Harvard President Calls for Probe Into Halting of SodaStream Purchases

The university’s dining service reportedly agreed to halt buying equipment from the Israeli firm following protests by Palestinian students and their supporters.

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Harvard.Credit: Bloomberg
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Harvard University’s president has requested an investigation into the decision by the university’s dining service to stop buying SodaStream equipment.

Drew Faust asked for an investigation into the decision, Provost Alan Garber told The Harvard Crimson student newspaper on Wednesday night.

The request came following an article written earlier in the day by the newspaper reporting that the university’s dining service agreed in April to halt buying the equipment following protests by Palestinian students and their supporters.

The dining service agreed to remove the SodaStream labels on existing water machines and purchase new ones from American companies after university officials met in April with members of the Harvard College Palestine Solidarity Committee and the Harvard Islamic Society, the newspaper reported Wednesday.

“Harvard University’s procurement decisions should not and will not be driven by individuals’ views of highly contested matters of political controversy,” Garber wrote in an email statement to the Crimson late Wednesday night. “If this policy is not currently known or understood in some parts of the University, that will be rectified now.”

Garber said in the statement that neither he nor Faust was aware of the decision before reading about it in the newspaper.

The existing machines are from a company acquired by SodaStream, an Israeli firm that has been a target of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement because of its factory in the West Bank settlement of Maale Adumim.

At the April meeting, the pro-Palestinian supporters expressed their discomfort with the SodaStream machines and the “potential of the machines to offend those affected by the Israel-Palestine conflict,” according to The Harvard Crimson.

SodaStream announced in October that it would move its West Bank factory to Lehavim, a Negev community near Beersheba in Israel’s South. The move is expected to be completed by the end of 2015.

About 1,100 employees work in the Maale Adumim plant, including 850 who are Arab-Israelis or Palestinians. Many of them could lose their jobs in the move.

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