Supporters and opponents of SodaStream’s occupation profiteering rally outside EcoStream store in Brighton, UK, February 2014.(Tony Greenstein)
Palestine solidarity activists are celebrating huge victories over SodaStream this week for the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign.
In 2012, SodaStream, a settlement firm, attempted to launch into the UK market and opened its flagship store – EcoStream – in the seaside town of Brighton to sell home carbonation machines and accessories.
The store immediately became the target for activists from Brighton and Hove Palestine Solidarity Campaign, who staged noisy protests every Saturday outside, running the gauntlet of Sussex area Zionist activists to do so.
On Monday, Brighton and Hove PSC was celebrating as SodaStream announced the closure of EcoStream, and began taking down the store’s signage.
The announcement follows regular protests outside the flagship John Lewis store in London’s Oxford Street, organized by Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC — palestinecampaign.org) and London BDS Group.
PSC’s campaign to stop John Lewis stocking SodaStream products included direct communication with John Lewis chief executive Andy Street, urging him to put ethical trading before profits.
Complicity in occupation
Sarah Colborne, director of Palestine Solidarity Campaign, said in a media release: “The news that SodaStream is closing its main UK store and that John Lewis is taking SodaStream products off its shelves is a major success for the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement.”
“SodaStream, by locating its factory in an illegal settlement and contributing financially, through taxes, to that settlement, is complicit in Israel’s occupation of Palestinian land,” Colborne added.
SodaStream’s manufacturing plant is located in the Israeli settlement of Maaleh Adumim, one of the biggest in the occupied West Bank. Israel’s settlements are illegal under international law.
Seven Palestinian villages were destroyed and their inhabitants displaced in order to build the Maaleh Adumim settlement.
In 2013, a Palestinian Bedouin who was removed, along with his family, from his land, to make way for Maaleh Adumim, told Corporate Watch:
“We are not allowed to go near them [the factories]. They took our livelihood to build them and we got evacuated for them to build their factories. After they built them there were no resources to live from for us. The gains are nothing compared to what was lost. They destroyed our lives and then gave a few people a job. It is nothing.”
The Israeli government is using SodaStream as part of its “greenwashing” campaign – an attempt to distract the world from its occupation of Palestinian land by turning attention to its allegedly environmental credentials.
A huge poster that was on display in Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion Airport last year advertised the green benefits of using a SodaStream machine to carbonate water and thereby eliminate the need to buy plastic bottles of fizzy drinks.
However, effective BDS campaigning has stumped the Israeli government’s efforts in the UK.
Brighton and Hove PSC issued a statement which said its campaign “has taken the message about human rights abuses in occupied Palestine to the people of Brighton, and their response has been fantastic. They have made it clear that they do not want businesses from illegal Israeli settlements trading in their town.”
“The closure of SodaStream’s so-called flagship UK store in Brighton is just one step in a campaign to send a clear message to the Israeli government and the international community that, at the grassroots level, people of conscience are taking action to force Israel to comply with international law and to bring about justice for the Palestinian people,” the statement added.
“We give notice to the other stockists of SodaStream products in the city that we will continue to take the message about SodaStream to the people of Brighton on behalf of the Palestinian people. Congratulations to the people of Brighton and Hove, who can tell the difference between ethical and unethical.”
PSC also said it would continue to campaign nationally to persuade other retailers, including Argos and Sainsbury’s, to stop selling SodaStream.
Colborne, in PSC’s media release, added: “Palestinians should have the right to their own state, on their own land, to create their own factories and jobs, and run their own economy. Israel’s settlements, eating up the West Bank, deny them that right.”
“The double blow dealt to SodaStream this week should serve as a warning to other settlement companies – their business is not wanted here,” she added.
“And UK retailers should note John Lewis’ decision to ditch SodaStream, and take heed of UK government business guidelines which warn companies of the potential reputational damage of trading with settlement firms.”