Billionaire investor George Soros sold his stake in SodaStream, consisting of 550, 000 shares. SodaStream, whose main factory is in the West Bank, is once again in the spotlight, but a spokesman for Soros refused to comment on the reason for the sale.
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The timing of the move, giving the raging conflict between Israel an Gazans, led to speculation by Pro-Palestinian news agencies that Soros, either through pressure of conviction, was divesting from SodaStream for political reasons. The Abu Dhabi based publication, The National, reports:
“The decision comes as a group of big international investors, including the fund lined to Microsoft found, Bill Gates, join a burgeoning financial boycott of Israel amid a push by the boycott, divestment and sanction movement (BDS) and other groups seeking more rights for Palestinians.”
SodaStream is a major employer of Palestinian Arabs, and provides them with wages equivalent to their Israeli counterparts as well as a mosque on the premises. That hasn’t stopped SodaStream from becoming the target of BDS venom, most notably, the departure of actress Scarlet Johansson from Pro BDS Oxfam over her controversial advertisements for SodaStream.
With talk that Starbucks may purchase SodaStream, there are threats among BDS of massive boycotts of the most prominent coffee company. Omar Barghouti, Palestinian activist and co-founder of the BDS movement told VICE:
“If Starbucks partners with SodaStream, it will face an unprecedented boycott campaign against it in the Arab world, the U.S., and in many other countries …”
Barghouti might sound a bit ambitious here (especially since polls show the majority of Americans support the recent military defense by Israel in Gaza) that the typical American is going to give up the morning Frapuccino. However, massive boycotts of Starbucks in Europe because of BDS might make a dent, although the coffee company has been doing as well in China in recent years as it has in Europe. Of course, if BDS drives Starbucks away from Sodastream, it is likely to hurt West Bank Arabs who work for SodaStream at least as much as their Israeli employers.
Who knows if the Pro-Palestinian news sources are correct and if Starbucks will shy away from SodaStream, although BDS hasn’t stopped takeovers of Israeli tech startups. And keep in mind like chain smokers, coffee addicts are not just addicted to the drug, but to the brand. Still, it pays to be cautious about the possible fallout rather than complacent, while keeping in mind that neither George Soros nor a spokesman was willing to comment on the reason for the sale of the SodaStream stake.