Friday, January 14, 2011
The Canadian Retailer ‘The Bay’ Drops Cosmetics Line as Ahava Dead Sea Laboratories Admits Declining Sales and Attempts to Rebrand; Victory for Human Rights Boycott Campaign
Yesterday was an amazing day when, in open recognition of declining sales and the toxicity of the brand, the CEO of giant Canadian retailer The Bay, together with the heads of Canada’s main pro-Israel lobby groups, let slip that Ahava Dead Sea Laboratories, an Israeli cosmetics manufacturer based in an illegal settlement in the Occupied Palestinian West Bank, is pulling its products off the shelf, curtailing international distribution of its signature line and attempting to rebrand its now tarnished image.
This victory for the Stolen Beauty Ahava boycott was made possible by the extraordinary efforts of grassroots human rights campaigners from North America, The United Kingdom, France, The Czech Republic, South Africa, Israel, and Palestine, among others countries, to hold Ahava accountable for its violations of international law and its unconscionable occupation profiteering.
But even with this acknowledgement of the success of our campaign, now is not the time to let up the pressure. In the same statement announcing its rationale for dropping Ahava from its inventory, The Bay announced that Ahava would be back with a new, re-branded product line in the spring. This attempt to fool international consumers with a repackaged brand will not go unchallenged, and our campaign will continue.
Background on Ahava’s illegal business practices
Ahava Dead Sea Laboratories is an Israeli cosmetics company that has its manufacturing plant and visitors center near the shores of the Dead Sea in the illegal Israeli settlement of Mitzpe Shalem in the Occupied Palestinian West Bank. All Israeli settlements in the West Bank are illegal under international law. The company is 44% owned by Mitzpe Shalem and another settlement, Kalia, so that the company’s profits are subsidizing these illegal colonies. Although its goods are manufactured in the West Bank, Ahava labels them as “products of Israel,” a practice that is illegal under European Union law and is currently being investigated in the UK and Holland.
Part of a growing international movement
Modeled on the worldwide campaign against apartheid-era South Africa, the movement for Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel was created in 2005 in response to Israel’s many violations of Palestinian rights. The BDS movement has grown and achieved significant successes, particularly following Israel’s assault on the Gaza Strip in 2009, which killed over 1400 Palestinians. The Stolen Beauty campaign is a part of this growing international movement. Says Rae Abileah, a Jewish American of Israeli descent and a campaigner with CODEPINK, “Ahava means love in Hebrew, but there is no love in occupation. We are part of a grassroots effort to bring about a just peace for both Israelis and Palestinians.”