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Middle East & North Africa

Bursting the ‘Blood Bubble’

Palestinian workers at the SodaStream plant. Credit: Pierre Klochendler/IPS.

MISHOR ADUMIM INDUSTRIAL ZONE, Occupied West Bank, Feb 9 2014 (IPS) - The longstanding Israeli practice of labelling settlement products “Made in Israel” is leading to mounting opposition to the occupation.

Settlements are considered a violation of international law. In Israel, they aren’t. And so, more often than not, consumers of Israeli products across the world do not know whether they’re purchasing a product made in Israel proper or in a settlement.

Germany, Israel’s strongest European ally, reportedly intends to widen the ban to private companies operating in the occupied territories.

This blurring of borders and labels by Israeli businesses trading on land, which the Palestinians envision as part of their future state, and the ensuing calls for boycott, have entrapped a Hollywood star in the nitty-gritty of the conflict, and in a conflict of interest.

Till recently, Scarlett Johansson doubled as charity ambassador for the British NGO Oxfam and as brand ambassador for SodaStream, an Israeli soda maker company listed on NASDAQ whose main manufacturing plant is established on an old munitions factory near the settlement Ma’aleh Adumim.

Her praise of the soda makers, carbonators, eco-friendly bottles and syrup flavours went viral even before the commercial was aired during the Super Bowl.

Oxfam, which opposes trade with settlements, pressed her to recant her support for SodaStream, but she instead resigned from Oxfam.

In a statement, Johansson extolled SodaStream’s commitment to “building a bridge to peace”, in that 500 Palestinians, 450 Israeli Arabs and 350 Israeli Jews are “working alongside each other, receiving equal pay, equal benefits and equal rights.”

Palestinians earn twice to three times as much working on the SodaStream assembly line than they would in the Palestinian Authority.

“This is a coercive relationship by definition,” counters Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement co-founder and Palestinian human rights activist Omar Barghouti.

“After decades of systematically destroying Palestinian industry and agriculture and imposing extreme restrictions of movement preventing many from reaching their workplaces, Israel has forced tens of thousands of Palestinian workers and farmers to seek jobs in illegal Israeli colonies.”

BDS activists dub the make-your-own home fizzy drink company a “blood bubble”.

“We’re an anomaly,” acknowledges SodaStream CEO Daniel Birnbaum, who describes himself as an ardent supporter of the two-state solution. He hastily invited foreign journalists on a tour of the controversial manufacturing facility.

He strikes a pose of self-righteous indignation at the BDS movement and on “why providing employment is an obstacle to peace.”

“If this area ends up as part of Palestine, I have no problem paying taxes to the Palestinian government,” he says, while commending Johansson’s “heroic stance”.

But, Barghouti tells IPS, “Through popular civil resistance and sustained BDS efforts, as against apartheid South Africa, Israel will be compelled to recognise our rights under international law and end its regime of occupation, colonisation and apartheid.”

In recent days, Nordic institutions decided to cut off their ties with Israeli companies involved in the construction of settlements or that maintain branches in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Danske Bank, Denmark’s largest bank, has blacklisted Israel’s Bank HaPoalim. The Norwegian Ministry of Finance excluded Israeli firms Africa Israel Investments and Danya Cebus from its Government Pension Fund Global.

PGGM, the Netherlands’ largest pension fund management company, withdrew all its investments from Israel’s five largest banks.

While the scientific agreement “Horizon 2020” recently signed by Israel and the European Union bans European funding to academic research carried out in the settlements, now Germany, Israel’s strongest European ally, reportedly intends to widen the ban to private companies operating in the occupied territories.

In July last year the European Commission, the executive arm of the EU, released new guidelines forbidding EU institutions from providing grants or loans to Israeli organisations with ties to settlements.

Barghouti emphasises the rise in support for the academic boycott of Israel in the U.S. and Ireland, and the growing number of western artists who refuse to perform in Israel.

The CEO of the fizzy drink company seemed unfazed by the wave of BDS actions. “Nordic countries boycott products manufactured in this facility. We shifted the production to our plant in China.”

But U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has warned the Israeli government that if the peace talks collapse, Israel risks facing increasing threats of boycott and de-legitimisation campaigns.

BDS advocates an end to Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories, including the dismantling of Israel’s security barrier and settlements. The movement also calls for “the U.N.-sanctioned and inherent right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes of origin.”

For most Israelis, the right of return of millions of Palestinian refugees from the 1948 War and their descendants to what is now Israel would be tantamount to upending Israel as a Jewish state. Recognition of Israel as such by the Palestinian Authority is a major demand of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Inversely, such characterisation is adamantly rejected by the Palestinians as it would be equivalent to ignoring not only the right of return, a major Palestinian demand and a core issue of the conflict, but also the existence of the Palestinian-Israeli minority which constitutes roughly 20 percent of Israel’s population.

Netanyahu has called a cabinet meeting to devise strategic options to counter potential European BDS initiatives.

“The most effective and immediate strategy to blunt BDS and other forms of political warfare is to end the massive funding given to radical NGOs that promote these anti-Israel campaigns,” NGO Monitor, an Israeli right-wing non-government organisation close to the Israeli government states on its website.

