Home > News > Where the Palestinian employees are giving the thumbs up
3 February, 2014
Inside the Israeli SodaStream factory that revealed Scarlett Johansson’s choice between cash and charity… and where the Palestinian employees are giving the thumbs up
By JOHN HALL and OLGA CRAIG and GABRIELLE DONNELLY Daily Mail
SodaStream’s chief executive has hit back at Oxfam’s criticism that the Israeli company profits from illegal trade that harms Palestinians, saying the charity is being hypocritical in calling for it to close its factory in the occupied West Bank.
Last week Hollywood actress Scarlett Johansson ended an eight-year role as an Oxfam goodwill ambassador after campaigners for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel criticised her sponsorship deal with the fizzy-drink machine manufacturer.
Now the company’s chief executive Daniel Birnbaum has claimed SodaStream is being ‘demonised’ by activists who overlook the fact the factory is the largest private company employing Palestinian workers in the West Bank, all of whom he says receive the same pay as their Israeli colleagues.
Speaking to The Independent, Birnbaum said: ‘We have to deal with the media and activists who too often demonise us just because of the location of the factory.’
He added that there were no financial incentives to base the company on the controversial Mishor Adumim and insisted Sodastream has no political agenda.
He went on to say: ‘We purchase special health insurance for our 500 Palestinian employees so that we can be sure they have coverage for things like emergency surgery and organ transplants’.
In his defence of SodaStream, Birnbaum also claimed Oxfam gave money to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, which he says is being used ‘to demonise and attack Israel.’
Yesterday it was revealed that Johansson’s decision to honour her controversial contract with SodaStream at the expense of her role as ambassador for Oxfam may lie in her family’s struggle with money.
The star of The Girl With The Pearl Earring and The Island admitted she hankers after wealth and squanders money.
And while she commands huge fees for her film appearances, including a reputed £13 million for Avengers 2, she has also amassed a stable of sponsors, with top-brand firms paying her £3 million a year for acting as an ambassador for their goods.
‘It’s nice to have money. I didn’t grow up with it so it’s nice to have it,’ she told The Mail.
‘I’m not at all frugal and I don’t save – to my business manager’s dismay. I like to be generous. I can’t stand people who are tight with their money, it drives me crazy.
‘It’s different if you’re scrimping and saving because you need to, to save up for something. But I cannot stand cheapness.’
Her decision to remain linked to the firm, whose factory is in Mishor Adumim, an industrial zone in the Jerusalem hills, has infuriated Oxfam.
The charity insists it is incompatible for Johansson to represent both it and SodaStream.
It said: ‘Oxfam believes that businesses such as SodaStream that operate in settlements further the ongoing poverty and denial of rights of the Palestinian communities that we work to support. We are opposed to all trade from Israeli settlements, which are illegal under international law.’
Johansson insists SodaStream provides employment for hundreds of West Bank Palestinians along with Israeli Jews. She said: ‘It supports neighbours working alongside each other, receiving equal pay, equal benefits and equal rights.’