Hundreds of Palestinians lose SodaStream jobs after boycott of Israel

JERUSALEM -- Hundreds of Palestinian workers are now unemployed after the factory where they worked in a West Bank settlement was targeted by an international boycott movement and forced to move to Israel, the company's chief executive said Monday.

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Daniel Birnbaum, CEO of SodaStream International Ltd., said the last 74 Palestinian workers left Monday after being denied permits to work inside Israel at the new factory.

"We gave them an opportunity to work," he told Israel's Channel 2 TV, calling Palestinians the main victims of the boycott movement. But he also criticized the Israeli government for not granting them work permits.

In all, about 500 Palestinians lost their jobs after the factory moved last year amid a high-profile boycott campaign known as BDS -- an acronym for boycott, divestment and sanctions.

The movement seeks to ostracize Israel by lobbying corporations, artists and academic institutions to sever ties with the Jewish state. Supporters say the boycott is aimed at furthering Palestinian aspirations for independence, and that their efforts are modeled on an earlier campaign against Apartheid South Africa.

Critics say the campaign is not aimed at Israeli policies but at delegitimizing Israel itself. Some accuse it of anti-Semitism because it singles out Israel for boycott while ignoring countries with poor human rights records.

Many Palestinians work in Israeli settlements because of limited job prospects in the West Bank. The Palestinians say the local economy is hobbled by Israeli restrictions.

Mahmoud Nawajaa, the BDS co-ordinator 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." He called on the Palestinian Authority to do more to find jobs for the workers.



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