After two years of weekly protests in front of its store in Brighton, Israeli company Sodastream has closed the store. In addition, one of Britain’s biggest retailers has announced that it will stop carrying Sodastream, which is manufactured in an Israeli settlement built illegally on Palestinian territory.The company produces a product that appeals to environmentalists – a do-it-yourself soft drink making kit – which saves money, water and plastic bottles. But the Sodastream kits are produced in an Israeli settlement, which has made the company a target of boycott campaigners.
The Ecostream store in Brighton, England, sold a type of recyclable bottle to go with the soda-making kit. The bottles are produced in Ma’ale Adumim, an illegally constructed Israeli settlement near Jerusalem. The store had been open for two years when it closed its doors this week – despite having reported a profit for each of the two years it was open.
The company did not mention the protest campaign against it as a reason for closing the Brighton shop.
According to the Jewish Chronicle of the UK, a company spokesperson stated, “Following a two-year test period, the company has decided to focus its business efforts on other channels. The business in the UK is on a high growth pattern, with over 20 percent year-on-year growth and rolling out to new retail stores across the country.”
The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement aims to pressure Israel to end its occupation of Palestinian land through economic means. Activists are modeling the campaign off the anti-apartheid campaign of the 1970s and 80s, which used Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions to pressure the South African regime to end its apartheid policy which discriminated against non-white South Africans.
Sodastream came under fire earlier this year when Scarlet Johannsen was selected as a spokesperson for the company. She was pressured by activists to end her role as spokesperson, but instead she defended the company, saying it “provides jobs” to Palestinians. The anti-hunger organization Oxfam decided to remove her as a global ambassador because of what they saw as the hypocrisy of trying to advocate for human rights while at the same time having a spokesperson who defended these violations by representing a company built on stolen land and benefiting from discriminatory policies.
Some of the Israeli policies that the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement activists include: separate roads that discriminate against Palestinians, ‘absentee laws’ that allow the Israeli government to take over Palestinian property if the owner is absent for six months or more, laws that create ‘security zones’ that strip Palestinian owners of their property, and laws that prevent married couples of different ethnicities to live together. These are examples of over fifty discriminatory laws identified by activists as discriminatory against Palestinians.
In addition, as an Occupying Power since 1967, Israel is under obligations according to the Fourth Geneva Convention which include not transferring civilians into the Occupied territory. This and other obligations have been violated by Israel on a near-daily basis since Israel’s takeover of the West Bank, Gaza and Jerusalem in 1967.