Last Palestinian employees lose their jobs at SodaStream

Marcy Oster

Employees working at the new SodaStream factory built deep in Israel's Negev Desert next to the city of Rahat, Israel, that will replace the West Bank facility when it shuts down in two weeks time, Sept. 2, 2015. (Dan Balilty/AP Images)

Employees working at the SodaStream factory in Israel’s Negev Desert, which replaced the company’s West Bank facility, Sept. 2, 2015. (Dan Balilty/AP Images)

JERUSALEM (JTA) — The last Palestinian employees of SodaStream lost their jobs following the company’s move from the West Bank to southern Israel.

The 74 employees had been commuting to the company’s new location in the Negev Desert since the plant in Maale Adumim closed in October. Some 500 Palestinian employees lost their jobs at that time. Israel gave the remaining employees permission to enter the country and continue to work for SodaStream until the end of February.

The company had planned to have a going-away ceremony for them, Agence France Presse reported Monday.

SodaStream,  which produces soda-making machines for the home, had threatened to halt production at its factory unless the workers were given permits — a threat it later abandoned. The new plant employs a significant number of Bedouin Arabs, particularly women.

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In October 2014, SodaStream announced it would close its West Bank factory in the face of international pressure from the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, or BDS, which seeks to hurt Israel’s economy over its policies toward the Palestinians. The movement claimed that SodaStream discriminated against Palestinian workers and paid some less than Israeli workers.

SodaStream was at the center of controversy following the signing in 2014 of actress Scarlett Johansson as a spokeswoman and the ensuing furor over its West Bank factory. Johansson resigned as a global ambassador for Oxfam over her position with SodaStream.

Following SodaStream’s announcement that it would relocate, Ramah Kudaimi of the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, a national coalition of more than 400 groups, said in a statement that the company would remain a target of boycott efforts since its new factory is close to Rahat, a planned township in the Negev for Bedouins, “thus still implicating the company in Israel’s displacement policies.”

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