Who Asked You To Boycott?

“Who asked you to boycott Israeli companies?” questions Bassem Eid, a Palestinian human rights activist. It may be surprising to those unfamiliar with the on-the-ground economic conditions for Palestinians in the West Bank to hear him say, “We Palestinians are not boycotting them, so what do we need you to boycott them for?”

Bassem Eid was born in the Jordanian controlled part of the Old City of Jerusalem in 1958, and grew up in the Shuafat refugee camp. He became a journalist, and worked for B’Tselem, an Israeli non-profit organization whose goal was to document Israel’s human rights violations in the West Bank. In 1996, he founded the Palestinian Human Rights Monitoring Group, whose mission is to monitor human rights violations by both Israel and the Palestinian National Authority. Bassem Eid has spent twenty-six years studying the United Nations organization that supports Palestinian refugees, UNRWA. He told me that his family’s experience was “of Arab leaders promising Palestinians short-term suffering for long-term benefit, since 1948. All we saw was long-term suffering. Everybody is using the Palestinians for their own gain. The United Nations, the Palestinian Authority, and others all make money by keeping us poor and dependent. For them, we are a business.” Mr. Eid is a vocal critic of the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement. About the BDS activists he observed, “They are trying to survive on the conflict, attaching themselves to it in order to remain relevant. Most of them have no idea what the conflict is about, how Palestinians live with Israelis, or about coexistence.” He has come to believe that economic cooperation between Palestinians and Israelis, even where it involves Israeli-owned enterprises in the West bank, is a key to improving the economic situation of Palestinians and of forging the bonds of economic inter-dependence and trust required the create peace.

Eid’s emphasis on improving the economic conditions of Palestinians, and his willingness to see Palestinians partner with Israelis to achieve this, is exemplified by his current speaking tour. Eid is on a tour of the United States, sponsored by StandWithUs, a pro-Israel solidarity group, with Erez Zadok. Zadok, the Israeli CEO of Aviv Fund Management, invests in Israeli factories that employ Palestinians. Like Mr. Eid, he wonders why the BDS movement would want to deprive Palestinians of their livelihoods.

Erez Zadok, Israeli investor

Erez Zadok, Israeli investor

Erez Zadok invested in SodaStream three years ago. The company’s mission, through its location in the West Bank, was “to make peace, and to also make soda.” Israeli companies located in the West Bank must comply with Israeli law. “Palestinians working for Israeli companies in this region earn five times more than the Palestinians who work for Palestinians’ factories,” he explained. “This money enters the Palestinian economy and goes to private consumption, to buy food, clothes, shoes and other needs. These Palestinians support their families and other circles of Palestinians working to provide them with the goods and services they need,” he added.

Last September, SodaStream shut down its West Bank factory due to pressure from the BDS movement. It relocated to a new factory in the Negev, next to the Bedouin city of Rahat. Three hundred Bedouins now work for SodaStream. The Palestinians who lost those jobs will have a hard time finding a new source of livelihood in a region with 23% unemployment.

Soda Stream Seltzer Maker

Soda Stream Seltzer Maker

The new SodaStream factory is within Israel’s 1948 borders. The BDS movement is still promoting a boycott of its products. When SodaStream was in the West Bank, Palestinians and Israelis worked together under the same conditions, receiving the same benefits, and the same opportunities. Some of them befriended each other, trusted each other, and respected each other. According to Mr. Zadok, “SodaStream manufactured peace, co-existence and normalization between the peoples.”

Bassem Eid and Erez Zadok are working together to achieve peace. They don’t believe that boycotting Israel is the way to get there. Bassem Eid is finding a very receptive audience in the United States. “People are thirsty for first hand information,” he said. “My message is probably upsetting and provoking to many of them.” From his perspective, it’s time to stop blaming Israel for the problems of the Palestinians. “Refugees from every other country have rebuilt their lives after one generation. It’s time for the Palestinians to also pull themselves up and develop,” he concluded.

The New Home-Made Gazoz

— by Ronit Treatman

In primeval times, the earliest humans enjoyed effervescent water from springs in which sodium carbonate from underground rocks dissolved into the water. This created the first natural soda.  

In the 18th century, Joseph Priestly discovered that holding a bowl of water over a vat of beer would infuse the water with carbon dioxide. This was the first homemade seltzer water.

Soda syphons were invented in the 1800s. These were special bottles that could dispense soda without releasing all of the trapped gases, and kept the soda from going flat. Syphons were very popular in the 1920s and 1930s.  

During World War II, the syphon factories in Europe were bombed. Carbonated water began to be commercially bottled and marketed, and soda syphons fell out of favor.

Recipe after the jump.

Soda syphons fell out of favor in Europe after World War II.

