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“People will see [Sodastream] as anything but green, and anything but progressive. Ethnic cleansing is not green.” - Tony Greenstein, longtime Palestine solidarity activist and member of Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods
This week on The Electronic Intifada podcast:
- Israel breaks the ceasefire agreement with Gaza’s ruling party just days after it was signed last month, we’ll have reports on the ongoing attacks against Palestinian fishermen and farmers as Gaza continues to rebuild in the aftermath of Israel’s attacks;
- Palestinian hunger strikers speak out from Israeli jails;
- An Israeli celebrity who called for Palestinian children to suffer quits post with UNICEF, the UN fund for children;
- Thousands of Palestinian refugees flee Damascus-area violence, according to the UN agency for refugees;
- News from the global boycott, divestment and sanctions movement, including an interview with Tony Greenstein, a longtime BDS activist in the UK about the worldwide boycott actions against Sodastream products which are made in illegal Israeli settlements.
Rush transcript - Tony Greenstein on Sodastream boycott campaign
The Electronic Intifada: Outline for us Sodastream as a company, its operations, labor practices; and why it’s such a clear target for BDS.
Tony Greenstein: You’ve asked a hell of a lot. Can I make an introduction — we first had the first Israeli shop, what we know was an Israeli shop, in Covent Garden, about 2 1/2 years called Ahava. It mines, it uses Dead Sea minerals to beautify yourself — when we said occupation is not beautiful, and so on and so forth. And after two years, all the other traders turned against them and told the landlord that their presence was cutting down business, affecting it badly for them, and their lease wasn’t renewed, and we got rid of Ahava.
And that was led by solidarity activists in London, Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods, many Palestine solidarity activists of all sorts and descriptions. Then, I suppose it must have been just past the summer, I’m not quite sure when Sodastream opened in Brighton — it didn’t call itself Sodastream, it called itself Ecostream — because Brighton has the only Green MP in the whole country, Caroline Lucas … it has a Green council. It’s known as a radical base in the very conservative south of England, and clearly they wanted to tune into “green.” But their idea of what’s green and what our idea of what’s green is somewhat different.
Fortunately, Brighton also has a pretty active and large Palestine solidarity group, and other activists as well — it’s a hive of activity if you like. I’ll make some points. The Palestine issue is not an isolated one. In April, we had the fascist English Defense League, which tried to come into town and march through … and they were driven out basically by all sorts of people, Brighton townspeople, PSC [Palestine Solidarity Committee] was amongst them and you didn’t see any Zionists.
Come the Autumn, we got our act together, we realized this shop was trading and so on. We started Saturday pickets from 1-3, 12-3, something like that. And of course the Zionists weren’t very happy. They started counter-mobilizing, and they did it with Christian fundamentalists from one of these happy-clappy churches as it were, who believe that God gave Jews Palestine 3,500 years ago, and the present people who live there, the Palestinians, are occupiers. That’s their weird mindset — the Palestinians are the occupiers, the Israelis are “returning” if you like.
I have to say that the Zionists mounted, week after week, a counter-demonstration. But the shop got pretty tired of it by all accounts, business wasn’t increasing — quite the contrary. There were two groups of counter-demonstrators having a go at each other, if you were a shopper you’d cross to the other side of the road. Basically the Zionists have pulled out, and they’re thinking of taking legal action — they haven’t disclosed it. We’ve had that before at an arms factory, the Brighton EDOM-BM, when an injunction was brought — it took a year before it was defeated.
So that really is the basis of solidarity that we’ve been having. It’s been Saturdays, but also unexpected ones during the week, in particular Christmas because we want to disrupt their trade as much as possible.
And Sodastream — unlike Ahava, Ahava kept quiet, they said nothing — Sodastream has been very very voluble, politically, defending what they do, and the major reason obviously is that they’re based in Mishor Addumim, it’s an area that’s been ethnically cleansed, it’s between Maale Addumim and Jerusalem, it’s the last area before they can seal it up with the E-1 plan, they have other plants in Israel … but we are quite determined that people will see it as anything but green, and anything but progressive. Ethnic cleansing is not green. That’s one of our slogans.
Their labor practices — they boast that their wages are higher, but in fact anyone that’s involved in the union or active in any way is dismissed. They did have proceedings brought against them … in Israel some years ago because they were paying below the minimum wage, they do now at least pay the minimum wage. But anyone who is active in any way in self-organization will be dismissed, and no doubt the army will insure their bounds through permit controls. They are very much a part of the occupation.