Israeli beverage maker takes on soda super-giants
The boycott movement has had a generally limited impact on Israeli businesses, although in 2010, a European Union court said that goods produced in West Bank settlements did not qualify for the same duty free status granted to products made inside Israel. The case involved SodaStream products being shipped to Germany.
The Palestinians want to establish a state in the West Bank, Gaza and east Jerusalem, territories Israel occupied in 1967. Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005, but continues to control access. Last week, the U.N. General Assembly recognized a state of Palestine in these boundaries as a non-member observer.
Aside from political backlash, last month the United Kingdom banned a SodaStream TV advertisement saying it disparaged other soda manufacturers. In the 30-second advertisement, soft drink bottles simultaneously combust as people use the machine at home to happily carbonate their drinks.
Birnbaum, meanwhile, defended the company’s West Bank presence. He called the anti-Israel activists a ‘‘confused bunch’’ and said he is providing jobs for Palestinians.
‘‘We don’t strengthen or support the occupation,’’ he said. ‘‘What we’re doing is taking a facility in the occupied territory and giving Palestinians a career and economic benefits. I've got to laugh when they think we’re on the wrong side of this. We’re part of the solution. We build bridges, not walls.’’