Trending Topics:

Presbyterians on Israel lobby junket visit SodaStream but fail to see life under occupation

ActivismIsrael/PalestineUS Politics
(Photo: Jeffrey DeYoe)

(Photo: Jeffrey DeYoe)

This past February, at the beginning of our Palestine olive tree planting trip sponsored by the Joint Advocacy Initiative of the Beit Sahour YMCA we had the opportunity to take a tour, led by a prominent Israeli human rights activist, through the large illegal Israeli settlement known as Ma’ale Adumim, and then its industrial park known as Moshe Adumim.   That park, of course, is the location of the Sodastream manufacturing plant that is part of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) boycott policy regarding products manufactured in these illegal settlements in the West Bank.

Pro-Israeli Presbyterians who oppose boycott, of course, are up in arms about this policy, and recently sponsored a trip through the America-Israel Friendship League (AIFL) designed for “delegates” from the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) who self-identified as having previously “endorsed boycotts.”   The purpose of the trip, of course, was to change their minds before the next Presbyterian General Assembly so that they could stand in opposition to BDS initiatives.  This was all happening about the same time that our international delegation of 50 olive tree planters found ourselves outside the gates of the same Sodastream plant where these AIFL- sponsored Presbyterians got the VIP treatment.   Since some commissioners to the 220th General Assembly in Pittsburgh had to admit that they had been provided with free trips before the national meeting in 2012, creating both a stir and embarrassment, groups like AIFL have changed tactics and are now providing such trips not to actual commissioners but to those who can go and lobby them at the 221st General Assembly meeting in Detroit this June.

The opponents of the Sodastream boycott cite the usual statistics: 1300 Sodastream employees including 500 Palestinians from the Occupied Territories, and 450 Israeli Arabs and Jews.   The difference between these two latter categories, of course, is that Israeli Arabs live out the equivalent of what once was the Jim Crow legal structure of the American south.

Let’s be clear: It is a nice thing, sort of, that Sodastream employs so many Palestinians, especially since Israeli occupation makes it impossible for Palestinian society to do the same for its own people.  And even in Israel proper, Palestinians with Israeli citizenship do not get very many good jobs because most require previous Israeli military service and Palestinians are generally exempted from such service by the Israeli government.  Yes, it is nice that over 500 Palestinians have jobs at Sodastream and make a relatively decent living, but that puts them in a very small Palestinian minority.  Understandably, no Palestinian employed there is going to voice complaints about actual work conditions or the fact that the very existence of Sodastream in the West Bank, and the political system and physical infrastructure that makes this possible, is exactly what is wrong with the occupation.   Israelis and their businesses should not be there.  In fact, according to international law they are not supposed to be.   Palestinians are the only ones who are supposed to have access to the land and resources, systematically stolen from them, so that they can set up shop, create productive businesses and have ultimate control over their own economic and national destinies.   What is wrong with the Sodastream plant in Moshe Adumim?  It’s the occupation, stupid!   It is what Scarlett Johansson inexplicably does not understand even after serving as a spokesperson for Oxfam, one of the leading human rights organizations in the world.  Yes, it is possible to go there and not have a clue about what is actually going on.

I am wondering if anyone in that Presbyterian delegation did anything close to what we were doing during our simultaneous sojourn in Israel/Palestine.    I am guessing that when we went back to our hotel in Beit Sahour, behind this sign,

Area A warning (Photo: Jeffrey DeYoe)

Area A warning (Photo: Jeffrey DeYoe)

they went back to their cushy hotel rooms somewhere in West Jerusalem.   I once stayed at the cushy King Solomon Hotel on my very first “all Israeli tour” in 2001.  It is very nice, and about as far away from seeing the reality of brutal Israeli occupation in Palestine as you can get.  The Second Intifadeh was raging and our guide never mentioned it.  He seemed genuinely perturbed when we asked questions about seeing low-flying Israeli fighters while in the West Bank and hearing explosions in the distance. In fact, it is quite easy to travel from Jerusalem on Israeli-only highways, go right through the entrance of Moshe Adumim, drive to the Sodastream plant, and never see Palestinian life in any form whatsoever.  It is good, I suppose, that they got inside the factory to talk to actual Palestinians, otherwise they might have spoken to none at all.  In contrast, however, we were working in the olive fields of Palestinian farmers while the Israeli military with imposing assault weapons was harassing them, and us.   We were also walking the streets of Beit Sahour, behind those red signs, even at night, feeling very safe and engaging with everyday Palestinians wherever we went.   We heard their stories and their struggles firsthand and know why everything about the AIFL trip to convince American Presbyterians that there’s nothing to be concerned about is an immoral mockery of this intense human struggle for freedom and human rights.

