SodaStream in the West Bank

Controversy continues to bubble over the SodaStream countertop carbonator. The popular home gadget — used to turn regular tap water into a variety of fizzy drinks — has generated controversy due to the fact that SodaStream operates a manufacturing plant in the occupied West Bank. For some, raging against the SodaStream is just part of a larger effort to boycott Israeli products, or at least products made in the occupied territories. They point out that Israeli settlement in those territories is illegal under Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, and has been declared illegal by the International Court of Justice.

None the less, it is probably tempting for many to shrug their shoulders at the whole thing. Many North Americans without a partisan tie to the issue may just think of the conflict between Israel and Palestine as one of “those” conflicts, “over there.” Consider: for the average middle-aged North American, it’s a conflict that has been making headlines for literally our entire lives, with both sides apparently taking turns at acting badly and no end in sight. It’s understandable if a few of us consider it a wash, declining to take sides and staring blankly when the topic comes up.

SodaStream’s spokesperson, incidentally, is none other than Scarlett Johansson. The Jewish Daily Forward referred to Johansson’s affiliation with the company as an unhelpful ‘normalizing’ of the Israeli occupation. After all, what could be more normal and peaceful than opening up a factory and offering people employment? There’s a sense in which that might be an understatement: building factories on occupied land — any occupied land — could easily be thought of as an act of war.

On the other hand, as defenders of the company point out, the factory is giving jobs to a few hundred Palestinians, and giving someone a job is hardly an act of aggression. For that matter, in most parts of the world it is acknowledged that commerce is generally conducive to peace. The more prosperous people are — roughly, the more they have to lose — the less likely they are to engage in warfare.

Does it matter, either way? From the point of view of outcomes, it’s hard to see much value in avoiding buying a SodaStream, even given a principled objection to operating factories in occupied territory. Your purchase (roughly $80 – $120) isn’t buying guns, or barbed wire. And the fraction-of-a-fraction of the purchase price that ends up contributing to the company’s bottom line isn’t going to either keep SodaStream in business or put them out of it. Your purchase, in other words, is trivial.

But isn’t refusal to buy a SodaStream another example of the growing, and generally positive, trend toward conscious consumerism? It arguably is, but in fact the benefits of conscious consumerism are not as obvious as many would have you think. As my friend, Professor Alexei Marcoux, argues, refusing to do business with someone because you disagree with their values is a dangerous road to go down. Given the huge number of moral disagreements in the world, we should think twice about becoming the sort of people who let such disagreements get in the way of engaging in mutually beneficial trade. That’s not a knock-down argument against any and all principled refusals to do business, but it’s a point worth making.

Now, the conflict between Israel and Palestine is no garden-variety disagreement. But that might just be the point. It’s not at all clear that we should want a controversy so bitter, and so protracted, to occupy our purchasing decisions.

45 comments so far

  1. Curt Day on

    Boycotting is a democratic way of voting with our dollars. And the real question is whether we are willing to take a look at the whole picture rather than selective parts. So when the logic that says that giving Palestinians jobs will decrease their desire to engage in war, are we looking at the whole picture or selective parts?

  2. Chris MacDonald on

    Just for the record, I never said that “giving Palestinians [specifically] jobs will decrease their desire to engage in war.” The point was more general than that.

    • Curt Day on

      You did write:

      “The more prosperous people are — roughly, the more they have to lose — the less likely they are to engage in warfare.”

      If those jobs make the Palestinians more prosperous, then wouldn’t that prosperity decrease their desire to engage in war?

      But the above semantics is not the issue. The issue is whether enough of the whole picture has been presented. My understanding of the situation, which, in part, comes from talking to both some settlers and Zionists is that it not just what land is occupied which causes conflict, it is that the land that the Palestinians currently live on is also targeted for future settlements. In addition, shouldn’t the whole picture give a brief synopsis of life for the Palestinians. Such is complicated because Palestinian life is not a monolith. But shouldn’t we know the degree of suffering experienced by Palestinians before deciding on buying/boycotting SodaStream?

      • Patrick Coutermarsh on

        While agree that having more information about the conflict and conditions there would be a good thing, I think you are taking the original post out of context. Throughout the post, particularly the last sentences, a deliberate stand on the issue (of whether one should/shouldn’t buy from SodaStream) wasn’t taken. It seems to me the general message he wanted to get across was that consumers shouldn’t be dollar voting on a whim, and instead should consider the issue from more perspectives than just the one trending on Twitter — which is actually consistent with your point about getting more information before making purchasing decisions.

      • Chris MacDonald on

        Curt: Yes, but I wanted to make clear that I didn’t single out the Palestinians as the ones who would be placated by commerce.

  3. Curt Day on

    Patrick,
    I believe that the point of the article is to make a non-dogmatic proposal that mutual business benefits should outweigh moral concerns. Again, making it non-dogmatic means that it isn’t a demand or an absolute. Fine. But, as in other cases, commerce is the overall king of the hill while morally based purchasing can be dangerous. If these points are true, is there a significant but mild encouragement here to participate in amorally based purchasing?

    In addition, in this case, there should have been a bit more to describe the overall situation that was presented without significantly lengthening the article.

