Shalom Life | August 30, 2014

Op-Ed: BDS Victory Over SodaStream May Equal 900 Palestinians Out of Work

SodaStream is moving its Ma’ale Adumim factory to the Negev

By: Daniel Koren

Published: August 26th, 2014 in Business » Israel

Op-Ed: BDS Victory Over SodaStream May Equal 900 Palestinians Out of Work

One of the biggest news stories that accompanied the start of 2014 was Scarlett Johansson being named as the global ambassador of SodaStream, an Israeli company based out of the West Bank settlement of Ma'ale Adumim, which develops home carbonation systems that allow users to convert tap water into sparkling water, in more than 100 flavors.

Fresh off of signing the contract with SodaStream, Johansson found herself quickly under fire for supporting a company in "occupied" Palestinian Territories, with New York Magazine referring to the company as "blood bubbles." Reza Aslan, a well-known writer and academic, later called Johansson a Nazi supporter for working with SodaStream.

The confrontation didn't end there, however. The SodaStream ad Johansson appeared in would end up almost being banned by the Super Bowl - though they claimed it wasn't political - and she would end up stepping down from her long-held post as global ambassador of Oxfam due to a "fundamental difference of opinion." Obviously, anti-Israel crusader Roger Waters also condemned the actress for her unwavering support of SodaStream.

In the days that followed, many argued that Oxfam was being hypocritical and that the waves of protesters who began advocating for the boycott of SodaStream would hurt both Israelis AND Palestinians. After all, 900 Palestinians were employed at the company's biggest plastics and metals factory in Ma’ale Adumim.

"Those who seek to help the Palestinians end up hurting us," said Nabil Bashrat, 40, a resident of Ramallah who worked at the factory.

"(The factory) provides income to hundreds of families, entire villages. Peace is what happens here inside, and not outside. Those who are abroad don't understand the relations and actually sabotage the process. The factory draws us closer. Even in times of instability, as was during the war in Gaza, everything was as usual here."

Unfortunately for Bashrat, however, and the other 900 Palestinian SodaStream employees, it seems the BDS supporters are more concerned with boycotting Israeli businesses who 'occupy' Palestinian settlements than helping the actual Palestinian people themselves.

Now, it seems the supporters finally have their wish: SodaStream has announced, in a reported non-political move, that they are opening up a new factory in a land that indisputably belongs to Israel (unless you're a member of Hamas or ISIS), near the town of Lahavim in the Negev.

This could potentially mean that, if they evacuate the West Bank factory, the Israeli company will no longer be "occupying" in there any longer. Good job, BDS supporters.

Oh, it would also mean that 900 Palestinians - the people you claim you're trying to protect here - are now out of a job.

The company will make the move sometime in 2015. While it will still practice its equal opportunity hiring practices, it seems more likely that the region's Bedouin and African communities will be reaping the benefits of employment as opposed to the Palestinians.

Great job BDS supporters. Way to help out those Palestinians you know and understand so much.

UPDATE: As predicted, SodaStream CEO Daniel Birnbaum has announced that the company may indeed close its doors in its West Bank location, and also said it was not due to the boycott. “The considerations will be purely financial, and do not include the European boycott on manufacturing in the territories,” said Birnbaum. “Nor [will they include] the various calls to boycott products of the company because of its location in Ma’aleh Adumim. The boycott is a nuisance, but does not cause serious financial damage. We are not giving in to the boycott. We are Zionist.”

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