The Electronic Intifada 23 December 2008
In this holiday season, the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee (BNC) calls upon people of conscience all over the world to boycott all the products of the French cosmetics giant, L’Oreal, due to its deep and extensive involvement in business relations with Israel, despite the latter’s continued occupation and apartheid policies against the indigenous Palestinian people.
L’Oreal’s operations in Israel began in the mid-1990s, motivated in part by political considerations. Since then, L’Oreal Israel, the company’s subsidiary in Israel, has operated a factory in the Israeli town of Migdal Haemek in the Lower Galilee. The settlement of Migdal Haemek was established in 1952 on lands belonging to the ethnically-cleansed Palestinian village of al-Mujaydil, whose original inhabitants are still denied the right to return to their homes. Like almost all other Jewish settlements built in the midst of Palestinian villages in the Galilee, inside Israel, Migdal Haemek discriminates against Palestinian citizens of Israel, denying them the right to buy, rent or live on any part of the town, simply because they are “non-Jews.”
L’Oreal Israel manufacturers a line of products using Dead Sea minerals under the name “Natural Sea Beauty” that is exported to 22 countries. It should be noted that one-third of the western shore of the Dead Sea lies in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. While the entire shore and its resources are systematically closed to Palestinians by Israeli military occupation and apartheid practices, Israel exploits the Dead Sea for international tourism, mining and improving its image.
L’Oreal’s activities in Israel are not, however, limited to L’Oreal Israel. While Palestinian academics and students in the occupied territories and Israel are systematically impeded by Israeli occupation roadblocks and other oppressive measures from conducting normal academic life and research, L’Oreal awarded a $100,000 “lifetime achievement” award to a scientist at Israel’s Weizmann Institute of Science in July 2008. The Weizmann Institute, since its establishment, has been a major center for clandestine research and development of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons on behalf of Israel’s military establishment with which it has close ties. It is, therefore, one of many academic institutions in Israel that are in collusion with the state’s violations of international law and Palestinian human rights, and which are targeted for academic boycott by the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI).
The chairman of L’Oreal Israel is Gad Propper, who is the founding chairman of the Israel-EU Chamber of Commerce, and has also been heavily involved in promoting trade between Israel and Australia and New Zealand. The French government has recognized the important role that L’Oreal’s Israeli operations play in the company’s global business by awarding Propper France’s highest civilian honor, the Legion d’honneur earlier this month. “The award was in recognition of Propper’s contribution to the global success story” of L’Oreal, according to a report in The Jerusalem Post.
In 1994, L’Oreal bought a 30 percent stake in Propper’s company Interbeauty, from which L’Oreal Israel was created. Since then Israel has become L’Oreal’s commercial center for the entire Middle East.
Political motivations for L’Oreal’s Israel investments
In 1995, L’Oreal agreed to pay $1.4 million to the US government to settle charges that it had cooperated with the Arab League’s official boycott of Israel. The company was accused of providing information in the 1980s about its US subsidiaries’ ties to Israel, to the now effectively inactive official Boycott Office of the Arab League. The company denied that it had broken US laws designed to prevent American firms from cooperating with the official Arab boycott of Israel, but mounted a campaign to placate Zionist critics by emphasizing its desire to invest in Israel.
Following the settlement, then chairman of L’Oreal, Lindsay Owen-Jones, apologized for the company’s actions in a letter to the US-based pro-Israel lobby group the Anti-Defamation League (ADL).
According to the ADL, Owen-Jones thanked the pro-Israel group “for its support of L’Oreal’s business and community service activities in Israel,” and assured the ADL that “The forward-looking approach that you have taken is an encouragement to L’Oreal and other companies that are already involved in Israel to expand their involvement still further.”
One of L’Oreal’s most well-known global brands, The Body Shop, boasts that one of its core values is “We’ve never been afraid to champion the vulnerable and the disadvantaged, and we continue to campaign for social justice and human rights.” Yet its parent company’s deep politically-motivated and profit-driven involvement with Israeli apartheid indicates, if anything, a flagrant disregard for the human rights of Palestinians and a disservice to justice and peace.
Business-as-usual should not continue with a state that has not only practiced apartheid and colonial rule against an indigenous population for decades, but is also, today, committing grave and persistent war crimes described as “a prelude to genocide” by Richard Falk, a prominent Princeton international law professor and United Nations Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.
Under these circumstances L’Oreal’s vast investment in Israel amounts to complicity in severe abuse of human rights, to say the least; it should be stopped at once.
The Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC) includes: Council of National and Islamic Forces in Palestine; General Union of Palestinian Workers; Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions; Palestinian Non-Governmental Organizations’ Network (PNGO); Federation of Independent Trade Unions; Union of Arab Community Based Associations (ITTIJAH); Union of Palestinian Charitable Organizations; Global Palestine Right of Return Coalition; Occupied Palestine and Golan Heights Advocacy Initiative (OPGAI); General Union of Palestinian Women; Palestinian Farmers Union (PFU); Grassroots Palestinian Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign (STW); Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI); National Committee to Commemorate the Nakba; Civic Coalition for the Defense of Palestinian Rights in Jerusalem (CCDPRJ); Coalition for Jerusalem; and Palestinian Economic Monitor.
 Brands owned by L’Oreal as listed on the company’s website: L’Oreal Israel (sold in Australia); L’Oreal Paris; Garnier; Maybelline New York; Softsheen, Carson; CCB Paris.