    • Patrick Coutermarsh on

      Chad,
      On whether there is a “significant but mild encouragement here to participate in amorally based purchasing,” I’d say that it’s wrong to call such a view amoral. My understanding is that Marcoux (in the linked article) is calling on people to account for the deferred/loss in value, at both an individual and societal level, that occurs when you buy a sub-optimum product due to a moral concern or difference (Defining sub-optimum based on quality, price and “basic commercial integrity”). So is it utilitarian? Yes. Amoral? No. This isn’t to say that there could be a number of instances where the loss in value is negligible or simply outweighed by the moral consideration, and I think that the original post accounts for both. At the same time, I can appreciate the view that one should be willing to pass on transaction gains for the sake of their values, but would also say that it’s still important to recognize the costs of those decisions and incorporate them into the decision making calculus.

      • Patrick Coutermarsh on

        *Curt — sorry about that!

      • Curt Day on

        Patrick,
        What is there about utilitarian that isn’t amoral?

      • Chris MacDonald on

        Utilitarianism (in the philosophical or non-philosophical sense) is about achieving good outcomes. That’s not amoral, but rather quite significant, ethically.

  4. Curt Day on

    Chris,
    Utilitarianism measures morality not by principle kept or transgressed, but by the balance of outcomes. To that extent, it is quite amoral as well as subjective. For the balance outcomes is chosen by the those who employ utilitarianism. Why some outcomes outweigh others depends on the individual’s view of the situation. The example of Oliver North justifying his lying about the Iran-Contra affair is such an example.

    • Chris MacDonald on

      Yes, utilitarianism is about outcomes; and outcomes matter, ethically. They’re not all that matters, but they matter.

      Utilitarianism is no more subjective than any other approach to ethics. All require us to do our best to interpret the situation we’re in, determine the relevant ethical principles, and to balance them when they conflict. Yes, those who employ utilitarianism have to choose — but that’s true under any system. You choose, and are subject to being judged based on the choice you make.

      (If you want more on the history of utilitarianism, see here: http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/consequentialism/ )

      • Curt Day on

        Chris,
        Isn’t utilitarianism just a version of the ends justify the means? And is utilitarianism is as subjective as other outcomes? For example, if we base our morality on God’s Word, isn’t that more objective than utilitarianism? Or suppose we base morality on the principle that all people are created equal? Isn’t that morality more objective than utilitarianism? For in either case, morality is not shifting like the sands of utilitarianism.

      • Chris MacDonald on

        Yes, utilitarians generally think that the ends (if good enough) justify the means.

        But there’s nothing subjective about it. Whether Option A hurts / helps more people than Option B isn’t a subjective matter, like whether vanilla is better than chocolate. Utilitarianism (and I’m explaining, here, not advocating) puts forward an objective, external standard: doing the right thing isn’t about what YOU want or feel, it’s about your effect on the world.

        And divine commands, too, are notoriously subject to individual judgment — both in interpreting them and in balancing them when they conflict.

      • Curt Day on

        Chris,
        There is definitely something subjective about it. Because what helps/hurts is subjectively chosen. Just like Oliver North’s decision to lie to Congress, what he considered good or best for the country was subjectively chosen. It is simply a rationalization with which you can justify any action. Take slavery for example, the utilitarian reasoning says that it built a successful economy for us and all it took was sacrificing the lives of others who were deemed not good enough to count and it gave them a place to stay anyway.

        As for the divine commands being subjective, really? The divine commands coming from someone else giving us universal standards for what we owe people regardless of what it costs us. Whereas the utilitarian ethic says I owe others nothing but how I treat them depends on what greatest good will come to my group.

        Or take the principle of universality as another objective principle. That principle says if what I do to others is right, then it is right for them to do the same to me. And if what others do to me is wrong, then it is wrong if I do the same to them. But, again, the utilitarian principle says how we treat others depends on the maximum benefit for us.

        Let me know if I have misstated the utilitarian position here. And thank you for the discussion.

      • Chris MacDonald on

        The fact that you can reasonably criticize Ollie North or the slave owner means that it’s not just subjective. There are facts out in the world about how many people are harmed or benefited, and by how much, and that’s what utilitarians consider. The fact that the utilitarian *might* condone slavery is based on a calculation of the amount of harm and benefit (which we can dispute, because it’s not subjective), and which we can further critique on grounds of human rights violations.

        You can feel free to consider divine command objective, but the interpretation and application is subjective ONLY in the same way that the utilitarian standards is: namely, that it requires human judgment to apply. I wouldn’t call either subjective, actually.

      • Curt Day on

        Chris,
        The reason why I can criticize Oliver North and slavery is because I am not utilitarian. But other utilitarians can which means that it is subjective. And what constitutes harming and helping is not universally agreed on. In the business world, it is based on commerce as opposed to economics and what justifies actions depends on who is helped or harmed. And that is the basic crux of my question. Did I understand the utilitarian position correctly by saying that right and wrong depends on whether an action help us more than it hurts us or regardless of the harm it causes others? For neither Oliver North nor the Slave owners factored in the harm caused to others by their actions.

        And though there are times when subjectivity comes into play with divine commands, if one believes that God judges us by His word, then there is an objective judge holding us accountable regardless of what our subjective judgment says.

