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Canadian retailer ‘The Bay’ drops AHAVA Cosmetics

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Update (6:00 pm):

As the day comes to a close on the East Coast, the Ahava-Bay plot thickens. Check this out:

Here is a joint statement that has been issued by UJA Federation of Greater Toronto and Moshe Ronen, National Chair, Canada Israel Committee and Bonnie Brooks, CEO, The Bay:

Last week, after a regularly-scheduled review of the products it offers, the Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC) discontinued sales of AHAVA beauty products, primarily because of sales results which had been declining for several years.

Although this decision was made by HBC solely for commercial reasons, it occurred at the same time as an aggressive campaign by several groups advocating a boycott of AHAVA products. At no point did political considerations enter into the exercise of HBC’s business judgment. HBC has made it clear that it has not “bowed to political pressure” in the past, has not done so now and will not do so in the future. HBC neither subscribes to nor endorses politically-motivated boycotts of merchandise from countries with which Canada has open and established trading relationships, including Israel.

AHAVA products will soon be reformulated and redesigned as a totally changed brand. The new AHAVA products will be ready by mid-spring and are planned to be re-launched at HBC stores across Canada. We encourage consumers across Canada to purchase those products as soon as they are available.

Declining sales? Revamped brand? Looks as though we’re having an impact. And since when is it apolitical to support an occupation and the corporations that violate international law within it, and political to support human rights? It’s a little too cozy for comfort that Hudson’s Bay Company has saddled up with the buycott movement (http://www.cicweb.ca/) to put out their statement. Then again, Hudson’s Bay Company is also best known for early colonization of Canada and at one point was the largest land owner in the world, controlling 15% of North American acreage. Bottom line: The boycott movement is gaining momentum and creating quite a stir in Canada and elsewhere.

Original post:

Yesterday was quite a lively day!  On January 12th, representatives of Canadian retailer The Bay acknowledged that the chain was no longer carrying cosmetics products from the Israeli company Ahava Dead Sea Laboratories, but said the “de-listing” was purely a business decision and not in response to any organized boycott. Whatever the reason for the decision, the Stolen Beauty (www.stolenbeauty.org) Ahava boycott campaign and human rights supporters around the world applaud the fact that The Bay will no longer be supporting Ahava and its occupation profiteering.

In January 2011, Canadians for Just Peace in the Middle East (CJPME, http://www.cjpme.org/) selected Ahava Dead Sea Laboratories settlement products as their consumer boycott target for the month. Previously Tadamon (http://www.tadamon.ca/) had organized protest actions against Ahava at The Bay in Montreal.

In response to the announced CJPME month-long boycott of Ahava, a local coalition calling itself “Buycott Israel” (http://buycottisrael.ca/alerts/actions/urgent-buycott-israel-alert-shop-ahava-at-the-bay/), apparently including such partners as the Canada-Israel Committee and The B’nai B’rith of Canada, called for January 11th to be a day on which its members would purchase Ahava products. When the “buycotters” arrived at The Bay’s retail outlets, they discovered that shelves were bare of Ahava.

We are encouraging supporters of the boycott to send thank you notes to The Bay’s President and CEO Bonnie Brooks, Chairman Richard Baker, and Director of Beauty Products Shelley Rozenwald (see http://bit.ly/hO9HG5).

So what’s wrong with Ahava products?

Ahava has been the subject of an international boycott campaign since June 2009 because the company manufactures its products in an illegal Israeli settlement in the West Bank.  Ahava Dead Sea Laboratories is an Israeli cosmetics company that has its manufacturing plant and visitors center near the shores of the Dead Sea in the illegal Israeli settlement of Mitzpe Shalem in the Occupied Palestinian West Bank. All Israeli settlements in the West Bank are illegal under international law. The company is 44% owned by Mitzpe Shalem and another settlement, Kalia, so that the company’s profits are subsidizing these illegal colonies. Although its goods are manufactured in the West Bank, Ahava labels them as “products of Israel,” a practice that is illegal under European Union law and is currently being investigated in the UK and Holland.

The growing influence of the international boycott campaign

Since its launch in July 2009, the Stolen Beauty Ahava Boycott has scored a number of successes. The first victory came after pressure on Oxfam, an international human rights organization, which had publicly condemned all Israeli settlement products, to suspend its Goodwill Ambassador Kristin Davis from publicity work for the duration of her contract as Ahava spokeswoman. Davis, best known for her work on HBO’s Sex and the City, allowed her contract with Ahava to expire a few months later. Abroad, coalition partners in London engaged the UK’s Camden Trading Standards Office to investigate the legality of Ahava’s labeling. Dutch activists and a Minister of the Parliament succeeded in convincing the Dutch Foreign Ministry to launch its own investigation of Ahava’s business methods. Partners in Paris have recently filed suit against the cosmetics chain Sephora for carrying Ahava products.

Part of a growing international movement

Modeled on the worldwide campaign against apartheid-era South Africa, the movement for Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel was created in 2005 in response to Israel’s many violations of Palestinian rights.  The BDS movement has grown and achieved significant successes, particularly following Israel’s assault on the Gaza Strip in 2009, which killed over 1400 Palestinians. The Stolen Beauty campaign is a part of this growing international movement.  Ahava means love in Hebrew, but there is no love in occupation. The Stolen Beauty Boycott is a part of the grassroots effort to bring about a just peace for both Israelis and Palestinians.

Nancy Kricorian is a writer and activist in New York, she is the campaign manager for CODEPINK‘s Stolen Beauty Ahava boycott (www.stolenbeauty.org) and can be reached at nancy[at]stolenbeauty.org.

Rae Abileah is a Jewish-American of Israeli descent and is a national organizer with CODEPINK and the Stolen Beauty Ahava boycott.  She lives in San Francisco, CA and can be reached at rae@codepink.org.

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