Harvard dining services halts purchases from Israel’s SodaStream, school probes move

Harvard University. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

(JNS.org) After anti-Israel pressure, Harvard University Dining Services (HUDS) suspended its purchase of soda and water machines produced by Israel-based SodaStream, the beverage carbonation company with a plant in Judea and Samaria. The president of Harvard, Drew Faust, subsequently ordered an investigation into the HUDS decision.

HUDS made the move in the wake of complaints by two pro-Palestinian student groups, the College Palestine Solidarity Committee and the Harvard Islamic Society.

The SodaStream plant in Ma’ale Adumim—which the company recently announced would close for "purely commercial" reasons and be replaced by a plant in northern Israel by late 2015—has been providing steady employment to 500 Palestinians and 450 Israeli Arabs this year, a fact that has been ignored by groups that have made the company a frequent target of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel.

"The BDS movement seeks to demonize, isolate and destroy Israel as a Jewish state. It is a pro-hate, anti-peace movement. BDS proponents actively advocate for the privilege of one group's rights over another. ... Harvard University and HUDS are creating an environment that Israelis could rightfully perceive as hostile. If the presence of Israeli-made goods on campus creates discomfort for Harvard, then so, too, could the presence of Israeli students and academics," Jacob Baime, executive director of the Israel on Campus Coalition, wrote in a letter to Faust.

Kenneth L. Marcus, president and general counsel of the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law, said in a statement, “In many ways, these micro-BDS efforts [such as boycotting SodaStream] are more dangerous than broader campaigns against the entire country of Israel, because they are sneakier and more deceptive."

"They target one or two companies, or a short list of Israeli politicians or universities," he said. "And they claim that they are not advocating boycotts against the entire Jewish nation. But they are based on the notion that it is okay to apply different standards to Israelis than to the rest of the world’s peoples. And they ultimately end up in the same place. All anti-Israel boycotts, whether limited or comprehensive, advance the same agenda, which is to deny Israel normalcy and legitimacy. This is a deeply anti-Semitic campaign and it must be understood as such.” 

Earlier this year, Jewish-American actress Scarlett Johansson had drawn criticism from the U.K.-based charity Oxfam International for appearing in a Super Bowl TV commercial for SodaStream, leading her to quit her role as a global ambassador for Oxfam.

Posted on December 17, 2014 .