Monthly Archives: May 2014

Lawfare in retreat as Israeli colonel drops case against union

Lawfare in retreat as Israeli colonel drops case against union


Moty Cristal explains “the language of power.” (Screenshot)

Israel’s strategy of using lawyers and courts around the world to harass Palestine solidarity activists appears to be coming totally unstuck. Two such high-profile“lawfare” cases hit the rocks this week.

An Israeli army colonel yesterday dropped his suit against a local National Health Service (NHS) trust and against Unison, the UK’s second-largest union.

Lt. Colonel (res.) Moty Cristal went to a London court in September seeking tens of thousands of pounds in damages, in an Israeli “lawfare” case against theboycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement.

The case has been running since April 2012, when a workshop at which he had been due to speak was canceled by Manchester Mental Health and Social Care Trust. Union members had threatened to boycott the session because of Cristal’s links to the Israeli army.

Unison and the trust say the event was canceled because Cristal was once an official for the Israeli government. Unison has fairly strong policies in favor of BDS against Israel.

As I reported in September, Cristal’s “operational experience” in the Israeli army is no secret.

A Unison spokesperson told The Electronic Intifada today: “Unison is pleased that Professor Moty Cristal has decided to discontinue all of his claims against Unison and against Manchester Mental Health and Social Care NHS Trust. Unison has throughout the proceedings denied it has acted unlawfully and is glad the claimant has decided to drop his case.”

A spokesperson for the trust had no immediate comment, but said they would look to issue a statement soon. This post will updated when they do.

Via Twitter, Moty Cristal declined to comment.

Lawfare meltdown

Cristal claimed to the Jewish Chronicle yesterday that “he had received a letter from the health trust’s chief executive apologising for cancelling the lecture.”

A spokesperson for the trust told The Electronic Intifada he had no immediate comment on this claim.

Strangely, he also said that the goals of his suit had been broadly met: “following my case … Leaders of all the main political parties in the UK have expressed their clear opposition” to BDS.

But the leaders of the UK’s three main political parties have always been opposed to BDS, so this is all fairly unconvincing face-saving.

A hint towards the real reasons appears towards the end of the Jewish Chroniclearticle which states: “the JLC [Jewish Leadership Council] and other [pro-Israel] organisations will take a new approach to countering boycotters and groups opposed to Israel, using discourse rather than legal process.”

As I wrote here in April, the failure of the Ronnie Fraser case against the University and College Union was a watershed.

All the UK’s main Zionist groups backed the case against UCU (for merely discussing BDS), as did high-profile lawyer Anthony Julius, who took the case onpro bono.

It not only failed, but backfired spectacularly. A judge ruled it was “an impermissible attempt to achieve a political end by litigious means.” The ripples of that defeat are still being felt now.

First, Julius was apparently kicked off the Cristal case after his incompetent showing for Fraser in court. Then, when Cristal reached court in September, his case soon ran into trouble.

The judge reportedly said he was “ ‘concerned’ by the number of legal issues the sides were debating and feared the case would ‘simply mushroom into a huge series of issues.’”


This latest defeat for the “lawfare” strategy comes as another such case ran into trouble in Australia.

Two supporters of the academic boycott of Israel at Sydney University’s Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies were being sued under Australian law designed to combat racist discrimination.

But in April the court struck out most of the case. And this week, the group of Israeli lawyers suing academic Jake Lynch ran into further difficulties.

The Australian reported that Israeli lawfare organization Shurat Hadin had “abandoned its ambitious bid to have the Federal Court ­declare the entire boycott, divestment, sanctions campaign against Israel discriminatory.”

The group was also ordered to put up an bond of 100,000 Australian dollars ($92,980) for Lynch’s costs should he win.

According to a leaked document, Shurat Hadin is a Mossad proxy, as I have previously reported.

Their case against Lynch at one point struck a farcical note, as they tried to argue that the Sydney University academic’s support for BDS had help deny Israelis the chance to see boycotting artists such as Santana, Elvis Costello and Snoop Dogg.

The Guardian Australia reported that this caused laughter in court.

Trade Unions join protest against SodaStream

Trade Unions join protest against SodaStream


Members from eight UK trade unions joined the long running weekly picket of SodaStream’s only UK shop, EcoStream in Brighton, on Saturday May 3. Members from The Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS), National Union of Journalists (NUJ), University and College Union (UCU), National Union of  Teachers (NUT), Solidarity Federation (SolFed), Unison, Unite and GMB all showed up to show solidarity with Palestinians workers living under occupation. There were also representatives from Brighton Benefits Campaign and Defend the NHS present.

