Saturday, April 10, 2021

SodaStream: Greenwashing the Israeli occupation

By Therezia Cooper - October 03, 2012
Section: [Main News] [BDS]
Tags: [BDS]

The Israeli beverage carbonation system manufacturer SodaStream appears to be on a green-washing mission. Its sponsorship of the London Design Festival led to a glowing report in the news paper The Guardian on the sustainability and eco friendliness of its new machine design in the newspaper. Recently, the first SodaStream branded shop in the UK, EcoStream, has opened in Brighton.

According to the research co-operative Corporate Watch, SodaStream chose the Brighton location because of the city’s “green” reputation; it is the only constituency in the country with a Green Party Member of Parliament.

What SodaStream seems to have missed in its market research, however, is Brighton’s long tradition of committed activism against injustice and human rights abuses and it did not take long for the local community to react to EcoStream’s opening. Loud pickets have been held outside the shop for the last two weeks, and are set to continue on at least a weekly basis. Why?

SodaStream is far from the concerned, ethically minded company it is trying to reinvent itself as. With a manufacturing location in the West Bank, the company is profiting from Israel’s occupation. Whilst its products help customers in the UK and around the world create an abundance of fizzy drinks, their production facility on occupied territory is directly contributing to the theft of Palestine’s water resources.

Illegal production on occupied land

SodaStream’s factory in the West Bank is located in the illegal Mishor Adumim settlement industrial zone. Settlement industrial zones are at the forefront of Israel’s occupation of Palestine, with the Israeli government offering special tax incentives and lax enforcement of environmental and labour labour laws to companies willing to trade from occupied land.

Mishor Adumim is part of the Ma’ale Adumim settlement bloc. Located just outside of the boundaries of Jerusalem, it is the third largest and quickest growing settlement in the West Bank, and had a population of 39,000 in 2011. Both the industrial zone and the residential areas are part of Israel’s controversial “East 1” project.

Initiated by Yitzhak Rabin in 1995, the project aims to cut the West Bank off from East Jerusalem though strategic settlement expansion, hence destroying any prospect of a viable Palestinian state. Ma’ale Adumim was built on land stolen from the Palestinian villages of Abu Dis, Al Izriyyeh, Al Issawiyyeh, Al Tur, Khan al Ahmar and Anata.

It says it is providing Palestinians with work, the old Apartheid argument in South Africa
Primarily as a result of its activities in the West Bank, SodaStream has faced protests by activists calling for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel for a number of years. There is a strong 'Stop SodaStream’ campaign in Italy, and due to pressure from Swedish civil society groups, SodaStream have been forced to promise to move production for the Swedish market out of the Occupied Territories.


Profiting from occupation

Interestingly, after protests begun at the Brighton EcoStream shop, the staff issued a bulletin to potential customers, but rather than downplaying the importance of their location in Mishor Adumim, it highlighted the protesters’ concerns by trying to prove them wrong through the most bizarre claims.

“PLEASE BE AWARE THAT BDS IS A POLITICALLY-ORIENTATED MOVEMENT”, it warned whilst stating that Mishor Adumim is not located on occupied territory as Area C is “disputed”  and not occupied land; that BDS activists claim that selling settlement produce is illegal when it is not; that Palestinians benefit from SodaStream employment and will be harmed by the boycott; and even that article 49 of the Geneva convention is not applicable to Israeli settlements.

With the company seemingly openly promoting a viewpoint only ever expressed by the most uncompromising Zionists, SodaStream come across as defenders of the occupation rather than just occupation profiteers.

Over 60% of the West Bank is designated as Area C, including all of the Israeli settlements. Palestinians living in the Area C communities are the ones most affected by the Israeli occupation. Prohibited from building or repairing houses or roads, they often have limited access to services and water resources and are frequently given demolition orders on the homes that are already there. According to the UN, in the year 2011, 560 Palestinian-owned structures, including 200 residential structures and 46 rainwater collection cisterns and pools, were demolished by the Israeli authorities leaving 1,006 people including 565 children homeless. During the first half of this year, demolitions in Area C have increased.

The hardest hit by the gradual settlement expansion taking place between Ma’ale Adumim and the nearby Kfar Adumim settlement are the Jahalin Bedouin of Khan al Ahmar, who live on the outskirts of the Mishor Adumim industrial zone. They have lived on the land since the Palestinian Nakba in 1948, but since the early nineties more and more of their living areas have been engulfed by the surrounding settlements. Their community is now threatened with total expulsion from the area; on September 13th, they were in court trying to defend their one primary school from demolition as demanded by the Kfar Adumim settlers.

There is no doubt that under international law, areas designated as “C” (under full Israeli control) under the Oslo accords are occupied, and that article 49 of the Geneva convention, which clearly states that “The occupying power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own population into the territories it occupies” is applicable to Israel’s settlements. This has been affirmed time and again by a number of international bodies, including the International Court of Justice, the UN and the International Committee of the Red Cross, and is the official position of the EU, the USA and the UK.


SodaStream expansion

It is believed that SodaStream is looking to open more shops across the UK if the one in Brighton proves successful, but activists are determined not to let this happen.

“ Sodastream defends the occupation and calls us political!” says long term Palestine Solidarity campaigner Tony Greenstein. “It says it is providing Palestinians with work, the old Apartheid argument in South Africa, forgetting that Israel has destroyed the Palestinian economy in the first place. We are determined to ensure that, like Ahava in Covent Garden, SodaStream is forced to pack up and go. It is a dishonest company that named its store in Brighton 'EcoStream’ in order to try and take advantage of Brighton’s green credentials. People aren’t quite as stupid as Sodastream believe!”

For Palestinian communities in Area C, everyday is a struggle to stay on their land. Or, as the motto in the Jordan Valley goes, “To Exist is to Resist.” Now is the time for all of us to show companies like SodaStream that the resistance has gone global.


Therezia Cooper is a boycott, divestment and sanctions and anti-arms trade activist and researcher with Corporate Warch UK’s 'Corporate Occupation’ Palestine project. She has volunteered with various solidarity groups in Palestine and is the co-author of Targeting Israeli Apartheid: A Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Handbook



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