Jason Kenney: Up the SodaStream without a paddle?

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SodaStream, the now infamous maker of soda machines, has found itself a new brand ambassador. Perhaps not as affable as Scarlet Johansson, Minister Jason Kenney has seemingly volunteered to be the new face of the company. He publicly intervened in the ongoing debacle between charity Oxfam and SodaStream by staging a "buycott" in support of the corporation. This outrageous gesture by a public official is appalling and antithetical to Canada's foreign policy; it serves as a tacit approval of Israel's illegal settlement enterprise.

Kenney's recently posted a twitter message celebrating his purchase of a new SodaStream and exclaiming "Bought a nice @SodaStream unit at the @HudsonsBayCo. Thanks to @Oxfam for the tip. #Buycott #BDSfail #GoScarJo." The controversy is this: SodaStream is an Israel company whose factory sits on occupied Palestinian land; deemed illegal by Canada and the rest of the world. Human development agency Oxfam, like most NGO's, is opposed to all trade from the settlements as they serve to strengthen Israeli’s occupation of Palestinian lands. 

So, what's alarming is not the simple purchase of a soda maker, but Kenney's decision to step into a public scandal which pits an NGO against a corporate profiteer of Israel's occupation. The issue at stake is the economic support for illegal colonies at the cost of undermining Palestinian human rights. It’s tricky to say the least, if not obvious.

For Kenney to publicly take the sides of the corporation by staging a buycott, while sarcastically mocking and discrediting the charity is unacceptable. This move flies flat in the face of Canada’s official position which is opposed to expansion and support of the settlements. Given his role as the Minister of Employment and Social Development, it's particularly hypocritical for him to defame an agency working to alleviate poverty and unemployment in the Palestinian territories and beyond. 

Contrary to Kenney's implication, Oxfam has not endorsed the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel and has publicly denied supporting it. This further makes him guilty of false allegations. It's clear he is unaware of the diversity and nuances that exist within solidarity activists and NGOs on this issue.

While BDS calls for a general boycott to economically isolate Israel, institutions have responded to this call by implementing selective boycotts in various ways. Most organizations with ethical investment policies that support boycotts have decided to oppose trade from Israeli settlements built on usurped Palestinian land. Oxfam, like many others, has taken this principled stance which seems to be beyond the comprehension of Kenney’s humble intellect.

Conservatives have long been pushed to reiterate Canada’s stance on Israel’s colonial activities; they’ve dodged the question at every possible chance. Actions speak louder than words and it has always been clear where Kenney and other Harperites stand. Corporate endorsements and public mockery of an aid agency represent a new low in a long string of diplomatic embarrassments -- it certainly won’t be the last.

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Waleed Ahmed is a freelance writer based out of Toronto. He enjoys writing about current affairs, human rights and religion. 

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