        In addition, the principle of universality provides an objective judgment over our actions.

      • Chris MacDonald on

        We’re clearly using words in different ways.

        The fact that people could disagree doesn’t mean something is subjective. Some people think the earth is flat. That doesn’t prove that geography/geometry is subjective. It means that some people are wrong about the shape of the earth.

        And no, the utilitarian standard is emphatically NOT about what helps/harms us most. It’s about what produces the most happiness / least misery for all concerned. Under a utilitarian standard, everyone matters and everyone matters equally.

      • Curt Day on

        Chris,
        But doesn’t classifying Oliver North’s Iran-Contra actions or old southern slavery as being utilitarian contradict the idea that utilitarianism is equally concerned with the happiness/misery of all?

        And I don’t believe the comparison you are making in trying to show that utilitarian is not subjective. The standards used to determine what helps/hurts are subjective. The business world uses commerce measurements to determine what is good or bad. Someone else might use personal or group freedom. Who is to say that the measurements of others are wrong according to utilitarian standards? The world is flat is an objective statement for which there is no room for respectful disagreement. That is we can’t hold to two contrary opinions regarding this subject in today’s world and say that we just honestly disagree but both have a point.

        And again, thank you for continuing this. I am searching for precision here.

      • Chris MacDonald on

        Ollie North wasn’t my example, it was yours. I have no idea what standard North applied, utilitarian or otherwise. I think his standard was narrowly (and perhaps misguidedly) nationalistic, rather than utilitarian.

        The utilitarian says: “Do WHATEVER will produce the most happiness”. Yes, of course that requires individual judgment. That doesn’t make the *standard* subjective. You can easily be wrong — empirically, measurably wrong — about which of two options will actually help/hurt the most people. The *standard* is objective, in being external to any individual. Human brains must be used — that’s what thinking requires — but that doesn’t make it subjective. It just makes it subject to error.

        Similarly: ANY divine commandment implies an external standard, one that must be applied (and could be applied wrongly) by fallible human judgment. What exactly does “respect thy father” require? It’s an objective standard, but applying it requires individual judgment. That doesn’t make it “subjective”. Nor is the utilitarian standard subjective, unless you’re simply using those words differently. (And as far as I can tell, I’m using them in a dictionary-standard kind of way.)

      • Curt Day on

        Chris,
        The classifying of Oliver North’s deception in covering up the Iran Contra Affair was done in an article by people from the Santa Clara University (see http://www.scu.edu/ethics/practicing/decision/calculating.html). They too say that utilitarianism is concerned with everybody’s welfare though that would be hard to explain to those who were attacked by the weapons purchased by Iran and the civilians attacked by the American funding of the Contras. Somehow, those others were left out of the formula calculating everyone. And this is the crux of my inquiry right now. My concern revolves around the question of whether utilitarianism justifies its actions based on the tradeoffs for one’s group far more, if at all, than the tradeoffs it brings to other groups.

        Yes, individual judgement as to what produces the most happiness can be in error. But the standards used are subjectively chosen. And if North’s actions as well as slavery are examples of utilitarianism, then we see, at best, an assumed paternalistic role over the recipients of the most negative results by those taking action. We should note that paternalism can give way to self-delusion.

        You have been gracious in responding this many times so if you want to ignore the other points, I very much understand.

        And again, regarding divine commands, the objectivity lies in the standards applied by God, not in the perceptions of people. That is why those standards are objective and minimizes the significance of human judgment.

  5. Chris MacDonald on

    I’ll give it one more shot, and then probably call it a day. ;-)

    Let’s just avoid the word “subjective” since it’s just getting in the way.

    Any system of ethics requires both a standard, and a process.

    Both utilitarianism and Divine Command insist on a standard external to the individual. Those are “The most good overall” and “This set of commands,” respectively. Both propose an external standard, and then leave it to individuals to judge how to apply it. The thought process necessarily goes on in-your-head, but the standard set is an external one. You don’t get to choose the standard, if you’re an adherent to one of those schools of thought.

    No, Utilitarianism doesn’t promise to promote the good of all, since that is sometimes impossible. Its goal is to produce the most good overall. It is sometimes criticized precisely because that aim is consistent with making terrible tradeoffs, leaving some people very badly off and others better off. But what it insists on is that all COUNT equally — men and women, black and white, Christian and Jew, American and Iraquis.

    • Curt Day on

      Chris,
      So that our conversation has an end, I will just have to state that I don’t find the equality claim to be born out in history and of course I disagree with your take on the subjective-objective part of utilitarianism. But, I want to thank you for the conversation.

    • Chris MacDonald on

      Why what’s wrong? The occupation? The factory being there? Buying a SodaStream? The boycott?

  6. Linda Nicola on

    Excerpts from the Christian Science Monitor story:

    “However, lawyers and labor activists say the picture is not that clear. While Palestinians earn roughly twice as much working at Israeli businesses in the West Bank, they lack labor rights and undermine Palestinian national aspirations…”

    “…due in part to Israeli restrictions on Palestinian travel and trade that thwarts business. Every port, border crossing, and airport accessible from the Palestinian territories is controlled by Israel with the exception of a pedestrian-only crossing at Rafah, Gaza, which is controlled by Egypt.”

