Boycott SodaStream: Scarlett’s Blood Bubbles

SodaStream sells carbonation machines for home use and markets itself as an environmentally-friendly company. What many do not realize is that SodaStream is produced in a factory inside Ma’ale Adumim’s industrial park. Ma’ale Adumim is the largest illegal settlement in occupied Palestine.

Israel’s illegal settlements are often identified as the largest obstacle to any peace process, but there are clear incentives put in place by the Israeli government for choosing to carry out your business in the illegal settlements including tax deductions. In addition, the factory employs a number of Palestinian workers who must get special work permits and security clearance to enter and who are not offered the same protection as Jewish workers.   Due to massive unemployment resulting from the Israeli military occupation of the West Bank, Palestinian workers have few employment options. One Palestinian employee of the Ma’ale Adumim factory has been quoted as stating that Palestinian workers are forced to work in slavery-like conditions.

Movie actress Scarlett Johansson has recently found herself in the spotlight and under pressure from human rights organizations for promoting SodaStream’s ‘blood bubbles’  and therefore herself profiting from the occupation after becoming SodaStream’s first Global Brand Ambassador on January 10. The controversy stems from the fact that Johansson is not only endorsing a company widely condemned by Oxfam and many other human rights organizations but that she is also currently a global ambassador for Oxfam.

Following criticism, Johansson responded by defending SodaStream and even went so far as to suggest that it was contributing to “peace between Israel and Palestine”.  Oxfam is currently considering her role with their organization, but many are disappointed that it has not already severed ties with the movie star, including the grandson of the charity’s founder who is calling Johansson an “ambassador for oppression”.

While Johansson has taken part in a commercial for the company filmed for a spot during this year’s Superbowl, JTA is reporting that Fox has rejected the commercial, apparently because it referenced major carbonated drinks companies Coke and Pepsi.

SodaStream products are widely available in South Korea but few members of the public are aware that its machines are produced in an illegal settlement and profit from the ongoing occupation of Palestinian land and exploitation of Palestinian resources.

 We urge you to visit SodaStream’s South Korean Facebook page and express your opinion SodaStream’s business practices. While you’re at it, you might also want to let Oxfam know how you feel that they have not yet dropped Johansson as their own spokesperson despite issuing these clear statements condemning SodaStream’s business practices.

We also urge you to write directly to Johansson’s support staff to let them know how you feel as CodePink has kindly set up this page.

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Ethnic cleansing continues but so does the global BDS movement

Israel PM Benjamin Netanyahu is likely to push for a referendum to consult Israelis about whether they would support any future peace deal with Palestinians. One wonders whether the democratic right to be consulted about the future of the military occupation which is being granted to the inhabitants of the occupying power will be extended to those living under occupation.

Carlos Latuff, 2009.
Carlos Latuff, 2009.

It is worth pondering what any possible peace negotiations might involve outside of further entrenching the military occupation and expanding Jewish-only settlements – which now house 500,000 illegal settlers. As has long been true, the removal of illegal settlements and settlers remains the startng point of any real negotiations. But settlement expansion continues apace, and perhaps even at an unprecedented rate if Peace Now is accurate in claiming that 1,500 new housing units have been approved for construction in the occupied territories by the new government since March.

Israel’s Prawer Plan which aims to empty the Naqab (Negev) desert of southern Israel of its Bedouin inhabitants passed in September 2011 without any consultation with those people it aims to displace. This campaign has been recognized for what it is by many – a clear case of ethnic cleansing in which the Bedouin population will be shoved into 1% of the land of the Naqab – not least the tens of thousands Bedouin inhabitants of those 35 villages earmarked for demolition under the plan.

One village which is not giving up without a fight is that of Al-Araqib which has been demolished and (rebuilt) 52 times in the past two years. It is not with a light heart that many are now referring to this planned mass eviction and expulsion as a second Nakba or tragedy.

Israel’s apartheid regime does not only discriminate against Palestinians. In a bid to reduce the number of African migrants in its borders, Israel is making agreements to trade humans for weapons and military training. This means that Israel is willing to send asylum seekers back to those regimes from which asylum is being sought in addition to bolstering them with arms. The mind boggles. Yet given the normalization of the exclusion of Palestinians from Israeli society and expulsion from their land even when under military occupation, this can be understood as a natural development in a state embracing racism as its modus operandi.

