Boycott on the horizon if Starbucks buys stake in SodaStream

ActivismIsrael/PalestineUS Politics
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Starbucks Logo

Starbucks Logo

SodaStream stocks have been jumping around this week after a Globes report surfaced out of Israel that claimed “sources” alleged corporate coffee giant Starbucks, “arguably the first international symbol of globalized consumerism”, might buy a 10% stake in the home seltzer product located in an illegal Israeli settlement inside the occupied Palestinian territories.

In a recent CNBC interview Starbucks’ CEO Howard Shultz declined to comment on the rumor and thus far there has been no validation of the Globes report. We reached out to Starbucks’ media representative curious if they were intending to engage in this partnership. Their response; “we don’t comment on rumors or speculation.”

The Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) National Committee issued a stern warning stating Starbucks could face a global boycott if it partners with SodaStream; “A BDS campaign against Starbucks is expected to drastically affect its market share in the Arab world and many countries across the world”:

Starbucks’ reported interest in SodaStream comes at a time when civil society, the private sector and governments across the world are increasingly shunning businesses that contribute to Israel’s occupation and violations of international law. International supporters of Palestinian rights have responded to calls for boycotts of SodaStream, organising protests across hundreds of stores and many European retailers have pledged not to sell products produced in illegal Israeli settlements. The Dutch and UK governments have recently warned businesses to avoid business links with illegal Israeli settlements.[8]

Following the recent high profile outcry about actor Scarlett Johansson’s association with SodaStream, investment analysts have stated that SodaStream “comes with baggage” and that their illegal settlement factory is “a touchstone for controversy”.  Indeed, their first quarter 2014 results show a drop of 14% in their share price.[9]

Starbucks should abandon any plans it may have to purchase a stake in or enter into a partnership with SodaStream or any other company profiting from Israel’s occupation and settlements to avoid becoming a target for the BDS movement.

Baggage indeed. While some might argue high profile partnerships of this nature give credibility to SodaStream, their pairing with Scarlett Johansson thrust recognition of Israeli apartheid and the BDS movement countering it, into the main stage of American discourse. Even denials and apologies amount to exposure and the media that follows counters a culture of silence surrounding Israel’s crimes that has persisted for decades.

With a Starbucks decorating corners of every center of nearly every major city on the planet the opportunities for exposure are endless. I can’t think of a setting more primed and ready to serve the BDS movement by informing masses about Israeli apartheid than the local cafes in their own backyards.

CNBC international correspondent Michelle Caruso-Cabrera reports Shultz knew it wasn’t just about the coffee; Starbucks was about providing “the experience” and their product is sold at a premium because it’s “staged with the right experience.” Well, hanging at the local cafe might feel different if there is a picket line outside.

This could launch the BDS campaign into locations all across America, and the world. But could Starbucks be so clueless as to partner with a high profile company associated with apartheid like SodaStream? What possible motive could Starbucks have for plunging their brand into a public relations landmine? Money? Think again. As Yahoo Finance Senior Columnist Mike Santoli noted:

 SodaStream is always seemingly the subject of intermittent takeover rumors or strategic investment rumors, it seems like the stock pops periodically on these kinds of rumors…..if Starbucks wants to find a way to innovate on the countertop they might want to find another way to do it.

Just last week the Earth Day Network, a global environmental coalition with 22,000 partners in 192 countries, cut ties with SodaStream over its complicity in Israel’s military occupation, including the destruction that Israeli settlements have caused to the Palestinian environment.

Does Starbucks want to go up against that? The Starbucks logo, a siren designed around a 16th century Norse woodcut of a twin-tailed mermaid, is recognized far and wide. The company’s website says she is “a seductive mystery mixed with a nautical theme…She is at the heart of Starbucks.”

We can paint a bright red A for apartheid on her forehead too.



About Annie Robbins

Annie Robbins is Editor at Large for Mondoweiss, a mother, a human rights activist and a ceramic artist. She lives in the SF bay area. Follow her on Twitter @anniefofani

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