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Boycotted beverage company to leave Israeli settlement

By Mike Milne

United Church activists say a planned move by an Israeli-based company is a sign that boycotts of products made in illegal Israeli settlements are beginning to work.

Last October, one of the targets of a boycott — SodaStream International Ltd. — announced it would move its factory out of the Ma’Ale Adumim settlement in Palestinian West Bank territory to a new factory in Israel’s Negev region. A Soda-Stream spokesperson said the company’s decision was for “purely commercial” reasons and not related to international pressure. The United Church of Canada’s Unsettling Goods campaign was one of several global boycott efforts that targeted the beverage-machine company.

“There’s a long way to go until there is peace and justice for Palestine and Israel, but this is a real sea change,” says Rev. Stephen Berube, minister at St. Paul’s United in Riverview, N.B. “It’s a first step, a positive first step.” Berube is also co-chair of the United Network for Justice and Peace in Palestine and Israel, an independent group that includes many United Church members.

The United Church’s own Unsettling Goods campaign continues to discourage people from purchasing SodaStream products until the company’s move is completed later this year. Keter Plastic Ltd. and Ahava Dead Sea Laboratories are also being boycotted for selling products made in settlements.

Prior to Christmas, the church also operated an Advent Peace Box project, selling boxes of Palestinian-made Zatoun olive oil, soap and spices, plus a map showing the growth of settlements. More than 150 of the boxes were sent out, with congregations initially paying $35, then sending Toronto-based retailer Beit Zatoun an additional $90 once the goods were sold.

“It’s investing in a just peace,” explains General Council staffperson Barbara Lloyd, since sales support Palestinian businesses. “It also provided a concrete way to talk about the issues.”

In January, General Council launched a new phase of its campaign called Let’s Keep Talking, providing resources to all pastoral charges for worship and workshops. The United Church also co-sponsored a cross-Canada speaking tour by Jeff Halper, an Israeli peace activist and director of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions.




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