The endgame? To smear Israel while pressuring parent company General Mills to close Pillsbury’s factory in Jerusalem’s Atarot Industrial Park.
The Boycott Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel is calling for a boycott of Pillsbury, best known for its cookie products, cake mixes, biscuits and other pastries.
The endgame? To smear Israel while pressuring parent company General Mills to close Pillsbury’s factory in Jerusalem’s Atarot Industrial Park. The park is located on land captured from Jordan in 1967, which was occupied by the Kingdom since Israel’s 1948 War of Independence, and annexed to the Jerusalem municipality.
The industrial zone contains more than 160 factories employing 4,000 people — three-quarters of whom are Palestinian Arabs living in eastern Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria.
An email sent Tuesday by the Palestinian BDS National Committee called on supporters to go to their local supermarkets and place flyers and sticky notes on Pillsbury products, urging store managers to “de-shelve” Pillsbury. Activists were also told to share videos of Charles Pillsbury, a Connecticut lawyer, activist and great-grandson of the company’s founder, who echoed the boycott calls.
In an interview with Al Jazeera’s AJ+, Charles Pillsbury said his family backed the boycott and called on General Mills to close the factory “as soon as legally possible.” He also called the factory a “sweatshop” where Palestinians “work under armed guard all day” in a “wretched situation.” AJ+ quoted General Mills’ denial.
Pillsbury also told AJ+, “The U.S. is a settler colonial state. So is Israel. Israel is doing exactly to the Palestinians what we as North Americans did to the first Americans, to our indigenous brothers and sisters.”
The video was viewed more than 657,000 times on Twitter alone.
Responding to claims that Palestinian employees are mistreated, General Mills spokesperson Kelsey Roemhildt said in a statement, “We provide every employee with full social benefits without prejudice to race, religion or nationality.”
The Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics found in 2014 that Palestinians employed by the Jewish communities of Judea and Samaria earned more than double the wages of Palestinians working for Palestinian businesses, earning Israel rare praise from PA-controlled media.
The BDS email justified the boycott, saying, “General Mills is one of 112 companies named in the UN Human Rights Council’s database of companies involved in Israel’s illegal settlement activities.”
Spearheaded by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet and non-governmental organizations with links to terror groups, this database appears to be nothing more than a politically charged blacklist. Critics of the UN blacklist call it undemocratic and arbitrary, pointing out that there’s no listing criteria nor any mechanism for businesses to contest their placement in the database or ability for companies to pursue being de-listed.
Not only does the unprecedented blacklist lay out a different set of rules to Jews than to Palestinians, it applies a different set of rules to the Mideast conflict than to any of the world’s dozens of other territorial disputes, such as Moroccan-occupied Western Sahara, Turkish-occupied North Cyprus or Russian-occupied Crimea, among others.
Other international business on the blacklist include Motorola, Airbnb, Expedia, TripAdvisor, plus firms from Europe and the Far East.
Another company targeted by the BDS movement in recent years was SodaStream, because its factory was located in the Mishor Adumim Industrial Zone, also in Judea and Samaria, near the city of Maale Adumim. CEO Daniel Birnbaum and actress Scarlett Johansson, who endorsed SodaStream, refused to back down in the face of BDS bullying.
But in 2016, SodaStream relocated to the Idan HaNegev Industrial Park near Beersheva, because, said Birnbaum, the company needed more space. Unfortunately, hundreds of Palestinian employees were out of work as a result.
SodaStream employed up to 600 Palestinians at the factory and sought to transfer their jobs to the newly located plant, but Israel granted only 130 work permits due to security issues, Birnbaum told The Associated Press at the time.
Palestinians, like other employees, were offered a bus service that brought them to the factory. But what was once a short jaunt became a two-hour journey each way to the new location that involves crossing an Israeli checkpoint, where workers must show their permits and be screened for security checks, AP reported.
BDS has accused SodaStream of paying Palestinian workers less than their Israeli counterparts, but Birnbaum and employees at the factory said wages for Palestinians and Israeli workers were commensurate, the report said.
“SodaStream should have been encouraged in the West Bank if [the BDS movement] truly cared about the Palestinian people,” Birnbaum said.
“All the people who wanted to close (SodaStream’s West Bank factory) are mistaken. … They didn’t take into consideration the families,” said Ali Jafar, a shift manager from a West Bank village who has worked for SodaStream for two years, AP reported.
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