The United Church welcomes the closure of SodaStream International's factory located in an Israeli settlement in the occupied West Bank, as well as the news that cosmetics company Ahava plans to relocate its manufacturing plant from the West Bank to inside the pre-1967 lines.
SodaStream, Ahava, and Keter Plastics are the companies whose settlement-made products the United Church has encouraged members and others to avoid through its Unsettling Goods: Choose Peace in Palestine and Israel campaign. The economic action element of the campaign has focused on goods produced in the illegal settlements as a non-violent way of bringing pressure to bear to end the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories. The United Church, like many in the international community, has named the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories as a major obstacle to peace.
While SodaStream’s announcement is one of the campaign’s hoped-for outcomes, their new factory is located in the Southern Negev, in an area where the Israeli government has in the past proposed to resettle Bedouin Palestinians. SodaStream laid off most of its Palestinian workers during the move. Daniel Birnbaum, the chief executive of SodaStream, “has accused his company’s critics of antisemitism and hurting the interests of the Palestinian workers they claim to protect.”
However, it is the occupation that stifles the Palestinian economy, resulting in high levels of unemployment. Ending the constraints that characterize the occupation would be a key in building a sovereign, stable Palestinian economy (as highlighted in this recent World Bank report on the Palestinian economy [PDF on worldbank.org]).
It’s estimated that it will take two years for Ahava to build its new manufacturing plant. In the meantime, continued pressure on Ahava is needed until the West Bank plant is fully closed.
In November 2015, the Unsettling Goods team contacted Canadian Tire regarding Keter Plastic products carried in their stores. Although Canadian Tire responded by saying that the Keter products carried in their stores are not manufactured in factories in Israeli settlements, we continue to urge the corporation to use its relationship with Keter to press them to withdraw completely from the settlements.
For more information and ideas for action, see Unsettling Goods: Choose Peace in Palestine and Israel and Regulate Products from Illegal Settlements in Palestine and Israel.