Friday, June 05, 2020

SodaStream violates International Law

By Hannah B. - February 02, 2014
Section: [Main News] [BDS]
Tags: [BDS] [SodaStream] [Oxfam]

After significant press coverage of the situation, Scarlett Johansson made the decision to step down from her position as an ambassador for Oxfam, over a “fundamental difference of opinion” with the charity, according to Haaretz. Johansson’s spokesperson said the actress chose to leave Oxfam over differing viewpoints on the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, and the legality of settlements. 
Named as Oxfam’s ambassador in 2005, Scarlett Johansson has recently become the first global ambassador of SodaStream, an Israeli fizzy drinks company, with a factory in the illegal Israeli settlement of Ma’ale Adumim. A multi-million dollar company, Soda Streams markets its products as environmentally friendly and is steadily becoming more popular, especially in the U.S. market.
As a charitable organisation, Oxfam came under extensive international pressure from activists who called for the charity to distance itself from SodaStream’s global ambassador, and drop Johansson as one of their representatives.
Oxfam has said it opposes all trade with Israeli settlements and has stated that it considers all settlements in the West Bank illegal.
Johansson has come under more criticism since she chose to stick with SodaStream and a sizeable pay check, over Oxfam and the protection of human rights.  
Oxfam, as well as the International Committee of the Red Cross and the United Nations, among other states and supranational organisations, have always maintained that Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories are illegal. UN Resolution 446 specifically denounces Israeli settlements in the Palestinian Territories. “The policy… of Israel establishing settlements in the Palestinian territories… [has] no legal validity and constitute[s] a serious obstruction to achieving a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East.” Israel repeatedly refutes that the settlements are against international law. So serious is the illegality of Israel’s settlement policy, that underneath the Rome Statue, it constitutes a war crime.
Furthermore, Israel violates a number of commitments that must be carried out by an occupying power. Under international law the “occupying power must ensure sufficient hygiene and public health standards.” Settlements, and the factories located there violate this law by using already deprived water resources and restricting water access for Palestinians.
Scarlett Johansson has come under intense criticism from a number of groups, including BDS and Oxfam, after it emerged that she was the ambassador for SodaStream.  Johansson says she “hopes that a greater number of voices will contribute to the conversation of a peaceful two state solution in the near future,” and is “happy that light is being shed” on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict through her work with SodaStream. By supporting SodaStream, Johansson is promoting and furthering the Israeli occupation of Palestine, and has now chosen to leave Oxfam, a charity that aims to uphold human rights in Palestine and provides the territory with humanitarian aid.
SodaStream is exploiting the valuable resources of the Palestinian state. Located on stolen Palestinian land, the factory deprives the area of agricultural land, valuable water resources and clean air. A report by Middle East Monitor, highlights the damage the factories in settlements have on Palestinian resources.
Furthermore the company is explicitly violating international law by operating a factory in an Israeli settlement located on the other side of the internationally recognised Green Line. The Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement (BDS), which works to end the Israeli occupation through economic sanctions, has long called for the boycott of SodaStream. The company has now received negative international attention through efforts by activists to highlight the illegal actions of the company.
SodaStream claims to be “building bridges” between Palestinians and Israelis, encouraging co-existence. However by simply operating in a factory on Palestinian land one is depriving local inhabitants of agricultural land, while simultaneously contributing nothing to the Palestinian economy. All revenue from the factory goes to the Israeli government and the municipality of Ma’ale Adumim, despite being located in the West Bank.
Employees working in settlements, whether they are Palestinian or Israeli, are entitled to the same pay and workers’ rights under Israeli law.
SodaStream claims that they provide Palestinians with jobs they otherwise would not have; while the factory does employ approximately 800 Palestinians, their working conditions violate Israeli law. A factory employee, who gave an interview to the Electronic Intifada, disputed many claims made SodaStream in a video promoting their factory conditions. “I feel humiliated and also disgraced as a Palestinian, as the claims in this video are all lies.” CEO Daniel Birnham referred to the workers at the factory as 'one big family’. The factory worker disputed this, claiming “they treat us like slaves,” according the Electronic Intifada.
According to Israeli law, a working day “shall not exceed eight working hours,” while all employees at the SodaStream factory workers often work 12 hours per day, though the majority of Israeli employees have higher positions within the company to which these shift times do not apply.  
In other industrial parks located in settlements across the West Bank, companies have been packing up and closing their factories. In 2008, Swedish company Mul-T-Lock, and Barkan Wines pulled out of Barkan Industrial Park after pressure from activists within Israel as well abroad was put on companies operating within the occupied territories.
SodaStream’s advertisement featuring Scarlett Johansson was to be shown during the Super Bowl, but Fox TV has recently deemed it unacceptable on the grounds that it denounces Coke and Pepsi. It is thought that the main reason is politics, but Fox TV is looking to distance itself from taking sides.

Production in illegal settlements contributes to a huge portion of Israel’s GDP, with exports to the European Union alone totalling 229 million Euros a year.  

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