The head of SodaStream accused the international charity Oxfam of funding the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel.
He spoke as controversy over SodaStream’s ownership of a West Bank factory, located near the Ma’aleh Adumim settlement, continued to bubble over, in advance of the airing of the Israeli company’s commercial starring Scarlett Johansson at Sunday’s Super Bowl.
“Unsurprisingly, Oxfam has joined the BDS in this movement [to close down the West Bank factory],” SodaStream CEO Daniel Birnbaum said. “I’m saying ‘unsurprisingly’ because we found out that some of the Oxfam branches have been donating funds to the BDS, and this money is used to demonize and attack Israel.”
Last week, Johansson resigned from her eight-year role as Oxfam’s ambassador after a series of vitriolic attacks by pro-Palestinian activists and groups for her recent decision to also represent SodaStream.
Rather than cave to pressure from those who call for a boycott of goods from West Bank settlements, Johansson chose SodaStream over Oxfam, explaining that the company employed Palestinians who worked alongside Israelis.
Birnbaum spoke out Sunday against Oxfam after the Israeli nonprofit group NGO Monitor posted information on its website claiming that in 2013, the charity’s Dutch affiliate Oxfam Novib had transferred NIS 406,300 to the Coalition of Women for Peace, which was involved in the BDS campaign against Israel.
Oxfam immediately responded, denying the claim.
“We do not support BDS. We do not fund BDS,” Oxfam International’s head of media Matt Grainger said, though “we do fund lots of civil society organizations and lots of Palestinian civil society organizations.”
According to Grainger, who is based in London, Oxfam’s stand is not against Israel, but against its companies that operate over the pre-1967 lines.
“This is about trade from the settlements,” he said.
SodaStream was not alone in its attack against Oxfam. Last Thursday, in an interview on the Canadian television network Sun News, Canada’s Employment Minister Jason Kenney said he was stopping his support of Oxfam and instead, like Johansson, standing behind SodaStream as “a new customer.”
“I didn’t know that Oxfam was involved in crazy politics like this,” Kenney said, in an interview in which he came out strongly in support of Israel.
“I have to make a confession: I have given money to Oxfam in the past. I thought they were there to help poor people and not marginalize Israelis,” he said. “Thanks very much to all the nutters at Oxfam for marginalizing the Palestinian people who are getting good paying jobs, four times more working at SodaStream in the West Bank than they would at other Palestinian-run businesses there.
“It is very sad to see what has happened with the hard Left, going into so many organizations with their anti-Israel obsession. Let’s call it what it is – it is an obsession,” he said.
Kenney said that Oxfam had targeted Israeli companies but not Iranian ones, even though Iran executes gays and lesbians, political dissidents and the heads of vulnerable religious minorities.
“You could create a long list of the worst human rights abusers in the world, and the organizations that are obsessively focused on Israel, for some reason, do not say a word about that long list. There is something terribly wrong about this,” Kenney said.
According to SodaStream, a third of the 1,300 employees in its West Bank factory were Palestinians, another 400 to 450 were Israeli Arabs and the remainder were Jews. It said that the factory is one of six in Israel, and one of 25 such facilities worldwide.
It added that it is building a major facility in the Negev near the Beduin city of Rahat, where it hopes that the new jobs will significantly bring down unemployment in that city.
But left-wing activists and artists continued to attack
SodaStream and Johansson.
The BDS movement posted a number of Super Bowl spoof ads on YouTube. One shows IDF soldiers beating Palestinian protesters during a demonstration and Israeli bombs falling on Gaza.
Another pro- Palestinian spoof on YouTube was set to American protest music. Parody lyrics included lines such as, “mine eyes have seen the story of the crimes of SodaStream.” Another video featured an anti-SodaStream parody of the Doctor Seuss children’s book Green Eggs and
On his Facebook page, musician Roger Waters of Pink Floyd posted a letter he had written to Johansson.
He wrote, “Scarlett’s choice of SodaStream over Oxfam is such an act of intellectual, political and civil about-face, that we – all those of us who care about the downtrodden, the oppressed, the occupied, the second class – will find it hard to rationalize.”
Waters attacked Israeli actions against Palestinians and Beduin on both sides of the pre-1967 lines.
“Do they have the right to an ordinary, decent human family life?” he asked. “Scarlett, you are undeniably cute, but if you think SodaStream is building bridges towards peace you are also undeniably not paying attention.”