NPR Touts Leftist Groups' Protest of Israeli Company SodaStream

On Monday's Morning Edition, NPR's Larry Abramson boosted an "international boycott movement" against Israeli company SodaStream without mentioning the left-wing ideology of the organizations behind the protest. Abramson merely described the boycott organizers as "supporters of Palestinian rights."

The correspondent featured a soundbite of a December 2012 anti-SodaStream protest in Boston, but failed to mention that the demonstration was organized by Jewish Voice for Peace, whose advisory board includes far-left notables such as Noam Chomsky, Eve Ensler, and Tony Kushner.

Screen Cap From 2013 SodaStream Super Bowl Ad, available at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h1HQxcTYTho | NewsBusters.orgIn her introduction for Abramson's report, host Renee Montagne noted that "last night was big for the Ravens and for an Israeli company called SodaStream. It ran its first Super Bowl ad. The original spot it hoped to air was rejected. And as NPR's Larry Abramson reports, there are much bigger controversies facing that company." The Jerusalem-based journalist then outlined how two of the company's previous ads were banned:

LARRY ABRAMSON: The ad viewers saw last night shows regular folks using their SodaStream devices to fizz up and flavor ordinary water. As they imbibe, bottles containing traditional soda drinks explode....a similar ad was banned in Britain last year by an advertising consortium, which feared SodaStream was denigrating the soft drink industry....When SodaStream bid for a spot in the Super Bowl, it played the David and Goliath card again when it submitted this ad – a Coke and a Pepsi delivery guy square off, racing to get into the store. Before they get inside, their bottles explode, thanks once again to the SodaStream effect. CBS rejected that ad, perhaps because it directly disparages two major sponsors.

Abramson continued with the "bigger" controversy hinted at earlier by Montagne – how the "supporters of Palestinian rights" see the Israeli manufacturer as a "bully, pushing around its workers. SodaStream has long maintained a manufacturing facility in a settlement called Ma'ale Adumim outside Jerusalem. That plant is on land that the Palestinians want for their future state."

Just prior to playing his clip of the Boston protest, the correspondent added that the plant's West Bank location "has made SodaStream a target for an international boycott movement, and led to this insult to Hava Nagila, sung by demonstrators in Boston recently." The "insult" lyrics that the protesters sang to the Jewish folk song were, "Your dimes are funding war crimes, and it's about time, that shoppers take a stand" [a minute-plus video of the protest is available here].

Later, Abramson did play a soundbite of SodaStream CEO Daniel Birnbaum defending his West Bank facility, but quickly followed it with a clip from a representative of Tel Aviv-based feminist group Coalition of Women for Peace. But just as before, he also did not identify the left-wing politics of this Israeli organization.

The full transcript of Larry Abramson's report from Monday's Morning Edition:


RENEE MONTAGNE: And let's think about the Super Bowl once again. Last night was big for the Ravens and for an Israeli company called SodaStream. It ran its first Super Bowl ad. The original spot it hoped to air was rejected. And as NPR's Larry Abramson reports, there are much bigger controversies facing that company.

LARRY ABRAMSON: The ad viewers saw last night shows regular folks using their SodaStream devices to fizz up and flavor ordinary water. As they imbibe, bottles containing traditional soda drinks explode. The message-

UNIDENTIFIED MALE ANNOUNCER 1 (from SodaStream's Super Bowl ad): With SodaStream, we could have saved 500 million bottles on game day alone.

ABRAMSON: In other words, by making your own soda at home and refilling bottles, you can drink gaseous liquids while saving the environment at the same time. Sounds harmless enough. But a similar ad was banned in Britain last year by an advertising consortium, which feared SodaStream was denigrating the soft drink industry. Of course, the banned ads simply migrated online, where they went viral. When SodaStream bid for a spot in the Super Bowl, it played the David and Goliath card again when it submitted this ad – a Coke and a Pepsi delivery guy square off, racing to get into the store. Before they get inside, their bottles explode, thanks once again to the SodaStream effect. CBS rejected that ad, perhaps because it directly disparages two major sponsors.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE ANNOUNCER 2 (from SodaStream ad): If you love the bubbles, set them free.

ABRAMSON: Like Apple's 1984 Super Bowl ad announcing the Macintosh, SodaStream is trying to harness an underdog energy with these ads. It depicts its consumers as independent-thinking environmentalists. But for many supporters of Palestinian rights, it's SodaStream who is the bully, pushing around its workers. SodaStream has long maintained a manufacturing facility in a settlement called Ma'ale Adumim outside Jerusalem. That plant is on land that the Palestinians want for their future state. That has made SodaStream a target for an international boycott movement, and led to this insult to Hava Nagila, sung by demonstrators in Boston recently. (clip of demonstrators singing, 'Your dimes are funding war crimes, and it's about time, that shoppers take a stand. SodaStream-')

The issue is also super-sensitive here in Israel. SodaStream would not agree to an interview on tape, but the company sent a detailed e-mail, explaining that SodaStream is a multi-national company, with 20 plants worldwide. The company says its plant in the West Bank is located in an area which, under the Oslo Accords, remains under Israeli control until a final agreement is reached between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

In a company- produced video, SodaStream's Daniel Birnbaum describes his firm as a boon to the residents of the occupied West Bank.

DANIEL BIRNBAUM, CEO, SODASTREAM: We give them an opportunity – not only to have a job and health insurance – but also social benefits and a very high pay scale, which they could never achieve in the West Bank.

ABRAMSON: But the Palestinian Authority says factories, like SodaStream's, help support what they see as Israel's illegal occupation of West Bank land. Israeli groups that oppose settlement activity agree.

Rona Moran, with the Coalition of Women for Peace, based in Tel Aviv, says SodaStream and other settlement businesses weaken the Palestinian economy.

RONA MARTIN, COALITION OF WOMEN FOR PEACE: And all of the work in this factory is actually benefitting from exploiting Palestinian workers as cheap labor and Palestinian land for the establishment of the factory, and enjoys benefits and funding from the Israeli government.

ABRAMSON: While SodaStream tries to stay out of this political debate, Rona Moran has to watch what she says. Israeli law says anyone advocating a boycott of Israeli products can be sued. Larry Abramson, NPR News, Jerusalem.

Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan is a news analyst at Media Research Center