Why We Must Address Fraudulent Labelling
Mike Bailey from Oxfam, writes about how the consumer has the right to know if a product is made without exploitation and South Africa’s labelling changes addressed just that. However, right now in Canada it is impossible to know if a product labelled “Made in Israel” is made in an illegal settlement or within the internationally recognized borders of Israel as all these products are labelled “Made in Israel” or carry the 729 UPC code on the package. Therefore, from the standpoint of Say No to SodaStream and Say Yes! to Human Rights it is safer to avoid all products labelled “Made in Israel” because it is impossible to know for certain if they are made in illegal settlements or not (this is land settled after 1967 and is considered illegal by the international community) All settlements in the West Bank are “illegal”, including Ma’ale Adumin residential settlement and Mishor Adumin Industrial Park, where SodaStream is manufactured.
Don’t Buy It: Ever
I recently had a conversation with someone on the left and I was telling him about our SodaStream boycott. He expressed interest and said that as long as it was made in an illegal settlement (which SodaStream is) he would definitely boycott it, but he had no issue with buying products in the internationally recognized (pre-1967) borders of Israel.
Say No to SodaStream and Say Yes! to Human Rights takes a different perspective. First of all, there is no way for a consumer to tell if something is made in an illegal settlement or not because all the labels say Made in Israel, therefore there is no way of identifying a product from the OPT (Occupied Palestinian Territories).
Secondly, why should we, as consumers, support the State of Israel and their economy by purchasing their goods-knowing that the profits go back into taxes and contribute to illegal settlement building as well as the Israeli military and The Apartheid Wall.
Therefore, we stand firm that buying Made in Israel along with buying Made in the Occupied Territories supports the ongoing oppression of the Palestinian people.
How Can I Tell?
Don’t ever buy beauty products that contain Dead Sea Salts or Mud even they are labelled Made in the U.S. or Canada because the Dead Sea product still originates in the Occupied Territory and represents a complete theft of Palestinian natural resources (illegal under the Geneva Convention). Ongoing boycotts against Ahava Dead Sea Cosmetics which are made in an illegal settlement, Mitzpe Shalem, near the Dead Sea, has meant the product has been dropped by many retailers (although it is still sold by Sears here in Winnipeg) and Seacret is another Dead Sea cosmetic line sold at kiosks in shopping malls).
This past winter I had an encounter with a sales rep from Seacret at Kildonan Place shopping centre here in Winnipeg. She insisted the products were not made in a settlement and did not understand why anyone would have a problem with these products. I wrote a letter to mall management to complain but received no response.
Another product that recently came to my attention is Say Yes to Carrots (they also have a Say Yes to Tomatoes line). While the packaging indicates these skincare products are made in the U.S and are San Francisco-based, a quick glance at the ingredient list reveals some of the cleansers contain ingredients sourced from the Dead Sea.
I recently saw a review of the Say Yes to Carrots lip balm promoted in Chatelaine and I had seen the products in my local Shoppers Drug Mart but I had no idea they were connected to illegal settlements. For more information, check out The Boycott Divestment and Sanction Movement web site as they have Say Yes to Carrots listed as a product consumers avoid.
You may find some of these cosmetics also have an address of manufacturer printed on them that may carry the iniitals “IZ”, which stands for Industrial Zone, like Mishor Adumin (where SodaStream is made). The majority of these industrial zones pay Palestinian labourers far below the minimum wage and the working conditions are terrible. In the case of SodaStream, the plant in Mishor Adumin is surrounded by cameras and barbed wire. Journalists are not welcome to visit.
Surprisingly, many food products may carry no markings of origins of any kind. A case in point would be Casbah Couscous and other grain products ( I have an old box in my cupboard that I haven’t eaten), the only way I know this is an Israeli product is because the box does carry a bar code of 729. However, other than the number there is no place of origin on the package, just an address for the distributor out of British Columbia, Canada. Right now we are not certain if Casbah is made in settlement or not, we are still investigating.
Therefore, if you are not sure, do not buy any product with a 729 barcode.
I recently read an article in the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs about protests against Sabra and Tribe products at a supermarket in Colorado Springs, Colorado. The protest was organized through the Middle East Peace Project (MEPP) a small committee of activists working in education, advocacy and humanitarian aid for Palestinians.
Sabra Dipping products and Tribe Hummus are are heavily invested in the Israeli military, yet list U.S. addresses as their place of origin. Tribe is owned by company Osem, which is a key supporter of the Jewish National Fund while Sabra is owned by the Straus Group, which prides itself in supporting the Israel Defense Forces. Unfortunately, both products readily available here in Winnipeg in all the major supermarkets.
Before I read the article I had purchased Sabra hummus in the past. What to do? Now I just buy the store brand hummus.
As consumers we should be outraged that our government wants to deceive consumers about where these products are truly produced and then allows distributors such as EcoStream (the Winnipeg-based distributor of SodaStream) to deceive consumers about this product. The SodaStream box found at local retailers has a sticker on the top of the box that reads “Made in Israel“.
The World is Listening
The recent fire in Bangladesh factory drew attention to the horrendous working conditions of labourers making items for companies such as the The Children’s Place and Joe Fresh (sold at Superstore in Winnipeg). Consumers reacted immediately and companies realized they had to do damage control as the story went viral. In regards to SodaStream, the issue has seen similiar bad press with protests against the company occuring globally, including at Bed Bath and Beyond stores in the U.S. as well as in the UK and Europe. We believe retailers that choose to sell SodaStream in their stores need to be accountable to their customers who more and more are demanding ethical standards. Corporations have said they listening and many of them have sections on their web sites devoted to what they call Ethical Sourcing (for example Sears). However, Sears still sells SodaStream and has also begun to carry Ahava again. Many consumers are no longer willing to accept goods made through exploitation.
Final Thoughts for Now
Say No to SodaStream and Say Yes! to Human Rights believes that people have the right to know where a product is made and if human rights violations are involved so they can make a decision based on conscience.
Sites to Check Out
The Boycott, Divestment and Sanction Movement (BDS) at http://www.bdsmovement.net/2011 has a list of companies on their site for consumers who do not want to contribute to the Occupation. I also found another neat site, the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign at http://www.ipsc.ie, there are several Occupation products listed on their site including SodaStream. Of course you can always rely on http://www.whoprofits.org/articlefilesWhoProfits-ProductioninSettlements-SodaStream.pdf.