Monday, 30 September 2013

SodaStream: the Israeli-run shop dividing Brighton

When SodaStream was looking for somewhere to open the UK's first EcoStream store, dispensing ethically sourced food, drink and cleaning products into customers' own bottles and jars, Brighton must have seemed the obvious place. The city is famous, after all, for ethical consumption of all kinds, and elected Britain's first and only Green MP.

What they may not have considered, however, is that Brighton is also the kind of place where people know that SodaStream's headquarters are in Israel, and that their factory at Mishor Adumim is built on illegally occupied West Bank land. As a result, every Saturday afternoon for more than a year now, the shoppers on Western Road have been able to witness an ethical-consuming protest against an ethical-consuming shop – and latterly a protest against that protest too, from pro-Israel activists including Julie Burchill and Chelsea Fox, a drag artist who likes to dress up as Grace Jones.

From a distance, the combined fluttering of their large Israeli and Palestinian flags looks like a statement of unity, but this is an uneasy standoff. There have already been arrests and prosecutions. "SodaStream likes to portray itself as an ethical company, environmentally," says Russell from the Brighton and Hove Palestine Solidarity Campaign (BHSPC), which began the protests. "But there is, shall we say, an irony in a so-called ethical company operating out of illegal settlements." Those on the pro-Israel side, needless to say, don't agree. "The allegations they make about the shop are complete lies," says Daniel Laurence Matthews. "A lot of people passing say: 'It's about time. It's good to see someone standing up for Israel.'" more


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