Ramallah, 28 April 2014 — The Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC), the largest
coalition in Palestinian civil society that is leading the global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement for Palestinian rights, issued a stern warning to Starbucks today that if media reports about its intention to purchase a stake in SodaStream prove accurate, it would be deemed complicit in Israel’s violations of international law and would, therefore, face the prospects of popular boycotts and the possibility of legal action.
SodaStream is an Israeli company that manufactures in Maale Adumim, an illegal settlement in the occupied Palestinian territory (OPT) and, as such, is deeply complicit in Israel’s violations of international law. Settlements are illegal under international law and constitute a war crime.
Leading UN officials and human rights organizations, including Oxfam, have condemned settlement-based industries as profiting from the Israeli occupation and colluding in the denial of Palestinian rights.
The BDS movement has consistently targeted complicit Israeli and international corporations — involved in Israel’s occupation, settlements and other international law infringements — such as Sodatream, G4S, Ahava, Mekorot, Elbit, Veolia, Caterpillar, Africa Israel, all Israeli banks, among others.
A BDS campaign against Starbucks is expected to drastically affect its market share in the Arab world and many countries across the world. Veolia, a French company involved in several illegal Israeli projects in the OPT, has lost or was compelled to withdraw from contracts worth billions of dollars in Sweden, the UK, Ireland, the US and elsewhere. Similarly, G4S, a British-Danish security conglomerate, lost lucrative contracts in Europe and South Africa.
SodaStream markets itself as environmentally friendly to hide the fact that it is, after all, part of a colonial enterprise. More than 200 Palestinian families were expelled from their homes to make way for the construction of Maale Adumim in the 1990s, in defiance of the Fourth Geneva Convention. Israel has announced its intentions to forcibly displace another 2,300 Palestinians from their land in order to facilitate further expansion of the settlement.
Palestinian trade unions have consistently rejected any suggestion that the oppressive reality of living under a brutal occupation — sometimes leaving Palestinians with no choice but to export fresh produce through complicit Israeli companies or work in illegal settlements — is a reason not to take action to end international complicity in human rights violations. Palestinian workers employed by SodaStream have explained that they face systematic discrimination and are “treated like slaves”.
Far from reducing its direct contribution to human rights abuses, SodaStream’s plan to open a factory inside Israel beside Rahat, a planned Palestinian Bedouin township in the Naqab (Negev) desert, amounts to participation in Israel’s plans to forcibly displace at least 40,000 Palestinian Bedouins into townships, a policy that has been widely condemned by the UN, the European Parliament and leading human rights organisations.
Starbucks’ reported interest in SodaStream comes at a time when civil society, the private sector and governments across the world are increasingly shunning businesses that contribute to Israel’s occupation and violations of international law. International supporters of Palestinian rights have responded to calls for boycotts of SodaStream, organising protests across hundreds of stores and many European retailers have pledged not to sell products produced in illegal Israeli settlements. The Dutch and UK governments have recently warned businesses to avoid business links with illegal Israeli settlements.
Following the recent high profile outcry about actor Scarlett Johansson’s association with SodaStream, investment analysts have stated that SodaStream “comes with baggage” and that their illegal settlement factory is “a touchstone for controversy”. Indeed, their first quarter 2014 results show a drop of 14% in their share price.
As a signatory to the UN Global Compact, Starbucks claims to respect human rights in its operations. Given the wide scale violations of human rights that are part and parcel of the forced displacement that Israel has pursued in both Maale Adumim and the Naqab desert, any relationship with SodaStream would clearly conflict with the principles of the UN Global Compact.
Starbucks should abandon any plans it may have to purchase a stake in or enter into a partnership with SodaStream or any other company profiting from Israel’s occupation and settlements to avoid becoming a target for the BDS movement.
The Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC)