Palestinian Workers Cheer SodaStream and Scarlett Johansson — Occupation or No

Good Wages and Makeshift Mosque at West Bank Plant

God on the Factory Floor: Muslim workers at SodaStream’s plant in the West Bank Israeli settlement of Ma’ale Adumim get extra time off for daily prayers, held on-site on the factory’s premises.
SodaStream video, via Youtube
God on the Factory Floor: Muslim workers at SodaStream’s plant in the West Bank Israeli settlement of Ma’ale Adumim get extra time off for daily prayers, held on-site on the factory’s premises.

By Nathan Jeffay

Published February 01, 2014, issue of February 07, 2014.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

“I can bring a million people who want to work here,” boasted Ahmed Nasser, taking a break from his job as a SodaStream assembly line worker.

Nasser spoke to the Forward from SodaStream’s main production plant, which is located in the Mishor Adumim industrial park within the settlement of Ma’ale Adumim in the occupied West Bank. Controversy over the plant’s location was reignited by the company’s recent decision to sign actress Scarlett Johansson, who will debut as a company spokesperson in a high-profile commercial to be broadcast on Super Bowl Sunday. Critics have also alleged that SodaStream is guilty of mistreating its workers.

But Nasser, a 28-year-old who has been with the company for two years, said that employees receive “the best conditions there are” and “everything according to the law.” He added that he receives an hour-and-a-half worth of breaks in a standard 12-hour shift, and that prayer times are not deducted from break allowances.

Nasser lives in Ramallah, the power base of the Palestinian political elite that is opposed to settlement employment. But he said that he does not feel antagonism from the local population because of his work at SodaStream. He was happy to be photographed. Asked whether he changes out of his SodaStream shirt before returning home, he said no. “It’s my job — I’m not shy about it,” he commented.

When the Forward visited an assembly line for gas canister valves earlier in the day, it found the normal settlement power dynamic turned on its head. Nadia Safaf, a 50-year-old settler from Ma’ale Adumim, was working, supervised by shift manager Nabeel Besharat, a Palestinian from Ramallah who started at the company four years ago — three years after she did. Besharat’s line manager is an East Jerusalem Palestinian.

Safaf said that the work is hard, but she has no complaints about the mixing of cultures. The Arabs she works under and alongside are “very good people.” Her colleagues include Ptiha Abu-Selat, a 30-year-old woman from Jericho, who said she is happy in her job and that in her city the factory is “famous” for good employment. These interviews, like others at the plant, were conducted out of earshot of Israeli managers and did not involve on-record or off-record complaints of labor abuses, or of receiving pay below the Israeli minimum wage.

When Besharat was questioned about working in a settlement, he replied: “This is the big question, but for us it’s not a problem. We didn’t build settlements here — we’re working in a factory. I used to work in East Jerusalem, and I think it’s the same thing.”

What does he think about the Palestinian Authority’s declared desire to stop Palestinians from working in settlements? “If they make other opportunities in the Palestinian areas, they can, but they need to make jobs and ensure good pay for workers.”


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Can you relate?
  • The Forverts' "Bintel Brief" advice column ran for more than 65 years. Now it's getting a second life — as a cartoon.
  • Half of this Hillel's members believe Jesus was the Messiah.
  • Vinyl isn't just for hipsters and hippies. Israeli photographer Eilan Paz documents the most astonishing record collections from around the world:http://jd.fo/g3IyM
  • Could Spider-Man be Jewish? Andrew Garfield thinks so.
  • Most tasteless video ever? A new video shows Jesus Christ dying at Auschwitz.
  • "It’s the smell that hits me first — musty, almost sweet, emanating from the green felt that cradles each piece of silver cutlery in its own place." Only one week left to submit! Tell us the story of your family's Jewish heirloom.
  • Mazel tov to Chelsea Clinton and Marc Mezvinsky!
  • If it's true, it's pretty terrifying news.
  • “My mom went to cook at the White House and all I got was this tiny piece of leftover raspberry ganache."
  • Planning on catching "Fading Gigolo" this weekend? Read our review.
  • A new initiative will spend $300 million a year towards strengthening Israel's relationship with the Diaspora. http://jd.fo/q3Iaj Is this money spent wisely?
  • Lusia Horowitz left pre-state Israel to fight fascism in Spain — and wound up being captured by the Nazis and sent to die at Auschwitz. Share her remarkable story — told in her letters.
  • Vered Guttman doesn't usually get nervous about cooking for 20 people, even for Passover. But last night was a bit different. She was cooking for the Obamas at the White House Seder.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.