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Nordstrom Prides Itself on Caring, But Not When It Comes to Making Profits from Occupation of Palestine

CodePink's Stolen Beauty campaign against Ahava sets its sights on Nordstrom deparment stores.

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Because of this commitment Nordstrom is included in Calvert Investments portfolio of socially responsible businesses. Calvert is a leading investment management company with a long track record in socially responsible investing.

Since 2010, supporters of human rights and international law have been in communication with Blake Nordstrom, president of Nordstrom, Inc., and his team about the company’s sales of products from Ahava Dead Sea Laboratories. In response to letters, phone calls and store protests, Nordstrom issued this response:

Because this is a sensitive issue that certainly has two sides, and we don't think as a retailer it's appropriate for us to take a position on either side, we have looked toward the requirements we have of all our vendors as our deciding factor for whether to continue offering Ahava products. We require all products we offer to be labeled with their accurate country of origin according to U.S. requirements. To ensure that Ahava's products are labeled appropriately, we asked Ahava, who worked with an approved independent third party, to thoroughly review and report on their product development, sourcing and labeling. Based on that review, it is our understanding that the Ahava products carried at Nordstrom are labeled correctly according to U.S. requirements.

As you mention, we do ask that our vendor partners also adhere to our Nordstrom Partnership Guidelines, which cover many human rights subjects such as employment practices, workers' rights, environmental standards and work environments. As part of this review, an independent third party has found no instance of human rights violations by Ahava. If there were any found, we would immediately address them.

Dismissing entirely the fact that Ahava sources the minerals used in its products from occupied shores, which is forbidden as pillage and plunder under international law, and claiming that adhering to lax U.S. labeling laws is sufficient, while countries around the world, from Ireland to South Africa, are challenging Ahava’s misleading representations about the provenance of its goods, Nordstrom goes on to claim that Ahava and an “independent third party” have found Ahava’s practices to be kosher. To be sure, the predominantly Jewish Israeli workers in Ahava’s West Bank factory are treated quite well, but the fact that the plant itself is situated on occupied Palestinian land is in itself a human rights abuse.

While it is little surprise that Ahava with the assistance of this unnamed independent third party found itself to be in compliance with international law and human rights law, the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem issued a report belying this claim. The report, titled “ Dispossession and Exploitation: Israel’s Policy in the Jordan Valley and the Northern Dead Sea” found:

The Ahava cosmetics firm, in Kibbutz Mizpe Shalem, produces products from the high-mineral-content mud of the northern Dead Sea…International law prohibits the establishment of settlements in occupied territory and exploitation of the resources of occupied territory. B'Tselem calls on Israel to evacuate the settlements, to enable Palestinian access to all the lands that have been closed to them, and to allow them to use the water sources for their purposes. In addition, Israel must remove the restrictions on movement in the area and enable construction and development in the Palestinian communities. Israel must also close down the enterprises that profit from the minerals and other natural resources in the area, and it must also shut down the facilities for disposal of Israeli waste. 

At the very least, American retailers can follow the lead of a growing number of nations and companies insisting on honest labeling for goods made under such circumstances, allowing consumers to make an informed choice about whether to purchase products that are made by Israeli settlement profiteers in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Recently Andrew Standley, the current EU ambassador to Israel, stated in an interview with the Jerusalem Post that similar labeling is being teed up in Europe, because, as he put it, “this is a consumer protection issue first and foremost.”

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