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(Wissam Nassar / Maan Images)

Boycott activists celebrate as Ahava quits South Africa

An Israeli cosmetics company based in an illegal settlement in the occupied West Bank has been forced out of South Africa after a sustained boycott campaign.

The news about Ahava was revealed yesterday by the Israeli newspaper Haaretz.

A spokesperson for BDS South Africa today described it as “a great victory for us.” Itani Rasalanavho expressed surprise at the news, but noted that the company had been gradually reducing its presence in malls and shopping centers around the country for a while.

“It shows the influence we are having,” he said. “It is something that needs to be celebrated.”

According to Haaretz, “A few weeks ago, Ahava Dead Sea Laboratories, an Israeli cosmetics company, ceased operations in South Africa following a … [boycott, divesment and sanctions] campaign.”

Phone calls to Ahava South Africa and its distributor SDV Pharmaceuticals were not answered. A spokesperson for Ahava UK refused to comment.

She was “not allowed” to comment as the distributor, but said the pull-out from South Africa was “a surprise to me.” A call to Ahava US was not answered. Emails to Ahava offices in South Africa, US and Israel were not answered before publication. (Friday afternoon is a weekend in Tel Aviv.)

Sustained campaign

Palestine solidarity activists in South Africa have been working against Ahava for years, as seen in the video above. Groups such as BDS South Africa and Open Shuhada Street have been campaigning against Ahava since at least 2010.

Last year, Ahava was accused of violating South African trade regulations by mislabeling its products “Made in Israel.”

Ahava is most well known for its skin care products, which are created using minerals and mud extracted from the section of the Dead Sea within the occupied West Bank. Its factory is based in the illegal Israeli settlement Mitzpe Shalem, south of the Palestinian town Jericho.

In 2011, the jurors at the London session of the Russell Tribunal on Palestine said that Ahava was guilty of “pillage” of Palestinian resources (a technical term under international law).

Ahava has been the subject of sustained campaign around the world, with groups like CODEPINK in the US taking it on.

In 2011, Ahava UK’s flagship London store was forced to close down after the landlord declined to renew its lease. Palestine solidarity activists had been holding fortnightly protests outside the high-profile Covent Garden store for a year.

It is no surprise then, that Ahava seems to have tried to avoid such negative publicity by pulling out of South Africa quite stealthily.

Comments

Well done BDS South Africa & Open Shuhada Street! Boycotts and protests take time to have an impact and require sustained commitment to be effective - but this result provides more evidence that they can effect change. I hope this helps boost the morale & convictions of protestors and boycott participants worldwide.