SodaStream, the Israeli carbonated drink making company which was sold Monday to PepsiCo for $3.2 billion, hasn’t been a stranger to being in the headlines in recent years. Here are five instances when the company, and not its product, became the story.
1. Scarlett Johansson controversy
Scarlett Johansson, the A-level American actress signed on as a celebrity endorsement for SodaStream in 2014, appearing in a number of advertisements. However, she ran into some non-carbonated hot water when Oxfam, the food charity for which she served as global ambassador expressed its disapproval due to SodaStream’s main factory being situated in Mishor Adumim in the West Bank.
Johansson hit back by resigning from her Oxfam position and issuing a statement defending her role with SodaStream.
“While I never intended on being the face of any social or political movement, distinction, separation or stance as part of my affiliation with SodaStream, given the amount of noise surrounding that decision, I’d like to clear the air,” she said.
”I remain a supporter of economic cooperation and social interaction between a democratic Israel and Palestine. SodaStream is a company that is not only committed to the environment but to building a bridge to peace between Israel and Palestine, supporting neighbors working alongside each other, receiving equal pay, equal benefits and equal rights. That is what is happening in their Ma’aleh Adumim factory every working day.”
2. SodaStream at the Super Bowl
A TV ad for SodaStream with Scarlett Johansson was set to make a big splash on American TV during the airing of Super Bowl XLVIII in February 2014.
However, because the ad referred directly to the game’s main sponsors Coke and Pepsi by name, and in a critical fashion for creating unnecessary waste with their products, a decision was made to censor the ad.
3. BDS or economics?
In 2015, SodaStream hit the headlines when it closed its main factory in Mishor Adumim in the West Bank and moved to Lehavim in the country’s South, near Beersheba. The company’s CEO Daniel Birnbaum cited financial considerations for the move. However the BDS movement declared the move a victory for them.
Birnbaum responded that BDS had only had a “marginal” effect on the company, which employed dozens of Palestinians from Jerusalem-area neighborhoods.
4. Showdown with the government
In 2016, SodaStream’s CEO Birnbaum threatened to shut down its main plant in Lehavim if the government didn’t renew entry permits for 74 longtime Jerusalem-area Palestinian employees.
The 74 employees, ranging from assembly line workers to shift managers, received the permits to make the three-hour daily round-trip to the new factory in the South when the company closed its main plant in the West Bank.
Another 500 Palestinian employees of SodaStream lost their jobs due to the plant’s closing. The work permits were restricted to those Palestinian employees who are married with children.
“These are ambassadors of peace who we bus in every day, and it’s been a long, terrible fight with the government to get them to keep their work permits, even though there are more than 100,000 Palestinians working inside Israel every day. But they won’t let my 74 continue to work. It’s just unbelievable,” Birnbaum told The Jerusalem Post
at the time.
The employees eventually lost their jobs.
5. Palestinian workers return
The 74 Palestinian employees of SodaStream, who lost their jobs in 2016 received their work permits a year later and many of them returned to work at the company’s Lehavim plant.
The employees’ work permits, which allowed them to enter Israel from the Palestinian Authority, expired in February 2016.
“We are delighted to welcome back our 74 devoted Palestinian employees, who are able to join their 1,500 friends at our Rahat facility in the Negev,” Birnbaum told the Post
. “The Israeli government did the moral and honorable thing to grant work permits to our employees, who can now provide for their families and also prove that coexistence is possible.”
Join Jerusalem Post Premium Plus now for just $5 and upgrade your experience with an ads-free website and exclusive content. Click here>>