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New report documents ‘war crime of pillage’ by BDS target Ahava

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Dead Sea by David Shankbone
Dead Sea (Photo: David Shankbone)

new report by Palestinian human rights organization Al-Haq accuses Israel of “encouraging and facilitating the exploitation of Palestinian natural resources and actively assisting their pillaging by private actors” in the Dead Sea region of the occupied West Bank.


By financially subsidizing the Mitzpe Shalem settlement and permitting the extraction of Dead Sea mud by Ahava Dead Sea Laboratories Ltd., Israel enables these “primary perpetrators of the war crime of pillage,” placing it “openly in violation of its obligations as an Occupying Power in the OPT,” the document says.

The report, which has already attracted attention from media including the GuardianInter Press Service, and Australia’s Fairfax Media conglomerate, follows a chain of victories for the Stolen Beauty campaign against Ahava, part of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement, this year.

Over the summer, the United Methodist Church, the Presbyterian Church USA, and the United Church of Canada all voted to boycott Israeli settlement products, with Ahava highlighted as a prime offender at each denomination’s conference.

In July, Abigail Disney , a Roy E. Disney heiress and partner in Shamrock Holdings, an 18.5% Ahava shareholder, denounced the company.

“I cannot in good conscience profit from what is technically the ‘plunder’ or ‘pillage’ of occupied natural resources and the company’s situating its factory in an Israeli settlement in the Occupied West Bank,” Disney said.

“Because of complicated legal and financial constraints I am unable to withdraw my investment at this time, but will donate the corpus of the investment as well as the profits accrued to me during the term of my involvement to organizations working to end this illegal exploitation.”

Earlier in the year, a distributor in Japan and retail chain in Norway bowed to public pressure and removed Ahava from their inventories.

Ahava also faced public protests from British scientists and filmmakers, as well as European academics, who signed statements opposing collaboration with it by the Natural History Museum in London, European governments and universities, and the European Union.

The Al-Haq report echoes a similar one released in May by Who Profits, which traced Ahava’s supply chain to the occupied shores of the Dead Sea – and its profits to illegal settlers.

For campaigners, both publications are worth reading. Al-Haq’s is particularly useful for its overview of international law as it pertains to occupation, settlement, and pillage. A sample offers a brief corporate profile of Ahava (with footnotes and much more at the link):

The Israeli cosmetic company Ahava Dead Sea Laboratories Ltd. is located in the settlement  of  ‘Mitzpe Shalem,’ on the western shore of the Dead Sea in the OPT, and utilises the natural resources of the occupied territory. It is the only cosmetics company licensed by the Israeli government to mine mud in this area and offers an infinite range of products manufactured from the minerals and mud taken from occupied Dead Sea land next to the settlement.

The company, founded in 1988, does not manufacture for other companies or markets utilising other brands, and it entirely owns three international subsidiary companies in Germany, United Kingdom and United States. In 2007, Ahava’s annual revenue was 142 million USD. As of 2011, about 60 per cent of Ahava’s revenues were driven from exports mainly to European countries and the United States and the remaining 40 per cent from the Israeli market and tourism in the Dead Sea area.

Ahava’s shareholders also include Hamashbir Holdings (the investment fund of B. Gaon Holdings and the Livnat family), Shamrock Holdings (the investment fund of the Roy E. Disney family), which have 37 and 18.5 per cent of the shares, respectively.

Shamrock Holdings is involved in profiting from the Annexation Wall and its checkpoints through Orad Group, which manufactures electronic detection systems installed in fences as part of the Wall. In addition, the company also supplies Siemens traffic control systems for roads in the OPT on which only Israelis are allowed to travel, and Orad Group’s CCTV systems monitor the Old City  in occupied East Jerusalem.

Ahava Dead Sea Laboratories Ltd. also runs a visitor centre for tourism and sales promotion in ‘Mitzpe Shalem.’ Ahava generates approximately five times more revenue than all comparable Jordanian companies producing and trading Dead Sea products.

