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Responsible and ethical holiday shopping: Consider joining the boycott of SodaStream

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As you may already be aware, making your own carbonated beverages at home isn't necessarily as "green" and socially responsible as it's cracked up to be. SodaStream, the most widely available home-carbonation device in Canada, markets itself as a "green" alternative to buying these beverages in cans or bottles. It's also labelled "Made in Israel." Neither of these claims is true. If this is news to you, please read on.

SodaStream's main factory is situated in the industrial park of an illegal Israeli settlement (read "colony") --Ma'ale Adumim—in the occupied West Bank of Palestine, a fact that has brought human rights advocates the world over together in pointing at SodaStream's marketing as a form of "greenwash."

The Palestinian West Bank has been under Israeli military occupation since 1967. Some half-million Jewish Israelis currently live in more than 230 West Bank settlements—and more continue to be built on land confiscated from Palestinians -- in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which forbids the colonization of occupied land by citizens of the occupying power. What's more, these settler/colonists enjoy full rights as Israeli citizens answerable to Israeli domestic law, while their Palestinian neighbours are subject to Israeli military law and live in ever-shrinking areas, increasingly encroached upon by Israeli colonization. Palestinians' movement is severely restricted by means of hundreds of checkpoints, limited access to highways, and by the so-called "security barrier" aka "apartheid wall" -- within the West Bank as well as between it and "Israel proper" -- including Jerusalem. In addition, the Israeli military imposes curfews, assassinates Palestinians, and invades communities at will, abducting and imprisoning Palestinian civilians without trial, including children. Settlers, too, often inflict violence against Palestinians, with the Israeli army reluctant to come to their defence.

What has this to do with SodaStream? SodaStream is a part of this system of control and oppression. By producing its machines in an illegal Israeli West Bank settlement, it takes advantage of weak environmental and labour protection laws, as well as major tax breaks, which provide strong incentives to Israeli businesses to move into these illegal settlements. And those taxes that it does pay don't benefit the Palestinian workers, but go to the Israeli government and the Ma'aleh Adumim municipality, helping to finance expansion of settlements, at the expense of the water resources and farmland upon which the Palestinian economy has traditionally relied. In addition, SodaStream treats its Palestinian employees in an oppressive manner; among other abuses, requiring them to work 60-hour weeks without overtime pay, and often firing those who book off sick for more than one day.

Consumers, however, are led to believe that SodaStream is "green" and, as its label fraudulently states, that it is "Made in Israel." But, by purchasing SodaStream, consumers are unwittingly supporting the continuation of this extremely violent and unethical system of control, segregation, and discrimination towards Palestinians. But you have a choice -- you can boycott SodaStream (several alternative products are now available in Canada) and let your friends and family know the facts.

Supporters of human rights around the world have been involved in this issue at least since 2005, when over 170 Palestinian civil society organizations appealed to the world to engage in boycotts, to divest from companies that support and profit from the occupation (including foreign ones, like Caterpillar, Veolia, and HP – see www.whoprofits.org), and for states to place sanctions on Israel, until Israel complies with international law by upholding basic Palestinian rights. This growing campaign—like the similar one in South Africa that contributed to the ending of apartheid -- has become an effective nonviolent tool of resistance.

Boycotts of SodaStream are already widespread throughout Western Europe and the United States, and are now gaining ground in Canada. Independent Jewish Voices–Canada, the United Church of Canada, district and provincial labour councils, student groups, and many others have called on their supporters to refrain from buying SodaStream. In the lower mainland, local affiliates of the Canadian Boycott Coalition for Justice in Palestine/Israel, and the United Network for Justice in Palestine and Israel have held two public actions so far.

As Tyler Levitan, campaigns coordinator for Independent Jewish Voices-Canada has stated:

"It is vitally important that we support nonviolent struggles against systems of mass oppression. The Israeli occupation of Palestine, and the ongoing theft of Palestinian land and resources, is a serious crime that we all must acknowledge. As the Harper government, along with other friendly Western governments, refuse to hold Israel to the same standards as every other country, it is up to us, citizens of the world, to use our power as consumers to support Palestinian human rights."

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