BDS victory: South Africa strips Ahava’s ‘made in Israel’ label

on 30 Comments
Coalition of Women for Peace and Codepink protest at an Ahava store in a Hilton Hotel, Tel Aviv, 2009. (Photo: Karen Manor/ActiveStills)

Earlier this month, South Africa’s Department of Trade and Industry announced that products produced in the West Bank but labeled “made in Israel” will no longer be sold in the country. The judgment calls for “traders in South Africa, not to incorrectly label products that originate from the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT) as products of Israel.”

The move came in response to pressure from the global movement for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS). The ruling references evidence presented by Open Shuhada Street and Ahava is cited as a specific company violating South African trade legislation:

The Open Shuhada (Open Shuhada) has alleged that products of Ahava such as cosmetic brands, technology and soft drinks are being distributed in South Africa as products that originate in Israel whereas they originate from the OPT.

In this regard consumers in South Africa should not be misled into believing that products originating from the OPT are products originating from Israel. The burden of proving where the products originate will lie with traders.

The government of South Africa recognizes the State of Israel only within the borders demarcated by the United Nations (UN) in 1948. Such demarcated borders of Israel by the UN do not include Palestinian Territories occupied after 1967.

Ahava cosmetics are manufactured in Mitzpe Shalem, an illegal Israeli settlement located in the West Bank near the Dead Sea. Since 2010 the European Union has required products made outside of Israel’s 1967-borders are marked as such. And earlier in 2008, the United Kingdom ordered labels on settlement products. Although the British ruling was a “recommendation” and not legally binding, it indicated companies that continue to use fraudulent labels could be criminally charged.  It is unclear if South African distributors that violate the trade and industry ruling could also face prosecution. 

About Allison Deger

Allison Deger is the Assistant Editor of Follow her on twitter at @allissoncd.

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30 Responses

  1. Nancy Kricorian
    May 18, 2012, 11:14 am

    Thanks for covering this important BDS win. It is only fitting that South Africa, a land that experienced the efficacy of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions as part of a multifaceted struggle against Apartheid, should be the first country to take such an action against Ahava’s illegal practices. Now consumers from South Africa will be able to look at the label on products coming from the West Bank and to make an informed choice about whether or not they want to support an ongoing military occupation.

    • seafoid
      May 18, 2012, 3:16 pm

      it is hard to see Ahava surviving long term given the fact that it could not function without the occupation.

  2. pabelmont
    May 18, 2012, 11:51 am

    Assuming that the labeling of origin is done by the manufacturer or exporter, the proper response to THIS mislabeling is to refuse ALL exports from Israel until Israel cleans up its labeling act.

    That might impinge on Palestinian exports (and Israeli-Palestinian exports), but it would be proper. EU should do the same: INSIST on proper labeling. NB: Label should be MADE IN OCCUPIED TERRITORIES IF ANY PART OR COMPONENT OR PACKAGING OR INGREDIENT comes from an Israeli source in the OPTs.

  3. Blake
    May 18, 2012, 12:02 pm

    I believe they have sunk so low as to mark products made in the occupied territories as “Palestinian” to get past boycotts. Something to keep an eye out for.

    • joec
      May 18, 2012, 1:52 pm

      I’m being overly-cautious, but to avoid any possibility of confusion, let’s remember that many products made in the ’67 territories ARE Palestinian. Those manufactured by settlers are not.

      • Blake
        May 18, 2012, 2:26 pm

        Agreed. I meant products manufactured by settlers in the Occupied territories.

