Social justice agency issues call to boycott SodaStream

March 11, 2014

The United Methodist General Board of Church & Society (GBCS) has issued a call to boycott SodaStream, a countertop carbonation device produced illegally in the occupied West Bank of the Palestinian Territories. The decision to engage in the boycott of SodaStream was overwhelmingly endorsed by the agency’s Board of Directors during its spring meeting here this month.

SodaStream is among 23 “Products of the Year” announced last month by Parade Magazine. The company is Israeli-owned, but its main factory is in Mishor Adumin, an industrial zone in the illegal Israeli settlement of Maale Adumin in the Palestinian West Bank.

In calling for the boycott, the agency’s work area on Peace with Justice and International Affairs emphasized that it is doing so in compliance with United Methodist Church resolution #4011, “Guidelines for Initiating or Joining an Economic Boycott.”

“The United Methodist Church does not support a boycott of products made in Israel,” pointed out Mark Harrison, GBCS director of Peace with Justice. “Our opposition is to products made by Israeli companies operating in occupied Palestinian territories."

Disregard of laws

The SodaStream boycott, which has already begun by a coalition of Christian, Jewish and Muslim organizations, stems from the company’s disregard of both international and workers’ rights laws, including those of Israel itself.

The SodaStream factory reinforces the illegal settlements, according to GBCS. Its taxes support the settlement and the Israeli government. No taxes are paid to the Palestinian Authority.

Despite the fact that it manufactures in the largest settlement by land area in occupied Palestine, SodaStream’s products are mislabeled “Made in Israel.”

United Methodist resolution #6111, “Opposition to Israeli Settlements in Palestinian Land,” asks all companies that profit from and/or support settlements “to stop any business that contributes to serious violations of international law, promotes systemic discrimination or otherwise supports ongoing military occupation.”

Workers' rights ignored

Furthermore, the Israeli Supreme Court has ruled that Palestinians working in occupied Palestinian territory are entitled to the same labor protections as Israelis. But workers in SodaStream’s facility are expected to work regular 12-hour shifts and 60-hour weeks. Israeli labor law limits the work day to eight hours and the work week to 45 hours. Night shifts and overtime are paid at the standard rate, not at the legally required bonus pay.

Action against SodaStream’s product, which allows users to create carbonated drinks, has already begun by the Interfaith Boycott Coalition. Supporters include United Methodist Kairos Response, the Israel Palestine Mission Network of the Presbyterian Church (USA), American Friends Service Committee, Jewish Voice for Peace, Episcopal Peace Fellowship’s Palestine Israel Network, Unitarian Universalists for Justice in the Middle East, Friends of Sabeel North America, United Church of Christ, Church of the Brethren, American Muslims for Palestine, and members of the Catholic, Lutheran, Mennonite and Quaker traditions.

The Interfaith Boycott Coalition operates as a network of the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, a coalition of nearly 400 U.S. organizations including the General Board of Church & Society, General Board of Global Ministries, United Methodist Women and the Methodist Federation for Social Action.

Boycott justified

GBCS said the boycott is “justified and will serve to further the peace process between these people in conflict.” The boycott will last until SodaStream ceases production in the occupied West Bank, according to GBCS.

A successful boycott of SodaStream not only has the power to change that company’s business practices GBCS emphasized, but sends an important message to other companies profiting from the Israeli occupation of Palestine.

The General Board of Church & Society is one of four international general program boards of The United Methodist Church. Prime responsibility of the board is to seek implementation of the Social Principles and other policy statements on Christian social concerns of the General Conference, the denomination’s highest policy-making body. The board’s primary areas of ministry are Advocacy, Education & Leadership Formation, and United Nations & International Affairs. It has offices on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., and at the Church Center for the United Nations in New York City.

You can download “A Call to Boycott SodaStream” from the GBCS website. It explains the rationale, decision-making process and includes pertinent United Methodist statements on the Israel-Palestine situation.