When is a BDS “win” not a win? When it helps Israeli citizens get jobs.
Granted, I have a complicated history with SodaStream. I disliked the product itself so much that I sold my machine to a former co-worker who was moving back to the States. However, I admit that the factory has a history of helping out the local Arab population by offering them work. They did this in Mishor Adumim, an industrial area near the West Bank city of Maale Adumim, by hiring hundreds of Palestinans.
Now, in a move that has been decried by BDS opponents, they have moved their base of operations to Rahat, a population center for Israeli Bedouins. Read: Israeli Arabs. It’s not that I have an active antipathy for the Palestinians. As former resident of Detroit, I am aware of how awful it can be to find oneself confined to a hellhole, governed by a corrupt bunch of hooligans who never seem to miss an opportunity to put your life and livelihood at risk. But my allegiance is with my fellow citizenry.
If an Israeli company wants to hire Palestinians instead of bringing in Filipinos to do jobs that an Israeli wouldn’t (or at least wouldn’t at the price said company is willing to pay), then feel free. If the choice is between a Palestinian, most of whose withheld taxes, if there are any, will go to the PA, or an Israeli Arab, who theoretically could be paying taxes to Israel (although probably won’t be, again because the company really isn’t paying what most Israelis would be willing to work for), then my money (literally, since I pay taxes in Israel) is on the Israeli Arab.
As someone who is still mildly interested in what happens to communities over the Green Line, I have watched with a mix of horror and amusement as people argued for removing Palestinians from Maale Adumim following a gruesome ax attack at the town’s mall. Some of the same people were also saddened when the last of the Palestinian workers were denied work permits to continue working at the SodaStream factory in Rahat. Can we support both ideas?
Bad enough that many industries both within Israel’s undisputed borders, and certainly those based in the West Bank are de facto reliant on Palestinian labor. Like it or not, having a supply of bodies that can fill low skilled jobs lowers salaries for all of us. That’s the lesson that American unions learned early on. Of course this unfortunately led to some of the most racist legislation against minorities that ever made it onto the books. But what made it so bad was that the discrimination pitted one American citizen against another. The question is, should Palestinians be given jobs that could easily go to Israeli citizens, especially in a climate where it may lead to added danger?
Also note that SodaStream itself has never blamed BDS for the move from Mishor Adumim to Rahat, nor did it say political pressure was behind its Palestinian workers failing to be given work permits. Our own government is behind this. Everything that has transpired is according to plan. SodaStream received generous subsidies from the Israeli government to change locations so that it could hire hundreds of Israeli citizens who had little access to job opportunities. The Israeli government purposefully refrained from giving out work permits that it could easily have supplied. If you don’t like the decision, don’t scream at BDS leaders. Take it up with the Knesset.
As for me, SodaStream can keep doing what it does best: stuffing landfills with empty bottles of soda concentrate that doesn’t taste that great, made by Arabs who aren’t paid that well. As long as they are Israeli Arabs, I see that as a win. Take that, BDS.