  4. HarryLaw
    May 18, 2012, 12:04 pm

    I am hoping to go forward as a litigant in person on the false labelling practices of Ahava in the near future, the trading standards authority who should do this, are reluctant to do their duty, I am waiting for their reasons via a freedom of information request, and will proceed when I receive it, I attended Wirral Magistrates court last month and they disputed the venue London or Wirral, Here is the initial summons with evidence attached below:-

    To the accused: AHAVA UK LTD [Company number: 03038060]

    Address: AHAVA UK LTD
    Brunel House
    George Street
    GL1 1BZ

    Alleged Offence: That on February 14th 2012, AHAVA UK LTD did supply me via the internet with a cosmetic product, the origin of which had a false country of origin. The product stated Israel on the product container, packaging and information leaflet. The product and packaging also had a zip code no: 86983 which is the code for Mitzpe Shalem, a settlement situated inside Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT). This is an offence in breach of a statutory instrument, the ‘Cosmetic Product (safety) Regulations 2008. Section 12(1)(a).’ As created by the 1987 Consumer Protection Act (CPA). Specifically section 12(3)
    Under section 12(1)a of the safety regulations, goods manufactured outside the European economic area (EEA) must be labeled as to their country of origin.

    Prosecutor: Harry Law – litigant in person


    Date of Information: 19 MARCH 2012


    Gloucester Magistrates Court
    PO Box 9051
    GL1 2XG

    I have evidence to validate my claim that the product stated as having its origin in Israel is false. Please refer to attachment 1 which is a photograph of the product, please note the post (and/or Zip)code in the Hebrew line under the false address is 86983 which is the code for Mitzpe Shalem, an illegal Israeli settlement situated in Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT) – see maps enclosed (attachment 2 and 3] According to customary International Law all settlements in OPT are illegal (Geneva Conventions Article 49.6, 1949). This was confirmed by the opinion of the World Court ICJ in 2004 by a 15-0 majority, this position has also been reaffirmed by successive British Governments who have declared that the West Bank does not constitute part of Israel, nor therefore, do the illegal Israeli settlements therein; including Mitzpe Shalem.
    I have evidence in the form of a letter from Yaacov Ellis, chief executive officer and president of AHAVA also known as Dead Sea Laboratories Ltd, in the letter dated in 2010 he admits that his factory, visitor centre and the settlement Mitzpe Shalem are situated inside the West Bank, but denies that they are illegal.
    I also have a letter from the civil administrator of the occupying forces in the Megilot Regional Council where Mitze Shalem is situated. The administrator confirms that Dead Sea Laboratories Ltd is the only company to be given permission to excavate mud from the area and that those operations continue today (2011).
    Clearly the settlements of Mitzpe Shalem and the production facilities of AHAVA (Dead Sea Laboratories Ltd) are situated in OPT, not in Israel and because AHAVA Uk Ltd are supplied by its parent company AHAVA/Dead Sea Laboratories Ltd in OPT the claim that the products country of origin is Israel is false and an offence as described in my allegation.

    • Blake
      May 18, 2012, 12:13 pm

      Way to go Harry.

      • Citizen
        May 18, 2012, 6:15 pm

        Ditto, here Harry. Having just gone pro se my self for two years against the US VA & Humana Insurance, and US Medicare Admin, it was a long lonely battle against the endless power of these three entities and their endless employees and automatic phone replies with endless diversion options…. I won. Now I have to figure out how to get the check owed me “forthwith” as ordered by the administrative judge.

      • American
        May 20, 2012, 2:54 pm

        Ditto …… WAY TO GO HARRY!

    • CloakAndDagger
      May 18, 2012, 10:08 pm

      You da man!

    • Annie Robbins
      May 20, 2012, 2:04 pm

      this is awesome news harry! make sure you update us (find addresses at the about page) because i think this would be great front page material and we want it!

  5. MHughes976
    May 18, 2012, 12:34 pm

    We visited the United States recently and went to a shopping mall in Nashua, New Hampshire. Besides the shops there were some stalls of various kinds, at one of which I (lagging behind grandchildren) was approached with the question whether ‘I had heard of the Dead Sea’. No time for an argument, but I noticed that while all the other stalls were trying to attract custom with colourful banners this one had no banner and no name. Presumably the Dead Sea exploiters do not care to advertise who they are, presumably because they would attract some hostile comment even in a non-Metropolitan area of the United States. In Reading, my nearest big town in the UK, I haven’t seen the old Ahava stall for years: perhaps I’ve just missed something. But I think that all is not entirely well for the Dead Sea plunder industry.

