Campaigners for Palestinian rights are declaring success following Wednesday's announcement by SodaStream International, a controversial Israeli-owned company targeted by a global boycott campaign, that it will be shuttering and relocating its factory that is housed in the occupied West Bank.
"We have witnessed a tremendous growth in boycott, divestment, and sanctions efforts this year to pressure Israel to ends its denial of Palestinian rights," said Ramah Kudaimi of the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, a coalition of over than 400 groups. "[Wednesday's] news is just the latest sign that these global [Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions, or BDS] campaigns are having an impact on changing the behavior of companies that profit from Israeli occupation and apartheid."
In an Investor Relations report posted to the company's website, SodaStream, which produces soda carbonation devices, announced it plans to move its factory that is currently located in the Israeli settlement of Ma’aleh Adumim—which is illegal under international law—to Israel's southern Naqab (Negev) desert region by the end of 2015.
The company has come under mounting pressure to shutter the facility from supporters of the Palestinian call for BDS, as well as backers of a more limited boycott of goods from illegal Israeli settlements. "Not only is SodaStream’s factory on land that is occupied (and so should not be built upon by the occupying power as per international humanitarian law), but it is also built on land from which Palestinians have been forcibly displaced," reads an open letter by renowned scholars and advocates published in January. The company, further, has faced criticism for exploiting Palestinian labor, including paying them lower wages than their Israeli counterparts and subjecting them to mass firings.
SodaStream found itself in the international media spotlight earlier this year when campaigners urged actress Scarlett Johansson to drop her role as paid ambassador for the company on account of its role in the Israeli occupation. At the time, Johansson was a global ambassador for the global charity Oxfam, which opposes trade with Isreali settlements. Ultimately, Johansson chose to sever ties with Oxfam over "a fundamental difference of opinion" and maintain her role with the Israeli company. Furthermore, in August of this year, the Soros Fund Management withdrew its shares in SodaStream.
SodaStream spokesperson Nirit Hurwitz claimed Thursday that the move is for "purely commercial" reasons. “Our costs have increased and our profitability has eroded," she said.
But participants in the boycott say the global movement has forced the company's hand. "BDS campaign pressure has forced retailers across Europe and North America to drop SodaStream, and the company’s share price has tumbled in recent months as our movement has caused increasing reputational damage to the SodaStream brand," said Rafeef Ziadah, a spokesperson for the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee, a coalition of Palestinian civil society organizations.
Campaigners pledge that the BDS movement will continue to boycott this and all Israeli-owned companies.
"Even if this announced closure goes ahead, SodaStream will remain implicated in the displacement of Palestinians," said Ziadah. "Its new Lehavim factory is close to Rahat, a planned township in the Naqab (Negev) desert, where Palestinian Bedouins are being forcefully transferred against their will. Sodastream, as a beneficiary of this plan, is complicit with this violation of human rights."