Why Seven-Up bottled out of the Gaza franchise: A Palestinian family's soft-drinks enterprise was built up and cast down by the fortunes of war. Dependence on Israel exacted a cruel price

DOES ANYBODY know that the people of Gaza don't drink Seven-Up any more? And should anybody care?

Mohamed Yazegi, manager of the Seven-Up Bottling Company, the largest and oldest factory in the Israeli-occupied Gaza Strip, says people should know and should care if they want to find peace in the Middle East.

Israel's peace efforts have recently begun to focus on Palestinian business. In a big policy shift, the state is promising to promote economic self-sufficiency for Gaza and the West Bank, investing pounds 50m in infrastructure. But to Mr Yazegi such promises are as idle as the lines of green bottles whose contents fizz quietly beside him in the sun. He knows what is needed to bring life to the Palestinian economy: an end to lawlessness and an end to the occupation.

He points to destroyed machinery, the work of Israeli saboteurs. And on his desk sits an affidavit, filed in a New York court: Seven-Up Bottling Company vs Pepsi Cola International Ltd, of New York. The parent company is pulling out of Gaza, refusing to renew Mr Yazegi's franchise.

Levering the top from his bottle of pop, the Seven-Up manager tells his tale. The family have lived in Gaza for generations. Citrus is Gaza's natural bounty and, in the early 1950s when Gaza was under Egyptian control, Mohammed's father, Tawfiq, started bottling juice. 'He used a hand-operated machine - a British one,' he says. The family launched its own 'Gaza Cola', and in 1962 Seven-Up International approached the enterprising Yazegi family and offered them a fizzy-drink franchise. 'In the 1960s, business was good here,' says Mr Yazegi, summoning up unfamiliar images from the past, of another Gaza bustling with commerce. 'The seas were open and ships bringing raw materials docked at Gaza port.'

With the advent of Israeli military rule following the 1967 war, the factory was crippled. But in 1975, Seven-Up International renewed the franchise again and new markets were found. Seven-Up had spotted potential for profit in Israel and seen how to use the Gaza bottlers to exploit it. An Arab trade boycott, in force against Israel since 1967, meant Seven-Up could not offer a franchise to an Israeli company for fear of being blacklisted in the Arab world. But because the Yazegi family was able to trade across the Israeli lines, Seven-Up could circumvent the boycott.

The entire Palestinian economy began to depend on Israel during the 1970s and 1980s as more and more Palestinians were encouraged to work in Israel. In the 1980s one-third of Gaza's income was generated though earnings in Israel, one-third through money sent back to relatives from Palestinians working in the Gulf, and one-third through the citrus trade. Israeli occupation discouraged the growth of indigenous Palestinian industry, and with its international franchise Seven-Up Bottling became one of few factories of any size operating inside Gaza.

But the Yazegis too became dependent on Israel. All materials were imported from Israel and by the mid-1980s 40 per cent of the factory's trade was done in Israel.

When Pepsi bought Seven-Up in 1986 the Gaza factory was in profit and the franchise was renewed. Then began the decline. First, in 1987 came the intifada, the Palestinian uprising. 'We never knew when the strikes or the curfew would come. It was very hard,' says Mr Yazegi. Next came the Gulf war and the eviction of Palestinian workers, lopping one-third off Gaza's earnings. The Gulf war was responsible for a further blow to the Yazegis: it weakened the power of the Arab trade boycott. In December, Pepsi decided to end the unprofitable Gaza franchise and offer the deal to an Israeli company.

Betrayal hangs in the air at Seven-Up Bottling Company. But it is not only the US parent that is severing ties: Israel is trying to cut and run. Last month, following a rise in Palestinian attacks, Israel closed itself off to Palestinian workers and another third of Gaza's income has been lost.

Rising debt brought about a new dependency - on loans from Israeli banks, which have a way of calling in debts with brute force. Three weeks ago, with the Strip under curfew, Mr Yazegi was called to his factory at 11pm to find 20 Israeli soldiers and a number of unidentified civilians armed with massive cutters and six trailers. They had broken down the gate and locked up the elderly guards. 'They did not even ask for the keys,' says Mr Yazegi. They cut electric connections, removed computer disks, spilt files and removed machinery.

