This article was originally published in the March/April 2014 edition of Peace and Environment News.
Boycott Supports Just Peace in Palestine and Israel
by Tyler Levitan
Did you know you can make your own carbonated beverage at home using a store-bought machine? The most commonly available bubbly water machine on the market today is called SodaStream, and is labeled as “Made in Israel.” SodaStream, like other carbonated beverage makers, markets itself as a “green” and “environmentally friendly” alternative to purchasing carbonated beverages sold in cans or bottles.
What SodaStream fails to disclose is that its machines are manufactured in an illegal Israeli settlement in the West Bank–which is actually in Palestine. Human rights supporters have joined forces to identify SodaStream’s marketing as a form of green-washing.
The West Bank has been occupied by the Israeli military since 1967, following a war in which Israel gained control over all of historic Palestine and the Syrian Golan Heights. To this day, and against international law, the Israeli military continues to occupy this territory, along with the Gaza Strip, which is considered to be under military occupation since its borders are controlled by Israel.
Both the West Bank and the Gaza Strip are intended to be part of the yet-to-be-established Palestinian state. Israel has annexed Palestinian East Jerusalem–meant to be the capital of this future state–and the Syrian Golan Heights. Neither of these de facto annexations has been recognized by the international community. Israel’s military occupation of Palestine is the longest ongoing military occupation in the world.
One disturbing aspect of this military occupation is that more than 600,000 Israeli colonists, or “settlers,” now live in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. While these Jewish Israelis are granted full rights by the state, West Bank Palestinians are deprived of the very same civil and political rights. Palestinians live under a separate legal system and are subject to Israeli military law. They are confined to live in ever-shrinking cantons, eaten up by Israel’s ongoing colonial project.
Palestinians live under a matrix of Israeli control. They face a daily series of checkpoints, roadblocks, separation barriers and Jewish-only bypass roads. The Israeli military imposes curfews, kills Palestinians and invades communities at will, abducting and imprisoning Palestinian civilians without trial–including children. Settlers often attack Palestinians. The Israeli military is not willing to defend Palestinians from the settlers.
Complicity in oppression
SodaStream operations are connected to this system of control and segregation. SodaStream machines are produced in the settlement industrial zone of Mishor Edomim, which is part of the large Israeli settlement of Ma’ale Adumim. Ma’ale Adumim divides the West Bank in half, making it impossible for any viable Palestinian state to come into existence.
By choosing to have its main factory in this illegal settlement, SodaStream takes advantage of weak environmental and labour protection laws. It also receives major tax breaks to encourage Israeli businesses to move into the illegal settlements.
Consumers, however, are led to believe that SodaStream is “green,” and, as its label states, that it is “made in Israel.”
SodaStream mainly employs Palestinians living in nearby communities in the West Bank. They are not allowed to live in Ma’ale Adumim. To get to and from work, Palestinians must pass through military checkpoints. This means more time away from families and a lengthy commute.
While SodaStream claims it is building bridges with Palestinians, it is difficult to take this seriously when the factory sits on stolen Palestinian lands.
Palestinian workers at SodaStream complain of 60-hour work weeks, being paid below the minimum wage of Israeli citizens, and being deprived of a place to pray. One Palestinian worker 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.”
By purchasing SodaStream products, consumers are unwittingly supporting the continuation of this violent and unethical system, one that a growing number of international and even Israeli experts have labeled as “Apartheid.”
In peaceful resistance to this systematic oppression, over 170 Palestinian civil society organizations have called on global human rights supporters to boycott Israeli products, divest from companies complicit in the occupation, and for states to eventually place sanctions against Israel until it complies with international law by upholding basic Palestinian rights.
For a full list of campaign endorsers, go to www.bdsmovement.net.
Boycotts of SodaStream are spreading throughout Western Europe and the United States, and are now gaining ground across Canada. Independent Jewish Voices Canada, the United Church of Canada, district and provincial labour councils, human rights organizations and student groups have called on their members and supporters to stop buying SodaStream, and to call on retailers to stop selling it.
A coalition of pan-Canadian organizations called the Canadian Boycott Coalition for Justice in Palestine/Israel has been picketing across the country (www.canadianboycottcoalition.ca). To learn about future pickets in Ottawa, or help out with a picket, e-mail email@example.com. Pickets involve handing out flyers and postcards to customers outside stores selling SodaStream, and can even include singing and dancing.
For those interested in buying their own carbonated beverage maker, a popular alternative called Fizzini is made by Hamilton Beach. The machine is less expensive than SodaStream, but uses single-use CO2 canisters. Another alternative is the Sparkling Beverage Maker by Cuisinart, which is available for less than SodaStream. It is virtually identical, but you can have the peace of mind that its production didn’t require the wholesale dispossession of another people.
It is vitally important that we support non-violent struggles against mass oppression. The ongoing theft of Palestinian land and resources is a serious crime that must not go unnoticed. As the Canadian government, along with other complicit Western governments, refuses to hold Israel to the same standards as every other country, it is up to us to use our collective power.
Tyler Levitan is the Campaigns Coordinator for Independent Jewish Voices – Canada (IJV), a national human rights organization that promotes a just peace in Israel and Palestine through the implementation of international law, and respect for the human rights of all parties. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. To stay updated on IJV actions, subscribe to receive action alerts here: http://ijvcanada.org/subscribe-to-email-list/.