Vital Signs: An Interfaith Boycott; Tunisian Revolution Redux

from In These Times

Letting the Fizz Out of SodamStream: SodaStream’s post-Super Bowl feud with Coke and Pepsi isn’t the only controversy surrounding the Israeli home beverage company. Its operations in the Israeli settlement of Ma’Ale Adumim has made it the target of what organizers say is the first-ever interfaith boycott. The Interfaith Coalition Campaign to Boycott SodaStream, launched Sundayto coincide with a SodaStream ad that aired during the Super Bowl, says that the company’s products are “produced in an illegal Israeli settlement in the occupied Palestinian West Bank.” In response, representatives from Jewish, Muslim and Christian organizations are calling for consumers to shun the carbonated beverage producers. As an Israeli-only settlement built on occupied land and flanked by a network of settler-only roads and infrastructure, Ma’Ale Adumim denies Palestinians freedom of movement within their own territory.

Tunisian Revolution Redux: Following the assassination of secular human rights lawyer Chokri Belaid on Wednesday, Tunisia’s trade union federation has called for a general strike. On Thursday, hundreds of protesters gathered near the interior ministry in Tunis to chant “the people demand the fall of the regime,” the same rallying cry that sparked the Tunisian Revolution two years ago. Deep uncertainty plagues the country, as polarizations that caused the fall of Ben Ali two years ago threaten to resurface.

Black Bloc in Egypt: On February 6, over 1000 protesters rallied in downtown Cairo, calling on Egyptian President Morsi’s Islamist government to protect female demonstrators from sexual assault in Tahrir Square. Women, raising knives defiantly into the air and holding signs reading, “Those silent against the harassers are devils,” were joined in the rally by men from all sectors of Egyptian society and by a black bloc, who chained themselves together in a human shield to protect protesters. The long-standing issue has taken center stage since January 25, when a rally marking the two-year anniversary of the uprising that toppled Mubarak saw 19 reported violent attacks against women, including one in which a 19-year-old woman was raped with a sharp object by a mob of men.

The End of Solitary?: In a major victory for human rights groups and advocacy organizations, the Bureau of Prisons agreed to a full review of the use of solitary confinement in U.S. prisons on February 4. An independent auditor will carry out the review based on the recommendations of a congressional hearing held last year. According to the online project Solitary Watch, over 11,000 prisoners are held in some form of ‘segregated housing’ in America.

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