    “…Today more than half a million Israelis live in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, which were conquered in Israel’s 1967 war with its Arab neighbors. The United Nations has declared settlement of these areas to be in “flagrant violation” of the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention, which governs the treatment of civilians in occupied territory.
    One of the workers waiting for the SodaStream bus this morning says he hates the fact that he’s working in an Israeli settlement, and lies to people when they inquire about his work.
    “I’m ashamed I’m working there,” he says. “I feel this is our land, there should be no [Israeli] factory on this land.”
    He feels like a “slave,” working 12 hours a day assembling parts – drilling in 12,000 screws a day, he adds.”…
    ….”estimates that 95 percent of Palestinian employees of Israeli businesses in those areas do not earn the minimum wage of 4,300 shekels ($1,230)..:
    “…“I think it’s a really tough thing, and we’re weighing two different important values,” says Elisheva Goldberg, a writer in Jerusalem who says it’s critical to remember the limitations facing Palestinians working in Area C under Israeli occupation.
    “If their other option is to go and pluck chickens, what does that say about the space they’re living in, the barriers they’re facing?”…

  7. Raj Simons on

    I encourage you all to watch this video from the BBC, I found it quite interesting.

    Any objective viewer can come to the conclusion that Oxfam is motivated by more than their desire to help Palestinians.

    Below are some excerpts from articles:

    From The Telegraph: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/israel/10610343/We-need-1000-SodaStreams-around-here.html

    “We have no problems working here”, said one Palestinian employee, as others nodded in agreement. “The relations with the others are good, the pay is fine. But the way home is sometimes very long”.

    One outside contractor who regularly visited the plant added: “It’s rare to see a company like this. Everyone sits together, works together. If you ask me, there should be a thousand SodaStreams in this area.”

    A Palestinian worker from East Jerusalem is waiting at the bus stop, talking into his mobile phone. “I like working here. The relations between people are good, what can I say?”

    From Gawker:
    http://gawker.com/what-sodastreams-palestinian-employees-think-about-sca-1513475552?utm_campaign=Feed%3A+gawker%2Ffull+%28Gawker%29&utm_medium=feed&utm_source=feedburner

    In a Huffington Post blog post last week defending her association with SodaStream, Johansson said she’s “proud of the…quality of their product and work environment,” and said the factory places Israelis and Palestinians together side-by-side in cooperation. That frankly sounds too kumbaya to be true, but a similar sentiment was actually volunteered without prompting by the Palestinian workers here.

    “Hell yeah, I’m happy. We’re like family. We have fun,” said Mohammed Yousef, 22, from the Palestinian village of Jaba. “We are Jews and Muslims here. We are here peacefully. We have no problems. Everyone is complaining about settlements here and everywhere, but SodaStream is different.”

    The workers here say they take home about $1,200 monthly–anywhere from double to triple common wages in the territories. The company also provides pensions and some medical insurance.

    Truth be told, the SodaStream workers and local Palestinians were downright peeved when asked about the efforts of solidarity activists and their own government to boycott SodaStream. That could cost the hundreds of Palestinians wage earners salaries that are significantly higher than what they would make at home.

    “I talk a lot to friends abroad. They say, ‘You are an Arab. How can you work there?’” he said. “Nobody knows there are 1,000 people and their lives will be turned upside down by the [boycott]. You are killing them, so stop it.”

    • Curt Day on

      So by making Palestinians dependent beneficiaries of SodaStream, it puts one who is concerned about the occupation in a damned if you do/damned if you don’t scenario. Of course, what put the Palestinians in the need for jobs from SodaStream was the occupation and the extension of the settlements in the first place.

      The short term needs of Palestinians are temporarily solved by the success of businesses like SodaStream. But the short-term also includes subjugation while the long-term solidifies it if not guaranteeing expulsion in the future. One must remember that in the mind of the settlers, all of the land belongs to them regardless of how long the Palestinians have been living there.

      In addition, not everybody agrees regarding what is the current treatment of Palestinian employees. For documentation, see below:

      http://www.globalexchange.org/economicactivism/sodastream/why

      http://electronicintifada.net/content/sodastream-treats-us-slaves-says-palestinian-factory-worker/12441

      • Raj Simons on

        Hi Curt,

        I’m going to reply to you and not Linda. Her comment is incredibly offensive to the memory of pre-civil war Black slaves and those under slavery anywhere in the world. I don’t think her comment warrants any serious consideration.

        I have numbered my points for ease of reference.

        1) First, it seems like we disagree on premises. I appreciate that you are critical of news sources, and I am the same way. But even if we were to agree, for the sake of argument, that Soda Stream doesn’t treat its employees that well, we still have different opinions on the factory. You seem to want the factory moved, I like it there.

        2) Soda Stream could easily move their plant to undisputed Israeli land (which is not truly undisputed as most Palestinians consider all of Israel to be Palestinian land, including the Palestinian governments).

        If Soda Stream moved their plant, the Palestinians would lose their jobs. I’m looking at this issue in the simplest way possible, and you disagree with that. I appreciate your perspective.

