Campaign and New Law Challenge Chic Israeli Company Ahava Cosmetics, Whose "Dead Sea Mud" Illegally Exploits Palestinians
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“When you boycott Ahava, you are saying boycott these products because the company’s practices are against international and humanitarian law,” Nancy Kricorian, founder of the Stolen Beauty campaign, told AlterNet.
For the past three years, the campaign has targeted several merchants, from Ahava storefronts and big chain department stores to small mom and pop retailers, pressuring them to discontinue their relationships with Ahava. Many of these campaigns have been successful in voicing ethical and economic concerns, and in some cases have won bigger victories. Due to the persistence of weekly protests, Ahava no longer has its flagship storefront in Central London.
However, its most significant victory came with the news that the governments of South Africa and Denmark would no longer label imports from Israeli settlements as “Made in Israel.”
“The government of South Africa recognizes the state of Israel only within the borders demarcated by the United Nations in 1948,” reads the notice from South Africa’s Department of Trade, adding that this does not include the currently occupied Palestinian territories.
Denmark, and Migros, one of the largest and most popular supermarket chains in Switzerland, have gone further. They have proposed labeling goods as, “Product of the West Bank Israeli Settlement Zone” and “Product of East Jerusalem, Israeli Settlement Zone” as more factually accurate labels. Israeli companies are more than welcome to continue trading with these countries—they will simply have to bear the consequences of losing customers due to the political implications of their corporate practices.
“Under these proposed labeling rules, no one is expressly calling for boycotting Israeli goods or even settlement goods, but consumers will now have an informed choice about whether or not they wish to support the political conditions under which these goods were produced,” Kricorian said.
The BDS movement, which follows a call from Palestinian civil society, began in 2005 and is intended to last until Israel complies with international law and respects Palestinian human rights. It has expanded into a global movement targeting corporate facilitators of the Israeli occupation, and many have been financially affected by organized boycotts.
“More and more corporations are leaving the settlements,” said Dalit Baum, cofounder of Who Profits, an anti-occupation Israeli group affiliated with the Coalition of Women for Peace. “It is becoming increasingly more and more difficult to do business in Europe with that affiliation largely because of BDS.”
The hope is that as publicity of the movement increases, and more people are educated on the humanitarian atrocities of several corporations, companies will be forced to evaluate their business practices. And as more transparency campaigns educate consumers on what exactly these business practices entail, more consumers could choose other products, economically chipping away at the Israeli occupation.
It is not a quick process, though. In South Africa, the call from the African National Congress of South Africa (ANC) to boycott, divestment and sanction the apartheid regime was released in 1959. Apartheid finally ended in 1994.
In seven years, the BDS movement against Israel has divested significant amounts of money from corporate giants such as Veolia and Caterpillar and used several consumer products to educate people about the policies and practices of the Israeli occupation.
Ahava has been put on the defensive in just three years of an organized boycott campaign. What could the larger BDS movement do with some more time?