A sociology professor is leaving his job after he compared SodaStream, an Israeli company which manufactures home-brewed carbonated beverage products, to a German company that exploited Jewish slave labor in an Auschwitz concentration camp during World War II.
“Thank you for explaining in your article how SodaStream generously provided work for Palestinians,” Poynting wrote in his letter back in November. “I understand that IG Farben provided work for large numbers of Jews. Not that I have anything against Germans, mind you.”
Poytning is an “acclaimed hate crimes expert” according to Stuff, a popular New Zealand news conglomerate.
His areas of expertise include “Islamophobic hate crime.”
Critics responded harshly to Poynting’s letter.
IG Farben “employed slave labor at Auschwitz to manufacture synthetic petrol and rubber during World War II,” former head of the New Zealand Jewish Council David Zwartz reminded Poynting in one response.
Zwartz also said that SodaStream pays its Palestinian workers twice the typical local wage and provides its Palestinian workers with benefits including a form of health insurance.
Auckland University of Technology history professor Paul Moon also replied to Poynting.
“Not only was the historical context of the analogy faulty, but the tacit reference to the millions of Jews killed during the era of the Third Reich was appalling,” Moon said.
University of Auckland vice chancellor Stuart McCutcheon later apologized on behalf of the school for the “considerable distress” Poynting caused, according to Stuff.
“Professor Poynting’s appointment with the University of Auckland concludes on 30 June 2016,” McCutcheon also noted.
Poynting says he had already planned to retire in June. The University of Auckland neither confirms nor denies this claim, according to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.
SodaStream has come under pressure because of a long-lasting Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign intended to compel Israel to end its occupation of the West Bank.
The company has operated a manufacturing plant in the West Bank’s Mishor Adumim industrial zone. A human rights group, B’Tselem, claims that the plant sits on land illegally seized by the Israeli military.
Oxfam, a poverty-fighting group, argues that SodaStream and other companies operating in the industrial zone violate international law.
“SodaStream is a company that is not only committed to the environment but to building a bridge to peace between Israel and Palestine, supporting neighbors working alongside each other, receiving equal pay, equal benefits and equal rights,” the company’s brand ambassador, actress Scarlett Johansson, said in 2014, according to the BBC.
Some 500 Palestinian employees lost their SodaStream jobs when the company relocated a factory from the West Bank to southern Israel in response to criticism from the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement.
IG Farben, the German company to which Poynting compared SodaStream, was once a mammoth chemical company on a par with General Motors. Its scientists created polyurethane and won Nobel Prizes.
The company was the owner of the patent on Zyklon B, originally an insecticide but later notoriously used to exterminate masses of Jewish people, gypsies and political dissidents in Nazi concentration camps.
Two huge German companies, Bayer AG and BASF, were once part of IG Farben. Both were reconstituted independently after the defeat of the Nazi regime in World War II.