        You are forward looking and I think we need to acknowledge some basic historical facts to predict what can, and likely will happen in the future.

        3) Looking back, Israel took the Gaza Strip and the West Bank in the ’67 war. The objective of the war was undisputedly to kill the Jews and destroy Israel.

        For 20 years between ’48 and ’67 Egypt controlled Gaza and Jordan controlled the West Bank.

        Nobody wanted a Palestinian state at that time. There were no protests or BDS movements. Why? Were the Palestinians not around? Why were people outraged only when Israel controlled that land?

        Those are questions I don’t have answers to.

        4) In 2005 Israel pulled out of the Gaza strip. I’m sure you remember. Israelis were furious. They had built lives there, and an economy. Houses, schools and factories were torn down and rebuilt in Israel. This was all in the name of peace. What did the Palestinians give in return? Thousands of rockets and the constant threat of death to Israelis.

        There is not a single soldier on Gazan soil. People seem to ignore this completely, but it seems to be a reasonable indicator of what would happen if Israel left the West Bank.

        5) Israel is willing to leave the West Bank. It doesn’t matter what Israeli settlers think, the Israeli government will pull them out like they did the Israelis in Gaza. Recent estimates are that Israeli is willing to give up 95% of the West Bank with some land swaps that I assume you think are reasonable.

        What will happen then? More rockets, more attacks? What do you really want to see in 5 years time? I don’t see how the West Bank withdrawal will be any different from the Gaza withdrawal.

    • Linda Nicola on

      When all other businesses are destroyed by the Israelis, and they have no other choices, then they are slaves. They *have* to say nice things or be punished. There are a few brave enough or have nothing else left to lose, that will tell the truth.

      Ask a pre-civil war (USA) black slave how they like working for the massa’…they will always say they like it just fine.

      When one lives under occupation , you are not free to say what you think.

    • Curt Day on

      Raj,
      Have to respond to your last comment this way because there was no reply button with your last comment. If we are to be honest, Modern Zionism, which started in the 1800s, had a legitimate concern and reason. That is to escape Christian Europe’s anti-semitism. The escape was not just to another land, but to take on a new persona. That persona was based on the premise that Jewish security conditioned on Jewish control. And even excluding the horrible atrocities of the Holocaust, the desire for security and the responsibility of its leaders to protect their own people is legitimate.

      However, nobody reduce their responsibilities down to concerning themselves only. We all have a responsibility to treat our neighbors justly and as equals and for modern Zionists, others inhabited the same land that the Jews were seeking to control. And that is the moral dilemma of Modern Zionism.

      And if we in the West wish to lay the blame for the treatment of Palestinians by the Israelis on anyone, we Christians, Europeans especially, must lay it on ourselves first for not only creating the need, but providing a negative model for how to treat outsiders. As a close friend a fellow activist, Rita Corriel wrote, Israel has “learned far more from the behavior of your oppressors, than from the experience of being oppressed” (see http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/HL0310/S00067.htm).

      Now to your points Yes, SodaStream could move to the land inside the of Israel rather than to the Occupied territories. In fact, this would be the moral move. Having plants inside the Occupied Territories only strengthens Israel’s intentions to keep more Palestinian land. And supposing that SodaStream treats its employees as positively reported, the treatment of Palestinians will not be as equals, but rather as subjugated people. The benevolent treatment of subjugated people is called paternalism. And we can neither sweep the illegal location of SodaStream nor the occupation under the carpet of paternalism. After all, as Howard Zinn pointed out, some slaveowners from the old South treated their slaves benevolently. But that could never rationalize any instance of the institution of slavery.

      BTW, it wasn’t the Palestinians who attacked Israel in the ’67 war. In fact, Israel started the war by attacking first though they were not attacking the Palestinians. Not that the situation was simple nor was there only one side to blame. But in the end, Israel’s first strike and attacks were designed to seize land and strengthen its defensive position. In addition, it wasn’t the Palestinians who were threatening Israel, It was, if memory serves, Syria and Egypt. I can’t remember how Jordan was involved. Finally, taking that land as a result of the war did not imply that it was legally theirs. It was still Palestinian land and, according to International Law, Israel was, and still is, obligated to leave the land asap.

      In addition, past Arab treatment of Palestinians is not the issue. Neither is the absence of the BDS movement which would have been ahead of its time since the BDS movement is a peaceful attempt to resolve the occupation issue and it took its cue from the boycott of South Africa due to its apartheid–remember that apartheid means separation.

      Yes, in 2005, Israel removed its settlements from Gaza but not its military control. And since then, Gaza has simply become an open air prison with its economic resources being constantly destroyed and its people under surveillance and attack. That Hamas fires missiles at israel and has conducted suicide missions, as highly immoral as they are, is not the issue because Hamas’s actions are not the first strike. They are a response to an immoral occupation. Yes, both the missile attacks and suicide attacks must stop. But we can’t pretend that they are independent of the occupation nor that the occupation itself is not immoral.

