CEO of Israeli Cosmetic Firm Ahava Rattled by Growing Boycott
[CommonDreams.org] In a recent, quietly circulated letter from the desk of Yaacov Ellis, CEO of Ahava Dead Sea Laboratories—a company at the center of a growing international boycott campaign—and directed at the company’s retail partners, Ellis deploys specious information about his own company’s business practices, contradictory claims about Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian West Bank, and unfounded innuendo about boycott campaign supporters. This letter comes after a year of pressure, lead in the United States by the women’s peace group CODEPINK and their “Stolen Beauty” Ahava Boycott campaign, and total refusal by the CEO to respond to press queries about his company’s illegal business practices.
Background on Ahava’s illegal business practices
Ahava Dead Sea Laboratories is an Israeli cosmetics company that has its manufacturing plant and visitors center near the shores of the Dead Sea in the illegal Israeli settlement of Mitzpe Shalem in the Occupied Palestinian West Bank. Despite Ellis’s claim in the letter that “Mitzpe Shalem is not an illegal settlement,” all Israeli settlements in the West Bank are illegal under international law. The company is 44% owned by Mitzpe Shalem and another settlement, Kalia, so that the company’s profits are subsidizing these illegal colonies. Although its goods are manufactured in the West Bank, Ahava labels them as “products of Israel,” a practice that is illegal under European Union law and is currently being investigated in the UK and Holland.
Nancy Kricorian, Stolen Beauty Campaign Manager, said, “Ahava makes beauty products, but there is nothing beautiful in occupation. Rather than openly defending his company’s dubious record, which would not stand up to public scrutiny, Ellis is sending out a private letter that is full of false claims.” Read the full letter here.
The growing influence of the international boycott campaign
Since its launch in July 2009, the Stolen Beauty Ahava Boycott has scored a number of successes. The first victory came after pressure on Oxfam, an international human rights organization, which had publicly condemned all Israeli settlement products, to suspend its Goodwill Ambassador Kristin Davis from publicity work for the duration of her contract as Ahava spokeswoman. Davis, best known for her work on HBO’s Sex and the City, allowed her contract to expire a few months later. Abroad, coalition partners in London engaged the UK’s Camden Trading Standards Office to investigate the legality of Ahava’s labeling. Dutch activists and a Minister of the Parliament succeeded in convincing the Dutch Foreign Ministry to launch its own investigation of Ahava’s business methods. Partners in Paris have recently filed suit against the cosmetics chain Sephora for carrying Ahava products.
Part of a growing international movement
Modeled on the worldwide campaign against apartheid-era South Africa, the movement for Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel called in response to Israel’s many violations of Palestinian rights has grown and achieved significant successes, particularly following Israel’s assault on the Gaza Strip in 2009, which killed over 1400 Palestinians. The Stolen Beauty campaign is a part of this growing international movement.
For more information on CODEPINK’s Stolen Beauty Ahava Boycott Campaign please visit www.stolenbeauty.org .
CODEPINK is a women-initiated grassroots peace and social justice movement working to end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, stop new wars, and redirect our resources into healthcare, education, green jobs and other life-affirming activities. CODEPINK rejects foreign policies based on domination and aggression, and instead calls for policies based on diplomacy, compassion and a commitment to international law. With an emphasis on joy and humor, CODEPINK women and men seek to activate, amplify and inspire a community of peacemakers through creative campaigns and a commitment to non-violence.