Presbyterian delegation visits SodaStream plant

Church leaders say West Bank factory ‘enhances’ Israeli-Palestinian relations

Gavriel Fiske is a reporter at The Times of Israel

Delegation of Presbyterian leaders at the Ma'ale Adumim SodaStream factory, in February 2014. (photo credit: Yosi Leon/courtesy)
Delegation of Presbyterian leaders at the Ma'ale Adumim SodaStream factory, in February 2014. (photo credit: Yosi Leon/courtesy)

A delegation of 14 Presbyterian Church leaders from the US visited the controversial SodaStream factory in Ma’ale Adumim during a trip to Israel last week.

The Presbyterian church, some 6 million strong, has at times officially supported boycotts of Israeli businesses operating beyond the Green Line, such as SodaStream.

Last month, a group associated with the church distributed a learning guide, “Zionism Unsettled,” which some viewed as a one-sided, even anti-Semitic analysis of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

At the factory, the church representatives met with SodaStream management and employees. According to a press release from the group, they said that the visit “strengthened their belief that the location of the factory enhances the business as well as the interpersonal relations between the Israelis and Palestinians.” 

The visit was sponsored by the America-Israel Friendship League and designed so the leaders could “discover Israel personally” and “better understand the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” the group said.

AIFL directer Ruby Shamir said that it was “crucial to bring leaders and influential figures” to Israel and help them “form a positive and supportive opinion,” especially in light of the “many voices calling to boycott Israel” in the business and academic worlds.

The Ma’ale Adumim SodaStream factory has been in the news ever since, in January, A-list actress Scarlett Johansson announced she would be the new spokeswoman for the company.

The move garnered a deluge of criticism from the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement.

SodaStream maintains that the factory, many of whose 1,300 employees are Palestinian, fosters economic and social coexistence between Israelis and Palestinians.

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