After years of facing boycotts and public-relations battles, SodaStream—purveyor of popular home soda makers—has announced that it will be moving its factory from an Israeli settlement in the West Bank to a small Negev town in southern Israel. The company says the move will take place by mid-2015.
Seen by its opponents as a legitimizer of internationally condemned Israeli settlements, the company and its supporters often pushed back by touting SodaStream's record of hiring Palestinian workers and paying them wages equal to Israeli workers. Earlier this year, Ahmed Nasser, a Palestinian SodaStream employee from Ramallah, praised the company, telling Haaretz that "he receives an hour-and-a-half worth of breaks in a standard 12-hour shift, and that prayer times are not deducted from break allowances."
Earlier this year, the controversy extended into the reaches of popular culture when actress Scarlett Johansson left her post as a global ambassador for the development organization Oxfam after she signed on to represent SodaStream in a Super Bowl commercial. "Ms. Johansson's role promoting the company SodaStream is incompatible with her role as an Oxfam Global Ambassador," Oxfam said in a statement.
A representative for SodaStream said that the decision to move its factory to southern Israel was "purely commercial." On Wednesday, The Wall Street Journal also reported that the company has recently been plagued by flagging revenue.
As for the fate of its employees, SodaStream CEO Daniel Birnbaum said he plans to give Palestinian workers the opportunity to continue working for the company. As he told the AP: "We are offering all employees the opportunity to join us in Lehavim, and specifically, we are working with the Israeli government to secure work permits for our Palestinian employees."