The settlements of  ‘Mitzpe Shalem’  and  ‘Kalia’  directly benefit from the exploitation of Palestinian natural resources, holding 37 and 7.5 per cent of Ahava’s shares, respectively. Ahava receives numerous tax benefits from the Israeli government, as most of the companies located in settlements in the OPT, but the taxes and revenues paid by the company to Israel do not benefit the occupied Palestinian population.

Ahava Dead Sea Laboratories Ltd. invests considerably in research and development on the therapeutic effects of Dead Sea minerals and mud on human skin. The company is working in close cooperation with many scientific Israeli and European centres and taking part in numerous EU funded research projects. In 2011, the company received 1.13 million EUR as financial contributions for its participation in a number of projects sponsored by the European Seventh Framework Programme for Research and Development (FP7). 

Ahava is currently the coordinator of the ‘Skin Treat’ project for the development of customised skin treatments and services and partner in the ‘NanoReTox’ project studying the risks of nanoparticles to the environment and its effects on human health. In addition, Ahava has also joined in the ‘Nanother’ project, whose main objective is to develop and characterise a novel nanoparticle system that will be used as a therapeutic agent or diagnosis tool for certain types of cancer.

Joe Catron

Joe Catron is a US activist in Gaza, Palestine, where he works with Palestinian groups and international solidarity networks, particularly in support of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) and prisoners' movements. He co-edited The Prisoners' Diaries: Palestinian Voices from the Israeli Gulag, an anthology of accounts by detainees freed in the 2011 prisoner exchange, blogs at and tweets at @jncatron.

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22 Responses

  1. Eva Smagacz on September 3, 2012, 2:11 pm

    Oh, please, you just don’t understand “realities on the ground” the way Israel’s Supreme Court does.
    Such outlandish words like pillage and plunder belong to old world order, when now the new world order belongs to Israel and they decide what it is.

    • talknic on September 4, 2012, 2:59 am

      From the Guardian article ” international law must be adapted to the “reality on the ground” of long-term occupation”

      Problem, there’s no such article in International Law, convention or UN Charter chapt. Israel’s Supreme Court appear to be lying. Lying is against the basic tenets of Judaism. Remind me, why call Israel the Jewish State?

      • NickJOCW on September 4, 2012, 10:17 am

        Americans are largely unfamiliar with irony in their media. The Guardian‘s report is pitched at the impression readers will share for so preposterous an Israeli pronouncement; such a dispassionate account is actually more damning than an editorial attack.

  2. HarryLaw on September 3, 2012, 2:26 pm

    Here in the UK Ahava and the largest Corporation operating in OPT Sodastream Ahava would appear to be in breach of the Cosmetic products [safety] Regulations 2008 section 12 [1] that regulation reads ” No person shall supply a cosmetic product unless the container and packaging displays the following in indelible, easily legible and visible lettering — inter alia “Where the cosmetic product is manufactured outside the EEA, the country of origin must also be specified”. [ The EEA is the European Union Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein.] I’m not sure how many European countries use “must” in their transposed regulations since the original Euro directive only said “may” but starting on 11 July 2013 as per Regulation [EC] No 1223/2009 the European Parliament on Cosmetic products Regulation require all European Countries, quoting Article 19 [on labeling] which states inter alia ” The country of origin shall be specified for imported cosmetic products”; Because AhavaUK Ltd put “Made by Ahava Dead Sea Laboratories Ltd, Dead Sea, Israel”. on their products this would appear to be a clear case of false country of origin, they are also in breach of the Consumer Protection From Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 [CPUTR] Regulation 5[2][a] false country of origin. In the case of Sodastream Their Main manufacturing base which manufactures their carbonating devices is in Mishor Edomin in OPT, yet they put in Hebrew on their labels “Produced by Soda Club, Gilboa street, Airport City Ben Gurion Airport 70100, Israel”. Which is a false country of origin Under the rules of the European Community generalised system of preference {GSP] the EC determine where goods originate i,e, not where they have been shipped from, but where they are deemed to have been manufactured.This company was involved in the European Court of Justice case in 2010 Brita GmbH v Hauptzollamp Hamberg – Hafen, case No C-386/08 25:02:2010, the verdict was goods manufactured in the West Bank Settlements cannot be considered made in Israel. In my opinion both Companies are committing criminal offences every day, For my part I have had communications with various Trading standards teams and it is quite clear they do not know the law or more likely do not want to prosecute, fortunately in this instance they are not the only people who can prosecute I attended Wirral Magistrates court on the False country of origin claim by AhavaUK ltd [Gloucester] earlier in the year as a “Litigant in person” as I am able to under the Prosecution of offenders act 1985 section 6. this is on hold while I find out the definitive reasons why the relevant Trading Standards Teams will not prosecute , I am at present waiting for a reply from Gloucester Trading Standards Dept on their opinion on this regulation and whether they are going to enforce it, my local trading standards team had a guess here….”No doubt the company will argue that they believe themselves to be in Israel and have therefore satisfied the requirement, however as the territory is disputed the sensible course of action would be to refer to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs guidance on voluntary labeling of produce”. Therefore they have decided to refer the matter to the Trading Standards Dept where the HQ of Ahava are located in Gloucester, in my opinion Gloucester TS had better come up with something better than that opinion, by the way the DEFRA said in 2010 “The Government considers that traders would be misleading consumers, and would therefore almost be certainly committing an offence, if they were to declare produce from the OPT [including from the West Bank] as “produce of Israel”, this would apply irrespective of whether the produce was from a Palestinian Producer or from an Israeli settlement in the OPT, this is because the area does not fall within the Internationally recognised borders of Israel [DEFRA guidelines 2010]. I await the reply from Gloucester

