‘NYT’ piece from Dead Sea ‘kibbutz’ ignores int’l boycott of its products

on 18 Comments

In “As it Shrinks, the Dead Sea Nourishes Promises of an Economic Bloom,” [New York Times, yesterday, p. A8], Isabel Kershner presents a rosy picture of what she calls the Israeli “kibbutz” of Kalia, situated on the shores of Dead Sea. Kalia is, in actuality, an illegal Jewish-only settlement implanted in the Occupied Palestinian West Bank by Israel. (All settlements in the Occupied Palestinian West Bank are illegal under international law.).

But Kalia is not just any settlement: Kershner fails to mention that it is a co-owner of Ahava Dead Sea Laboratories (Kalia holds 7.5% of the company’s shares), a cosmetics firm whose main factory is also located on stolen Palestinian territory. Ahava is the target of a growing international boycott campaign because of its illegal practices, including the sourcing of raw materials from from Palestinian land. Indeed, sources inside Israel allege that Ahava excavates mud used in its products from the shores of the very settlement of Kalia described in Kershner’s article. This excavation and export of minerals in occupied territory is against international law (the Geneva Conventions explicitly forbid the “exploitation of occupied resources by the occupying power”).

Kershner, by withholding these unsavory facts, attempts to make her readers believe that, instead, the northern shores of the Dead Sea are some kind of Middle Eastern melting pot, where young Palestinian men lounge on beaches adjacent to those hosting Ultra-Orthodox Jewish men. The fact that Palestinians cannot use the Jewish-only roads built by Israel in the Occupied Territories to reach those shores, making the one-hour trip from Nablus stretch to upwards of an entire day of travel, doesn’t merit Kershner’s attention.

But it is Kershner’s reported conversation with a settlement resident that should send chills up the spine of any observer of American coverage of Israel’s occupation project:

“While the Palestinians claim about 25 miles of shoreline that lie in the West Bank as part of a future state, Aviv Cohen, a site manager who lives at the settlement, said the negotiations were not his business. The settlement, which is a small kibbutz, or communal farm, is investing heavily, with plans to build a restaurant and a visitors center, he said.”

Cohen’s (and Kershner’s) blithe disregard for the human and political tragedy unfolding in the Occupied Territories is a perfect illustration of why the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) Movement is essential. As a settler, Cohen is free to develop his business without considering the political circumstances in which he lives. In other words, the fact that he is an occupier living on occupied land is of no concern to him. He can continue developing Kalia beach, catering to tourists, and profiting from the occupation. The occupation has become so comfortable for (Jewish) Israelis, even for the ones living in settlements, that they can declare, as Cohen does, that it is not their business. And Kershner can describe Ahava’s business as "the relatively harmless cosmetics industry…"

From this point of view, BDS is a wake-up call, reminding Israelis that there are indeed consequences to occupying another people’s land, expropriating their resources, restricting their movement, and violating their human rights. As recent boycott actions against Ahava and other settlement trade outfits demonstrate, there is hope that the shores of the Dead Sea will soon be free from illegal exploitation.

Nancy Kricorian is a writer and activist in New York City. She is the campaign manager for CODEPINK’s Stolen Beauty Ahava boycott campaign.

18 Responses

  1. Citizen
    August 6, 2010, 9:40 am

    The NY Times article references Palestinians swimming on a nearby beach near where the orthodox Jewish males swim at night. There is a hot link underscoring “Palestinians,” which leads to an article about how Israel has tried historically to make peace with them but they are divided and won’t listen.

    There is a reference in the NY Times article to “settlers,” but no hot link leading to the illegal occupying nature of this Israeli group. The article does mention that a local Palestinian geographer says in the future the Palestinians will be doing business there as the Israel Jew interviewed is doing now, the one who says politics is none of his business, just exploiting the land. Kershner ignores going into the discrepancy, as she ignored the world’s opinion that the settlements are illegal. New York Tombs.