Trade Union picket of EcoStream. Photo by Brighton and Hove PSC, May 2014

There is a growing world-wide boycott campaign against SodaStream, an Israeli company which has one of its main manufacturing facilities in the illegal settlement industrial zone of Mishor Adumim. The EcoStream store has been picketed by Palestine solidarity campaigners on a weekly basis since it first opened its doors in 2012. Shortly after the activists started targeting the shop, local Zionists began a counter demonstration, and SodaStream’s PR machine went into overdrive to prove that their business on occupied territory was beneficial for the West Bank as the company employs some Palestinians.

Police responded to the increased protester numbers on May 3 by forcing the protest across the road onto the pavement opposite the shop and arresting 5 people in the process. Meanwhile, the Zionist counter protesters were allowed to remain directly outside the shop. To read more about the protests against EcoStream check out

However, it is clear that less and less people are swallowing the company’s propaganda and the trade unionists present last Saturday had no doubts as to where their solidarity must lie and no problems with putting the situation into context. One union member, quoted on the Brighton and Hove Palestine Solidarity Campaign’s web-site said, when asked why he was there: “This is employment in conditions of illegal occupation. The Palestinian villages, land, economy and people were wiped out to make way for the building of an illegal Israeli colony, and then SodaStream tries to convince the world that they are a benevolent provider of employment, Unbelievable!”.


Trade Unions in solidarity with Palestine at EcoStream. Photo by Brighton and Hove PSC, May 2014

Support for Palestine is really taking off within the trade union movement, the NUT passed a motion on Palestine during their annual conference in May, bringing them in line with Trade Union Council policy. The motion called for a boycott of ‘goods of companies who profit from illegal settlements, the occupation and the construction of the wall’ as well as an end to the occupation and the siege of Gaza.

SodaStream and workers’ rights

As Corporate Watch has previously reported, the issues with SodaStream’s factory in Mishor Adumim are wide and complex, ranging from complicity in settlement expansion, and hence the ethnic cleansing of the surrounding Bedouin communities, to worker’s rights issues. Whilst the company proudly promotes its employment of Palestinians, SodaStream has refused to answer any specific questions about its practices, including whether Palestinians in the factory are allowed to unionise and, if they are, which unions are allowed to operate in the factory. Corporate Watch has yet to come across a single settlement worker properly represented by an Israeli trade union and Palestinian unions do not generally have access to the settlements. As the Israeli research group Who Profits has pointed out, all settlement workers are required to have special security clearance from Israel’s internal security service, with permits easily revoked if workers try to organise or engage in political activities.

SodaStream has faced heavy criticism for the conditions endured by its workers but after the company received some negative publicity it is believed that they started paying their workers at least minimum wage in 2009. Palestinian workers in Israeli settlements have been entitled by law to receive the Israeli minimum wage since a precedent setting ruling in the Israeli high court in 2007, although this is rarely adhered to and enforced. The law also stipulates that workers should receive the same holiday pay, pay slips and heath cover as workers in Israel. In 2010 SodaStream dismissed 140 workers who were working for the factory through the sub contractor Pear Sol. It was only after pressure from the Israeli workers’ rights group Kav LaOved (Workers’ Hotline) that the fired workers were reinstated. Importantly, however, the two people who had liaised with Kav LaOved did not get their jobs back, highlighting the consequences for any settlement workers organising politically and demanding their rights.

When Corporate Watch went to see Kav LaOved in Tel Aviv in January 2013, a case worker said that no one there was in contact with workers inside the factory anymore and it is believed that the workers are scared of losing their jobs if they contact them. “Sodastream are very careful now”, we were told,  “They know that people are watching them and don’t want bad publicity”.

It certainly seem like SodaStream workers are worried about talking about their jobs to outsiders and without company approval. Despite interviewing workers from almost all other settlement sectors, Corporate Watch failed to find anyone from SodaStream who was willing to talk during our research trip. When one worker did speak out to The Electronic Intifada, he made clear how SodaStream attempts to stage-manage its reputation. Talking about a promotion film called Build Bridges Not Walls, produced by the company with the intention of showing how wonderfully SodaStream treats its Palestinian workers the man, who wished to remain anonymous, said  that he felt “humiliated and I am also disgraced as a Palestinian, as the claims in this video are all lies. We Palestinian workers in this factory always feel like we are enslaved […] I actually saw the company preparation work [for the video]; they were preparing all the workers and telling them what to say and how to say it”.

Palestinians have been robbed of their chances of making a living from their land, or having an independent economy. As trade unions continue to stand in solidarity with Palestinians under occupation, Corporate Watch would like to repeat one of our, as yet, unanswered question to SodaStream: Are the workers in the SodaStream factory allowed to unionise? If so, which unions operate in the industrial zone?

Corporate Watch will soon be publishing an expanded article about the villages around Mishor Adumim and the wider impact of the industrial zone on Palestinians’ lives and livelihoods.

To read more about the protests against EcoStream check out


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