  3. Blake on September 3, 2012, 2:49 pm

    Shows how much “love” they have for the land. They have completely ruined the countryside and have plundered the natural resources for profit.

    • seafoid on September 3, 2012, 4:25 pm

      That is so true, blake. It goes right back to the start when they planted European pines over the destroyed Palestinian villages. Switzerland was what they wanted. sophistication and no memory of what was there before. The trees are now fireballs. Like the Zionists, they don’t belong.

      “Hidden Jews of Poland connect with their roots” in Israel

      You couldn’t make it up . It is so deluded.

      Onto the rivers and how they polluted them. 4 Australians died after falling into the Yarkon sewer during the Maccabiah games.

      Then the settlements and how they drove roads through incredibly fragile valleys to remake Florida in the Levant.

      The only surviving dune systems on the coast are near Ashkelon and threatened with ‘development’.

      Ironically it is the Bedouin they oppress who know more than they do about the ecosystems of Erez Israel. But the bots believe in tech and conquering nature.

      And I don’t see how Ahava can survive long term. Beauty and the rape of natural resources don’t make a good marketing combo. And the most vehement US Zionists are past cosmetics…

  4. seafoid on September 3, 2012, 4:28 pm

    The Dead Sea itself is shrinking because of all the water Israel takes out of the Jordan river system.

    • Mayhem on September 3, 2012, 7:43 pm

      @seafoid, if you had bothered to read your posting you would see that it says nothing to support your biased assertion that Israel is solely responsible for the drying up of the Dead Sea.

      Ninety-five per cent of its waters have been diverted by Israel, by Syria, by Jordan, so that what’s left in the Jordan River – a river holy to half of humanity – is little more than agriculture runoff, fish farm waste and, mostly, untreated sewage waters

      Israel is a world leader in water conservation but that doesn’t interest you I’m sure.

      • Inanna on September 4, 2012, 1:06 am

        You must have no sense of irony at all. Israel is certainly a world leader in making sure that Palestinians in the OPT (and some within the 1967 border) conserve as much water as possible and that the conserved water goes to populations within the Green Line and settlers.

      • seafoid on September 4, 2012, 5:24 am

        Israel is a joke, Mayhem. How many pools does a Jew only town like Maaleh adumim have ?

        The settlers consume 6 times more water per head than the Aravim.
        you know that.

  5. Mayhem on September 3, 2012, 8:04 pm

    Would the Palestinians consider being pro-active instead of reactive for a change by establishing their own cosmetics business?The Jordanians have tried but don’t seem to have the nouse.