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  • Israelicitizen

    The author quotes self evident falsehoods provided by that propagandist Barghouti. “After decades of systematically destroying Palestinian industry and agriculture” – there has never been any Palestinian industry and there was only the agriculture in a most primitive form. There never was even was such a thing as a clean drinking water in the
    areas populated by the Palestinians until very recently – most of it provided by Israel including to Gaza. Exactly the same is true regarding the electricity. These blowhards have exactly the same chance of succeeding as would the American Indians if they were to try to reclaim their land

  • Neil D. Chase

    Entities attempting to block Arabs and Jews working together are anachronisms. If they do not recognize what day in whichthey are living they will disappear as have the dinosaurs.

  • Northern_Witness

    And yet, the Palestinians lived on that land for thousands of years before the creeping Zionist invasion of the 1880’s began. They simply used the land in a way that is different from the rapacious way the Zionists use it.

  • Northern_Witness

    And yet, the Palestinians lived on that land for thousands of years before the creeping Zionist invasion of the 1880’s began. They simply used the land in a way that is different from the rapacious way the Zionists use it.

  • Northern_Witness

    The article shows that Palestinians are being used only as units of production. That is not working together. Better they should work together to achieve a two-state solution, to enable the right of return, to achieve Israeli reparations to the Palestinians and/or their families who have suffered exile, confiscation of property, injury and death.

  • Juan Acevedo

    This paid ANP author is showing his lack of knowledge. Right of return has never been a right since Palestine was never a State, more than that, it was a British colony (as many in the world). The Diaspora, or the natural right of return for the Jews, is the law. Jerusalem is a Jewish city and mentioned in the Bible, if the author wants.
    The so called Palestinians are occupying the old city of Jerusalem by the moment the Old Temple was destroyed.
    The Golan Highs is a land lost by the Jordan, and it is the price paid for attacking a legal State founded under the UN.
    If you support the occupation theories, then you should not buy any product from Gibraltar, Falklands Islands and so on.

  • kayos99

    Thank you for this considered comment. A great wrong has been perpetrated against Palestine, including being ‘wiped off’ the world map. How to right that wrong? First is to put Palestine back on the map–a whole Palestine with contiguous borders. Then, Israel must take down the walls, fences, and leave those beautiful houses, apartment buildings, highways and infrastructure as part reparation for all the destruction of a peaceful society (that had no army). The 8 or 9 countries that continue to excuse Israel’s illegal actions can aid the ‘settlers’ to return to their own land and the rest of the world can help Palestine. Israel cannot survive by force of arms–no nation or empire has ever survived that way. There is another way, but not with a one state that is ‘Jewish’. I believe that the world is waking up from it’s media-induced stupor–BDS.

  • originalone

    Always interesting how two sides express their own view of any situation, whether partisan or otherwise. Revisionism plays a big part in this. I do question the idea that the return of the Jews is O.K., but not the Palestinians, who have lived in Palestine continuously, while the Jews were scattered in other countries. There’s also the facts that while Israel may modernize the infrastructure, they are also destroying the Palestinian infrastructure at the same time. Perhaps the Israelis who believe their government is in the right, would also demand that the Palestinians be afforded the right of return, their own state, the freedom to travel, trade, educate as the Israelis do, without the restrictions put upon them by the Israeli government.

  • Mr. Abayomi Manrique

    Special thanks to the author for this article. I commend you for standing up for journalistic integrity as opposed to being a victim of the bullying from the zionist propaganda police. I support the cultural and economic boycott of the zionist aparthied regime. It is high time that this approach was taken against the arrogance of this regime. It is amazing that the majority of israelis and their apologists who try to live with this humanitarian wrong while pretending that they are living in a modern and progressive democratic society. It is the heights of their collective stupidity but then, this is exactly the mind set of the so called powerful just before their self-destruction.

    A word to the Palestinian peoples: The majority of progressive minded people of the world support you all. Please do not give up. We are working diligently for your freedom.

  • beestyng

    The other colonies were given their independence – and state – while Palestinians were denied that right.

  • Northern_Witness

    Thanks for the observation that the Zionist infrastructure in Gaza and the West Bank can be part of the reparations process. I had not thought of that. But it is more likely that a Zionist withdrawal would mean they would destroy that infrastructure.

  • Northern_Witness

    If you want to go the “right of return” route, then Italians are entitled to “Israel” and Palestine as they lived in and control that area for much longer than any other group.

  • Northern_Witness

    Are you not aware the first choice for colonization by Theodore Herzl, the founder of Zionism, was not Palestine but Argentina and then Uganda.

    Palestine only became a “British colony” in 1916 when the Sykes-Picot Agreement, signed by the U.K., France, and Russia, divided Arab territories into French and British administrations. The next year, 1917, Palestine became a viable option for a creeping Zionist invasion because of the U.K’s
    Balfour Declaration which established “in Palestine a national home for the Jewish people”. The Balfour Declaration was payment of a debt of gratitude to Chaim Weizman, the then Zionist leader and an immigrant to Britain from Germany, who invented a process of producing acetone from chestnuts for the production of high explosives for the U.K. Ministry of Munitions.

    Palestine for the Zionists was payment of war debt by a country (the U.K) that had zero right to use Palestine in that way.

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