There has been some positive news. The European Union has taken steps to further recognize the illegitimacy of Israel’s colonial military occupation of  Palestinian territory and illegal settlements. According to new funding guidelines, Israeli ministries, public bodies and businesses operating inside the occupied territories will be ineligible for hundreds of millions of Euros in annual loans from the European Investment Bank and grants and prizes will no longer be awarded to any Israeli entities carrying out activities in the occupied territories. The guidelines do not amount to a complete ban on funding, though, as companies like Ahava who are registered to an address inside Israel but carry out most of their business inside the occupied territories, will still be able to apply for research funding for research carried out inside Israel. Nonetheless, the move is being described as a major step forward by the global Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement.

Carlos Latuff. 2007.
Carlos Latuff. 2007.

There is real evidence that the global BDS movement is making headway. More and more Israeli’s are answering the call of Palestinian civil society for an effective boycott movement as the best possible nonviolent route to an end to occupation and justice for Palestinians. These voices are important and one can only hope that, like in South Africa, they will grow from the inside as they grow around the world. The following are words from Israeli journalist Gideon Levy:

“It’s difficult and painful, almost impossibly so, for an Israeli who has lived his whole life here, who has not boycotted it, who has never considered emigrating and feels connected to this country with all his being, to call for such a boycott. I have never done so. I have understood what motivated the boycott and was able to provide justification for such motives. But I never preached for others to take such a step. However, with Israel getting itself into another round of deep stalemate, both diplomatic and ideological, the call for a boycott is required as the last refuge of a patriot.”

Palestine: the view from Korea (July 8, 2013)

All eyes on Egypt
Democracy is best understood as a process. The transition from military rule must be seen as part of this process and therefore those in power must evolve to meet the newly buoyed aspirations of the people. One need only turn to Egypt to see that this is not easily achieved.
Following a mass mobilization of protestors calling for democratically-elected President Morsi to step down which was larger than that which toppled Mubarak in 2011, the military carried out a coup to remove him from power. The streets are now filled with both Morsi supporters as well as those who had been calling for him to step down, and it appears that further blood is likely to be shed on both sides. While a majority of the population no longer trusted Morsi, certainly it would be very dangerous to put any trust in the military. One can only hope that the people will find reason to unite to finally destroy the military’s grip on power and remove with it all of the vestiges of decades of military rule.

Carlos Latuff, 2013. Military Coup in Egypt.
Carlos Latuff, 2013. Military Coup in Egypt.

For an excellent summary of the powers at play on the streets and behind the scenes in Egypt, it is worth watching these interviews with Gilbert Achcar.



Whether Morsi’s removal was an inevitable outcome or not, the current purge of the Muslim Brotherhood is a very dangerous sign. Egypt’s revolution is far from over but as of yet there are no clear signs which direction it will end up taking. The immediate future is looking ominous but revolutions are by nature dynamic and turbulent things. What is clear is that it will inevitably be a long and difficult process that will ultimately be determined in the streets.
What significance does this all have for Palestine? Aside from the fact that all eyes are on Egypt as an important source of hope for democratic change in the region, Morsi’s ousting may indeed lead to a strengthening of relations between Israel and Egypt. In the wake of the removal of Morsi the Egyptian military had already closed the Rafah crossing into Gaza and has begun destroying the many tunnels which act as a lifeline for much of the population under the ongoing Israeli military siege.

July 4, Al-Quds. Tunnels between Egypt and Gaza are destroyed under Egyptian military protection.
July 4, Al-Quds. Tunnels between Egypt and Gaza are destroyed under Egyptian military protection.

Compounding hardships in Gaza
Although this is not the first time that Egypt has moved to close the tunnels between Egypt and Gaza, having flooded many with sewage earlier in the year under Morsi, the closing of the tunnels is very alarming given their importance in keeping the remains of an economy in tact in Gaza. An estimated 10,000 Palestinians including a number of children work these tunnels. UN Humanitarian Coordinator James W. Rawley recently reiterated the call for the full lifting of the Israeli blockade which is preventing the development of any real economy in Gaza. He detailed the impact of these restrictions, which he described as disproportionately impacting the most impoverished. 57% of Gazans cannot afford sufficient food, 80% rely on foreign aid in some way, and the restriction of access to a third of agricultural land and two-thirds of Gaza’s fishing waters is costing farmers and fisherman dearly.