    • seafoid
      May 19, 2012, 3:33 am


      It is pure serendipity to come across such a stall while shopping on a Saturday afternoon. It’s like meeting Fredblogs in person. The arguments just roll off the tongue. They have no defence whatsoever with their flimsy ideological explanations which have been heard and demolished so many times.

    • Stone
      May 24, 2012, 1:05 am

      O, I think this is the one that I’ve seen throughout the Mid-Atlantic of the US. It’s for a company that advertises itself as beauty products from the Dead Sea. Can’t stand them. Anyway, I wanted to note that I was going to send my sister a subscription to the birchbox program. Unfortunately, right on the “brands” page, is “Ahava”. So I decided to take a look here and sure enough they’ve worked with them before. It’s sad that they haven’t stopped working with them.

    • Talkback
      May 18, 2012, 2:32 pm

      More on the same from Denmark:

      Israeli settlement produce label
      New Danish labelling to show what produce comes from Israeli settlements.

      Products from Israeli settlements should be labelled, Søvndal says

      • seafoid
        May 18, 2012, 4:28 pm

        The Irish Times – Friday, May 18, 2012A warning to Israel

        MONDAY’S STRONG statement by EU foreign ministers on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict marked a significant and important shift in EU thinking on the stalled peace process, and appeared to signal a new level of engagement. After the meeting Minister for Foreign Affairs Eamon Gilmore, going further, suggested that Israel may have until the autumn to respond positively to specific EU demands on illegal settlements, arrests, demolitions of buildings, and Palestinian economic deprivation, or possibly face measures such as an EU ban on goods from Israeli settlements.

        Although hedged with standard expressions of the union’s longstanding concerns for Israeli security, and deploring rocket attacks from Gaza and the targeting of civilians, the ministers’ statement is remarkable both for its detailed demands on Israel and its sharp warning that the situation is in imminent danger of reaching a point when the commonly accepted eventual settlement, a two-state solution, would no longer be feasible.

        “The viability of a two-state solution must be maintained,” the ministers insisted. “The EU expresses deep concern about developments on the ground which threaten to make a two-state solution impossible.” Specifically they “decried the marked acceleration of settlement construction” following a 2010 moratorium, what other have described as Israel establishing “permanentfacts on the ground”. And they specifically criticised evictions and demolitions in east Jerusalem, demanding the reopening of Palestinian institutions in the city, the “future capital of two states”.

        “Settlements remain illegal under international law, irrespective of recent decisions by the government of Israel,” the statement insists bluntly. “The EU reiterates that it will not recognise any changes to the pre-1967 borders including with regard to Jerusalem, other than those agreed by the parties …. All outposts erected since March 2001 should be dismantled.”

        The Israeli army has also destroyed some €49.14 million worth of EU-funded development projects in the West Bank and Gaza over the last 10 years, according to EU Commission figures seen by Reuters.

        The tone and detail of the statement reflect exasperation with both the Israeli government’s procrastination and the US’s at best half-hearted engagement with the issue. And it appears to mark a significant shift in thinking in Germany, until now, for understandable reasons of history, Israel’s most uncritical defender in the EU. Israel would do well to take note

      • lysias
        May 18, 2012, 5:11 pm

        I imagine that attack on the Danish cyclist has had an effect on Danish public opinion.

    • seafoid
      May 18, 2012, 3:18 pm

      Ireland is proposing to do the same. I think a lot of goy governments have had it with the settlers.

    • German Lefty
      May 18, 2012, 5:53 pm

      “The move targets illegal settlements and not Israel, the Danish FM added.”

      It is sad that this needs to be mentioned. Actually, this should go without saying.

      • Annie Robbins
        May 18, 2012, 6:29 pm

        OT, it just occurred to me german lefty, since you are new here…if you’re curious about someones posting habits you can click on their names and read their archives.