      In addition, as Israel pulled out of Gaza in 2005, it expanded its holdings on the West Bank. That means that it took more and more land and that means bulldozing homes and expelling people. And that was for the building of more settlements. Israel continues to want more of the Jerusalem area and there is no indication, from what I have seen, that it is willing to pull out of the West Bank. The Separation Wall, which extends well beyond the Green Line, is a strong indicator of Israel’s intentions. So is the continued state sponsored expansion of settlements with its removal of Palestinians.

      And, btw, in the Spring of both 2006 and 2008, Hamas offered to fully recognize Israel conditioned on their return to the ’67 borders. Yet Israel made no effort to respond.

      There are no innocent parties in this conflict. But there is a moral principle. That principle is that you must respect the sovereignty and equality of the other side. And the side that is holding most of the cards here is the one responsible for initiating an end to the occupation.

      • Linda Nicola on

        Bless you Sir. Not only do you know your history, you *get* it.

      • Raj Simons on

        Curt,

        Israel exists today both because of the two millennia longing for the Jewish people to return to Zion and because the Palestinian Jews managed to successfully resist a war of annihilation unleashed by every one of her Arab neighbors. The Jewish state was not created; it was reborn.

        Regarding your first point, Israel has dismantled settlements time and time again. In 1977, Anwar Sadat established peace with Israel. There were settlements in the Sinai, but they were removed, and a lasting peace was made.

        Let me address the 67 war.

        Israel did not attack the Palestinians. You’re correct. Israel was forced to defend itself when Syria, Egypt, Jordan and Iraq intensified terrorist attacks and Egypt illegally blocked Israel’s access to international waters and expelled UN peace-keeping forces. (That is an act of war, by the way).

        The four Arab countries mobilized more than 250,000 troops, armed with Soviet-supplied tanks and aircraft, on Israel’s borders in preparation for a full-scale invasion. The Iraqi defence minister ordered his troops to “strike the enemy’s civilian settlements, turn them into dust and pave the Arab roads with the skulls of Jews.” Israel preempted them in a defensive war and managed to capture the West Bank from Jordan, Gaza and the Sinai Peninsula from Egypt, and the Golan Heights from Syria.

        You can’t remember how Jordan was involved, here it is from what I understand. Israel would not have captured the West Bank or reunified Jerusalem if King Hussein had heeded the warning of Prime Minister Eshkol to stay out of the war. Instead Jordan attacked, and, in the course of defending itself, Israel found itself in control of these territories.

        the fact that there were no established sovereigns in the West Bank or Gaza Strip prior to the Six Day War means that the territories should not be viewed as “occupied” by Israel. When territory without an established sovereign comes into the possession of a state with a competing claim – particularly during a war of self defense – that territory can be considered disputed.

        “We intend to open a general assault against Israel. This will be total war. Our basic aim will be to destroy Israel.” (Egyptian President Gamel Abdel Nasser, 26 May 1967)

        “The sole method we shall apply against Israel is total war, which will result in the extermination of Zionist existence.” (Egyptian Radio, “Voice of the Arabs”, 18 May 1967)

        “I, as a military man, believe that the time has come to enter into a battle of annihilation.” (Syrian Defense Minister Hafez al-Assad, 20 May 1967)

        “The existence of Israel is an error which must be rectified… Our goal is clear – to wipe Israel off the map.” (Iraqi President Abdur Rahman Aref, 31 May 1967)

        The Arab threats to destroy Israel in the period preceding the war were made when Israel did not control the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

        After Israel captured the West Bank from Jordan and captured Gaza from Egypt in 1967, Arab states refused Israel’s offer to exchange the captured land for peace.

        Israel built settlements and resettled lands that Jewish families had owned in the West Bank until the 1948 War when they were expelled.

        Built-up areas of Israeli settlements now cover less than 2 percent of West Bank land.

        Eighty percent of Israeli settlers live in communities located close to or adjacent to the Green Line. With peaceful negotiations, they can be incorporated into Israel with minor border modifications and do not impact Palestinian population centres.

        An example of a settlement:
        Ma’ale Adumim, a 30-year-old residential city three miles northeast of Jerusalem, was built on vacant, unowned land. With its 33,259 residents, it is the second-largest Jewish community in the West Bank.

        Gaza.
        Israel has only one concern, which is to ensure that Hamas, a declared enemy of Israel, does not get additional means to threaten its neighbour.

        The principles of the Hamas are stated in their Covenant or Charter.
        “Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before it.”

        Israel cannot make peace with an organization who’s goal is to destroy it. 

        The Gaza blockade is designed to ensure that missiles and other long range weapons do not reach the hands of terrorists.  Israel has no other choice. Food and other supplies are passed on. Inspection is an act of self defence.

        Israel doesn’t occupy Gaza. There is no justification for the missile and suicide attacks. These attacks target civilians.

        there are well over 200 NGOs in the West Bank and Gaza, and 30% of the GDP here comes from international aid. Palestinians are among the most foreign aid funded people in the world. No Palestinian business can compete with NGOs which routinely triple what a local firm would pay. Many NGOs fork out ‘danger money’ and even ‘hardship payments’ to both local and international staff which further undermines the local private businesses. So the NGOs get the brightest and the highest paid, and the private firms get the rest but without the tax exemptions.

        Additionally, Gaza has a border crossing with Egypt. Israel has no control over that crossing and the Gazans are free to do as they please. The only thing holding back the Gazan economy is the Gazans themselves.

