Boycotts simply do not work: Green Brighton supports green Ecostream

The Ecostream store in Western Road has been the scene of protests and counter-protests
The Ecostream store in Western Road has been the scene of protests and counter-protests

Ecostream, Brighton’s eco-store, is a green beacon in a green city. It sources the majority of its goods from Sussex farmers and suppliers.

Ecostream, Brighton’s eco-store, is a green beacon in a green city. It sources the majority of its goods from Sussex farmers and suppliers. A breath of fresh air in a busy urban environment, this British store is well supported by its ever-growing clientele.

Unfortunately, for 18 months, Ecostream has seen an anti-Israel protest outside its front door. The protesters seek the closure of the shop and an end to Sodastream, Ecostream’s Israel-based parent company.

A year-and-a-half ago, a Christian and a Jew - both supporters of Israel’s right to exist - met by chance outside the store and witnessed the hate-filled rhetoric and wilful distortions spouted by groups associated with last week’s Brighton and Hove Independent columnist (January 10).

In response, they literally took to the pavement and decided to stand up for the shop, its Sussex suppliers, and its locally-employed staff.

A rally in support of the shop has grown since those early days. Now, a wide network of supporters from not only the Jewish and Christian communities, but also the local gay community as well as unaffiliated but concerned supporters, gather weekly outside the store to hand out literature that provides some balance and lets passers-by make up their own minds about Israel.

The shop has also grown, stocking a growing number of locally-sourced goods from suppliers across Sussex and the United Kingdom. Its customers arrive with empty cartons and bottles; they re-fill with everything from oils and vinegars, detergents and soaps, to nuts and locally-produced fudge.

Sodastream, like many international companies, has one of its factories in the industrial zone of Mishor Adumim, just outside Jerusalem. In the 1995 Oslo Peace Accords, this was designated as Area C, whose final status is to be determined as part of a final international agreement. As an economic bridge towards that goal, the factory employs 600 Palestinian workers, working side-by-side with their Israeli colleagues.

All Sodastream staff benefit from good salaries, health care and a friendly and safe working environment without prejudice. They share the same rights, attend universities, own their own land, use the same public transport, restaurants and hospitals. Whether Israeli or Palestinian, all Sodastream employees enjoy the same rights and opportunities.

This is the spirit of equality and acceptance - living together in harmony while finding ways to acknowledge and resolve differences - which lies at the heart of the pro-Israel/pro-UK-business rally at Ecostream. It affirms a solution that provides for two states, a safe and secure environment for all who live in Israel and, above all, the balance in debate that allows everyone to make up their own mind and not be swayed by those who shout loudest.

Boycotts simply do not work. The UK is now Israel’s biggest export market after the United States. In 2012, two-way trade and services stood at over $8 billion - up a massive 34% on 2011.

Last week, Britain’s Ambassador to Israel, Matthew Gould, said: “These flourishing bilateral links between both our countries are the most eloquent answer to those calling for boycotts of Israel. The British government rejects those calls for boycotts. Boycotts divide people. Our collaboration brings people together.

“Our partnership is about building a better, more prosperous, healthier future for both our peoples. Our cooperation means sharing innovation, creating jobs, and achieving more through working together than we could achieve apart. This is the real headline of our relationship”.

Rather than painting a picture of the store in monochrome, Tony Greenstein and his supporters should add some colour.

Ecostream is a green store, a green beacon in a green city, with green credentials second to none. His boycott will never work.

Neil Duncanson is director of Sussex Friends of Israel. For more information, visit: www.sussexfriendsofisrael.org