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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.

There is a global consensus that Israel’s unceasing annexation and seizure of Palestinian land, water and natural resources, and its ongoing military control of the  Occupied Palestinian Territories  and Gaza, spell not only misery for the millions of Palestinians suffering today, but also disaster in the long term for all the region’s inhabitants, Israeli and Palestinian alike.

Much like the response to South African apartheid in the 1980s, a worldwide movement of citizen voices has arisen to ensure that, as consumers, investors and simple human beings, people of conscience will no longer participate in practices that allow the occupation regime to benefit from silent inclusion in business as usual.

This movement is having a growing and profound impact.

Just this month, Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni announced that unless Israel can show it has begun to engage in good faith negotiations with the Palestinians, the growing European movement toward boycotting Israeli settlement goods—those made with resources from or in factories and farms situated on land stolen from Palestinians—will soon extend to all Israeli goods, to huge effect on Israel’s economy.

Across the world, consumers are galvanizing public opinion and making changes that are setting the stage for real change. In South Africa, for instance, many products that have been imported under the “Made in Israel” label have now been forced, under vociferous objections from the Israeli government, to change their labeling to “Originating in West Bank—Israeli Goods”—an admission that is a first step toward exposing Israeli fictions about the provenance of much of its export industry, but that also opens the door to further, and sure-to-be-successful, legal challenges under international law to Israel’s appropriation of Palestinian resources.

Among the goods forced to re-label in South Africa are those produced by the luxury skin care firm Ahava Dead Sea Laboratories. Ahava has its manufacturing facility and visitors center in the illegal settlement of Mitzpe Shalem in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. The company uses in its products mud sourced from the occupied shores of the Dead Sea, and its goods are made in the Occupied West Bank. But here in the United States, Ahava still gets away with labeling its products “Made in Israel.”

All that is changing: the worldwide boycott movement is catching up with Ahava, while human rights groups within Israel have worked assiduously to document Ahava’s illegal practices and misleading public relations campaigns. American retailers now have nowhere practically or rhetorically to hide—they can no longer credibly claim ignorance or confusion.

For its next drive, CodePink’s Stolen Beauty campaign, which has been for the past five years organizing and educating specifically around Ahava cosmetics, will be pressing U.S. retailer Nordstrom, as well as one of its owners, Calvert Investments, to live up to their oft-proclaimed commitments to social responsibility, and remove Ahava products from Nordstrom’s shelves.

Over the years the Stolen Beauty campaign has scored numerous victories: Ahava spokesmodel Kristin Davis was suspended from publicity work as an Oxfam Goodwill Ambassador for the duration of her Ahava contract; Abigail Disney renounced her share of the profits and the corpus of her family fund’s investment in Ahava; the flagship Ahava store in London’s Covent Garden lost its lease because of biweekly protests by human rights advocates; the Presbyterian and Methodist denominations in the United States and the United Church of Canada voted to boycott Ahava products. Many shops, once informed about the company’s illegal practices, have stopped carrying Ahava products.

Now it’s Nordstrom’s turn.

Nordstrom prides itself on its commitment to “caring.” On the “Nordstrom Cares” page of its website the company claims, “We've always followed a simple philosophy when it comes to running our business: Leave it better than you found it. This also describes Nordstrom's commitment to social responsibility. Since our early days, we've focused on doing the right thing for our employees and our customers. We continue to make every effort to be an ethical company where people want to work and shop.”

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