EcoStream supporters will fight on

Activists say shop closure is not a setback

By Sandy Rashty, July 10, 2014
Israeli flags fly in a counter-demonstration outside the EcoStream shop

Israeli flags fly in a counter-demonstration outside the EcoStream shop

Pro-Israel groups have denied that the closure of the Israeli-owned EcoStream store is a victory forboycotters.

The shop, which sold SodaStream products made in a West Bank factory, was closed last week, with SodaStream saying that, after a two-year test period, it had decided to focus its business in other areas.

But the Palestine Solidarity Campaign claimed the closure was a result of its protests.

EcoStream in Brighton had been the scene of weekly demonstrations by pro-Palestinians, countered by members of Sussex Friends of Israel.

Simon Cobb, SFI's co-founder, insisted that the store had not been shut because of pressure from the boycotters.

Arabs and Jews work together at SodaStream’s West Bank factory

Arabs and Jews work together at SodaStream’s West Bank factory

He said: "The management made it clear that the weekly demonstrations by the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement played no role in their decision. The shop was an experiment. It failed."

The closure did not represent a setback for Israel's supporters in the city, he believed.

"SFI rallies were never just about the shop - their motivation was defending Israel's right to exist. We will focus on a more educational platform, while keeping our commitment to counter the hate of the BDS movement, especially towards the many Sussex businesses that choose to stock goods from Israel."

Alan Aziz, director of the Zionist Federation, said he was "deeply disappointed by the closure of the store, but the running of an experimental flagship outlet during a recession was always going to be difficult".

He praised the supporters who had turned out every weekend to protest on behalf on Israel.

"The creation of SFI has given us a role model for how a local community can respond to the threat posed by those who would seek to purge this country of anything Israel-related," he said.

Praise also came from Julian Hunt, of UK Lawyers for Israel which has backed the counter-boycott

He described SFI members as "very brave and decent people on the front line in countering and defeating the bullies and liars on the other side. They would spend their day supporting Israel and fighting the most pernicious form of antisemitism.

"The BDS movement will spin this as a success, but the shop closed for economic reasons."

But Rabbi Andrea Zanardo, of Brighton & Hove Reform Synagogue, said the community had been upset by the lack of information from the EcoStream management.

"I'm not happy that they just shut the shop without telling us anything," he said.

Last updated: 9:50pm, July 10 2014