SodaStream Teams Up With Bedouin Town in Offer to Take in Syrian Refugees

The company, which has a factory near Rahat, said the plan is subject to Israeli government approval.

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Haaretz
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Employees work at the new SodaStream factory built deep in Israel's Negev Desert next to the city of Rahat, Israel, that will replace the West Bank facility when it shuts down, Sept. 2, 2015.
Employees work at the new SodaStream factory built deep in Israel's Negev Desert next to the city of Rahat, Israel, that will replace the West Bank facility when it shuts down, Sept. 2, 2015.Credit: AP
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Haaretz

SodaStream International, the Israeli home beverage machine maker that has a factory near the Negev Bedouin town of Rahat, has announced a joint effort to provide "immediate asylum to refugees from Syria, pending Israeli authorities' approval."

The company, which boosted it profile in the United States by hiring actress Scarlett Johansson as its pitchwoman, has been the longtime target of anti-Israeli boycott, divestment and sanctions movement, BDS, over its factory in the West Bank settlement of Mishor Adumim. Citing business considerations and not boycott pressures, this year the company relocated the West Bank factory, which had a large Palestinian workforce, to the Lehavim industrial zone in the Be'er Sheva area.

Protestors in the U.S. call for the boycott of SodaStream last year.Credit: sodastreamboycott.org

SodaStream says 30 percent of the 1,100 employees at the new plant are residents of Rahat.

"SodaStream and Rahat can effectively absorb 1,000 individuals, or up to 200 families, and provide them with an opportunity to build a new life in Israel," the company said in a statement.

"As the son of a Holocaust survivor, I refuse to stand by and observe this human tragedy unfold right across the border in Syria," the statement said, quoting company CEO Daniel Birnbaum.

"Just as we have always done our best to help our Palestinian brothers and sisters in the West Bank, the time has come for local business and municipal leaders to address the Syrian humanitarian crisis and take the initiative to help those in need. We cannot expect our politicians to bear the entire burden of providing aid for the refugees."

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