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Sodastream Bubbles Over

Activist group asks for ban on fizzy water maker produced in Occupied Territories

by Jon Grant

Sodastream Bubbles Over

K'jipuktuk (Halifax) - Halifax activist group Canadians, Arabs and Jews for Just Peace (CAJJP) has been hosting peaceful demonstrations in the form of information pickets outside the Planet Organic market located on Quinpool Road. The group consists of about a dozen dedicated activists who hope to inform customers of the product, SodaStream, and the company's unethical business practices.

In addition to the information pickets CAJJP has also written letters to Planet Organic in hopes that the company will discontinue the sale of SodaStream carbonation devices which are produced in occupied Palestinian territories.

SodaStream, a carbonation device which allows consumers to produce carbonated beverages using tap water from their home, is an Israeli based company which has come under recent scrutiny from the international activist community for producing goods in occupied Palestinian territories of the West Bank. The company currently has three production facilities located in Israel and the West Bank. CAJJP points out that Palestinian workers are subjected to long hours without adequate pay, job security, or workers rights. Many Palestinians are forced into production jobs as their only means of employment.

Social justice activists have likened Israel's military occupation of Palestinian lands to conditions of apartheid in South Africa. Natural resources, including water, along the West Bank are extremely limited and Israeli manufacturing plants are putting small scale Palestinian agricultural practices in jeopardy. Production in occupied territory is effectively creating food security issues for Palestinians while boosting the Israeli economy leading to the systemic oppression of Palestinians.

SodaStream products have become popular in Europe and have seen a recent growth in the North American market following aggressive advertising campaigns. Due to SodaStream's recent popularity in the North American market CAJJP recognized a need to inform consumers of the company's production practices.

Similar protests and awareness campaigns have resulted in SodaStream products being boycotted by Coop Sweden. CAJJP hopes that peaceful demonstrations and awareness campaigns in North America will produce similar boycotts in an effort to compel SodaStream to stop production in occupied territory and to put pressure on the Israeli government to end the occupation of Palestinian lands.

The information picket has been going on at Planet Organic's Quinpool location for the past four weeks. Linda Scherzinger of CAJJP states that Planet Organic has been reluctant to respond to the demonstration, explaining that "we have written letters, we have attempted to meet with them in person, and we have spoken with some of the staff, the manager, and the national buyer. None of them have answered our letters or given us a response. So that's another reason that we decided to move towards public action, it seemed to be the next step."

Planet Organic was not available for comment.

The group hopes that customers will reconsider purchasing SodaStream products and that Planet Organic will remove the carbonation devices from their shelves. When asked how citizens have been responding to the demonstration Linda Scherzinger points out that "the majority of people are very interested, they are not aware, they don't know about the connection with the product and what's going on in the Middle East and some of them are quite anxious to learn more."

Jim Guild of CAJJP explains one of the major obstacles in having Planet Organic remove the product is that "selling the product isn't political, but to stop selling the product is political."

In other words while it is easy for the national buyer to stock products on the shelves, companies are reluctant to take a stance on social justice issues such as the Israel-Palestine conflict fearing the customers' response.

While SodaStream claims to be environmentally friendly by cutting the amount of plastic bottles that end up in landfills, they do however divert limited water resources in the West Bank for the production of their products.

Planet Organic claims in it's mission statement "to protect the health of the earth", however, the sale of goods produced in occupied territories, the working conditions which Palestinians are subjected to, and the industrialization of occupied territories further exacerbate the oppression of Palestinians and seriously jeopardize future peace efforts.

CAJJP views informing Canadian consumers of human rights violations as the first step towards a resolution. Whether consumers are aware of it or not, the purchase of products from an apartheid state supports state sponsored oppression. By boycotting such products consumers have the collective power to diminish the ability of such brutal state regimes.

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