New Zealand prof compares SodaStream, Nazi company

Supposed hate crimes expert Scott Poynting quits after writing letter to newspaper, comparing SodaStream and IG Farben.

Matt Wanderman,

Jewish, Palestinian workers in Sodastream factory
Jewish, Palestinian workers in Sodastream factory
Nati Shohat/Flash90

A New Zealand university professor has come under criticism for comparing SodaStream to a Germany company that cooperated with the Nazis.

The news website reports that Professor Scott Poynting, a supposed expert on hate crimes from the University of Auckland, wrote a letter to the Waikato Times last November.

"Thank you for explaining in your article how SodaStream generously provided work for Palestinians. I understand that IG Farben provided work for large numbers of Jews. Not that I have anything against Germans, mind you," he wrote in response to an article on the Israeli company.

IG Farben used Jews imprisoned in the Monowitz concentration camp as slave labor. By contrast, SodaStream is well known for offering its 500 Palestinian employees far better conditions than could be found in most Palestinian companies. All of these workers had to be laid off when SodaStream moved its factory to the Negev, in what BDS calls a victory for Palestinians.

The New Zealand Jewish Council demanded that the university denounce Poynting's "anti-Semitic" comments, as it described them. Vice-Chancellor Stuart McCutcheon responded that the university carried out an investigation into the incident and found that Poynting was not guilty of professional misconduct, but that he should clarify his comments.

When Poynting refused to do so, McCutcheon published an apology on behalf of the the institution. "I do acknowledge that the way in which Scott Poynting expressed himself caused considerable distress to many members of the community. On behalf of the University of Auckland, I offer my own sincere apologies for that distress," he wrote.

He added that Poynting will be retiring in June, though insisted that the resignation was planned in advance and has no relation to the current furor.

The New Zealand Jewish Council, however, is still demanding a stronger response. "The hateful views expressed by Professor Poynting in his letter to the Waikato Times have no place in New Zealand, let alone within our academic institutions. While it is reassuring to know that Poynting will not be working at the University of Auckland much longer, the private nature of the apology from Professor McCutcheon does not promote transparency or proper accountability.

"The New Zealand Jewish Council would have expected the University of Auckland to publicly distance itself from the views of Professor Poynting, as other universities have done in similar situations, rather than privately apologise [sic] for any distress caused," it said in a statement.