Opinion

Pepsi, SodaStream, and BDS Tshuva

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Posted: Nov 27, 2018 9:40 AM
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Pepsi, SodaStream, and BDS Tshuva

In recent weeks, if it weren’t for discussion of boycotting Ben and Jerry’s and Airbnb over their respective anti-Semitic business decisions, I feel like mine and others’ social media would be virtually silent.  

This is played out in social media where friends who are both Jews and Christians who don’t necessarily have any reason to interact otherwise are posting, tweeting and sharing the same messages, cartoons, memes and more. My personal favorite is this list of alternative Ben and Jerry’s flavors:  Berry Blood Libel, Nutty No Vanilla Farrakhan, Palestinian Sour Grapes, What’s all the Fuhrer Strudel, Blood-Orange Italian ISIS, Low Ara-Fat Quds Crunch, Roger Waters Brick Wall Brittle.

Through this, debates have become abundant as to whether one should boycott Ben and Jerry’s even in Israel where it says it doesn’t have anything to do with Ben and Jerry’s corporate decision to use and give credibility to anti-Semitic Linda Sarsour as a poster child for its support of the Women’s March whose founder, Teresa Shook, has called for Sarsour and Tamika Mallory to step down.

Obviously, Ben and Jerry’s answers to a lower standard of incitement to hate than the head of the Women’s March which, ironically, they are supporting.  Perhaps the protest and boycott of Ben and Jerry’s helped give Teresa Shook the nudge she needed to try to separate her movement from the anti-Semitic hate that Sarsour and Mallory embody. Maybe she realized what Ben and Jerry's hasn’t yet, that anti-Semitism is bad for business.

And then there’s Airbnb. My social media and others' are filled with calls to protest, cancel accounts, and a wide array of possible legal actions that might befall Airbnb for their actions uniquely discriminating against Jewish residents of Judea and Samaria.  For cities, states and countries that have enacted anti-BDS legislation, indeed there’s a potential backlash which Airbnb probably didn’t project.

Ambassador Michael Oren explained succinctly, “Airbnb blacklists Jewish apartments in Judea and Samaria - not Palestinian apartments, not apartments in Turkish occupied Cyprus, in Moroccan occupied Sahara, not in Tibet or the Crimea. Airbnb’s policy is the very definition of anti-Semitism.  No one should use its services.”

I’m easy. I canceled Airbnb after calling to register my protest. I can live quite happily without Ben and Jerry’s no matter what country I am in. These are as principled as the fact that I haven’t had a Pepsi in close to 40 or more years.

Why Pepsi? Pepsi was one of the early multinational companies that acceded to the Arab boycott of Israel, making it impossible to find a Pepsi in Israel until the early 1990s.  

While chatting with friends this week, the issue of Airbnb and Ben and Jerry’s came up. And then the conversation turned to Pepsi, among the original sinners of anti-Israel boycotts.

While the more recent BDS scourge has become more and more virulent, leaving no potential company out of its crosshairs, one of its most aggressive and “successful” targets and victims is SodaStream. As a result of BDS protests against SodaStream they ended up moving their factory from an industrial area in a part of Israel that’s over the “Green Line” demarcating the 1949 armistice line, to a new location in southern Israel.  

Because of the BDS boycott, the biggest losers were the hundreds of Palestinian Arab employees who lost their jobs when SodaStream moved its factory.  I suspect that the economic impact this caused is still wreaking havoc among Palestinian Arab families whose relatives used to work there.  

This just underscores the anti-Semitism of the BDS scorched-earth tactics.  They claim to support Palestinian Arabs, but have no hesitation to target major Israeli companies that employ them. Israeli companies provide salaries far higher than they would get in the Palestinian Authority, along with medical and other social benefits that are simply foreign in their society.  

BDS’ anti-Israel venom is further highlighted in cases like this because companies like SodaStream and many others are perfect examples of coexistence between Jews and Arabs, even fostering close friendships.  But in the case of “supporting” Palestinian Arabs, the anti-Semitic hatred against Israel trumps all, even when the Arabs are the losers.

Anti-Semitic hate also provides cause for some irony. With the recent purchase of SodaStream by Pepsi, perhaps the pendulum of anti-Israel and anti-Semitic boycott of Israeli companies is swinging the other way. Pepsi, once a leader of the Israel boycott has now purchased a major Israeli company that is targeted by today’s boycotters.

In Judaism, there’s a concept called tshuva, repentance.  I doubt that anyone at Pepsi actively contemplated this as they invested $3.2 billion in SodaStream.  However, their practical decision is certainly a 180 degree turn from their position as leaders of the Israel boycott just a few decades ago. Now, they are not just doing business in Israel, but investing there significantly.   So, in some capacity, even if it's only a good business decision, the irony of Pepsi making this move is certainly a case of corporate repentance.

Many Jewish friends are comforted by the fact that the backlash against Ben and Jerry’s and Airbnb are not isolated among a handful of zealous Jews.  We are comforted by the large and growing number of Christians who see God’s fingerprints on the Jewish people’s restoration to the Land of Israel as proof of the biblical promise to do so.  And among them, supporting Israel and the Jewish people is nothing less than a biblical imperative.  

Perhaps someone at Pepsi has been reading the Bible as well.  Maybe they realized that when God says, “I will curse those who curse you” (Genesis 12:3), multi-national corporations are not exempt.  

Either way, whether in prayer for Israel, or united against anti-Semitic boycotts and protesting of Israel, Jews and Christians standing together wield a lot more influence both economically, and with God. Maybe, just maybe, the tide is turning against the haters.