But if you are not convinced by that, try this on for size: While in the bus looking out the window at the Sodastream plant, a number of us wanted to get out and take a picture.   Our Palestinian bus driver got very nervous and pleaded with us not to do that.   He asked that we take pictures quickly from inside the bus so that he could get out of there before being spotted.   He told us it was possible that authorities could come and hassle him at that moment, but wouldn’t do much because we were present.   But what he was really worried about were the repercussions that would come later when we were not around and authorities would find him at his workplace or in his home where he could be intensely questioned, harassed, and even arrested in the presence of his wife and children.  He was genuinely afraid about that.   This was the same story we heard from the Palestinian olive farmers who told us that although they would not be hassled in our presence, there was always a possibility that the military would show up at their homes later, when we were gone, to make their lives miserable.

Do you think those Presbyterian delegates for AIFL heard anything like that inside the Sodastream plant?

The true shame of this cynical exercise is that they walked away seeing only what their hosts wanted them to see, and hearing only what their hosts wanted them to hear.    So when they show up at the General Assembly meeting this summer and start saying that what they experienced was wonderful and even just, it will be important for commissioners to realize that the extremely small cross-section of Palestinians this group heard from still really do have struggles and fears no different from any other Palestinian.   They just do not want to talk about it because their jobs are on the line.  There were slaves following the American Civil War who did not want to leave the plantations, after all.   The absolute worst part of occupation (like slavery) is the overwhelming conviction on the part of the victims that they cannot make it on their own. The vast majority of Palestinians (some fortunate enough to have jobs like our bus driver) live in fear that occupiers will come to their homes to hassle them, arrest them, tear down their homes, and make their lives even worse than what they already are.

Most telling is this testimony, in a recent New York Times article, from a Palestinian who repairs Israeli Army jeeps for a living:  “I feel like I’m not a human being—we are serving the occupation.   I am forced to work here because I have a house, I have a family.  Tomorrow, if there is another place to work, if there is work in Palestine, I will do it.”

The owners and managers of Sodastream could literally do everything right and yet they would still be absolutely wrong because it does not matter what they do, it matters who they are:  Sustainers of an illegal, ridiculously prolonged, intensely humiliating, unapologetically brutal, and morally bankrupt occupation of another people.  And there’s nothing light and bubbly about that.

Dr. Rev. Jeffrey DeYoe
About Rev. Dr. Jeffrey DeYoe

Rev. Dr. Jeffrey DeYoe is Pastor of Covenant Presbyterian Church in Ft. Myers, Florida. He is moderator of the Israel Palestine Mission Network of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).

Other posts by .


Posted In:

22 Responses

  1. amigo
    amigo
    March 19, 2014, 5:52 pm

    Do Zionists and their followers really believe they can buy the whole world off.Who advises these buffoons.

    Has there ever been a nation at war with so many.

    It cannot overcome the odds against it.

  2. Susie Kneedler
    Susie Kneedler
    March 19, 2014, 6:18 pm

    Thank you, Jeff, for your strong conscience, brave work, and faithful reports.

    • March 19, 2014, 9:30 pm

      after doing at least five years of intensive research into the whole jewish/zionist issue, this is certainly, especially considering it’s coming from such a prestigious christian minister, one of the very best article’s i’ve ever read.
      thank you so very much reverand devoe, you are a true christian in every sense of the word. not like these disgusting fake christian zionist psychos who are not really christian at all.
      my wish would be if only your story could be told with open ears to all the congregants in all the presbyterian churches and all the christian churches across the nation. why can’t this be?
      it’s an excruciatingly compelling story and its only the tip of the iceberg. the whole entire truth of the deception of israel as it has been and continues to be perpetrated on america should be exposed en mass in all christian churches.
      and to think there’s pro-israeli presbyterians accepting free trips and free god only knows what else?
      they’re not christians, they’re enemies of jesus.
      may god give you and your good devoted true christian brothers the strength and energy to carry on your true christian endevor.
      of those who sought the truth through the darkness of lies and deceit jesus held most dear.

