Rumors are swirling regarding the possible closing of a SodaStream manufacturing plant in the West Bank settlement industrial park Mishor Edomim.
Following a hard hitting report on the company recently released in Sweden by the organization Who Profits from the Occupation, a research project of the Coalition of Women for Peace, reports are stating that SodaStream will be moving their plant to a new location within the Green Line.
While the Israeli company's CEO Daniel Birnbaum confirms that SodaStream is setting up a plant inside the Green Line, it is unknow at this stage whether production in the West Bank will stop, according to the Israeli news daily Haaretz.
"At the moment we are building a new plant within the boundaries of the Green Line, but I don't know if production at Mishor Adumim will continue. It depends on the political atmosphere and the company's needs," Birnbaum told Haaretz, saying that reports of the closing are incorrect.
SodaStream is a manufacturer of home beverage carbonating devices, beverage syrups, and water filters, and sells its products in 39 countries. While the company’s U.S. sales tripled last year, Western Europe remains its main market, particularly Sweden, where the report was released and the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions movement has a large following.
The company labels and markets its products with a ‘Made in Israel’ label; however, SodaStream’s main manufacturing facility is located in Mishor Edomim, an illegal settlement in the occupied West Bank. The misleading labeling is particularly problematic in the European market, where the European Court of Justice passed a ruling stating that goods produced in settlements should not be considered as made in Israel and therefore should not qualify for the tax exemptions of the EU-Israel Association Agreement.
SodaStream, formerly Soda Club, established its production presence in the Mishor Edomim settlement industrial complex in 1996.
In an interview with Globes magazine in March 2000, Peter Wiseburgh, the founder of the company, explained that “he chose to build the factory in Mishor Edomim because of the low real estate prices and lax bureaucratic regulations he found there,” reported Who Profits.
“I looked everywhere,” he said, “but anywhere I looked the bureaucracy was cumbersome. When I got here, the space [formerly occupied by the Israel military industry] was deserted and full of pigeons. So I just turned around and walked away. A week later, the Jerusalem Economic [which leases the industrial zone from the Israeli Civil Administration] offered to give me the site for free for the first six months, and then for forty-four thousand shekels rent per month and also offered one hundred thousand dollars in cash for the cost of renovating the place. I rented 13,000 square meters, and it was a good deal. Not a political act.”
According to Tamara Traubmann, co-author of the Who Profits report, “The report shows that exploitation and deception are an inevitable part of commercial production in the occupied area. Settlement production benefits from low rent, special tax incentives, and lax enforcement of environmental and labor protection laws. In addition, it many times enjoys preferential trade agreements as if these were products manufactured in Israel.”
Most of the workers in the SodaStream factory in Mishor Edomim come from local Palestinian villages and cities near the Ma’aleh Adumim settlement, most specifically Azaria, Abu Dis, Hazma, and Jericho.
Who Profits also references three years of reports (2008 to 2010) from the organization Kav LaOved (an NGO committed to protecting the rights of disadvantaged workers employed by Israeli companies), which state that workers in the SodaStream factory suffer from harsh working conditions, particularly Palestinian workers. During the last few years, there have been several occasions on which workers complained about low wages and poor working conditions, and about ‘revolving door’ employment policies.