Rights abuses make AHAVA a tough sell

The same week that carbonated drink machine manufacturer SodaStream announced that will close its West Bank factory next year, it was confirmed that the upscale online shopping website Gilt no longer carries AHAVA Dead Sea cosmetics.

Both SodaStream and AHAVA are targets of consumer boycott campaigns in support of Palestinian rights.

Like SodaStream products, AHAVA Dead Sea Laboratories cosmetics are manufactured in an Israeli settlement in the occupied West Bank. The company also excavates minerals and mud from Palestinian land for its products. Both of these practices are in violation of international law.

Ugly reality

A video released this week by the Palestinian human rights group Al-Haq, which can be viewed at the top of this page, breaks down how AHAVA profits from Israel’s colonization of the West Bank.

The “most well-known company” operating in the Dead Sea area, AHAVA was founded in 1998 in Mitzpe Shalem settlement and its products are sold in more than thirty countries worldwide.

Yet “none of the packaging makes mention of the settlement where the factory is located,” the video states. “In fact, it is falsely stated that they are manufactured in Israel.”

Protests against the company’s practices led to the closing of its London boutique, compelling AHAVA to rebrand itself as Skin Evolution.

“It is the only cosmetics company allowed to mine in the region,” according to the video, which adds that its profits subsidize nearby Israeli settlements built on expropriated Palestinian land.

AHAVA is part of a wider system of dispossession and exploitation of Palestinian land and natural resources in the occupied West Bank.

“It is estimated that if control of these resources were in Palestinian hands, their economy could stand to gain by almost $1 billion per annum, the equivalent of almost nine percent of the Palestinian GDP,” Al-Haq states.

Gilt drops AHAVA

In July, Nancy Kricorian of the Stolen Beauty boycott campaign raised these concerns in a letter to Gilt co-founder and chairman Kevin Ryan. Her letter notes that Ryan serves as a board member of Human Rights Watch, which “has taken an explicit stand against Israeli settlement profiteering.”

Kricorian’s query prompted Gilt’s legal officer Kathy Leo to contact AHAVA, which told the retailer that “they are operating within the confines of the law,” Leo told the Stolen Beauty campaign in an August letter.

The campaign replied to Leo that Gilt’s response “is akin to saying, ‘We have asked the alleged thief if he had stolen the property, and he assured us that he had not.’”

The group urged the company to “stand on the right side of history by choosing to drop from its roster goods from AHAVA, a company that blatantly violates international law and the human rights of Palestinians.”

Earlier this month, Stolen Beauty noticed that AHAVA products were no longer listed on the Gilt website and asked the company to confirm that the cosmetics were no longer for sale.

“I checked with our business folks and for business reasons, we determined to discontinue this line of products,” Gilt’s legal officer wrote to the campaign on 20 October.

The exchange of letters between Stolen Beauty and Gilt can be viewed on the campaign’s website.

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Maureen Clare Murphy

Maureen Clare Murphy's picture

Maureen Clare Murphy is the managing editor of The Electronic Intifada and lives in Chicago.