SodaStream's Last Palestinian Workers Lose Jobs After BDS Pressure Leads Company to Relocate

Final 74 employees had been commuting to company's new factory in Negev since West Bank plant closed down; pro-Palestinian U.S. group insists boycott to continue.

Employees working 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 in two weeks time, Sept. 2, 2015.
AP

The last Palestinian employees of SodaStream lost their jobs following the company’s move from the West Bank to southern Israel.

The final 74 employees had been commuting to the company’s new location in the Negev desert since the plant in Ma'aleh Adumim closed in October. Some 500 Palestinian employees lost their jobs at that time. Israel gave the final 74 employees permission to enter the country and continue to work for SodaStream until the end of February.

The company had planned to have a going away ceremony for them, APF reported on Monday.

The company had threatened to halt production at its factory unless the workers were given permits, a threat which it later abandoned. The new plant employs a significant number of Bedouin Arabs, particularly women.

SodaStream, which produces soda-making machines for the home, announced in October 2014 that it would close its West Bank factory in the face of international pressure from the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, or BDS, which seeks to hurt Israel’s economy over its policies toward the Palestinians. The movement claimed that SodaStream discriminated against Palestinian workers and paid some less than Israeli workers.

SodaStream was at the center of controversy following the signing in 2014 of actress Scarlett Johansson as a spokeswoman and the ensuing furor over its West Bank factory. Johansson resigned as a global ambassador for Oxfam over her position with SodaStream.

Following SodaStream’s announcement that it would relocate, Ramah Kudaimi of the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, a national coalition of more than 400 groups, said in a statement that the company would remain a target of boycott efforts since its new factory is close to Rahat, a planned township in the Negev desert for Bedouins, “thus still implicating the company in Israel’s displacement policies.”