Loss of hundreds of Palestinians’ jobs blamed on boycott Israel movement

Special to WorldTribune.com

Hundreds of Palestinians have found the boycott Israel movement is hurting them more than Israel.

The Israeli soft drinks company SodaStream laid off the last of its Palestinian workers on Feb. 29. The company, under pressure from the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, closed its plant in a Jewish West Bank settlement in October 2015.

In total, more than 500 Palestinians were laid off.

Laid off Palestinian workers say goodbye on their last day at SodaStream. /Photo by Israel Yosef
Laid off Palestinian workers say goodbye on their last day at SodaStream. /Photo by Israel Yosef

Mahmoud Nawajaa, the BDS coordinator in the West Bank town of Ramallah, called the loss of the Palestinian jobs at SodaStream “part of the price that should be paid in the process of ending the occupation.”

Many of the Palestinian employees at SodaStream, however, felt that “price” was too steep.

“There is no hope in Palestine. There is little work,” one laid off employee said.

Another laid off worker, Bassel Salhaya, said he had no plan for future employment in the West Bank.

“We were together 12 hours a day, more than I see my wife and son,” he said. “We became like brothers.”

SodaStream, which manufactures a device for making fizzy drinks in the home, announced in late 2014 it was closing the West Bank plant following a BDS campaign that included targeting Hollywood actress Scarlett Johansson after she advertised SodaStream’s product.

When the West Bank plant closed, 74 experienced Palestinian workers moved with the company to its new location in the southern Israeli town of Levahim and hundreds of Israelis were hired. The last of the Palestinian workers were let go on Feb. 29.

According to COGAT, the Defense Ministry body responsible for coordinating Israeli government activity in the Palestinian territories, 58,000 Palestinians hold permits to work in Israel, with another 27,000 working for Israeli businesses in West Bank settlements and industrial zones.