Two victories on the BDS front that show the Israeli settlements in the West Bank are increasingly considered beyond the pale in the U.S. and international community.
First, the online shopping site GILT has dropped Ahava cosmetics which is made in the illegal Israeli settlement Mitzpe Shalem. GILT is a leading shopping website with over six million members, and the move comes following a correspondence between Code Pink and the office of GILT President Kevin P. Ryan, who also serves on the board of Human Rights Watch.
CodePink has published the correspondence which is somewhat entertaining. Code Pink begins:
31 July 2014
Kevin P. Ryan
Founder and Chairman
2 Park Avenue, 4th Floor
New York, New York 10016
Dear Kevin Ryan,
I’m writing to you today on behalf of an international boycott campaign against Ahava cosmetics, an Israeli enterprise that has its main production facility in an illegal settlement in the occupied West Bank. We believe there is a contradiction between your role as the Chairman of Gilt, an online retailer that sells Ahava products, and your serving as a Board member of Human Rights Watch, an organization that has taken an explicit stand against Israeli settlement profiteering.
For the past four years, Ahava has served as an international poster child for the evils of illegall settlement goods . It is on the boycott list of the United Methodist Church, The Presbyterian Church , and The United Church of Canada. In 2012 Abigail Disney renounced her share of her company’s investment in Ahava because of the company’s violations of international law
We believe that Gilt should stop carrying Ahava cosmetics because an association with a company that makes its goods using pillaged resources in a factory on occupied land is unethical and ugly. Would love to speak with you about this issue.
Stolen Beauty Ahava Boycott Campaign Manager
GILT responded with a cursory response from its legal department saying, “We have been in contact with Ahava and they have assured us that they are operating within the confines of the law.”
Code Pink responded in part:
In your letter dated 12 August 2014, you state, “We have been in contact with Ahava and they have assured us that they are operating within the confines of the law.” I am still astonished by this response. It is akin to saying, “We have asked the alleged thief if he had stolen the property, and he assured us that he had not.” Ahava’s violations of international law have been documented by Who Profits, an Israeli research group that focuses on occupation profiteers by B’Tselem, an Israeli human rights organization; and by Al-Haq, a Palestinian human rights organization. Indeed, retailers around the world have decided to drop Ahava products, and investor Abigail Disney has disavowed her share in her family’s Ahava holdings, having taken the small effort to acquaint herself with Ahava’s illegal practices.
We are further perplexed by how Mr. Ryan can reconcile his position as a board member of Human Rights Watch, an organization that has taken a stand against Israeli settlements and those profiting from them, with his company’s selling goods from Ahava, which is the international poster child for the evils of settlement profiteering. This obvious contradiction is clearly a legitimate subject of public interest and discussion.
Ahava disappeared from the GILT store following this letter.
Also, the BDS movement has sent out a press release announcing the Kuwaiti government’s decision to “not deal with 50 companies due to their role in illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory.” These companies include many of the BDS movement’s primary targets such as Volvo, Heidelberg Cement, Dexia, Pizzarotti, Alstom and Veolia.
From the BDS movement press release:
The government of Kuwait has announced that it will not deal with 50 companies due to their role in illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory in a move being welcomed by campaigners as a landmark success for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.
The blacklisted companies include some of the top corporate targets of the BDS movement, such as Volvo, Heidelberg Cement, Dexia, Pizzarotti, Alstom as well as Veolia. Veolia was recently excluded from a $750m contract, and “all future contracts,” by Kuwaiti authorities over its role in the illegal Jerusalem Light Rail project and other projects that serve illegal Israeli settlements.
The blacklisted companies are expected to be excluded from contracts worth billions of dollars, especially if other Arab countries take similar steps.
According to media reports, the Kuwaiti Ministry of Commerce and Industry is also investigating the Kuwaiti operations of G4S, the British security company that secures Israeli military checkpoints and colonies and helps Israel run prisons at which Palestinian political prisoners are tortured, with a view to cancelling its license to operate if it does not terminate its participation in Israeli violations of international law.
Zaid Shuaibi, a spokesperson for the Palestinian BDS National Committee, the largest coalition of Palestinian trade unions, parties, NGOs and popular committees that leads the global BDS movement, said:
“This landmark decision means that international companies will now pay an even heavier price for participating in Israeli violations of international law.
“As European banks and pension funds continue to divest from Israel’s occupation and companies such as Veolia and G4S lose billions of dollars as a result of sustained, effective grassroots campaigning, many firms will now be wondering whether supporting Israel’s regime of occupation, colonialism and apartheid is good for business,” said Shuaibi.
Many European governments have taken steps to discourage firms from having economic links to the Israeli occupation of Gaza and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, but this is the first time a government has decided to boycott international companies over their role in illegal Israeli settlements.
The Kuwaiti move, which follows lobbying by the Palestinian BDS National Committee and its partners in Kuwait, implements a decision of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), taken at a summit of foreign ministers at the height of the Israeli massacre in Gaza in August, to “impose political and economic sanctions on Israel, and boycott the corporations that operate in the colonial settlements built on occupied Palestinian territory.”
The Arab Summit of 2006 in Khartoum unanimously called for punitive measures against the companies, including Veolia and Alstom, involved in Israel’s colonization of Jerusalem.
The BNC has been working closely with BDS Kuwait since 2010 on advocating for accountability measures against international corporations that are complicit in Israel’s violations of international law and Palestinian rights.
Omar Barghouti, a co-founder of the BDS movement and a member of the BNC secretariat, commented on this unprecedented BDS victory saying, “We warmly welcome this important decision in support of the Palestinian struggle for freedom, justice and self determination, and we urge the Kuwaiti government to implement it in full, including by cancelling any existing contracts with the blacklisted companies, as well as others that are also complicit, and ensuring that state money is not invested in any company, such as G4S, that enables Israel’s violations of Palestinian rights and international law.”
“In the wake of Israel’s massacre in Gaza, which was only made possible with the support of international governments and companies, we urge all governments, especially Arab League and OIC members, to impose sanctions on Israel and take action against the complicit corporations that profit from Israel’s occupation and crimes,” added Barghouti.