      • Linda Nicola on

        you really need to read non-propaganda history. Everything you wrote is twisted and distorted beyond belief. It would take many many posts to unravel all the lies. You are determined to hold to your bigotry and hate. Palestinians are being suffocated, starved, bullied, tortured, denied rights…Israel is destroying both Gaza and the other occupied territories. Thank God there are people who don’t believe such nonsense and fight for the Palestinians…even some Israelis and Jews believe in Palestine. but the government won’t be happy till all Palestinians are gone by any means possible…then they will move on to jJordan, Lebanon, Syria, and Egypt. As they have stated previously. Ask about where their border is…they won’t answer. They never define their borders, because they have already claimed the land from the “Nile to the Euphrates.”

        Please, i beg of you to read real history and talk to real people. Leave the propaganda alone. You’ve made up your mind and try to find the justifications and excuses for it after. let the evidence dictate the beliefs, not the other way around.

      • Curt Day on

        Raj,
        If you are going to be insulting, this is my last correspondence with you. The length of the notes is simply unmanageable to guarantee all points will be addressed. That is why I narrowed it down. So if you want a correspondence here, quit with the insults.

        True, there has been a Jewish presence in the land for a long time. I already acknowledged a previous Jewish presence when I wrote that, for the most part, religiously Palestinian conservative Jews rejected Modern Zionism until the Holocaust. I don’t see the evidence for saying that there was any significant Zionist movement that intended to remake a Jewish state. So what we are debating here is the legitimacy of the Modern Zionist movement because it is that movement that put the current Jewish state in place.

        Some from the region have called this European initiated movement a European colonization. If you need some historical background, simply go to websites sponsored by Israel itself for the history (for example, see Political Zionism in the following website: http://mfa.gov.il/MFA/AboutIsrael/History/Pages/HISTORY-%20Foreign%20Domination.aspx).

        BTW, we don’t agree on the need for a Jewish state. I agree on the need for a place of security for Jews. In fact, Jews should be secure regardless of where they live. The hatred and relegation to second class citizenry at best is both abhorrent and inexcusable. So while I believe that Palestine should be a homeland for Jews, I don’t believe it should be a Jewish state because Palestine should not be exclusively for Jews. The land already had non-Jewish residents. Thus, to make that land a jewish state would be to demote people there who were non-Jewish to being second class citizens. And that demotion applies to more than one ethnicity.

        So we the issue we have to discuss is the legitimacy of a Jewish state that was started by European Jews who had legitimate security concerns because of the centuries of horrid, Christian European anti-Semitism.

    • Curt Day on

      Raj,
      We have impasse here. You appear to be one side in defense of everything Israel does while the Palestinians are the evil ones. My sources are, for the most part, Jewish and Israeli along with international sources. And what you write does not match with either the news I get nor with the sources.

      BTW, those there were always conflicts, Palestinian Jews never faced “annihilation” during either the Ottoman nor the British Mandate. In addition, Israel wasn’t reborn, Modern Zionism, unlike original Israel, started as a secular movement because of Christian Europe’s harsh and brutal anti-Semitism. When European Jews concluded that they could no longer hope to be counted as equal citizens of the countries in which they resided, then, and only then, did the idea of Israel come into play. In fact, many of the religious conservative Jews who lived in Palestine rejected Modern Zionism until the Holocaust occurred. Multiple jewish sources document this. They also document the intention of SOME Jews in the Modern Zionist movement to eliminate the Arab presence. Noting that there were several forms of Zionism, overgeneralizations regarding this intention are wrong. However, many of new Israel’s leaders adopted varying forms of this thinking including the father of political Zionism, Theodore Herzl.

      Now, rather than write a rebuttal for the rest of the stuff you wrote, which would only be cause us to talk past each other and get lost in words, let’s stick to what I just wrote and then we can proceed.

      • Raj Simons on

        Curt,

        I agree. It seems that when I address one of your points you move on to another without acknowledging what I’ve said.

        For example, you say Hamas offered to recognize Israel. I show excerpts from their charter that say otherwise. That is not a questionable source on my part. You can access the Hamas charter easily on Google.

        You say Israel was the aggressor in ’67. I present reasonable evidence to say otherwise.

        Do you disagree with me on all these points?

        And regarding the Gazan economy: Israel has had no presence in Gaza since August of 2005. Gaza is governed solely by Hamas with support from Iran. Israel imposed border, air, and naval controls to ensure that Hamas does not import weapons for terrorism. The Gaza Strip is on the same beautiful Mediterranean coast as Tel Aviv. Imagine what a prosperous tourist spot it could be if Gaza’s government focused on state-building and peace instead of rocket building and war.

        I came to this blog as a businessman who values the work soda stream does. I appreciate that soda stream has Israeli and Palestinian employees working side by side. You do not. I respect that. I never criticized you for that. We should move on.

        I am critical of Israel, she is not perfect. But at the same time, I do not hold her to a double standard. I respect that Israel is the only true democracy in the Middle East, even after the Arab spring. I respect and appreciate that Israel has a strong gay community. I appreciate that my LGBT friends can be proud and open in Israel. It’s unfortunate that gays in Gaza can be killed for being who they are. I respect that women can dress as they please in Israel, and be in parliament.

