Parliament’s only Green Party MP has been accused of “selling out” after she backed constituents’ protests against an eco-friendly concept store.
Caroline Lucas has entered the row over the EcoStream store in her Brighton Pavilion constituency after she backed demonstrations outside the Israeli-owned company, but also said she did not believe the store should close.
The EcoStream shop opened in the city in August, offering customers recyclable household products and SodaStream fizzy drinks in refillable containers which reduce plastic waste.
Demonstrators have held twice-weekly protests to condemn the firm’s Israeli owners, whose headquarters are based in Mishor Adumim, an industrial park next to Ma’ale Adumim, the third largest West Bank settlement.
The Brighton protesters have claimed that Palestinians living in villages around the industrial area are prevented from building permanent structures by the Israeli military.
Last Saturday the store attracted more than 50 protesters and counter-protesters.
Ms Lucas said constituents had contacted her to express support for the anti-Israel protesters. She said it was “right for local people to take a principled stand” against the company. The MP has not taken part in the demonstrations herself.
But when asked by pro-Israel constituent Simon Cobbs to clarify her position, Ms Lucas said her “support for the right to peaceful protest was being conflated, incorrectly, with calls for the EcoStream store to close”.
Writing on her blog, the MP said she wanted to welcome green businesses to the city but added: “SodaStream and its parent company Soda Club operate out of an illegal Israeli settlement.
“A number of constituents have contacted me to express support for the protests at the EcoStream store and it’s my view that those people have a right to demonstrate peacefully in the hope of persuading the company to think about moving their manufacturing plant elsewhere.”
Mr Cobbs said Ms Lucas had “sold out. EcoStream’s green credentials are impeccable. Ms Lucas was elected as a Green MP on a green agenda. She has sold out in her own constituency for the Palestinian cause. It makes no sense at all. It is pretty clear what the demonstrators’ aims are – to close the store,” he said.
“We are there counter-protesting because it’s the right thing to do and the community is behind us.”
Maurice Silber, adviser to Sodastream’s chief executive, Daniel Birnbaum, said: “We are proud to have the opportunity to operate one of our production facilities in Mishor Adumim where Jews and Palestinians work peacefuly together. Anyone who genuinely cares about the Palestinian cause and about peace in the Middle East should support our mission.
“We are in Brighton to stay and, if necessary, we are prepared to go to court to stop the intimidation of our staff and customers at the EcoStream store.”