Harvard University Dining Services recently announced that it will no longer be purchasing Sodastream water machines and will be removing the Israeli company’s label from machines already installed because the company has a factory in the West Bank.
After Sodastream took over the company that the university buys its filtered water machines from last April, some pro-Palestinian students began to protest once they saw the Sodastream labels in the campus dining rooms.
“I think it is neither anti-Israel nor anti-Semite to take a stand against the occupation,” said Rachel J. Sandalow-Ash, a member of the Harvard College Progressive Jewish Alliance. “These machines can be seen as a microaggression to Palestinian students and their families and like the University doesn’t care about Palestinian human rights.”
The West Bank is land that has been contentious ground between Israel and the Palestinian authority. The company announced this past October that it would be moving the factory out of that area and into the southern Israel, reports Katherine Timpf for National Review Online.
According to Stuart Winer for The Times of Israel, the decision was “purely commercial,” having nothing to do with pressure it received from pro-Palestinian activists who were boycotting the company as a result of its location.
Sodastream has continuously supported its factory, saying it employs hundreds of Palestinians and offers them equal benefits to those given to Israeli employees.
The company has announced that it will do all it can to keep the same employees at its new location despite the increase in commute time and the permits they will need in order to work inside Israel.
Even so, Harvard students continue to boycott Sodastream, saying the machines “might offend” Palestinian Arab students.
Upon hearing of the announcement, University President Drew G. Faust requested an investigation into the decision because the move may have violated Harvard policy, writes Lori Lowenthal Marcus for The Jewish Press.
According to a statement from Provost Alan M. Garber, he and President Faust had only learned of the issue on Tuesday. President Faust:
“… asked staff to get to the bottom of how these conversations started and to learn more about where matters currently stand. Regardless, Harvard University’s procurement decisions should not and will not be driven by individuals’ views of highly contested matters of political controversy. If this policy is not currently known or understood in some parts of the University, that will be rectified now.”
While there has been no official word yet on whether or not the move is in fact a policy violation, former University President Lawrence H. Summers said in an interview that the decision did go against the University’s history of not politicizing its decisions.