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Ahava letter to business partners reveals settler company`s sensitivity to boycott campaign
By Nancy Kricorian and Rae Abileah
September 14, 2010
Original title: `CEO of Israeli Cosmetics Firm Ahava Rattled by Growing Boycott; False Claims Put Out by Company Are Refuted by ‘Stolen Beauty’ Campaign`
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 . (Setting the Record Straight
Contact: Nancy Kricorian, 646-234-8529, firstname.lastname@example.org
Rae Abileah, 415-994-1723, Rae@codepink.org
Setting the Record Straight
In a letter from Ahava Dead Sea Laboratories President and CEO Yaakov Ellis that is being circulated to cosmetics retailers, Elllis 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
Below are the Stolen Beauty Campaign`s responses to some of these claims:
1. On the legality of our boycott campaign in the United States.
`These organizations are orchestrating a political boycott of the Ahava® products, and through it cause damage to the State of Israel. As you know, such boycotts are not only abhorrent, but illegal in the United States.`
Ahava is telling its retail customers that our boycott campaign is illegal under U.S. law. This is not true. The National Lawyers Guild has advised us that activists are completely within the law to engage in a political campaign using the time-honored tactic of economic boycott to press Israel to comply with international human rights laws and end its abusive occupation of the West Bank and its blockade of Gaza. Our boycott campaign targets Ahava Dead Sea Laboratories because of the company`s violations of international law. This campaign is protected by the First Amendment, as free speech and association. Boycotts were integral to the success of the anti-apartheid movement against South Africa, the civil rights movement in the southern United States in the 1960s and 1970s, the movement to force California grape growers to recognize their workers` union, and many other similarly honorable nonviolent struggles for human rights that Ahava would not dare to condemn now, in hindsight.
2. On the sourcing of Ahava`s ingredients
`The mud and minerals used in Ahava`s cosmetic products are not excavated in an occupied area. The minerals are mined in the Israeli part of the Dead Sea, which is undisputed internationally.`
We received reports from sources in Israel that Ahava excavated mud for use in its products from the shores of the Dead Sea near Kalia, a settlement that is part owner of the company. In our `Case Against Ahava,` which was sent by the UK-based Business and Human Rights Centre to Ahava Dead Sea Laboratories for response in early December 2009, we stated:
`The mud that is used in the Ahava products is taken from a site that is next to the settlement of Kalia. This `pillage`` or `plunder` is illegal under international humanitarian law, specifically under Articles 23, 53 and 55 of the Hague Regulations; Articles 51 and 53 of the 4th Geneva Conventions; and Article 8(2)(b) of the Rome Statue of the International Criminal Court.
Ahava did not respond to our complaint, and so the Business and Human Rights Center published and disseminated the `Case Against Ahava` with no rebuttal from the company. We would welcome documentary proof from Ahava that it does not now nor has it ever sourced mud from the shores of the Occupied West Bank near the illegal settlement of Kalia.
3. On the contradictory claims that Mitzpe Shalem is situated in `undisputed territory,` that Mitzpe Shalem is `not an illegal settlement,` that Mitzpe Shalem does not violate international law, specifically because `there is no recognized right of any peoples other than Israel to the West Bank,` and that `sovereignty over the West Bank has been in dispute for more than 60 years.`
`Ahava does not interfere with the Palestinian population. Mitzpe Shalem is situated in an unpopulated area in undisputed territory in the Judea Desert, and there are no Palestinians residing in the vicinity of Mitzpe Shalem.`
`Mitzpe Shalem is not an illegal settlement. Ahava`s manufacturing facility is located at Kibbutz Mitzpe Shalem, on the North-Western shore of the Dead Sea, just 6 miles north of the `Green Line`, within the area usually referred as the West Bank.`
`Ahava`s use of the Mitzpe Shalem facility is legal and does not violate any provision of International Law, especially as there is no recognized right of any peoples other than Israel to the West Bank.`
`The sovereignty over the West Bank has been in dispute for more than 60 years. It is expected that the future of the West Bank, and in particular of that part where Mitzpe Shalem is situated, will be finally decided as part of the negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.`
These statements by Ellis are factually inaccurate and contradictory. The West Bank has been occupied by Israel since the 1967 war. Numerous United Nations resolutions and the ruling of the International Court of Justice in 2004 affirmed the Israeli Occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Also Israel`s own Supreme Court stated in 2004 that Israel was holding the area `in belligerent occupation.` As an occupied territory, the West Bank and its Palestinian residents are protected by the Geneva Conventions.
All Israeli settlements in the West Bank, including Mitzpe Shalem and Kalia, are illegal under international law. Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention states that, `The Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population in the territory it occupies.` Ahava`s manufacturing plant and visitors center are located at Mitzpe Shalem. Ahava labels its goods as `products of Israel` when in fact they are made in the Occupied West Bank. This labeling is under investigation in the U.K., and activists in France have filed suit against Sephora for carrying these products because of Ahava`s illegal practices.
The settlements of Mitzpe Shalem and Kalia are cooperatives owned by the settlers living in them, and together they own 44% of Ahava. Both of these settlements are deep inside Palestinian territory. Mitzpe Shalem is about 9 km from the Green Line and Kalia is 30 km from the Green line. Ahava profits are therefore subsidizing these illegal settlements and their residents. According to mapping done by Adalah, The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel (www.adalah.org), formerly there were a few Palestinian communities on the lands on which these two settlements are located: Nabi Musa where Kalia is now situated and `Arab al-Ta`amira near Mitzpe Shalem.
Despite Yaacov Ellis`s claims to the contrary, Ahava Dead Sea Laboratories is an Israeli profiteer in Occupied Palestine
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