Dead Sea Products
Information about AHAVA
AHAVA manufactures its cosmetics in a factory in the illegal Mitzpe Shalem settlement in the occupied West Bank. However, Ahava labels its skin care products imported into the EU as originating from âThe Dead Sea, Israel.â In the Netherlands, Dutch parliamentarian Harry Van Bommel, concerned about this misleading labeling, asked Dutch minister of Foreign Affairs Maxime Verhagen to investigate the origin of Ahava cosmetics, and Verhagen agreed.
The settlements Mitzpe Shalem and Kalia, located deep within the Israeli-occupied West Bank, own 44 percent of the shares of the company. Before the June 1967 war, Palestinians lived on some of the lands that are now part of the two settlements; there were Palestinian communities in Nabi Musa where Kalia is now located and in Arab al-Taamira next to Mitzpe Shalem.
According to the Israeli group Who Profits From the Occupation? (www.whoprofits.org), the mud used in Ahava products is taken from a site on the shores of the Dead Sea inside the occupied territory, next to Kalia. Ahava uses Palestinian natural resources without the permission of or compensation to the Palestinians. Meanwhile, Israel denies Palestinians access to the shores of the Dead Sea and its resources, although one-third of the western shore of the Dead Sea lies in the occupied West Bank.
Recently, the international campaign to boycott Ahava beauty products received support from the Israeli peace group Gush Shalom, which sent an open letter on 17 November to Ahavaâs management, urging the company to move its operations out of the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Gush Shalom stated: âYour decision to locate in Occupied Territory and make use of natural resources which do not belong to Israel was a mistaken gamble which already harmed your interests and might harm them even much further. Sooner or later you will have to get out of this damaging and illegal location â and the sooner, the better.â
Meanwhile, in the Netherlands, parliamentarian Van Bommel told The Electronic Intifada he welcomes the international Ahava campaign. âIt might appear a minor issue, but it is important as an example of [Israel] economically hampering the realization of a Palestinian state.â He added that he would welcome initiatives in other EU countries to raise the issue in their parliaments. âSubsequently, the pressure on Israel will increase and more importantly, we can engage the public in the debate.â
(extract from âBoycott of Ahava Dead Sea products makes an impactâ by Adri Nieuwhof, The Electronic Intifada, 2 December 2009)
General information about the illegal Israeli settlements and settlement products
Since the 1967 military occupation of the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and the Golan Heights, Israel has built in these occupied territories civilian colonies, or settlements, and encouraged Israeli citizens and industries to move into them. Presently there are 135 Israeli settlements in the occupied territories and dozens of additional âoutpostsâ â settlements not yet officially recognized by the Israeli government. These house over 562,000 Jewish Israeli residents: 282,000 in the West Bank (excluding Jerusalem), 260,000 in neighborhoods built in Arab Jerusalem or annexed to Jerusalem, and 20,000 in the Golan Heights.
The Israeli civilian construction has been one of the methods in which occupied areas were effectively annexed, partially or in full, into Israel. The on-going construction includes housing developments as well as extensive infrastructure projects such as roads and water systems for the exclusive use of Israeli settlers, on lands confiscated from Palestinians or declared âstate landsâ in various ways. The Israeli colonizing efforts are illegal by international law that stipulates that an occupying power moving its citizens into an occupied area is in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention, and any permanent changes made in the occupied land for such settlers is in violation of The Hague Regulations.
Israeli industrial zones within the occupied territories hold hundreds of companies, ranging from small businesses serving the local Israeli settlers to large factories which export their products worldwide. Several settlements, especially in the Jordan Valley and the Golan Heights, produce agricultural goods, such as fruits and flowers, and sell them in Israel and abroad.
Settlement production benefits from low rents, special tax incentives, lax enforcement of environmental and labor protection laws and other governmental supports. Palestinians employed in these industrial zones work under severe restrictions ofÂ movement or organization, and with hardly noÂ governmental protections,Â thisÂ many timesÂ results in exploitativeÂ employment practices andÂ labor rights violations.
The origin of exported settlement products is often intentionally obscured. Companies hold marketing addresses within Israel, or market their products under a label which mixes their products with products from within Israel.