Then US peace envoy George Mitchell, left, with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a 2010 meeting in Tel Aviv. (Matty Stern/US Embassy Tel Aviv/Flickr)
As Barack Obama’s first Middle East peace envoy, it was his job to convince Israel to halt construction of illegal settlements on occupied Palestinian land.
But now former US Senator George Mitchell has apparently become their most enthusiastic salesman.
Speaking at a Tel Aviv conference last month hosted by corporate law and lobbying firm DLA Piper, Mitchell touted “Israeli-Palestinian cooperation.”
As the website Times of Israel reports:
“For example, I visited Sodastream,” the Israel-based manufacturer of home carbonated drink machines. Sodastream is located in Maaleh Adumim, and employs some 500 Palestinians, Mitchell said.
Maaleh Adumim, as Mitchell surely knows, is an Israeli colony built on occupied territory in violation of international law, a process entailing land theft from and forced displacement of Palestinians.
Treated “like slaves”
This astonishing example shows that Mitchell is confusing “cooperation” with illegal colonization, occupation profiteering, environmental destruction and exploitation of Palestinian workers.
As Stephanie Westbrook reported for The Electronic Intifada in May, Palestinian workers who must seek jobs in Israeli colonies for want of any other opportunities, are often badly mistreated.
One SodaStream worker, who was too frightened to be named, said, “They treat us like slaves. This has happened many times on the assembly line: when a worker is sick and wants to take sick leave, the supervisor will fire him on the second day. They will not even give him warning or send him to human resources, they will immediately fire him.”
Israeli firms often locate their factories in the occupied West Bank precisely because they can operate outside Israel’s labor and environmental laws.
“Disregard for human life”
As Patrick Strickland recently reported for The Electronic Intifada, Israeli settlement industrial zones on occupied Palestinian land belch poisons into the air and the ground that have caused severe health problems for nearby Palestinian communities. Strickland notes:
According to an audit conducted by Israel’s Ministry of Industry between 2006 and 2010, in the West Bank there approximately 20 industrial zones under Israeli administration. Regarding these industrial zones, the state comptroller noted a “continued failure for years of the lack of substantial supervision and enforcement in the field of safety and hygiene in Israeli factories in Judea and Samaria [the occupied West Bank], which has to point to ongoing disregard for human life.”
The research group Who Profits published a detailed report on SodaStream as a case study highlighting the numerous crimes as well as violations of workers rights involved when firms locate and produce in Israeli settlements.
It is because of such practices that SodaStream has become a major target for the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement.
Profiting from crime
Mitchell shamelessly promotes Israel’s economic exploitation of occupied territories in spite of these facts.
Mitchell is himself a partner and former chairman of DLA Piper.
Times of Israel describes the firm as “a large US-UK private equity firm which helps investors find companies and projects that will yield revenue, handling the legal, regulatory, and administrative aspects of signing business deals.”
Mitchell is using his luster as the former Northern Ireland peace negotiator and Obama envoy to put a shine on Israeli crime in the occupied territories.
And his firm is making a tidy profit at the same time.