SodaStream Controversy Fueled by Lies and Distortions — and Israel's Occupation

Palestinian Workers Treated Equally at Factory

Glitz and Tall Tales: SodaStream’s supporters and defenders have both bent the facts about the Israeli company. Finding the truth starts in the West Bank settlement where its factory is located.
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Glitz and Tall Tales: SodaStream’s supporters and defenders have both bent the facts about the Israeli company. Finding the truth starts in the West Bank settlement where its factory is located.

By Nathan Jeffay

Published January 30, 2014, issue of February 07, 2014.
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To some people, it’s a storm in a soda cup. But to others, SodaStream’s most ambitious advertising campaign ever, starring Scarlett Johansson, is a potent symbol of all that is bad about Israel’s occupation of the West Bank.

The ad campaign, to be kicked off during the broadcast of the Super Bowl, on February 2, has it all — a celebrity name, sex appeal, an environmental motif and a healthy-living theme. It even had a subversive element that took a dig at Coke and Pepsi before this part was banned by Fox, the Super Bowl’s broadcaster, generating further publicity. To critics, however, all this just underscores their concern that operating from Israeli settlements deemed illegal by the international community is no impediment to commercial success.

In the run-up to the Super Bowl, Johansson and SodaStream have come under both withering attack from critics of the settlements, including those calling for an anti-Israel boycott, and stirring praise from defenders of Israel, in particular from the right-wing nationalist camp. The two sides have propagated portraits of the company and its policies that are mutually irreconcilable. What they do share, a probe by the Forward has found, are a tendency to distort facts and tell incomplete truths and, in some cases, outright falsehoods. Information put out by SodaStream itself avoids the last of these pitfalls but does offer spin that leaves viewers with a less-than-complete picture.

Meanwhile, over and above that, is the issue of the land on which the SodaStream factory sits.

The Mishor Adumim industrial park, where the SodaStream plant is sited, and the settlement Ma’ale Adumim, of which the park is a part, are not hard-line outposts. Israelis regard Ma’ale Adumim as one of the “consensus” settlements — those deemed certain to be retained, with possible land swaps, in any final peace deal with the Palestinians that would establish a Palestinian state.

Just 15 minutes outside Jerusalem, Ma’ale Adumim is nevertheless a settlement especially loathed by Israeli peace activists. It was made possible in the 1970s by one of the largest expropriations of Palestinian land implemented by Israel during its 46-year occupation of the West Bank.

According to the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem, the land on which the settlement and its industrial zone, including SodaStream, now sit was taken from the Palestinian towns Abu Dis, al-’Izariyyeh, al-’Issawiyyeh, a-Tur and Anata. Other expropriated lands are areas in which the Jahalin and Sawahareh Bedouin tribes lived before Israel evicted them.

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