The Electronic Intifada is already reporting that Palestinians attempting to return to Gaza via Cairo Airport are being deported back to the country of departure and forced to cover the expenses themselves.

free_gaza

I’d like to hear from readers what they think about this situation in Egypt and what potential consequences the unfolding events might have on Palestinians, especially from those themselves living under the Israeli siege or occupation. Please do respond with your own thoughts.

The Unending Nakba – 65 Years is Enough!

Today marks 65 years since the beginning of the ethnic cleansing of Palestine in which over 750,000 of its Palestinian inhabitants were driven from their homes and land, Palestinians whose familes had lived there for generation after generation. The Nakba or Catastrophe continues with the ongoing Israeli military occupation of East Jerusalem and the West Bank and the illegal siege of Gaza that continues to strangle its people.

This graphic from Visualizing Palestine offers a visual representation of displacement, dislocation and loss of homeland through the forced exile of Palestinians.

Disappearing Palestine

As this Al Jazeera documentary shows, the plan to cleanse the land of its Arab inhabitants goes back at least to a conquering and war hungry Napolean but took shape through the Zionist project with British colonial support involving Jewish militias and terror groups.

The massacre at Deir Yassen is the most well known symptom of this violent history but the loss of Palestinian culture and heritage through the organized robbery of Palestinian books is violence of another form. As this excellent documentary from Al Jazeera shows, the fact that these books remain inside Israel in a library that most Palestinians cannot visit is symbolic of the ongoing Nakba.

A commemoration of a tragic event that is still unwinding in military occupation and apartheid must be fuled by tears, but there are many sources of strength and hope. It is to the struggle of some of the most oppressed people on the planet we share that we must turn our attention also. As sweat next to tears, the cries of resistance are as deep as the wounds. Here is a collection of poems read aloud in his own voice by Palestine’s late national poet Mahmoud Darwish to the music of Le Trio Joubran.

“If the Olive Trees knew the hands that planted them, Their Oil would become Tears.”  – Marmoud Darwish

And, finally, here is a selection from Fatma Kassem’s 2011 book, Palestinian Women: Narrative histories and gendered memory (Zed Books) in which she tells the story of the ongoing Nakba through the lived herstories of Palestinian women now living inside the State of Israel on what was once Palestinian land.  I shall let the author describe in her own words which are taken from the opening lines of her book:
“This book traces and documents the gendered memory and narrative histories of a group of ordinary urban Palestinian women who witnessed the events of 1948, when the State of Israel was founded. Importantly, these women have all remained on their homeland after it subsequently became Israel, the Jewish state. Told in their own words, these women’s experiences serve as a window for examining the complex intersections of gender, history, memory, nationalism and citizenship in a situation of ongoing colonization and violent conflict between Palestinians and the Zionist State of Israel. Known in the Palestinian discourse of nationalism as the Nakba, or the Catastrophe, this event and those that have followed since 1948 still exert a powerful influence on the present-day lives of these women – as women, as members of the broader Palestinian community to which they belong and as Israeli citizens. Examined from a sociological perspective, the unique experiences of these Palestinian women from the margins can shed more light on the multiple continuing effects of the Nakba.”

The Nakba must end. Palestinians will be free. Until then, those of us with the freedom to raise our voices against injustice must.

Israel: End Administrative Detention Now!

Every year April 17 marks Palestinian Prisoners’ Day in the hope of bringing attention to the plight of the thousands of Palestinians languishing in Israeli jails. This year’s focus is on ending the use of administrative detention which is widely regarded as a punitive measure employed by Israel to detain and silence Palestinians. It stands as a huge barrier to any sustainable solution to the question of Palestine and betrays the brutal nature of the Israeli colonial occupation of Palestinian land.

Palestine Peace & Solidarity activist in front of the Israeli Embassy, Seoul on April 16.
Palestine Peace & Solidarity activist in front of the Israeli Embassy, Seoul on April 16.

Since Israel’s occupation of Gaza, East Jerusalem and the West Bank in 1967 an estimated 800,000 Palestinians have been detained under military order. This amounts to some 40 percent of the entire male population of the occupied territories being detained. There were some 4,600 Palestinians in Israeli prisons including 169 in administrative detention as of February this year. Most have been forcibly transferred from the occupied Palestinian territories to prisons located in Israel in violation of international law. It is estimated that 204 Palestinian prisoners have died while in Israeli custody since 1967 and human rights organizations have alleged that doctors have at times colluded in torture of those in custody.

