Billionaire investor George Soros’ family office, Soros Fund Management, has jumped on the divest Israel band wagon. He has sold all his holdings in the Israel based company SodaStream, which consisted of 550,000 shares.
SodaStream has its main factory located in the West Bank region. This sudden sale has returned them to the spotlight again, since the beautiful Scarlett Johansson controversy had them in the headlines a while back. A Soros spokesman declined to comment on the motivation behind the sale.
Pro- Palestinian news agencies are attributing Soros divesting from SodaStream as being for political reasons. This reasoning is fueled by the timing of the sale; since this is such a period violent turmoil between Israel and Gaza, pressures of conviction could motivate a divestment.
The National, Abu Dhabi based publication, 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.”
A substantially large amount of Palestinian Arabs are hired by SodaStream; they are paid the same wages as their Israeli counterparts and also are provided with a mosque on the premises of the job site. Despite the positive treatment of their many Arab employees, SodaStream is still the target of BDS venom; most notably was Scarlet Johansson from Pro BDS Oxfam over her controversial advertisements for SodaStream.
BDS are now making threats of boycotting Starbucks, the most famous coffee company, because of their talks about possibly purchasing SodaStream. Palestinian activist and co-founder of the BDS movement, Omar Barghouti, 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 words are a bit of idealistic exaggeration here. Current polls have shown that most Ameicans support Israel’s recent military against the Hamas attacks in Gaza; and it is extremely doubtful that any Americans will be giving up their Starbucks Lattes. Although, there is a greater possibility of a BDS instigated Starbucks boycott making an impact in Europe. If the BDS does manage to deter Starbucks away from SodaStream, it will likely have negative effects on the many Arabs in the West Bank who are employed by SodaStream as much as it will hurt their Israeli employers.
It is hard to say how much truth lies in the Pro-Palestinian news sources and if Starbucks will turn its back on possibly purchasing SodaStream. However BDS has not been successful in stopping the many takeovers of Israeli tech startups. Customers to feel a close connection to the Starbucks brand and breaking those ties may not be easy, but it’s always good to be aware of the potential situation and the fact that neither George Soros nor a spokesman was willing to comment on the reason for the sale of the SodaStream stake.