Let’s not mince words: Those who boycott companies like SodaStream are not only bigots and fools, but they’re very often bad people, who prioritize their own hatred for Israel over alleviating the suffering of Palestinians.
Many have already noted that SodaStream is a wonderful employer that goes to great lengths to ensure its employees’ material and psychological comfort. This should be repeated and repeated again and again, because it underscores the absurdity of it all.
The boycotters’ agenda is even more risible when you consider the state of the broader Palestinian economy. In 2013, the unemployment rate in the West Bank stood at 19 percent. By comparison, the U.S. unemployment rate hasn’t been that high since the Great Depression. And after a few years of rapid growth, the West Bank’s economy shrank by 0.6 percent during the first quarter of 2013.
The problems are even more acute for Palestinians between the ages of 15 and 29. The unemployment rate for this cohort is 29 percent, but as bad as this statistic sounds, the reality is even worse. With so few jobs to be found, the majority of Palestinian youths have simply stopped looking for work.
The reasons for the decline of the Palestinian economy are varied. Some of the blame undoubtedly lies with Israeli restrictions. Israel, however, has a compelling state interest in improving the Palestinian economy. The two peoples have collaborated in the past, and Israel would be wise to help shore up the Palestinian economy.
There are constructive ways to respond to this weakened economy — How can restrictions be lightened while ensuring Israeli security? Are there ways to get Palestinian youths back to work?
Then there’s the boycotters’ way.
In a blog post for Mondoweiss, somebody named Annie Robbins has expressed her delight in SodaStream’s falling stock prices. Let’s give Ms. Robbins the benefit of the doubt and try to follow her reasoning all the way through: 1) She wants to help Palestinians. 2) SodaStream employs Palestinians. 3) The best way to help Palestinians is to pressure SodaStream into closing its factory and never opening another one in the West Bank. If Ms. Robbins had her way, several hundred more Palestinians would be out of work — all in the name of helping Palestinians. Huh? Her reasoning is so weak that it begs the question whether she actually cares at all about improving the lives of Palestinians.
Answer: Probably not.
Robbins and her ilk first and foremost want to bring down the State of Israel. All other concerns are secondary, at best. This dynamic helps explain the relative silence when it comes to the Palestinian suffering elsewhere. Consider, for example, the Yarmouk refugee camp in Syria, home to 160,000 Palestinian bystanders to the Syrian civil war. In searching the Mondoweiss website, one comes across about a thousand posts with the word, “Yarmouk,” but quite a few date back several years. Combining “SodaStream” and “Scarlett Johansson,” on the other hand, nets well over 13,000 posts.
The implications here are clear. The boycotters don’t really care about the mass starvation of Palestinians, so long as Israelis aren’t the perpetrators. But when a publicly-traded company decides to invest in the West Bank economy and — gasp! — create well-paying jobs for Palestinians, then they decide to bitch and moan.