    • Chaos4700
      August 6, 2010, 9:54 am

      Yep — that last sentiment is the sad part. Sooner or later the rest of the world is going to turn against the United States over Israel (probably, if and when Israel draws first blood in Iran) and the sleeping US population isn’t even going to have a clue as to why.

      • Chu
        August 6, 2010, 11:12 am

        US population isn’t even going to have a clue as to why.
        yeah, how about, they hate us for our freedom.
        oh, that already got enough mileage. How about
        the US needs to prevent a second holocaust?

    • Berthe
      August 6, 2010, 11:11 am

      Stunning about that hot link. But, of course, I already know that the New York Times did not report the Israeli sustained air and sea attack on the USS Liberty on Page 1 back when it happened. I wonder if the New York Times has EVER mentioned the attack on the Liberty on Page 1.

      Keep it up. This mentality is so unreasonable, so strange, so deliberately ignorant on the part of people with degrees from fancy-schmancy colleges that it is a form of evidence. Like, you wouldn’t put a member NAMBLA on a child molestation jury. For Israel lovers, everything else is a distant, distant second. They would cover up murder and mayhem and, yes, attacks on Americans by Israel.

  2. Berthe
    August 6, 2010, 10:52 am

    I saw a whole shelf of these Ahava products at TJ Maxx last week. Does that mean they’re overstock and not selling well in the department stores so they go to a secondary place like TJ Maxx/Marshalls?

  3. Interested Bystander
    August 6, 2010, 11:05 am

    I think the Kirshner article is interesting, and the post here is very good and demonstrates nicely the value of this site: to provide context and reality from the Palestinian perspective. It significantly deepens the discussion.

    The idea of refilling the Dead Sea by diverting water from the Red Sea, providing irrigation and hydroelectricity along the way is intriguing. It has the potential to benefit everybody.

    Is the development taking place around Kalia another indication of how the two-state-solution is going by the wayside? If, from an activist standpoint, the focus of the fight becomes civil rights in one state, then is the rationale for BDS still the same? If it is going to be one state, then development of the whole area is important, and the goal should not be to stunt that development, but to spread the wealth to all. Does BDS play out differently, therefore, depending on the one state or two state solution?

    • Avi
      August 6, 2010, 9:26 pm

      In addition to the political context, of note is the exploitation of Dead Sea minerals by various Israeli chemical companies. While Ahava does exploit natural resources that legally belong to Palestinians, other industries have impacted the Dead Sea as a whole. When one compares satellite imagery from ten or twenty years ago with satellite imagery from recent years, it becomes all too evident how devastating that impact has been. The Dead Sea has been shrunk significantly as Israeli companies exploit it for Phosphorous, Magnesium Chloride, and other high value minerals used in the production of de-icers, industrial salts, table salt and bath salt and fertilizers. To continue to exploit the Dead Sea, Israel in cooperation with Jordan has sought to dig a canal linking the Red Sea with the Dead Sea. By the way, Jordanian companies have exploited the mineral rich Dead Sea, but to a far lesser extent and in parts which do not legally violate Palestinian rights.

  4. hayate
    August 6, 2010, 12:21 pm

    More mud propaganda to make israeli theives rich, from the israeli occupied american corporate media.

  5. fledermaus
    August 6, 2010, 1:31 pm

    What I find scandalous is that Ahava products are sold – of all places – in the duty free shop in the UN compound in Vienna/Austria. Despite complaints and protests this practice continues. The shop, which is open to staff of international organizations and the diplomatic community in Vienna, is administered by the International Atomic Energy Agency.

    • Avi
      August 6, 2010, 10:46 pm

      The shop, which is open to staff of international organizations and the diplomatic community in Vienna, is administered by the International Atomic Energy Agency.

      The gift shop itself is run by the IAEA?