  3. ritzl
    ritzl
    March 19, 2014, 6:22 pm

    Great article.

    Isn’t AIFL some kind of “education” arm of AIPAC? Set up explicitly to be able to provide these junkets to Congress that AIPAC is precluded from providing?

    I hope at this GA, the delegates that saw life on the Palestinian side openly and assertively question the AIFL “educated” inside-influencers about what they did and did not see on their trip.

  4. American
    American
    March 19, 2014, 6:24 pm

    Re: Soda Stream

    I think the Scarlet flap over Soda Stream has served its purpose—bringing more attention to I/P. But I don’t think putting it out of business is the thing to do.
    Not as long as it is providing at least a few Palestines with jobs.

    • Sumud
      Sumud
      March 20, 2014, 4:07 am

      I don’t think that BDS will put SodaStream out of business, not even in 10 or 20 years when BDS is much stronger, but it will hurt the bottom line for sure.

      The CEO states he wants to help his Palestinian employees and won’t close the settlement factory because of that. Crocodile tears, of course.

      If he genuinely wants to help his employees he should sell the factory to a Palestinian and then use them as a SodaStream supplier. Since the plant is in an Israeli settlement industrial zone it really would promote co-existence!

      Also, while selling the plant wouldn’t remove Sodastream from BDS’ radar it would satisfy the limited-BDS crowd who only want to boycott settlement produce.

      This plan of action should be mentioned every time we hear the silly hasbara about the only options being to keep the factory as-is or have 500 Palestinians lose their great jobs. There are other options…

  5. just
    just
    March 19, 2014, 6:44 pm

    Many thanks for this article, Jeff.

    You get directly to the ‘heart’ of the issues……I very much appreciate your reportage of the facts.

    Do you speak to your congregation about these issues? I just wonder how they respond.
    You really do “good works”.

  6. Citizen
    Citizen
    March 19, 2014, 6:53 pm

    Is it too much to think Scarlett J might happen upon this MW article? Yes.

  7. Citizen
    Citizen
    March 19, 2014, 7:05 pm

    Speaking of Scarlett J: http://www.sun-sentinel.com/digitalunlimited/partners/variety/sns-201403161838reedbusivarietyn1201135650-20140316,0,5052677.story

    She seems like really gung ho on Woody Allen, not just Israel’s occupation. Woody’s indiscretion? Huh? Israel’s occupation? Huh?

  8. DaBakr
    DaBakr
    March 19, 2014, 7:22 pm

    “The owners and managers of Sodastream could literally do everything right and yet they would still be absolutely wrong because it does not matter what they do, it matters who they are:”

    That would mean essentially (a popular word here on MW): Jews. Zionist-Jews, or just Zionists. Along with a significant number of Israeli Arab Druze, Bedouin and Christian Israeli citizens who also support, engage with, make a living from, enjoy reasonably satisfied and fulling lives in Israel as well. Nobody ever writes about those people here.

    • American
      American
      March 19, 2014, 8:19 pm

      ”That would mean essentially (a popular word here on MW): Jews. Zionist-Jews,”>>>>

      Actually it means “occupiers”.

    • W.Jones
      W.Jones
      March 19, 2014, 10:27 pm

      How many Israeli Arab Christians and Bedouins could be managers of settlement businesses?

    • Sumud
      Sumud
      March 20, 2014, 4:11 am

      That would mean exactly what the author wrote and which you chose to omit from your quote, for obvious reasons:

      …Sustainers of an illegal, ridiculously prolonged, intensely humiliating, unapologetically brutal, and morally bankrupt occupation of another people.

      If you have any proof BDS is boycotting jews, bring it.

    • talknic
      talknic
      March 20, 2014, 6:13 am

      DaBakr //“The owners and managers of Sodastream could literally do everything right and yet they would still be absolutely wrong because it does not matter what they do, it matters who they are:”/

      “That would mean essentially (a popular word here on MW): Jews. Zionist-Jews, or just Zionists.”//

      You poor morally and intellectually bankrupt schmuck. We can read the post. It would mean what the writer said in the continuation of the paragraph.

