The Israeli cosmetics company Ahava says it is considering moving its factory from a Jewish-only settlement in the occupied West Bank to a new location inside present-day Israel.
Ahava has been the target of a years-long international boycott effort because of its violations of international law: its factory and visitors’ center are inside the Israeli settlement Mitzpe Shalem, while it pillages Palestinian resources from the Dead Sea to make its products.
Activists from Stolen Beauty — a campaign focused on Ahava and run by the anti-war group Codepink — say that the company’s indication that it could move its factory out of the West Bank is a direct result of international pressure through the growing boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement.
“We have been targeting Ahava because of the illegality of its practices since June 2009 and welcome the news that they are considering moving their manufacturing facility out of an illegal West Bank settlement,” Nancy Kricorian, campaign manager of Stolen Beauty, told The Electronic Intifada.
“This is a clear indication of the growing power of the BDS movement, which is scoring new victories every day,” she added.
In a similar move last October, SodaStream, an Israeli maker of fizzy drink machines, announced that it would close its settlement-based factory in the West Bank. While hailed as a victory by boycott campaigners, activists continue to target SodaStream for its other human rights violations.
This past month, as The Electronic Intifada has been documenting, French telecom giant Orange has come under tremendous pressure by boycott campaigners to drop its Israel contract over the company’s operations inside Israeli settlements. Orange Israel also directly sponsors Israeli military units that took part in last summer’s massacre in Gaza.
The news was reported in Globes, an Israeli business news website, on Monday, which noted that the company has “come under enormous pressure from pro-Palestinian and BDS groups in recent years.”
Though the company has a current revenue of approximately $48 million and its products are sold in more than thirty countries around the world, Globes also reported that Ahava’s workforce has diminished 25 percent since 2013, citing a “fall in tourism” due to Israel’s assault on the Gaza Strip last summer — which killed more than 2,200 Palestinians — and “the economic crisis in Russia.”
In the Globes report, Ahava cited “changes in regulations for manufacturing cosmetics products in certain Western countries” as well as “expanding production needs.” The company added that it is considering relocating to the Tamar Regional Council, located in the southern part of the Dead Sea in present-day Israel.
Israeli news site Calcalist reported that Ahava had expressed fear of the boycott campaign, but that unnamed “sources close to the company say this would be an additional plant which, if it is established, will be added to the existing plant and not replace it.” No official decision has yet been made.
Ahava has been a longtime target of international boycott campaigns which have succeeded in pressuring retailers in several countries to drop the cosmetics line.
Last October, the upscale online retailer Gilt announced that it was dropping Ahava products from its sales due to pressure from boycott campaigners.
In 2013, boycott activists forced Ahava out of South Africa after three years of steady campaigning.
A major retail chain in Norway dropped Ahava products in 2012, citing the company’s illegal activities, a month after a Japanese distributor spiked Ahava from its line because of “fraudulent” labeling practices (the company labels its cosmetics with “made in Israel” when the factory is located inside the West Bank).
In 2011, the company’s London boutique store was forced to close due to sustained boycott pressure.
While Ahava has said it may relocate its factory out of the West Bank, the company has not given any commitment to stop stealing and exploiting Palestinian natural resources. Palestinian rights activists and international boycott campaigners say they are far from easing the pressure on Ahava.
Kricorian explained that “while moving out of Mitzpe Shalem will address one of Ahava’s violations of international law, there would still remain the issues of the pillage of occupied natural resources and the subsidies to the two illegal settlements that are co-owners of the enterprise.”
Palestinian rights group Al-Haq has said that Ahava’s profits has been used to subsidize nearby Israeli settlements built on expropriated Palestinian land and that the company is committing “the crime of pillage” by mining Palestinian resources for its own economic purposes.
In a video about Ahava’s illegal activities and occupation profiteering, Al-Haq 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 [gross domestic product].”
With translation by Dena Shunra.