Exposing AHAVA’s Ugly Secrets from the Dead Sea
This article was written in 2010 as a contribution to a BNC e-magazine commemorating the 5th anniversary of the BDS call in July 9th 2005. Click here to read other articles in the magazine.
We were goaded to action by Israel’s Operation Cast Lead, in direct response to the BDS National movement’s call. We were inspired by the example of a January 2009 activist blockade of the AHAVA store in London’s Covent Garden, and armed with information provided by Who Profits. In June 2009 CODEPINK Women for Peace launched our Stolen Beauty AHAVA Boycott campaign with a protest at the AHAVA store in the Tel Aviv Hilton.
AHAVA Dead Sea Laboratories was the perfect target for a boycott campaign run by a US based women’s peace group. The company’s cosmetics products are marketed primarily to women consumers, its main manufacturing plant and showroom are in an Israeli settlement, and it exploits occupied natural resources for profit in direct violation of international law. Additionally, as it is 43% owned by two Israeli settlements, its profits go to subsidize these illegal settlements, all of which have been recognized by the U.S. government as impediments to peace.
Since the start of the campaign, Stolen Beauty has succeeded in sullying the name and reputation of Ahava Dead Sea Laboratories, an Israeli profiteer in Occupied Palestine. In August 2009, Oxfam was forced to suspend Goodwill Ambassador Kristin Davis for the duration of her contract as AHAVA spokeswoman because of pressure from AHAVA boycott activists. With protest actions - including Stolen Beauty Bikini Brigade taking to New York’s Central Park and a Dutch Bathrobe Brigade strolling through local malls - spanning across America and Europe, the boycott campaign scored a series of successes. In November 2009, the Dutch Foreign Ministry agreed to investigate AHAVA’s manufacturing and labeling practices. In January 2010, The Business and Human Rights Centre (London) disseminated “The Case Against AHAVA” on its web site and in its widely distributed newsletter. That same month, a British MP denounced Ahava’s fraudulent labeling practices during a debate in Parliament on Israeli “settlement products”. Most recently, activists in Paris have filed suit against Sephora for selling products that are manufactured in an Israeli settlement by a company whose practices are against international law.
Equipped with a growing coalition of national and international partners, autonomous Facebook groups, and specific, targeted pressure campaigns focused on companies that sell AHAVA, such as Sephora, Ricky’s NYC and Nordstrom, the Stolen Beauty boycott is moving into its second year with enthusiasm and resolve. We believe this boycott campaign is a vibrant and effective tool to use as we work towards a just peace for Palestinians and Israelis. But with a company as large as AHAVA Dead Sea Laboratories, selling over $50 million worth of products in 25 countries worldwide, we have a big job ahead of us and we could use your help. Sign up to boycott AHAVA products, join our official Facebook group, follow us on Twitter or contact us for more information. We hope to see you soon at a Stolen Beauty protest in your city. Bikinis or bathrobes are recommended but not required.
Nancy Kricorian is the Coordinator of the Stolen Beauty Campaign for CODEPINK
Photo credit: Bud Korotzer