New York, NY, April 22, 2014—On Earth Day, 70 human rights activists gathered on New York City's Upper West Side outside the iconic Zabar's store, demanding that SodaStream home carbonation devices be removed from the shelves because they are made in an illegal settlement in the occupied West Bank (photos; video). The demonstration was coordinated by the NYC Coalition Against SodaStream, which is made up of Adalah-NY: The New York Campaign for the Boycott of Israel, Jewish Voice for Peace—NYC Chapter (JVP), Jews Say No!, and Park Slope Food Coop Members for BDS.
In early April, the coalition began a series of actions at Zabar's to raise awareness about SodaStream, after the store's management did not respond to activists' requests for a meeting. Over 1200 people so far have signed a petition asking Zabar's to stop selling SodaStream, with 130 signatures collected this evening alone. On the busy Broadway sidewalk, people handed out postcards—including to several Zabar's workers—encouraged petition-signing, and blew bubbles. Signs and chants played on Zabar's high standing among food-lovers, such as "Bagels, lox, and a schmear! But get that SodaStream outta here!" One sign, based on a graphic by the Institute for Middle East Understanding (IMEU), addressed the issue of labor and political repression by pointing out that the number of Palestinians employed by SodaStream is 500, while the number of West Bank Palestinians “denied basic rights by occupation SodaStream helps sustain” is 2.6 million. With guitar accompaniment, activists sang "Soda Streamin'" to the tune of "California Dreamin'": "Don't buy oppression any more / Take settlements away / No more SodaStreamin' / No more apartheid days."
Adalah-NY's Riham Barghouti explained that shoppers' purchases of SodaStream products enables the continuation of the Israeli occupation—and devastation—of Palestinian land. "SodaStream's main factory is built on an illegal Israeli settlement. And despite its greenwashed image as a supporter of environmental causes, SodaStream is actually helping to destroy Palestine's environment through uprooting of olive trees, depletion of water resources, and the confiscation and pollution of the land," she told the crowd. Donna Nevel of Jews Say No! spoke as a neighborhood resident, saying, "For those of us on the Upper West Side, Zabar's has been an important institution in our community. We want to continue to love and support it. Zabar's, do the right thing and stop selling SodaStream."
Today's demonstration comes on the heels of the environmental organization Earth Day Network's decision to end its partnership with SodaStream in response to criticism on human rights grounds. In an earlier development, the actor Scarlett Johansson had been a longtime Ofxam Ambassador until her position as a Global Brand Ambassador for SodaStream led to widespread protests and, ultimately, the breaking of ties between her and Oxfam in January.
The NYC Coalition Against SodaStream has also demonstrated in front of a Brooklyn Target store, another SodaStream retailer, and is part of the international movement for boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) until Israel complies with international law and ends its human rights abuses. For more information about SodaStream, visit adalahny.org/sodastream.
Video of the protest: http://adalahny.org/video/1145/video-event-call-zabars-stop-selling-sodastream
Photos of the protest: http://adalahny.org/photo-gallery/1146/photos-event-call-zabars-stop-selling-sodastream