SodaStream’s plant closure reveals a message

In a victory for the Palestinians and their international Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign, the Israeli company SodaStream decided last week to close its factory in the occupied West Bank.

The BDS campaign run by Palestinian civil society organizations has demonstrated what popular pressure can do to force behavioral change in the world and Israel, which continues its apartheid and colonial activities by occupying land, building illegal settlements and establishing factories in occupied territory. The message is clear: Nations across the world reject such actions.

Several European nations are among many across the world that have taken a moral position to boycott Israeli products produced in factories and farmland in the West Bank, much like they did to isolate the racist South African regime.

This has seen several Israeli companies see their profits shrink. SodaStream’s share price itself has plunged 70 percent from its high in July 2011, with talk that the company may put itself up for sale. Recently, shops in Oxford Street in the center of London were forced to remove SodaStream products from their shelves.

There is poor media coverage of the BDS campaign in the West, but this has not limited the ability of civil society organizations to shape public opinion. People in many European nations did not wait for their governments to act, they took a position based on their morals and principles. Celebrities, media personalities and politicians joined the call to convey the message that the occupation is illegitimate.

International breach

The BDS position on occupation is supported by a judgment from the International Court of Justice over 10 years ago, which declared that the illegal apartheid wall built by the Zionist regime constitutes a breach of Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which is a violation of international law.

The BDS campaign has also been able to mobilize academics. European and United States universities took part in boycotting the Israeli Bar-Ilan University for running educational programs in the occupied West Bank. Israeli academics are now warning that there is increased hostility toward their country, with more popular support for the Palestinians.

Students at the University of Exeter in the United Kingdom recently reportedly voted overwhelmingly in support of a boycott of goods produced in illegal Israeli settlements. The referendum, which garnered 86 percent approval, generated the largest voter turnout in the history of the university.

This referendum follows on the heels of a vote in August by the UK National Union of Students (NUS) to ensure that “the NUS does not employ or work with companies identified as facilitating Israel’s military capacity, human rights abuses or illegal settlement activity.”

There has been other action taken, according to reports. In June 2014, the American Presbyterian Church, the most prominent religious group in the U.S., voted to divest from three large companies (Hewlett Packard, Motorola and Caterpillar) whose products are used by Israel in the Occupied Territories.

A few weeks prior to that, the Bill Gates Foundation announced that it would sell its entire stake in G4S, the controversial security company that is contracted by Israel to run numerous services in its prisons and along the apartheid wall.

In December 2013, the American Studies Association, the largest association of scholars of American culture in the US, voted in favor of an academic boycott of Israel, while in Ireland in April 2013, the Teachers Union of Ireland became the first European trade union to call for an academic boycott of Israel.

This is the result of the hard work of activists — in Palestine, Israel and globally — working to transform the reality on the ground, rather than complaining about the behavior of the Israeli government and its collaborators. It is a triumph of the so-called common people.

 

This article was first published on Arab News on Nov. 5, 2014.

 

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Mohammed Fahad al-Harthi is the editor-in-chief of Sayidaty and al-Jamila magazines. A prominent journalist who worked with Asharq al-Awsat in London and Arab News in KSA, al-Harthi later moved on to establish al-Eqtisadiah newspaper in KSA, in which he rose the position of Editorial Manager. He was appointed editor-in-chief for Arajol magazine in 1997. He won the Gulf Excellence award in 1992. You can follow him on Twitter here: @mfalharthi

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