Why Say No to SodaStream and Say Yes! to Human Rights?
Since we started this campaign last summer my partner and I have often been asked wh why we chose to protest the issue of SodaStream in our comunity.
The campaign started when we learned about a local businesswoman, Marta Mikita-Wilson had made a point of travelling to Israel in 2010 with the goal of bringing SodaStream here to Winnipeg, for national distribution. Knowing what we already knew about SodaStream, we were shocked and disappointed that our city was now going to be a hub of distribution for an illegal, West Bank settlement product. At the same time our city has been set to open the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, the first national museum outside of Ottawa. To us, this was pure hypocrisy.
Morever, Ms. Mikita-Wilson was going to profit from sales of this product because the SodaStream boxes are labelled “Made in Israel” not “Made in Occupied Territory” which would inform consumers about where they are truly manufactured.
Some people who have approached me on this issue have seen it as an attack on Israel and basically made it known that we shouldn’t have a right to protest this. They have been mystified about why we would choose to protest a product from the Israeli Occupation because many people stilll have an image of Israel that is progessive and humanitarian. It is also considered “normal” to support Israel.
I have also been asked why we are not boycotting Chinese products or goods from other countries that have poor human rights records.
Our answer is this: firstly, no one or two people have the energy or ability to take on all the injustices or human rights issues around the world, granted we always have the opportunity to speak out against them, but there is no way we can take action on every single one. Secondly, while China does have a poor human rights record, one of the differences between China and Israel is that the Chinese people are not living under a foreign occupation where they have no they have no other option but to work for the Occupation Industries (like SodaStream) because the local Palestinian economy is nonexistent.
What troubles me on this same issue is that no one would critcize someone for taking action against China or Chinese company, but when someone dares to criticize an Israeli business that is exploiting Palestinian labour and aiding ongoing illegal settlements in the West Bank, they are challenged and advised against doing so. We fully acknowledge labour abuses in China, but again, China is reguarly reprimanded for these activities, where as Israel and its Occupation Industries, such as SodaStream, operate with impunity and the Western world looks away.
As well many people are either unaware of what the State of Israel is doing in the West Bank or those who are aware refuse to acknowlege the damage caused by the expanding settlements and the Apartheid Wall. Unfortunately, many of the politcal figures whom we at one time believed to be “progessive” have chosen to not even our acknowledge our campaign or this issue.
We also totally supporting the United Church of Canada’s recent boycott of illegal settllement goods, however recently I got into a discussion with someone who happened to be a United Church member and he stated he was strongly opposed to the church’s decision. He went on to say that he did not believe the West Bank/Palestine was truly Occupied! I guess he isn’t aware of the United Nations standpoint on this issue.
What is inspiring to us, however, is that there are still leaders like former U.S. President Jimmy Carter who has recently spoke out in support of truthful labelling on products made in Occupied Palestine. The EU is planning to introduce a clear labelling for products made in Israeli settlements which are illegal under international law