By Theresa Wolfwood
It seems like a great idea – to buy a counter top device that converts tap water into sparkling fizzy water. Add a line of 100 flavours of sweet syrups; in the words of the sales clerk I spoke to, ‘it’s a fun thing.’
SodaStream (sometimes marketed as Soda Club) is sold around the world including in my city, often by big chain stores like Costco, Kmart and Amazon (USA); Sears, The Bay, and Home Outfitters (Canada); Tesco, Asda and Argos (UK); Migros (a large coop network in Switzerland); Carrefour (France & other countries); Edeka, Adler, and Karstadt, (in Germany where it is distributed by Brita, the international water filter company. Brita products are sold in Israel by SodaStream.)
The world’s largest producer of home carbonation systems, sold in 41 countries, SodaStream claims to be environmentally friendly because it uses its own reusable bottles, saving the production and transport of millions of disposable plastic containers and saving money and time for consumers .As some of the syrups use natural products, while others use sugar and artificial sweeteners, it is promoted also as “healthy” in natural food, eco-friendly, green and biological shops.
It sounds too good to be true – and so it is.
These products are labelled “Made in Israel”, the company claims to have factories elsewhere including China. An examination of the corporate annual report reveals that only some parts are made in China. (SodaStream International Ltd.; Annual report,” 30 June 2011).
SodaStream is owned by Soda-Club, an Israeli company founded in 1991 by Peter Wiseburgh and publicly traded on NASDAQ as SodaStream International under the symbol SODA with 2009 revenues of USA$ 142,842,000.
However, the products are not made in Israel at all.
SodaStream is manufactured in Mishor Adumin, (also known as Mishor Edomin) one of 171 illegal settlements within Palestine. Mishor Adumin is about 20 kilometres east of Jerusalem in a strategic area of illegal settlements designed to cut off Palestinians’ right of free movement between the northern and southern areas of the West Bank. Syrups are produced in another settlement, Ashkelon. (The device uses disposable carbon dioxide cartridges which are made in Germany and other countries.)
“These products are fraudulently labelled as “Made in Israel”, but are in fact produced in illegal settlements under the conditions of the military occupation in the West Bank, outside the internationally-recognized borders of Israel.” http://www.bdsmovement.net/2011
Environmentally-friendly? Think of the Palestinian residents and farmers of Mishor Adumin whose homes, fields, orchards and forests were destroyed to create this industrial settlement and the neighbouring residential settlement of Ma’aleh Adumim which today ranks third in population of all Israeli settlements in the West Bank. Over 1.5 million trees have been destroyed in Palestine by the occupiers as they insinuate their homes and factories into Palestinian land. More than 300,000 Palestinians are homeless as result of home demolitions in Palestine.
The environmental destruction continues. When I was in Palestine I witnessed fields, orchards and homes being bulldozed and levelled, preparing for the continuation of the wall and the construction of an Israeli-only super highway linking all the settlements around Jerusalem, including Ma’aleh Adumim and Mishor Adumin.
So how can SodaStream be green?
There is nothing clean about the production of this ‘fun’ product, either. Many of the workers in SodaStream factory are Palestinians, desperate for any kind of job. Independent research has revealed that workers are poorly paid, sometimes below the minimum wage, are threatened with job loss (in any Israeli-owned facility) if they complain about bad working condition, job insecurity or low wages. They are the occupied subjects of military rule, lacking legal rights, including the right to organize. (For more details, see here)
SodaStream has also been accused of fraud. The European Union grants certain tax benefits to Israeli goods imported into Europe, but that does not include goods produced in occupied territories. In 2010 the European Court of Justice ruled that its products manufactured in Israeli-occupied territories were not subject to the preferential import duty treatment as goods manufactured within Israel. In Germany shipments of these products have been stopped by customs because they are not labelled truthfully.
Resolutions #242 & #338 of the UN Security Council include statements that prohibit permanent settlement of occupied lands for domestic or commercial purposes; Israel continues to rob Palestine of land, resources and access. Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 also states that, “The Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.”
The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement, founded by 180 civil organizations in Palestine, has spread around the world. Solidarity groups everywhere are chalking up successes in consumer products and institutional investments, including national pension plans. (See: BDS: BOYCOTT, DIVESTMENT, SANCTIONS: The Global Struggle for Palestinian Rights. 2011. Haymarket Books, USA by Omar Barghouti)
Meanwhile SodaStream claims with much publicity to have sold one million of its devices in socially-responsible Sweden. But in July, 2011 the Coop (Cooperative Stores Network) announced it would stop selling SodaStream products because they are made in occupied territory and their sale was in conflict with Coop’s own ethical standard as well as Global Compact, the UN ethical guidelines for businesses. In Belgium as well as other European countries BDS campaigners actively protest against the sale of SodaStream.
USA and Canada both have a Free Trade Agreement with Israel. That means, as in the European Union, certain taxes are not levied on partners. By allowing SodaStream to sell its fraudulently labelled “Made in Israel” products, illegally produced under military occupation, as free trade products, the company receives financial concessions under Free Trade agreements.
Boycotts are powerful tools for our international campaigns for human rights. Ahava Cosmetic Products are also made in an illegal settlement, Mitzpe Shalem, near the Dead Sea; they are no longer sold in major outlets in Canada and USA after boycott actions. As law respecting citizens we have a responsibility to stop the illegal sale of another luxury product with dubious health or environmental benefits, made under conditions that violate the human rights of workers and all Palestinians.
– Theresa Wolfwood is a writer and activist in Victoria, BC, Canada. She visited Palestine in 2010 and Belgium in 2011. She contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com. Visit: www.bbcf.ca.