      Why is it people like your self are so blatantly deceitful

  9. Kris
    Kris
    March 19, 2014, 8:05 pm

    You forgot part of the quote, DaBakr:

    “The owners and managers of Sodastream could literally do everything right and yet they would still be absolutely wrong because it does not matter what they do, it matters who they are: SUSTAINERS OF AN ILLEGAL, RIDICULOUSLY PROLONGED, INTENSELY HUMILIATING, UNAPOLOGETICALLY BRUTAL, AND MORALLY BANKRUPT OCCUPATION OF ANOTHER PEOPLE. AND THERE’S NOTHING LIGHT AND BUBBLY ABOUT THAT.”

    Do you really think that non-Jews have fine lives under Israeli rule? In the days of my youth in Jim Crow Texas, we whites thought the same thing about our “nigrahs,” who, we thought, were perfectly content until the Yankees and other outside agitators stirred them up.

    I imagine the whites in Apartheid South Africa thought that the blacks they were oppressing had satisfactory lives, too. That is, “reasonably satisfied and fulling lives,” as you put it.

  10. W.Jones
    W.Jones
    March 19, 2014, 10:26 pm

    Good article.

  11. DICKERSON3870
    DICKERSON3870
    March 19, 2014, 11:12 pm

    RE: “And even in Israel proper, Palestinians with Israeli citizenship do not get very many good jobs because most require previous Israeli military service and Palestinians are generally exempted from such service by the Israeli government.” ~ Dr. Rev. Jeffrey DeYoe

    MY COMMENT: And it’s not just jobs that require previous Israeli military service!*

    * SEE – “Tibi: Lapid’s VAT exemption on first-house purchase is racist”, by Moran Azulay, ynetnews.com, 3/18/14
    In letter issued by his attorney to AG Weinstein, Minister Lapid, MK Tibi slams army service criterion for tax benefits: ‘Fatal blow to equality, human dignity’.

    [EXCERPT] The attorney of Knesset Member Ahmad Tibi (Ra’am-Ta’al) issued a letter to Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein and Finance Minister Yair Lapid on Tuesday, in which he opposes the army service criterion in Lapid’s plan to grant a VAT exemption to those who seek to purchase their first apartment from a contractor.

    “It is a discriminatory and unacceptable condition based on racism, because, in essence, it is aimed mainly at the Arab population, a fifth of the Israeli population, as well as the haredi sector that do not meet the requirements.” . . .

    ENTIRE ARTICLE – http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4500672,00.html

    • Naftush
      Naftush
      March 20, 2014, 5:07 am

      Tibi is grandstanding. Citizens who are exempt from army service are welcome in civilian service programs, the police, and the Prisons Service, all of which qualify them for benefits.

      • DICKERSON3870
        DICKERSON3870
        March 21, 2014, 6:11 pm

        MY REPLY: Naftush is the consummate hasbarist liar!*

        * SEE: “Israel Railways fires Arab workers”, by Sharon Roffe-Ofir, ynetnews.com, 3/30/09
        Some 100 employees who did not serve in IDF receive letters stating they will be dismissed on April 1.

        Some 100 Hashmira company workers, who are currently employed in an Israel Railways project, received letters Sunday informing them that their contracts would be terminated due to the fact that they did not serve in the Israel Defense Forces.

        “We’re okay for checking vehicles in shopping malls,” one of them protested.

        “Pursuant to our oral agreement,” the letter said, “your work at the train junction project will end on April 1. You are asked to visit our office for a new work placement.”

        The project, which began about three years ago following several grave railway accidents, employs 260 workers, about 60% of whom are Arab.

        Up to now military service was not a precondition for getting the job, but Israel Railways recently decided to promote IDF veterans – a move which hurt Arabs working as observers or patrolmen. . .

