United Methodist General Board of Church & Society issues call to boycott SodaStream

The United Methodist General Board of Church & Society (GBCS), one of four international general program boards of The United Methodist Church released this statement announcing their call to boycott SodaStream:

Logo: General Board of Church & Society of The United Methodist

Logo: General Board of Church & Society of The United Methodist

CHEVY CHASE, Md. — 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.

About Annie Robbins

Annie Robbins is Editor at Large for Mondoweiss, a mother, a human rights activist and a ceramic artist. She lives in the SF bay area. Follow her on Twitter @anniefofani
Posted in Activism, BDS, Israel/Palestine

{ 17 comments... read them below or add one }

  1. American says:

    This is good.
    But I wish they would expand the boycott to other Isr products as well.
    There is a site somewhere that tells how to read barcodes on everything from tomatoes to T-shirts to see if it was imported from Israel.
    Ask consumers to not buy anything made in Israel and if they come across anything made it Israel take it to the store manager and tell him why you aren’t buying that merchandise. If enough people don’t buy Isr products stores will quit carrying the items—they become loser lines.

    • Henry Norr says:

      >>There is a site somewhere that tells how to read barcodes on everything
      >>from tomatoes to T-shirts to see if it was imported from Israel.

      The number 729 at the beginning of a barcode indicates that the product is from Israel. Not all Israeli products are so marked, however – in many cases middlemen in other countries apply codes beginning with their own country’s code number. (I’m not sure what the laws say about this practice – probably it varies by country – but if it’s legal, the prohibition is often not enforced.)

      One source on this:
      link to ipsc.ie

      • amigo says:

        American/Henry,The following is very informative but is a bit out of date, (2009).
        It does however give a fairly substantial list of products that deserve boycott.

        link to inminds.com

        I will search around some more Thursday and post anything useful.

    • i complained back in november about produce from israel i found in stopn n shop. itwo weeks later and i’ve never seen it again.
      saw tomatoes from israel in whole foods. i’ve never seen them again either but i fear they might be deceptively marking them somehow.
      deception, whats new? as the mossad so arrogantly tells us all “by deception we will make war”.

  2. elindblade says:

    As a rule I am loathe to endorse boycotts. If the boycott were to be successful, and the company forced out of business, would justice truly be served, given that there would be many workers out of work? I think that the General Board of Church and Society is finding loopholes in order to support boycott, against the wisdom of the General Conference and the Board of Pensions. Also, all this is being played out in the larger context of peace efforts between the Palestinian Authority and Israel. I would like to see the process continue without even more outside pressure.

    • all this is being played out in the larger context of peace efforts between the Palestinian Authority and Israel. I would like to see the process continue without even more outside pressure.

      for how many more decades? if the situation were reversed, and jews were living under a brutal occupation for decades, or you and your loved ones were living(and dying) in a brutal occupation for decades with no rights, would you also support, in the larger context of peace effort, the process continue without even more outside pressure?

    • W.Jones says:

      If there is a product a progressive group of people do not like, they do not have to buy it. If Sodastream is abusing people, we don’t have to buy Sodastream.

    • Coca Cola survived to continue triggering obesity and NIDDM. So shall SodaStream, et al. The only effect of BDS on Israeli businesses is that they have to scaling of production for reduced demand.

      But first and foremost, these businesses made the strategic decision to conduct business in illegal places and manner.

    • puppies says:

      @elinetc. – “I would like to see the process continue without even more outside pressure.”
      But the process is continuing no matter the pressure, the process of invasion, dispossession, military and civilian occupation, forced expulsion, torture, mass murder, random culling, war of aggression and, sure enough, gratuitous sadism too. It will no doubt bloom better “without outside pressure”.

    • “I would like to see the process continue without even more outside pressure.”

      Negotiations between a very strong party and an extremely weak one are a farce. The weak is not in a position to make its demands met and nothing but submission will do. BDS is there to remind Israel that it’s vulnerable too.

  3. American says:

    Lets add this this to the mix.
    Israel against the US___US -Zionist against American-Americans____Christian Churches against I/P___Christian Churches for Boycott__US Congress against Boycott__ Congress against Christian Churches__Christianity against Judaism.
    Sounds like the perfect storm to me. Faster please. Lets settle USA vr Isr once and for all.

    US House Committee on Foreign Affairs Discusses BDS ‘Threat’

    link to middleeastmonitor.com

    (snips)

    The growing strength of the Boycott Divestment Sanctions (BDS) movement was a topic of discussion at the US House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation, and Trade last week. The subcommittee’s March 5 hearing was on “Threats to Israel: Terrorist Funding and Trade Boycotts”. Chaired by Rep. Ted Poe (TX), witnesses included author Edwin Black and attorney Steven Perles.

    The topic of boycotts was tackled by the third witness Dr. David Pollock, a fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP), a right-wing, pro-Israel think tank. Pollock’s statement to the subcommittee focused on BDS, including his assessment about the threat it poses to Israel, and what can be done about it.

    Pollock gave an update on the latest BDS developments, from Scarlett Johansson to the Norwegian YMCA, and gave his take on current official European Union (EU) thinking. Pollock downplayed BDS successes, but conceded such initiatives could “gain momentum”, particularly if there is no “countervailing campaign”. He later noted that “the prospect of growing unofficial economic reprisals against Israel, in case of a breakdown in the peace process, is a real one”.

    His final conclusion was that BDS “as an unofficial movement, and even as an official response limited to Israeli settlements” is “gradually gaining strength in some quarters – and could surge in the event that the current peace talks deadlock or disband.”.

    • I’m bemused by the fact that BDS is now within the realm of the “US House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Terrorism.” So does that make boycotting in the US an act of domestic terrorism?

  4. just says:

    Glad to hear it.

    I’ve been wondering if the pastors inform/teach their ‘flocks’ about these decisions- the who, what, where, when, how and WHY of the decisions to boycott– I surely hope so.

    It could prove powerful against the evangelicals seeking the rapture…….and the Zionists who are using them.

  5. Boomer says:

    A small step by itself, but an encouraging sign.