On Wednesday, May 11 and Thursday, May 12, Ahava US, the U.S. arm of the Israeli cosmetics firm based in an illegal West Bank settlement, and @birchbox, an online cosmetics retailer, ran a marketing contest on the social media site Twitter using the hashtag #AhavaReborn, which is the slogan for Ahava’s current rebranding campaign. Members of the public were invited to submit beauty care questions with the lure of a prize of $300 worth of Ahava products for the best query.
US group CODEPINK Women for Peace, which manages the Stolen Beauty Ahava Boycott campaign, alerted other BDS activists about the marketing campaign and suggested using the opportunity for a culture jam to subvert Ahava’s rebranding effort.
What followed can only be described as a total disaster for Ahava. From early Wednesday European time and for the next 48 hours BDS campaigners flooded the twitter stream #AhavaReborn with hundreds of messages advocating the boycott of Ahava products. The BDS campaigners hailed from the US, UK, Netherlands, Belgium, South Africa, Singapore, Occupied Palestine and elsewhere, reflecting the international nature of the campaign against Ahava.
As people who hoped for the prize tweeted #AhavaReborn with their beauty questions about cracked heels, blemishes and dry skin, BDS campaigners used ready-made Tweets that CODEPINK had sent out. But quickly the culture jammers began inventing their own original tweets and even started responding to actual contestants with personal messages and tips—all of them around why consumers should avoid Ahava products. Many of the BDS campaigners’ questions for @birchbox and Ahava were highly amusing, and all of them highlighted Ahava's complicity in Israel's illegal Occupation. Throughout the 48 hours, BDS campaigners also posted tweets with links to the Stolen Beauty website for background information on Ahava for those who wanted to know more.
The pro-Ahava and counter-BDS lobbyists made an appearance on the first day to attack BDS and criticism of Israel. But they were few in number and weak in their arguments. By the second day they had given up after posting only a couple of Tweets.
Twitter only permits messages of up to 140 characters, so you have to be short and sweet to make your point. BDS campaigners excelled at using creativity and biting wit to get their messages across in a few words. Please read the small selection of tweets at the end of this message for a flavor of their inventiveness and wit.
Overall, the two days were a victory for BDS campaigners who took the opportunity provided by Ahava's rebranding attempt through social media and turned it into a platform for BDS messaging. Thanks go to everyone who took part, but especially to CODEPINK for initiating the action. On now to the next battle...
Tweets from the Ahava Boycott Culture Jam
My trigger finger is dry from shooting too many Palestinians around my settlement. What moisturizer do you recommend?
@birchbox & @ahava_us Do you have anything that will hide the israeli ethnic cleansing of Palestinians?
The tear gas that the Israeli military fires on me when I visit Palestinian friends in Silwan is ruining my skin. What to do?
I was helping to demolish Palestinian houses today and I chipped a nail! Do you have a product that will strengthen them?
Hey Ahava, can you recommend a soap that will wash the blood off my hands? I know you're experts at that
Do you have any creams for burns from Israeli Army phosphorous bombs? School children in Gaza would be interested
#AHAVAreborn - not a fan of the "freshly bulldozed earth" or the "tears of the displaced" scents. Have anything that smells like "justice"?
#AHAVAreborn @birchbox and @AHAVA_US What is the best skin care regimen for normal, slightly dry, worried about wrinkles 28yr old skin? @isvestiasalim Ahava is happy to advise on how to steal Palestinian Land but if its skincare advice you want please try elsewhere #ahavareborn
@birchbox & @ahava_us Do you have anything that I can use to cover up the#warcrimes committed by israeli#Apartheid
@ReclaimedBeauty Is there any chance of Ahava coming out with a fragrance line? Love the scents of your products. @isvestia Ahava already has a fragrance- its called 'The Stench of Israel's Illegal Occupation'.
Dear Ahava, Israel's apartheid system makes my skin crawl! What products do you recommend?
@BirchBox ahava advises weekly expropriation to rid you of palestinians and other irritating skin conditions
#AhavaReborn @birchbox, how will a deep ethnic cleansing affect my pores?
@Zzigggyyy @birchbox & @ahava_us Do you have anything that I can use to cover up the #warcrimes committed by israeli #Apartheid
@redcathexwas #AHAVAReborn @birchbox Do you have anything to relieve those nasty breakouts caused by the stress of living life under military occupation?
Hey @birchbox why sell Ahava lotion? Human rights are a better notion. #AhavaReborn #StolenBeauty
Any chance of #AhavaReborn launching a perfume range? I want something more delicate than my usual free IDF samples of eau de tear gas.
@BirchBox what’s that i can smell? bath salts? body lotion? no, it’s the stench of racist colonialism
#AHAVAreborn the world knows you sell ethnic cleansers, but how about new foundation for the ones your government bulldozed?
#AhavaReborn My skin care question is, do you have a cream to heal the scars caused by a brutal and systemic occupation?
Salim is a member of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, and has been regularly attending the bi-weekly protests outside Ahava's flagship Covent Garden store in London, UK.