Israeli company SodaStream announced it will open a new factory in besieged Gaza, where residents face a water shortage and UN aid cuts.
GAZA, PALESTINE — Israeli company SodaStream announced today it will open a new factory in the besieged Gaza Strip. The announcement comes on the heels of a statement from the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) announcing it would cut food and general relief to Gaza, at a time when Palestinians living under an illegal blockade need it most.
In a statement on Wednesday, the WFP announced it would slash humanitarian relief to suffering Palestinians in the Gaza Strip as well as the occupied West Bank territories next year, blaming Washington’s own cuts to their organization. As Stephen Kearney, WFP country director in the Palestinian Territories, told Reuters:
WFP has been forced, unfortunately, to make drastic cuts to the number of people that we support across Palestine, both in Gaza and the West Bank … mainly because the amount of funding that we are receiving is dropping drastically.”
The UN stated that it would need an additional $57 million to continue providing assistance on par with 2018 — a figure the UN agency isn’t likely to drum up coverage for. The Trump administration has also slashed funding for UNRWA, a UN agency that provides life-saving assistance to Palestinians.
According to the WFP, the budget cuts suggest that upwards of 166,000 Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and besieged Gaza Strip will suffer a 20 percent reduction in food aid overall. A total of 190,000 Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip and West Bank rely on the aid and will be directly affected by the cuts.
According to the World Food Programme’s own statistics, nearly a quarter of Gaza’s population, or 1.3 million people, lack access to nutritious food. Nearly 40 percent of households with a woman as the primary caregiver are food insecure. Half of the population in both occupied territories lacks adequate basic vitamins and minerals.
In addition to carrying out a siege and occupation, Israel also has a history of restricting and outright denying Palestinians’ access to their own water sources with exploitative water sharing agreements. These agreements put Israeli institutions in charge of 71 percent of Palestinian water.
Ninety-seven percent of Gaza’s drinking water is virtually unusable due to contamination from sewage, salts, and other toxins. Israelis blame Gaza’s water woes on poorly developed infrastructure. However, the Israelis also have a history of arbitrarily turning off Gaza’s water supplies.
For years, Israel has skirted international law to construct illegal settlements in the West Bank. According to the Fourth Geneva Convention, an occupying power shall not transport its own civilians into territories it occupies. Numerous UN resolutions have also condemned Israel’s illegal construction of settlements.
SodaStream to mooch scarce Gaza water?
It is, in light of this appalling situation, ironic (at least) that on Wednesday, the CEO of Israeli-based SodaStream, Daniel Birnbaum, announced his company would open a new manufacturing plant in Gaza.
SodaStream, which was acquired by PepsiCo in August of this year for $3.2 billion, has a history of building factories in the occupied West Bank. In 2015, SodaStream was forced to close its manufacturing plant in the West Bank after bowing to pressure from Boycott Divestment Sanction (BDS) activists. An August statement from BDS reads:
The BDS movement sees SodaStream’s closure of its factory in the militarily occupied West Bank as a success, in line with our commitment to end Israel’s violations of Palestinian human rights. This SodaStream factory was located in one of the largest illegal Israeli settlements built on stolen Palestinian land, on the ruins of seven Palestinian villages whose inhabitants were forced out to make way for a Jewish-only town, in contravention of international law and decades of stated U.S. policy.”
The BDS movement claims SodaStream is still subject to boycott, despite moving its factory, owing to the company’s complicity in Israel’s general policy of forcibly removing indigenous Palestinians from their homes.
Top Photo | A Palestinian girl holds plastic bottles waiting to fill them with drinking water at a public tap in town of Jabaliya in the northern Gaza Strip, July 27, 2014. Khalil Hamra | AP
Randi Nord is a MintPress News staff writer. She is also co-founder of Geopolitics Alert where she covers U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East with a special focus on Yemen.