In Israel, however, soda syphons remained popular well into the 1960s. The soda they produced was called gazoz. As a special treat, children were allowed to mix the plain seltzer water with a sweetened fruit syrup concentrate.  

Now the pendulum is swinging back: Due to concern for the environmental impact of disposable soda containers, many people are returning to the tradition of making their own seltzer water at home. Instead of adding the sugar-laden syrups of the past, they are flavoring their sodas with fresh fruit.

I initiated the switch in my house by purchasing a soda-making machine from Sodastream. I chose the SodaStream Penguin Sparkling Water Maker. It comes with dishwasher-safe glass bottles. Once it arrived, it was time to get creative and make some delicious sodas.

Some of the most refreshing drinks I know are called aguas frescas, “fresh waters” in Spanish. They are made with natural tropical fruit juices, mixed with cold water. I saw no reason why this would not taste even better with carbonated water.  

Where would I get all the fresh tropical fruits that I craved in February in Philadelphia? I decided to reach straight to the source: Goya Foods sells unsweetened tropical fruit pulp. The fruits are picked at the peak of ripeness, and processed on the spot. The pulp is frozen to lock in the flavor, and then shipped to the U.S.

Here is an easy recipe for aguas frescas. I like my drinks tart, but you may sweeten yours with natural grape or apple juice. Goya Foods sells the pulp of passion fruit, papaya, mango, tamarind, guava, and coconut, among others.  

Passion Fruit Gazoz

  • 1 tablespoon passion fruit pulp
  • 1 cup of sparkling water
  • 1 tablespoon grape or apple juice (or other juice to taste)
  • ice cubes
  1. Combine all the ingredients in a glass.  
  2. Stir well and enjoy!

Fighting the BDS in the UK

by Mona Young

Before Sussex Friends of Israel was created, the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions movement was well-known in Brighton UK. They had been protesting against Israeli goods for years, targeting different shops – from supermarkets to smaller stores.
When Ecostream, a “Green”/Refill/Ecologically-friendly shop, (part of Sodastream, an Israeli-based company) opened in September 2012, it was met with a picket by BDS activists, shouting, and screeching through a megaphone. It was the noise being made, that drew two men, (Simon Cobbs, – a Jewish man, and Daniel Laurence a Christian) to the shop to see what was happening. Not being able to believe the hatred and bigotry directed at one shop, especially antiIsrael lies expressed so viciously, Cobbs and Laurence went back to their own communities and told them what was going on down at Ecostream, both resolving to do something.
The following week, both men went to Ecostream again, each with a group of friends, and the group that became known as Sussex Friends of Israel quickly began to grow. People of all ages: Jewish, Christian, and other, and members of the LGBT community started to turn out in support started to turn out in support, and pro-Israel leaflets were distributed. Sussex Friends of Israel was “officially” born in January 2013, becoming a registered organisation, with a director and “board” of both Jewish and Christian members. Locally, SFI goes to anti-Israel seminars at universities and speaks up for Israel as much as possible. SFI has also presented a petition to the UK store Co-op which boycotts settlement products.
In July and September, “Bagels against Bigotry” Street Party was launched in response to the BDS march/demonstration called “National Day of Action/Day of Rage” against Ecostream.
Bagels against Bigotry included a huge array of smoked salmon bagels, cakes, Israeli food, and Jewish cuisine. The public enjoyed themselves, and when the BDS march arrived at Ecostream, the police prevented them from standing outside, and soon after, directed them to the opposite side of the road. Meanwhile, Ecostream reported it had broken its record for a day’s trading since the shop opened!
In December, Cakes against Hate was launched, a belated “Chanukah and Christmas” themed street party with cake and biscuits, Father Christmas and street music. It certainly was a festive occasion!
When SFI Facebook was revamped in September 2013, within 4 months, our following increased from 252 to over 3,000 Likes. So far, 50 countries have responded to SFI in support in various ways, and our average audience is approximately 50,000 a week, with a picture of one of our supporters once reaching 140,000 views. The Israeli Knesset gave moral support, as did 12 other Israeli Embassies in various other countries.
In January 2014, when a replica of Israel’s security barrier was erected around St. James’ Church in Piccadilly, London UK, in what many have called “an anti-Israel stunt” the majority of SFI got on the train to London after the usual Ecostream demonstration, to stand with the other pro-Israel organisations, with flags and leaflets, and countered a simultaneous anti-Israel protest.
What is incredible with SFI is that none of us have been activists before! We were simply residents of Sussex who had enough of hatred toward Israel.
We at SFI literally have no idea what will happen in 2014. Last year was a non-stop rollercoaster of a ride – defying self- expectations and our opponent’s expectations! We hope 2014 will do the same!