Israeli sparkling water company SodaStream is poised to offer 1,000 Syrian refugees jobs at its new plant in the southern Israeli town of Rahat. It said it would take in 1,000 individuals or up to 200 families to allow them to start anew in the state of Israel – but the opportunity needs to be approved by the Israeli authority, i24News reported.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has so far rejected all the proposals to accept Syrian refugees and will likely veto the initiative. SodaStream CEO Daniel Birnbaum said the measure was aimed at pressuring the government to reassess its reaction to the refugee crisis by offering asylum to survivors of the Syrian civil war.
"As the son of a Holocaust survivor, I refuse to stand by and observe this human tragedy unfold right across the border in Syria," he was quoted as saying in a press release.
"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."
Rahat is the largest Bedouin city in the world and 30% of its 1,100 workers in SodaStream are residents of the team, Ynet news reported.
SodaStream made the headlines in 2014 after its first global brand ambassador, actress Scarlett Johansson, stepped down as ambassador for humanitarian group Oxfam International. The company had come under fire from pro-Palestinian activists and the BDS movement for its large factory in the Israeli settlement of Maale Adumim in the occupied West Bank. Johansson said she had "a fundamental difference of opinion" with Oxfam.
Oxfam opposes all trade from Israeli settlements, which are considered illegal under international law, and it says deny Palestinian rights. The home drinks carbonation company makes its dispensers, CO2 cylinders and bottles at a factory where 500 Palestinians used to work alongside 800 Jewish and Arab residents of Israel.
The Jewish settlement where the factory was based is part of the land seized by Israel in the 1967 Six-Day War and is regarded by international law as illegal. SodaStream responded to criticism saying it was the largest employer of Palestinians in the region. It later closed the factory following pressure from the BDS movement, although it said the relocation was due to "purely commercial" reasons.