      Have you tried contacting the manager at the store and informing him? Sometimes the fine details get lost in big bureaucracies. There’s a good chance the store manager is not aware of that fact regarding Ahava’s products.

      • Nancy Kricorian
        August 8, 2010, 2:46 pm

        Women in Black Vienna staged an Ahava boycott protest at the UN Compound in 2009, so the management knows what they are selling.

  6. ymedad
    August 7, 2010, 4:26 pm

    Lets’ provide the historical background. In late 1922, Moshe Novomeyevsky purchased rights to mine salt at Mount Sodom. In 1924, he founded the “Palestine Mining Syndicate”. In 1927, High Commissioner Herbert Plumer awarded him a tender to mine the Dead Sea area as the Palestine Potash Company. Kibbutz Kalia, founded in 1968 near to the site of the plant that was overrun by invading foreign occupying forces in blatant violation of the UN in 1948, is simply continuing this activity of Jews returning to their land, some planting orchards, others mining its deposits.

    • tree
      August 7, 2010, 5:50 pm

      The area was designated as part of the Arab state under the Partition Plan, so to claim that it was “overrun by invading foreign occupying forces in blatant violation of the UN in 1948” is to falsify and turn history on its head.

      And mining rights are conferred by governments. Once the British Mandate was no longer the governing body over the area, there was no longer any mining right, unless it was conferred by the new governing body of Jordan. Mining rights and ownership rights are two separate concepts, and they do NOT usually go hand in hand.

      “…Jews returning to their land, some planting orchards, others mining its deposits” some stealing land, some destroying orchards, some spewing sewage on others lands…

      If you can’t respect the indigenous people already on the land then you aren’t fit to “return”, as you have no respect for the land yourself. As Remi Kanazi said. “You can stay here with us, but only as equals… it’s not that you’re Israelis, it’s that you’re wrong.”

    • Sumud
      August 7, 2010, 6:34 pm

      ymedad ~ Since you’re an American (a New Yorker in fact) settled illegally in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, I’ll presume that you haven’t forgotten a few good old American basics like property rights, the rule of law and equality before that law.

      Could you explain how proximity is transformed into ownership? You claim Kibbutz Kalia was “near” a [presumably] jewish mining outfit in mandate Palestine. I live in an apartment, with neighbours “near”, on either side in fact. Naturally, I covet their property. What advice can you give me on how to get it, for free?

      I’m happy to hear you cite the UN in 1948 as an authority and I presume you are therefore advocating the Partition Plan, and the boundaries of the UN Plan, that Ben Gurion claimed to accept. Since you’re bothered by “invading foreign occupying forces”, you must surely be bothered by the activities of the Haganah/Palmach etc. from November ’47 to May ’48 – when they invaded the 43% of mandate Palestine set aside for the Palestinian state, before any of the arab state armies entered the conflict in mid-May 1948.

      It’s also a great comfort to hear you talk about people returning to their land. Your settlement of Shilo is built on land owned by (and confiscated from) the surrounding Palestinian villages. Not by settlers from New York, but people who have lived on the land for a thousand years, give or take a few centuries. What are you going to do when those people return in full force, as they inevitably will? Though I highly doubt a two-state settlement will occur (because of people such as yourself), would you be prepared to take Palestinian citizenship in order to stay in the West Bank?

      Yisrael Medad on BBC Hardtalk in 2007:

      link to youtube.com

    • MRW
      August 7, 2010, 10:28 pm

      The 1927 Palestine Potash Company. So, it was Palestine that the Zios overran.

  7. rachelgolem
    August 7, 2010, 10:12 pm

    A boycott of AHAVA is pointless.

    The company has a very loyal and devoted following of “Zionists”.

    For those who are not familiar with the term, a “Zionist” is someone who doesn’t crash planes into tall buildings or blow himself up on a bus, train or airplane.

    • MRW
      August 7, 2010, 10:25 pm

      AHAVA products are easily replicated with other koalin products. They are not unique.

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