Palestinian workers in Israeli settlements: Contending with a regime of work permits and limited rights

Scarlet Johansson did not intend to, but when the Hollywood actress represented SodaStream, an Israeli company operating in the occupied territories, and claimed that the Palestinian workers receive the same full rights as their Israeli counterparts, she raised an international media storm. Responding to criticism that the plant’s location in occupied territory violates international law, SodaStream CEO Daniel Birnbaum claimed, “We are very proud of our plant in Mishor Adumim. It must be understood, the plant employs both Israelis and Palestinians. All workers have equal rights. We call this an ‘island of peace’” (from[i] Israel Hayom[/i], 3 Feb. 2014).

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The boycott: To what end?

Until 2008 the boycott against Israel, known also as the BDS movement (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions), was a marginal phenomenon. It began on July 9, 2005 when 171 Palestinian NGOs called for a boycott at an economic and cultural level. Over time, the initiative spread beyond the Occupied Territories to the wider world. But the Palestinian Authority (PA), which maintains diplomatic, security and economic ties with Israel, refused to express support (and refuses until now). The world’s governments likewise withheld support. Here and there, a famous singer or actor cancelled a gig in Israel, and demonstrations were held abroad when Israelis performed there, but these did not have an impact on public opinion in Israel, or on its government, which regularly accused the boycotters of anti-Semitism.

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