        I am not a professor of Middle East studies and I am not here to represent Israel. I never demonized the Palestinian people. I feel sorry for them that Hamas treats them so poorly. I feel sorry that Jordan has never given the Palestinian refugees citizenship and that they keep them in camps. I appreciate that Arab Palestinians are professors in Israeli universities. I appreciate that Arabs are in the Israeli army and police force. I think that is heartwarming. 

        I wish there was peace, and I do not believe that Israel has some plan to destroy Gaza and the West Bank. I don’t believe that there is an Israeli plot to take control of the Middle East. 

        If I truly wanted to influence the masses I wouldn’t use this platform. The only people who see these comments are us.

        Now to your last point.

        I don’t really like the idea of debating the intricacies of modern Zionism. As I said, I am not an expert and I have no investment in the issue either way.

        I think we both agree that there has been a Jewish presence in the land for thousands of years. We agree that there was and is a need for the Jewish state.

        If we agree on that the origin is neither here nor there. For the sake of our time I’m willing to move past that and save us the headache.

      • Linda Nicola on

        Gaza has no autonomy. Israel’s blockade is total. They prevent all medical aid, supplies etc…they call everything “weapons.” Humanitarian organizations all over the world have been trying to help Gaza and have been turned away.

        And Israel said all would be well if the PLO would recognize Israel…they did and Israel did nothing. The same would happen with Hamas. (I am no fan of Hamas, but Israel assassinated all the moderate leaders.)

        How can Israel be a true democracy when it is a theocracy? To paraphrase Animal Farm…some are more equal than others.

        while you are talking to Curt…I do not agree that Jews have been in Palestine for thousands of years. And this has never been about Judaism. Its about land. Palestinian Jews are treated as poorly as Palestinian Christians and Moslems. Before the European and American Jews took over, 84% of the people were not Jewish there.

        I know Israel was the aggressor in ’67.

        Women have limited rights in Israel. Women who aren’t sufficiently covered have stones thrown at them by the Orthodox. Israel has one of the highest domestic violence rates towards women.

        You really don’t know much about Israel. Please read more about it. The Simha Flaphan book is excellent. I can recommend many others written by Israelis if you won’t believe any other source.

  8. Chris MacDonald on

    Linda, Raj, Curt:

    Now you see why I suggest that it’s not surprising when consumers choose to be agnostic about a war of both guns and words that has been going on for decades. You’ve illustrated my point nicely.

    Chris

    • Linda Nicola on

      Well, I don’t support stupid needless products to begin with. And I don’t support companies with immoral practices or that support immoral practices. Its as simple as that. I do support boycotts, divestment, and sanctions.

    • Curt Day on

      Chris,
      For a consumer culture that, for the most part, is apathetic to its own government and its flaws, this is no surprise. If we have proven anything, we’ve shown that as long as people have what they want, they will ignore the abuse and exploitation of others. There is a synonym for Western individualism in a consumer society, it is called selfishness. And one of the reasons for the atrocities on 9-11 is because too many Westerners were too content with their own personal lives of consumption to care about the injustices practiced in their name.

      So how does that fit into your concern for ethics?

      • Chris MacDonald on

        My point is that even non-apathetic consumers will be frustrated by any attempt to sort through this issue in a finite amount of time. Just look at the exchange above! Several well-informed (it seems to me!) individuals can’t agree the basic facts of the story. A newcomer to the topic would be baffled.

        Ethical decision making requires access to facts, and reliable facts are few here. Few people, including ethically-conscious consumers, have the time to devote to detailed historical study just in order to determine whether to buy a kitchen gadget.

    • Curt Day on

      First, those who are not apathetic will work through the frustration simply because being non-apathetic means one cares. But those who are consumers first, will be frustrated and that is my point about business ethics. That it is good for business to embrace a consumer culture and yet the more people embrace that culture, the less they will care about things that really matter and will have a significant, if not traumatic, effect on the near or far future.

      As for the disagreement, that doesn’t imply that a significant part of the truth can’t be found without effort. That is especially true when one uses the resources of the other to prove one’s point. This is why, for example, when describing the origins of Modern Zionism, I cited Israeli sources.

      To make a medical analogy, just because some diseases might take months to years to diagnose, that doesn’t mean that ignoring the symptoms will have no consequences.

      • Chris MacDonald on

        Absolutely right. Disagreement doesn’t mean that there’s no truth. But in some cases, it means that the truth is so deeply buried that it can be reasonable not to spend much time addressing the question — especially when you’re a consumer who makes a few thousand purchase decisions a year.

    • Curt Day on

      Chris,
      If one starts with the assumption that the truth is buried, then one will never start looking. And again, when one is a part of the consumer culture, one will not look anyway. And so business, in general, has an ethical decision in terms of whether they should promote, for immediate gain, a consumer culture or they should try to do business without promoting a consumer culture. By consumer culture I mean a culture where people define themselves more by what and how they consume rather than any other trait.

      And again, with the medical analogy, the consequences of not discovering the truth means that lack of interest can be perilous for one’s future.


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