This is the economic piece that we sent to Manitoba retailers as well as politicians, business leaders and community activists. Please feel free to repost and sign our petition!
SodaStream – Economic Issues:
Palestinian Labourers Working in illegal West Bank Settlements:
The organization Corporate Watch conducted interviews with over 60 settlement labourers in the West Bank, including those in Ma’ale Adumin in 2010.
Some labourers see working in the settlements as their only option, but Corporate Watch noted that they had yet to meet any worker who sees working in settlements as a positive experience or a viable long term solution.
Economic Issues After the Six Day War:
After Israel occupied the West Bank and Gaza Strip in the Six Day War  it imposed tight controls on the Palestinian economy shutting down all existing banks so Palestinian entrepreneurs and farmers had little access to credit.
When the Bank of Palestine was finally functioning again in 1981, it was under very restrictive conditions. Palestinians were prohibited from engaging in new building construction which could not take place without the proper Israeli building permits.
Those individuals who requested the necessary building permits faced interminable wait times for the required permits inevitably followed by high rates of refusal.
Furthermore, it was not only residential construction that was affected but also buildings intended for industrial and commercial use.
The West Bank Today:
Settlement construction and Israel’s Separation Wall have meant West Bank Palestinians have few options but to work in the illegal Israeli settlements such as Mishor Adumin.
Movement within the West Bank is severely restricted for Palestinians because of the presence of armed military checkpoints between all the towns of the region.
In September 2012, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said there were 522 checkpoints in operation in the West Bank not including temporary or flying checkpoints.
The huge number of checkpoints and roadblocks in the West Bank mean Palestinians spend tedious hours waiting to be checked through these impediments to freedom of movement which has had severe negative consequences on their local economy.
According to the Annual Report from the International Labour Office, “The Situation of Workers in the Arab Territories,” the “Palestinian economy has reached limits which it cannot overcome without action on the two major constraints it faces, occupation and separation.”
For example, Nablus was once an economic hub in the West Bank. Today, unemployment is high, and many businesses have relocated or closed because of lack of customers. The city is severely constricted by checkpoints, Israeli settlements and the movement restrictions that go with these.
Although Nablus is a city of 130,000 inhabitants and has a university and six hospitals, it is ringed by 40 illegal settlements and outposts. These areas are served by Israeli only roads and 7 checkpoints restrict movement in and out of the city and region.
Several international organizations, including the International Monetary Fund, have agreed Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza is the main impediment to the prospect of a sustainable Palestinian economy.
In their book Palestine in Pieces, Kathleen and Bill Christison write about how total closures in the West Bank have a devastating effect on the Palestinian economy.
Total closure means that all movement is stopped and no one can travel at all.
In terms of goods shipments, this often means that shipments of cargo, including produce, must cross one of several designated “back to back” checkpoints where the merchandise is unloaded on one side, inspected by the Israelis, and reloaded on the other side, meaning long shipment delays, increased prices and with produce, increased risk of spoilage.
As of 2007 over 3/4 of Palestine’s commercial establishments have closed many because of military order.
Jacob and William Avis in their report, Palestinian Workers’ Rights: A Report Commissioned by the Palestinian Human Rights Working Group, state that for many Palestinian labourers necessity dictates their work in settlements.
“The harsh economic reality and lack of alternatives force them to inadvertently facilitate settlement growth.”
Furthermore, Jacob and William Avis argue that, “the continued expansion of settlement activity directly jeopardizes the rights and livelihoods of the Palestinian population living under occupation.”
“Restriction of access to valuable resources and limits on the freedom of movement of people and goods will continue to have a negative impact on the financial well being and stability of the Palestinian people.”
The Economic Impact of The Separation Wall:
Qaliqilya is adjacent to the Green Line, 1200 of the town’s residents once worked inside Israel where job opportunities were greater, now, only about 300 are able to sneak illegally to work.
The town lost approximately 80% of its agricultural market because so much of the town’s land has ended up on the Israeli side of the Separation Wall.
The Separation Wall has devastated the local economy and 1/3 of Qaliqilya’s businesses were closed by 2005. Today the Separation Wall has stymied growth and investment which is necessary to fuel an economic revival. Over 5000 of the town’s inhabitants have left to move farther into the West Bank.
Qaliqilya’s streets are lined with closed shops and the central market is not thriving. Moreover, much of the town’s economy came from Israelis who shopped there regularly, as well as from Palestinian residents who worked in Israel and from over 40 joint business ventures between Qaliqilya’s residents and Israelis.
The Separation Wall has put an end to virtually all of this economic activity.
Jayyous was once known as the “bread basket of Palestine” yet today a significant percentage of its agricultural land has been cut off by the Separation Wall and its residents need a permit to access their own farmland.
There is only a limited number of permits issued each year so only about 1/3 of the town’s farmers have access their land across the Separation Wall.
Hebron is the largest urban area in the West Bank and has been the scene of an ongoing confrontation between Palestinians and Israeli settlers since 1967. Hebron is surrounded by 24 Israeli settlements and settlers generally have free run of the Old City with the support of about 1500 Israeli soldiers.
At present almost no Palestinian shops remain open in the market area of Hebron’s old city because there are Israeli settlements nearby. In fact, may areas have been completely shut down and are off limits to Palestinians. Without customers shopkeepers are not able to stay in business.
Many streets and alleys in Hebron are completely sealed off because of nearby settlements. Thus, although it was once a vital market and commercial centre settlers have managed to almost shut down commerce in Hebron. Many of the shop doors are actually welded shut because of military orders.
Thousands of workers in Hebron have been laid off and the estimated unemployment rate in Hebron is 70%.
In terms of the economic impact, 3/4 of Palestinian commercial establishments in the area have closed, many by military order. The movement restrictions imposed on Palestinians living in Hebron include a ban on all Palestinian vehicle traffic.
In many areas of Hebron Palestinians are not even allowed to travel on foot.
Farming:Farmers have access to their land only by permit and through designated entrance and exit points that may involve round trips of 20 miles to reach farmland that may be only 200 yards from the farmer’s house.
According to their book Palestine in Pieces, Kathleen and Bill Christison write when agricultural villages have been split by the Separation Wall farmers may farm their land only if they obtain Israeli issued permits. Furthermore, these permits must be renewed frequently and may be arbitrarily denied. Relatively few farmers are even able to irrigate their land.
What We Can Do?Most importantly: Don’t buy illegal settlement goods.
Illegal settlement goods benefit not only the corporation that is producing them [in this case SodaStream] they also fuel the illegal residential settlements in the West Bank that continue to encroach on recognized Palestinian land.
Any financial success of SodaStream products aids in the development of illegal settlements and pushing Palestinians out. Most of Israel’s industrial zones in the West Bank are connected to illegal residential settlements and provide an indispensable economic backbone to the local settler economy.
Therefore settlements like Ma’ale Adumin and Mishor Adumin Industrial Park directly benefit from the sale of SodaStream beverage makers and syrup products.
The taxes SodaStream pays go back into supporting such illegal settlements and in turn SodaStream also receives generous tax breaks for operating there illegally in violation of existing international laws.
By Saying No to SodaStream and Saying Yes! to Human Rights you Are Making a Clear Choice in Support of Human Rights for the Palestinian People.
Please visit our petition page Say No to SodaStream Say Yes to Human Rights on gopetition.com. We are requesting businesses and governments cease their relationships with SodaStream.
This is a Global Human Rights issue and we must act decisively and with resolve to remove SodaStream from Winnipeg.
Let’s work together to make Winnipeg and Manitoba a SodaStream Free Zone!
Say No to SodaStream and Say Yes! to Human Rights