company has employed some 900 Palestinians, according to StandWithUs CEO Rothstein.

"The money earned by the collective group of Palestinians helped support some 5,000 Palestinians," she said. "In addition to the economic issue, the concept of Palestinians and Israelis working side by side is a model and dream for a peaceful future."

However, proponents of the BDS movement care little about coexistence and more about eradicating the Jewish state, Rothstein said.

"The BDS movement is toxic and destructive," she said. "Besides applying a double standard against only Israel for the lack of peace between the two neighbors, the leaders of the BDS movement consider it ‘normalization’ to accept that Palestinians and Israelis can work together in the first place."

Josh Block, the president and CEO of TIP, said Harvard should be backing those who support peaceful coexistence.

"Companies promoting coexistence and practicing it, by employing Israelis and Palestinians working side-by-side, are to be celebrated, if you believe in peace and coexistence," Block said. "The only reason to push a boycott of them is to hurt peace, to hurt Palestinians and to hurt the people of Israel."

"That's why even the Palestinian Authority itself has asked these radicals to stop," Block said. "As a reminder of that point and to support coexistence between Arabs and Jews, we're happy to support SodaStream and the thousands of Palestinians and Israelis who build them."

Emails sent to multiple Harvard spokesmen by the Free Beacon were not returned.