    • Citizen
      May 18, 2012, 6:21 pm

      Blake, that reminds me: UPDATE: Israeli solider fired for assaulting Danish activist (& will show up with a promotion in the IDF later) via @cphpost

      • Blake
        May 19, 2012, 5:45 am

        Thanks. I really do not know whether to believe that or not. Personally being the cynic I am when it comes to this mammon nightmare he probably got promotion – albeit in another department. They seem to live in an antonym universe.

  6. HarryLaw
    May 18, 2012, 3:26 pm

    MHughes976, According to International Law all property emanating from OPT in breach of this law has no title and as you may be aware, if you have no title [ownership] you should not be able to sell it, legally that is, the ‘nemo dat quod non labet’ rule applies “no-one can give a better title than he has got” In july 1943 an International conference was held in London, its mandate was to upgrade the Hague regulations since they were not specific enough on property transfers, particularly because of the Nazi depredations in much of occupied Europe, these resolutions were put together by the leading jurists of their time and represent the latest and definitive word on the transfer of property rights and interests both within and outside occupied territory The USA, USSR, China and the United Kingdom and Dominions amongst others adopted them, here are the first four resolutions:-
    (1) The rules governing the validity in third countries of the acts of belligerent occupants and of transfers of, or dealings with, property, rights and interests of any description whatsoever derived from such acts, are rules of international law the non observation of which entails international responsibility.
    Note: In courts of third States cases may be decided according to a variety of legal considerations, but the result must be in harmony with the rules of international law, the main contents of which are set out below. The Conference has not discussed the conditions under which a third State that does not give effect to the said rules is liable to pay damages to the injured party and/or his State.
    (2) The occupant does not succeed, even provisionally, to the status or rights of the sovereign whom he displaces. The occupant has at most, under international law, only limited rights or jurisdiction and administration; acts in excess of these limited rights are null and void in law and are not entitled to legal recognition in any country.
    (3) The rights of the occupant do not include any right to dispose of property, rights or interests for purposes other than the maintenance of public order and safety in the occupied territory. In particular, the occupant is not, in international law, vested with any power to transfer a title which will be valid outside that territory to any property, rights or interests which he purports to acquire or create or dispose of; this applies whether such property, rights or interests are those of the State or of private persons or bodies. This status of the occupant is not changed by the fact that the annexes by unilateral action the territory occupied by him.

    (4) a country subject to belligerent occupation has no status in international law. Any rule of international law establishing the invalidity of transfers of, or dealings with, property, rights and interests effected by the occupant applies also to similar transfers and dealings carried out by any associate or agent of the occupant acting for him or in his interest. the occupant nor his associates or agents has the right to transfer a title of any property, rights or interests whether private or public to a third country in breach of International Law. Pay close attentiion to resolution 3 it is clear these imports have no validity, Yesh Din used this resolution in their case against the Commander of the IDF in the Quarries case recently.

  7. Annie Robbins
    May 18, 2012, 6:33 pm

    Coalition of Women for Peace and Codepink protest at an Ahava store in a Hilton Hotel, Tel Aviv, 2009.

    hey! i was there that day..that was the very first boycott ahava action ever. there are videos somewhere too.

  8. Talkback
    May 19, 2012, 11:42 am

    Consumer Protection Act – South Africa Government Online

  9. Blake
    May 20, 2012, 11:05 am

    Sunday, May 20

    As South African Artists and Cultural Workers who have lived under, survived, and in many cases resisted apartheid, we acknowledge the value of international solidarity in our own struggle. It is in this context that we respond to the call by Palestinians, and their Israeli allies, for such solidarity.


  10. American
    May 20, 2012, 2:58 pm

    I see no reason why all Israeli products aren’t boycotted. Israel is responsible for the settlements.
    I won’t knowingly buy anything made in Israel.
    BTW, don’t shop at Target. I bought some undershirts there and didn’t notice till I took them out of package they were made in Israel. I returned them.

    • CloakAndDagger
      May 20, 2012, 4:21 pm


      Look at the barcode (EAN) on the product you are about to buy. If it starts with the digits 729, it is from Israel. Unfortunately, this is not foolproof, but you will get most of the products this way. You can also get free apps for your smart phone to scan barcodes on which the EAN is not human readable.

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