        ENTIRE ARTICLE – http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3694148,00.html

  12. DICKERSON3870
    DICKERSON3870
    March 19, 2014, 11:27 pm

    RE: “But what he [the Palestinian bus driver] was really worried about were the repercussions that would come later when we were not around and authorities would find him at his workplace or in his home where he could be intensely questioned, harassed, and even arrested in the presence of his wife and children. He was genuinely afraid about that. This was the same story we heard from the Palestinian olive farmers . . .” ~ Dr. Rev. Jeffrey DeYoe

    AN EXAMPLE FROM SEVERAL YEARS AGO OF THE ISRAELI ARMY’S COMPLICITY IN SETTLER ATTACKS:
    “Jews protect Palestinians in harvest of hate” ~ By Donald Macintyre in Awarta, West Bank, The Independent (U.K.), 10/10/08
    Israelis cross religious divide to shelter olive farmers from settlers’ attacks

    [EXCERPTS] . . . Born in Tel Aviv, Ms Siew served in the army, took a university degree, then a teacher’s diploma. Thirty-six years ago, she took the tough decision to emigrate to London, telling her parents: “I won’t come back until there’s peace.” Ms Siew, who is now 64, remains an Israeli citizen but now lives with her British husband in Hebden Bridge. She has kept to her word, except that each autumn she comes back to stay in her hometown with her relatives and spends each day of the two-month harvest season picking olives on Palestinian farmland in the West Bank.
    And Ms Siew does that for a purpose. Up on the ridge above us, you can see the red roofs of Itamar, a notably hard-line Jewish settlement, and she is here to help protect the Palestinian farmers from the threat of settler violence which has so often scarred the olive harvests.
    . . . Last year, she was in a group in the South Hebron Hills confronted by settlers who fired shots from a pistol and an M16 assault rifle, despite the presence of the army and police. “Then one of the soldiers said, ‘Look, one of them is coming down with a jug of water for you’. The settler emptied the jug over me. It was full of human shit.” . . .

    ENTIRE ARTICLE – http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/jews-protect-palestinians-in-harvest-of-hate-956706.html

  13. Naftush
    Naftush
    March 20, 2014, 5:04 am

    Fact fail:
    “Israeli Arabs live out the equivalent of what once was the Jim Crow legal structure of the American south.” No such legal structure exists.
    “Palestinians with Israeli citizenship do not get very many good jobs because most require previous Israeli military service.” Few jobs of any kind require prior service and in most cases it’s illegal for an employer even to ask about an applicant’s prior service.
    “Moshe Adumim” — the industrial area is Mishor Adumim.
    “Israeli-only roads” — a positive departure from the standard and false expression “Jew-only roads,” but fact fail in the vicinity of Ma’ale Adumim. If anything, as the sign shown in the article demonstrates, roads in that area that aren’t for everyone are for Palestinian Arabs only.
    “Working in the olive fields of Palestinian farmers while the Israeli military with imposing assault weapons was harassing them” — the soldiers are there to protect the Palestinian farmers from extremist Israelis (“price taggers” and the like).

    • DICKERSON3870
      DICKERSON3870
      March 21, 2014, 5:58 pm

      RE: “Working in the olive fields of Palestinian farmers while the Israeli military with imposing assault weapons was harassing them” — the soldiers are there to protect the Palestinian farmers from extremist Israelis (“price taggers” and the like). ~ Naftush (from above)

      THEN HOW DOES ONE EXPLAIN THIS:
      “Jews protect Palestinians in harvest of hate” ~ By Donald Macintyre in Awarta, West Bank, The Independent (U.K.), 10/10/08
      Israelis cross religious divide to shelter olive farmers from settlers’ attacks

      [EXCERPTS] . . . Born in Tel Aviv, Ms Siew served in the army, took a university degree, then a teacher’s diploma. Thirty-six years ago, she took the tough decision to emigrate to London, telling her parents: “I won’t come back until there’s peace.” Ms Siew, who is now 64, remains an Israeli citizen but now lives with her British husband in Hebden Bridge. She has kept to her word, except that each autumn she comes back to stay in her hometown with her relatives and spends each day of the two-month harvest season picking olives on Palestinian farmland in the West Bank.
      And Ms Siew does that for a purpose. Up on the ridge above us, you can see the red roofs of Itamar, a notably hard-line Jewish settlement, and she is here to help protect the Palestinian farmers from the threat of settler violence which has so often scarred the olive harvests.
      . . . Last year, she was in a group in the South Hebron Hills confronted by settlers who fired shots from a pistol and an M16 assault rifle, despite the presence of the army and police. “Then one of the soldiers said, ‘Look, one of them is coming down with a jug of water for you’. The settler emptied the jug over me. It was full of human shit.” . . .

      ENTIRE ARTICLE – http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/jews-protect-palestinians-in-harvest-of-hate-956706.html

Leave a Reply