Major Israeli Construction Enterprise and SodaStream Pull Out of Occupied Palestinian Territories

Last Monday, the Israeli daily newpaper Yedioth Ahronoth reported that Africa Israel Investments, an international holding and investment company based in Israel, will no longer build homes in the West Bank or East Jerusalem. This decision comes after years during which Africa Israel’s daughter company, Danya Cebus, repeatedly flaunted international law by constructing settlement homes in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. The owner of Africa Israel, Lev Leviev, one of the most prominent tycoons in Israel, did not suddenly wake up one morning and realize that the occupation is a terrible injustice toward millions of Palestinian civilians who are deprived of elementary human rights, living as they have for nearly 50 years under Israeli military rule. Leviev, who lives in London, simply discovered that he could no longer enjoy legitimacy in the international business world while continuing to build in the settlements.

A protest against SodaStream outside of John Lewis in London, organized by local Palestine Solidarity activists (Photo: Al Ittihad)

A protest against SodaStream outside of John Lewis in London, organized by local Palestine Solidarity activists (Photo: Al Ittihad)

The opposition which brought about Leviev’s change in policy took the form of grass roots protests in the UK, including pressure on the British government to cut business ties with the tycoon, and threats by large investors to divest from his company. After doing the math, Leviev realized that the profits he could make off the occupation were far less than the profits he could lose throughout the rest of the world. So Leviev chose the world.

In addition to this development, SodaStream International, an Israeli-owned soft drink company, has announced its decision to shut down its factory controversially located in a settlement in the occupied West Bank. The company, which manufactures fizzy drinks makers sold in 45 countries, has decided to move the plant to Lehavim, nearby the Arab-Bedouin city of Rahat, in Israel’s southern Negev region. SodaStream representative Nirit Hurwitz said that the decision to transfer the plant was for “purely commercial” reasons, and was not connected to pressure from pro-Palestinian groups. The factory, located in the industrial zone of Mishor Adumim – adjacent to the large Israeli settlement of Ma’ale Adumim between Jerusalem and Jericho – is scheduled to close by late 2015. SodaStream has branded its machines as a cheaper, more environmentally friendly alternative to buying bottled or canned drinks such as Coke and Pepsi.