Stolen Beauty boycott culture jam turns Ahava’s online marketing contest into a social media #FAIL

on 15 Comments

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 [email protected] 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. [email protected] 
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

[email protected]
#AhavaReborn @birchbox, how will a deep ethnic cleansing affect my pores?

@Zzigggyyy [email protected] & @ahava_us Do you have anything that I can use to cover up the #warcrimes committed by israeli #Apartheid

#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.

15 Responses

  1. pabelmont
    May 13, 2011, 11:33 am

    Wonderful! Wish I were “on” tweet, but too many tweets would probably give me zits. Or increase my waistline. Ahava-you anything for these conditions?

  2. patm
    May 13, 2011, 11:33 am

    CODEPINK Women for Peace rocks!!

  3. Lydda Four Eight
    May 13, 2011, 11:50 am

    THANK YOU! Those were some great lines, incisive and humorous.

    i heart CODEPINK.

  4. MRW
    May 13, 2011, 11:56 am

    These are hysterical!

  5. Mooser
    May 13, 2011, 12:17 pm

    I better brush up my Shakespeare, as the song says. The competition in anti-Zionist humor is fierce.

    • Taxi
      May 13, 2011, 4:19 pm

      I know what you mean Mooser – I coulda sworn some of them lines were lifted right outta my brain while I was napping all day yesterday.

      Hey hip hip LOL and HOORAY Codepink!!!

  6. Nancy Kricorian
    May 13, 2011, 12:33 pm

    Thanks, Salim, for this great post about the two-day culture jam. Who knew BDS online activism could be so fun? I wanted to add another of the witty posts from @bethlehemballet — worth a follow if you are on Twitter.

    Umm al-Khair residents can’t sleep because of settler harassment. They’re fed up with having bags under the eyes. Suggestions? #AhavaReborn

  7. American
    May 13, 2011, 12:58 pm

    Ah!……..the female power…..never underestimate it.
    Go ladies.

  8. ritzl
    May 13, 2011, 4:03 pm

    Well done! This will resonate far more broadly than just a poke at Ahava. Companies avoid this kind of contention like gangrene if they want to increase sales in a broader population. This effort showed EVERY Israeli company that they could be faced with this kind of negative connection/exposure for supporting (in any form) the occupation (in any form).

    I think that risk is going to make Israeli consumer-product companies think twice about using the occupation as a business tool. It is also going to start some serious business to govt discussions in Israel about how the occupation and Israeli policies are starting to become a business handicap (i.e. that Israeli businesses now have to overcome a negative public perception before they even have the “buy” conversation with a new customer).

    Great news!

  9. johd
    May 13, 2011, 7:23 pm

    This Huuuuuge!!!!

    Have people begun putting one & one together?

    Why not link to

  10. johd
    May 13, 2011, 7:25 pm

    I mean … if people can take down ‘regimes’ using twitter and facebook, why not companies that rely heavily on social media?

    link to

  11. Nancy Kricorian
    May 14, 2011, 10:06 am

    There is some overlap, but more Tweets from #AhavaReborn #StolenBeauty culture jam posted here link to

    • annie
      May 14, 2011, 10:36 am

      thanks nancy. this one speaks best for me

      I’d rather apply coarse sandpaper to my skin than use Apartheid Cosmetics made from stolen resources.

      the symbolism of colonialists packaging stolen land in little boxes so people can smear it on their faces to make themselves beautiful is sickening. to then market the product w/the name of ‘love’ (ahava/hebrew) is wildass filthy propaganda.

  12. Nancy Kricorian
    May 16, 2011, 7:26 am

    Hmm…Not quite sure how the Syrians and Libyans are germane to a boycott campaign against an Israeli cosmetics company with a factory in an illegal settlement in the Occupied Palestinian West Bank. Check out @B’tselem’s new report that calls Ahava out by name (link to & MeretzUSA’s blog post against Ahava & Soda Stream settlement products (link to

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