The brutal BDS tactics that harmed hundreds of Palestinians
For over eight years the Israeli company SodaStream has been dealing with ongoing attacks by the BDS movement, calling to boycott it over its factory in Mishor Adumim to the east of Jerusalem that eventually it was forced to move to the Negev in late 2014.
Large economic losses inflicted by the BDS boycott movement forced the company to make the move - but the big losers in the story are the hundreds of Palestinian Arab employees of SodaStream who lost their jobs and income.
SodaStream CEO Daniel Birnbaum spoke to Yedioth Aharonoth about the hardships which came to the company not only from hostile foreign sources, but also from within Israel.
"The state of Israel failed time after time in dealing with the matter. I struggled alone. My war is for 74 workers, although I believe that we need to absorb 100,000," said Birnbaum.
Under Birnbaum the company first began employing Palestinian Arab workers. Under his watch 2,500 workers were employed by the company, 1,300 of them at Mishor Adumim, with nearly 600 of those workers being Palestinian Arabs from Judea and Samaria.
"We were an island of peace," said Birnbaum. "We were the largest employer of Palestinians in the territories. The workers came to us on organized transport from eastern Jerusalem, Ramallah, Hevron, Jericho, Shechem (Nablus)."
"They received the same salary, the same conditions and the same benefits like the other workers, including medical insurance for workers and their families. We provided for nearly 6,000 people - the workers and their families."
Support for anti-Israel violence
But then BDS began attacking the company, in a manner that Birnbaum details was almost too simple.
The anti-Israel activists contacted senior managers of stores and quoted false claims that in many cases were accompanied by protests outside the stores. SodaStream products were repeatedly vandalized in the stores, thrown on the floor, and shoppers were shouted at and intimidated.
"In many cases our products were damaged or vandalized with stickers of grotesque pictures accusing SodaStream of war crimes such as ethnic cleansing," related the CEO.
"The violent protest against a store in Brighton, England was particularly serious. The store was attacked by BDS activists twice a week for more than two years. Police made several arrests, but the media gave wide coverage, and British parliament members, in particular the representative of the Green party Caroline Lucas, verbally supported the violent attacks."
Birnbaum recalls that "the store was closed in the end, and in the victory celebrations the activists took over our office in Cambridge using smoke grenades, like in an attack by terrorists."
"The result: retail partners who wanted to distance themselves from the conflict ended their business relations with us."
No end in sight
According to the SodaStream CEO, his company was unable to act against these attacks, except in one case in France in which a lawsuit was filed against the BDS movement for libel.
"It happened following slander we suffered, including claims of butchering Palestinian children," said Birnbaum. "They published, for example, a picture of a soda bottle covered in blood, and over it the words 'one product is worth the slaughtering of a family.'"
He noted that "the court accepted our suit, ruled in our favor and fined the organization. That was the only time in the world that the (BDS) organization was sued, but that was also the only time that we sued."
Now that SodaStream no longer is functioning in Mishor Adumim, one might expect that BDS has left it alone - but one would be wrong.
"Now they claim that we are stealing natural resources from the Bedouins, in particular land and water," said Birnbaum.
"The claim is particularly ridiculous given that fact that Rahat Mayor Talal al-Krenawi invested great efforts to convince the Israeli government and SodaStream to establish the new factory there."