While the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign aims to hurt Israeli companies, the movement’s actions have actually had the opposite effect, the head of a major Israeli company told The Algemeiner on Tuesday.
Speaking on the sidelines of the Ambassadors Against BDS International Summit at United Nations, Daniel Birnbaum, the CEO of popular home soda-maker SodaStream, said that when people ask him whether there is a correlation between BDS and his company’s profits, his answer is always yes.
“The more active the BDS movement was in a certain market of ours, the more successful we have been,” he said. “In the course of the last six to seven years, when BDS was attacking SodaStream, we grew from a $90 million revenue company to more than $400 million. I encourage any company that wants to grow its sales to be attacked by the BDS movement.”
SodaStream made headlines in January 2014 when Hollywood actress and company spokeswoman Scarlett Johansson was harshly criticized by the BDS movement for a Super Bowl commercial endorsing the product. At the time, SodaStream operated one of its factories in the Mishor Adumim industrial park in the West Bank. It has since shut the plant down and moved inside the Green Line to a larger facility, which, Birnbaum said, was not done “because of BDS.”
Birnbaum told The Algemeiner that those countries which led the boycott against SodaStream also happen to represent the company’s most lucrative markets. “Specifically in the Nordic markets, where they embrace the rhetoric of BDS to a greater extent than other countries in the world, they did not want to receive any product manufactured by our Palestinian and Jewish employees in our West Bank factory,” he said. “The Nordic media actually led the boycott of SodaStream during the years 2009 to around 2015.”
“The Nordic market insisted we get our products from the mother of human rights, China,” he said, where “apparently, the organs of dying prisoners who are to be executed are removed from their bodies while the prisoners are still alive and then sold. So China’s behavior is fine for the Nordic markets.”
As a consequence, Birnbaum said, “we supplied product from China and SodaStream did very well in these markets during these years.” Today, SodaStream has about a 20 percent household penetration in Finland and Sweden, “which means that one in every five households in these countries have a SodaStream machine in use,” he said, adding, “There is your correlation for you.”
SodaStream’s newest factory, located in the Negev Desert, now supplies all products for the company’s Nordic markets, Birnbaum said. “In this new factory, we have Israelis, Israeli Arabs and Bedouins working side by side, in peace and harmony, and we hear no more issues about boycotts from Nordic markets. Hopefully this is a chapter that belongs in history and from which we can move forward.”
In February, SodaStream was forced to lay off its final 74 Palestinian workers who were the target of the BDS movement.