(JNi.media) SodaStream continues to fight to improve its public image in Arab communities around the world and so last Friday it unveiled a joint plan, together with Talal Al-Krenawi, mayor of the Bedouin city of Rahat in the south of Israel, to offer immediate asylum to refugees from Syria, pending Israeli authorities’ approval. SodaStream and Rahat say they can effectively absorb 1,000 individuals, or up to 200 families, and provide them with an opportunity to build a new life in Israel.
With 55,000 residents, Rahat is the largest Bedouin city in the world. Currently, 30 percent of the 1,100 workers in SodaStream’s nearby factory are residents of Rahat. “We enjoy a progressive, urban lifestyle in Rahat; however, we haven’t abandoned our culture and our tribal traditions,” said Mayor Al-Krenawi. “Human dignity and hospitality are core values in our culture and we will not allow indifference to the suffering of others. In this first stage, we will be able to receive 1,000 refugees, and then through ongoing collaboration with SodaStream, we plan to help more. Our hope is that the government will then support our joint effort.”
The victim of an anti-Israel boycott campaign, SodaStream announced earlier in 2015 that its factory in Maale Adumim, in Judea, would be closed by the end of 2016 and its operations transferred to the new factory in Lehavim, 15 km north of Be’er Sheva. The relocation announcement was declared a success by the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI), which said it would nevertheless continue its worldwide efforts to boycott SodaStream, even though Lehavim is inside the pre-1967 borders. PACBI argued that the new factory would be located on lands that were “stolen” from Rahat, which means SodaStream is still part of “Israel’s displacement policies.”
Daniel Birnbaum, Chief Executive Officer of SodaStream, said that “As the son of a Holocaust survivor, I refuse to stand by and observe this human tragedy unfold right across the border in Syria,” said Birnbaum. “Just as we have always done our best to help our Palestinian brothers and sisters in the West Bank, the time has come for local business and municipal leaders to address the Syrian humanitarian crisis and take the initiative to help those in need. We cannot expect our politicians to bear the entire burden of providing aid for the refugees.”