'They took the new line for non-returnable bottles. There was a big demand for this in the market,' said Mr Yazegi. 'They took sugar. They took the concentrate. They even took a textile machine which belonged to a friend. He was starting a new business and had left it here until the curfew was over.' The Israeli army provides 'security' protection to Israeli debt- collectors.

'I welcome all investment in Gaza,' says Mr Yazegi, who is chairman of Gaza's industrialists' committee. 'But no investment will work before the political situation is changed. Israel must let Gaza go free. Let it have its own leadership and open the seas again. Then it could be a new Hong Kong. It is a virgin area full of cheap labour. The Israelis must realise that they built an economic situation to be dependent on them. They cannot just tell us to go to hell.'

(Photograph omitted)

News
The current recommendation from Britain's Chief Medical Officer, is that people refrain from drinking on at least two days a week
food + drinkTheory is that hangovers are caused by methanol poisoning
Life and Style
techConcept would see planes coated in layer of micro-sensors and able to sense wear and tear
News
Patrick Stewart in the classiest ice bucket to date
people
News
scienceExcitement from alien hunters at 'evidence' of extraterrestrial life
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Sport
David Moyes gets soaked
sport Moyes becomes latest manager to take part in the ALS challenge
Voices
A meteor streaks across the sky during the Perseid Meteor Shower at a wind farm near Bogdanci, south of Skopje, Macedonia, in the early hours of 13 August
voicesHagel and Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise, says Robert Fisk
Life and Style
Horst P Horst mid-fashion shoot in New York, 1949
fashionFar-reaching retrospective to celebrate Horst P Horst's six decades of creativity
News
Members and supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community walk with a rainbow flag during a rally in July
i100
Life and Style
Black Ivory Coffee is made using beans plucked from elephants' waste after ingested by the animals
food + drinkFirm says it has created the "rarest" coffee in the world
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Software Developer (Java /C# Programmer)- London

£30000 - £45000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A global investment management fi...

Senior Network Engineer-(CCIE, CCNP, Cisco, London)

£65000 - £75000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Senior Network Engineer-(CCIE, CC...

Senior Network Analyst - (CCIE, Cisco, CISSP)

£70000 - £80000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Senior Network Analyst - (CCIE, C...

Senior Network Engineer-(Design, Implementation, CCIE)

£60000 - £80000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Senior Network Engineer-(Design, ...

Day In a Page

All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Robert Fisk: All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Chuck Hagel and Martin Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise
Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

So claims an EU report which points to the Italian Mob’s alleged grip on everything from public works to property
Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Once the poor relation, the awards show now has the top stars and boasts the best drama
What happens to African migrants once they land in Italy during the summer?

What happens to migrants once they land in Italy?

Memphis Barker follows their trail through southern Europe
French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

The ugly causeway is being dismantled, an elegant connection erected in its place. So everyone’s happy, right?
Frank Mugisha: Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked

Frank Mugisha: 'Coming out was a gradual process '

Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked
Radio 1 to hire 'YouTube-famous' vloggers to broadcast online

Radio 1’s new top ten

The ‘vloggers’ signed up to find twentysomething audience
David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

A blistering attack on US influence on British television has lifted the savvy head of Channel 4 out of the shadows
Florence Knight's perfect picnic: Make the most of summer's last Bank Holiday weekend

Florence Knight's perfect picnic

Polpetto's head chef shares her favourite recipes from Iced Earl Grey tea to baked peaches, mascarpone & brown sugar meringues...
Horst P Horst: The fashion photography genius who inspired Madonna comes to the V&A

Horst P Horst comes to the V&A

The London's museum has delved into its archives to stage a far-reaching retrospective celebrating the photographer's six decades of creativity
Mark Hix recipes: Try our chef's summery soups for a real seasonal refresher

Mark Hix's summery soups

Soup isn’t just about comforting broths and steaming hot bowls...
Tim Sherwood column: 'It started as a three-horse race but turned into the Grand National'

Tim Sherwood column

I would have taken the Crystal Palace job if I’d been offered it soon after my interview... but the whole process dragged on so I had to pull out
Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

Eden Hazard admits he is still below the level of Ronaldo and Messi but, after a breakthrough season, is ready to thrill Chelsea’s fans
Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

The Everton and US goalkeeper was such a star at the World Cup that the President phoned to congratulate him... not that he knows what the fuss is all about
Match of the Day at 50: Show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition

Tom Peck on Match of the Day at 50

The show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition