The Commentator: Britain’s failing Israel boycott campaign

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Not exactly Tahrir Square is it...

Not exactly Tahrir Square is it…

By Nick Gray – The Commentator:

The Israel boycott movement is (rather hilariously in the quoted case) flopping in the UK. Maybe steam is running out of any enthusiasm for boycott campaigns that have zero effect on Israel’s economy.

Ever keen to boycott Israeli goods, even at the expense of the Palestinians they claim to support, Britain’s anti-Israel BDS groups planned a nationwide “day of action” against the popular Sodastream last Saturday (28 September), to mark a year since the flagship “Ecostream” store opened in Brighton stocking the full range of Sodatream products.

Demonstrations were scheduled at John Lewis in London’s Oxford Street and stores in Sheffield and elsewhere, besides a march and some speeches at the Brighton store.

Maybe the supporters of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) and their companions in boycott were all busy that day, or maybe the steam is running out of any enthusiasm for boycott campaigns that have zero effect on Israel’s economy! Whatever the reason, Saturday turned out to be a day of supreme inaction everywhere.

Sodastream was popular in the sixties for making home-made fizzy drinks, as anyone over about 50 years old will tell you. Recently, the brand has been revived by an Israeli company based in an industrial area a few miles East of Jerusalem.

Of course that places it in the category of an “illegal settlement” in BDS-speak on “stolen Palestinian land” and therefore fair game for boycott campaigns, denigration and general demonisation — irrespective of the fact that 160 Palestinians are earning a good living working there.

The fact that a successful boycott action that closed the factory down would return these innocent men and women and their families to the poverty line does not touch the hearts of the anti-Israel campaigners one bit. All that matters is having another false pretext to beat Israel about the head with.

PSC (Palestine Solidarity Campaign) publicity last week promised that “Human rights activists will be protesting across the country this Saturday…” This should have included “protesters… outside the John Lewis store in Oxford Street, London, and outside SodaStream stockists from Sheffield to Southampton, calling on retailers to stop stocking SodaStream products.” Unfortunately, someone forgot to tell the ever-loyal protestors, because hardly any of them bothered to turn out.

PSC subsequently published photos on Facebook of protests in Sheffield (eight people), Cardiff (nine people) and a Youtube video filmed at John Lewis (about ten people). Mass protests everywhere then! (Anyone know why the Youtube backing track is in Arabic??)

Of course the prime location for this day of action was Brighton, with a huge mass protest that (by police estimates) totalled about 45 people by the time they reached the Ecostream store. According to PSC’s Brighton branch, this constituted a “large and noisy reminder to the shop’s managers” by “Brighton and Hove citizens of conscience” (only many of them weren’t from Brighton).

Sussex Friends of Israel mounted a friendly counter-protest that outnumbered the PSC group and consisted of a “Bagels Against Bigotry” party outside the entrance to the Ecostream store; thus preventing the PSC crowd from stopping shoppers entering the store. This was a success as the store had one of its best trading days since opening just over a year ago — obviously a successful boycott campaign has been run since then by PSC!

According to the Sussex Friends of Israel site, the Police allowed the PSC demo 20 minutes outside the store before moving them over the road, where the traffic drowned out their speeches (oh dear!).

Sodastream ticks all the boxes as an eco-friendly brand that encourages us to recycle and reuse plastic bottles by making our kids’ fizzy drinks at home. The Israeli owner of the company is doing a service to the Palestinian population of the West Bank by employing local people at far better pay rates than they could ever get in Jericho or Ramallah (the factory is one of the largest employers in the disputed territory).

A video about the factory has an Arab employee calling his fellow Arab and Jewish co-workers “brothers” and “family” and another proudly showing off the house his Sodastream salary enabled him to buy.

PSC and other anti-Israel boycott groups need to face reality; Arabs deeply appreciate the employment opportunities offered by Israeli settlements, they have no problem working alongside Jews, and statistics show that attempts to stop British shoppers saving the planet by buying Sodastream or from buying Israeli dates or whatever have minimal effect on the Israeli economy.

Someday soon most PSC supporters will wake up to the futility and deception they have been drawn into and will desert the cause in droves — and the sooner the better for both Jews and Palestinians.

Pass me a Sugar Free Cola, someone!

Nick Gray is Director, Christian Middle East Watch, a British organisation dedicated to objective and factual discussion of Middle Eastern issues, especially of the Israel-Palestinian conflict. Nick blogs at