After Leaving West Bank, SodaStream Hires Hundreds of New Employees

The company, which came under fire when it was based in a West Bank settlement, now has 1,400 employees - one-third of them Bedouin - working at its production plant in the Negev.

Palestinians had worked alongside Jews at the SodaStream factory: Mishor Adumim industrial park, Jan. 30, 2014, before the company had to move. The picture shows a female worker wearing blue clothing and a lilac headscarf, packaging.
AFP

After closing its West Bank factory, SodaStream has hired 300 new employees in the past three months for its production plant in southern Israel. 

The company, which came under fire when it was based in a West Bank Jewish settlement, now has 1,400 employees in an industrial park near Rahat within Israel's pre-1967 borders and one-third of them are Bedouin Arabs from the surrounding area, the Israeli business daily Globes reported. 

Now one of the largest employers in the Negev, Soda Stream will hire another 70 employees in the coming weeks, according to the report.

In October 2014, when SodaStream announced it would close its West Bank factory in the settlement of Ma'aleh Adumim, the company claimed the move was made for purely economic reasons and not in the face of pressure from BDS, the international anti-Israel boycott, divestment and sanctions movement.

Some 500 Palestinian employees at SodaStream's West Bank facility lost their jobs in the move. The Israeli government gave the remaining 74 employees permission to enter the country and continue to work for SodaStream, but only until the end of February of this year.

SodaStream CEO Daniel Birnbaum has been highly critical of the Israeli government's response to BDS. In an interview with Globes in late May, he accused the administration of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of relishing victim status for Israel because it enhances its political power. 

“My feeling is that the current Israeli government cultivates the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in all its forms and it grasps onto the BDS movement because perpetuating the conflict and the boycott movement strengthens its hold on power."

Birnbaum took the government to task for failing to issue work permits inside Israel for Palestinians who sought to continue working for the company at its new Negev facility. “I blame the Israeli government for scuttling this initiative, which it did in order to place the blame on the BDS movement,” said Birnbaum. 

Despite some high-profile instances in which businesses as well as internationally prominent performers have publicly announced that they would abide by the anti-Israel boycott, the Bloomberg business news service reported in early June that foreign investment in Israel is at a record high.

Since the BDS movement was founded in 2005 by a group of Palestinians, foreign investment in Israeli assets have almost tripled, hitting a record $285.12 billion in 2015, Bloomberg noted.