The practice of administrative detention is routinely used by Israel to imprison Palestinians –who the Israeli Security Agency (ISA) refers to as “security prisoners” – without charge for up to six months at a time. As detention orders can and often are renewed, detainees can potentially be held indefinitely. The use of administrative detention has been widely condemned by human rights organizations around the world. Essentially, it is a process that denies judicial accountability by preventing access to detainees to proper legal recourse and therefore is an effective way to silence and punish Palestinians in the occupied territories determined to be a “threat” to “public security”.

Israel uses Military Order 1651, the Emergency Powers (Detention) Law and the Internment of Unlawful Combatants Law to hold Palestinian administrative detainees in three prisons, two of which are located inside Israel.

Alleging to have been in a perpetual “state of emergency” since 1948, Israel uses administrative detention as a form of collective punishment to arrest and silence Palestinians exercising their basic civil and political rights to criticize the Israeli occupation. Palestinian prisoners’ rights organization Addameer points out that the simple act of holding a Palestinian flag or pouring a cup of coffee to a member of an organization deemed illegal by Israel is possible grounds for one’s arrest under the Israeli military occupation.

PPS activists in front of the Israeli Embassy, Seoul on April 16.
PPS activists in front of the Israeli Embassy, Seoul on April 16.

Detainees are routinely detained without knowledge of the reason for their arrest, which is rarely disclosed by military judges, and a number of their rights are violated once in detention such as having to endure poor prison conditions, inadequate medical care and denial of family visits.

Furthermore, Amnesty International reports that Israel’s use of administrative detention is likely more often than not accompanied by forms of torture or cruel and degrading practices for which Israel has exercised with “complete impunity” for more than a decade. The UN Committee Against Torture reported in 2001 and again in 2009 that the practice of administrative detention itself as used by Israel did not conform to the prohibition against torture which is absolute.

It has also long been well known that the ISA which oversees the prison system used to hold Palestinians routinely employs the practice of torture against detainees. Israeli human rights organization B’tselem lists the specific techniques used by the ISA in interrogations as including sleep deprivation, exposure to loud music and extreme temperatures, placing dirty sacks over interrogees’ heads, forcing interrogees into stress positions, violent shaking and food deprivation – usually used in combination.

Less well known is that Israel runs a secret prison facility known as ‘Camp 1391’ in an undisclosed location 100 kilometers from Jerusalem as revealed in 2002. Unlike Guantanamo Bay, which it is regularly compared to, the International Committee of the Red Cross has not been granted access to this facility to assess the treatment of its prisoners. While there is no way to confirm whether or not this facility remains in use, testimony from former prisoners indicates that torture and physical abuse were commonplace.

Looking at the case of administrative detainee Sameer Issawi throws a lot of this into relief. Having been arrested for the first time at age 17, he was arrested again during the second intifada and sentenced to 30 years imprisonment. After being released 10 years later in the 2011 prisoner swap negotiated between Israel and Hamas in which 1,027 Palestinians prisoners and detainees were exchanged for the release of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, he found himself rearrested by the IDF on July 7 of 2012 for supposedly violating the terms of his release. He is one of the many prisoners released in the prisoner swap who have since been since rearrested under questionable circumstances.

With one brother already killed by the IDF in 1994 at the age of 16, Assawi’s remaining five siblings have served prison terms including one brother who is currently serving his nineteenth year. His family members including his elderly mother face constant harassment. To protest his arrest he has been on hunger strike since August of 2012 and is apparently very close to losing his life.

While the hunger strike has consistently proven to be a useful strategy for detainees to bring international attention to their case and in pressuring the Israeli authorities into making a deal for their release, it can also lead to further deprivation and punishment at the hands of the prison authorities who sometimes place them in solitary confinement, deny family visitation rights and slap fines on them.

But it is a powerful act of defiance for those with few options left like Assawi. It was recently reported that his whole village has joined a hunger strike in solidarity with him. Last year’s Prisoners’ Day was marked by some 1,600 Palestinian prisoners launching a hunger strike in Israeli jails.

This Prisoners’ Day it is time for the international community to call for an end to the practice of administrative detention by Israel and to demand the release all of those like Sameer Assawi who are not formally charged and given a fair trial. Putting an end to this reprehensible practice will constitute a small but important step towards achieving justice for those living under Israeli military occupation.