    • Light on September 3, 2012, 8:59 pm

      Mayhem, how proactive? Perhaps proactive as in building houses and schools which the Israeli authorities demolish. Do you really think the Palestinians can build factories while living under military rule?

    • MLE on September 4, 2012, 12:07 am

      Well in that case, let’s tell the people in Zimbabwe that they should totally be proactive by setting up businesses in ivory trading- those tusks are being totally unproductive attatched to those elephants.

      The Dead Sea is at the point where it needs to be preserved.

      Israelis are part of this incredibly ethnocentric mindset where the local populations don’t know how to properly exploit their land, so they should turn over possession to Europeans who better know how to handle things. Palestinians had a primarily agricultural based society, but Zionists claim they “made the desert bloom” through wide scale irrigation , stemming from….. The Jordan River? If Ahava were a Palestinian company, you can bet the Israelis would be tripping all over the,selves blaming them for the destruction of such a natural treasure. The whole operation would have been shut down years ago.

    • Inanna on September 4, 2012, 1:21 am

      You are under some misapprehension that Palestinians have freedom of movement in the OPT. Go dress yourself as a Palestinian in the OPT and see just how are you can get.

      You are also under the misapprehension that somehow the occupation itself is benign and does not stand in the way of innovation and enterprise in the OPT. Try reading a few economic reports put out by the World Bank and see just how wrong you are.

      You are also under the misapprehension that there’s something about Jordanians that precludes them from establishing cosmetics businesses. This ‘nouse’ that you speak of – is it something that Israelis (Jews) possess and Jordanians don’t?Perhaps you have some superior knowledge about ethnic or racial foundations to ‘nouse’ in money-making that you wish to share with us? Preferably of a non-racist kind?

      But I must congratulate you on making such glaringly ignorant and racist comments with such parsimony of words!

      • Mayhem on September 4, 2012, 9:18 am

        @Inana, I am under no misapprehension. The Jordanians have tried but it has not been a success. I am only saying how it is.

      • Inanna on September 5, 2012, 12:12 am

        Re-read my comment Mayhem. I don’t question the veracity of your claims. What I question is the reason why. But I guess you just can’t see your own racism, can you?

    • Eva Smagacz on September 4, 2012, 2:05 am

      Mayhem, and having build factories (feat in itself with non existent building permits), how would they know that the whim of their Lords and Masters will not deprive them of imported parts/ingredients, any chance of exporting what they produce and that some casual missile/bulldozer/brand new closed military zone caper will not nullify all their effort?

  6. seafoid on September 4, 2012, 5:25 am

    Ahava is like Jaffa. Palestinian assets sequestered and turned into brands that benefit the bots. But I wonder how long they can keep it going for. Ahava my doubts.

  7. gracie fr on September 4, 2012, 11:10 am

    An important 2007 essay by Professor Neve Gordon succeeds in
    clarifying the stealing of natural resources out from under the Palestinians feet…

    By the colonisation principle I mean a form of government whereby the
    coloniser attempts to manage the lives of the colonised inhabitants while
    exploiting the captured territory’s resources. Colonial powers do not
    conquer for the sake of imposing administrative rule on the indigenous
    population, but they end up managing the conquered inhabitants in order to
    facilitate the extraction of resources….. The colonisation principle thus incorporates some type of separation principle, which one might call the first separation principle. Levi Eshkol,
    Israel’s prime minister in 1967, clearly articulated this separation principle
    during a Labor Party meeting that took place three months after the war and
    in which he discussed the consequences of Israel’s military victory. He turned
    to Golda Meir, who was then the party’s general secretary, and said: ‘I
    understand . . . you covet the dowry, but not the bride’. The dowry was the
    land that Israel occupied in June 1967, and the bride was the Palestinian

    If one reads the eight different Oslo agreements the Israelis and
    Palestinians signed over the years, not as part of a peace process (ie the
    way they were presented to the public), but rather as texts that depict the
    modification or replacement of existing controlling technologies, in an
    attempt to outsource responsibility for the occupied population to a
    Palestinian Authority (PA), the strategy Israel adopted becomes clear.
    Instead of reaching a settlement about the withdrawal of Israeli power, the
    Oslo agreements actually stipulated, in unambiguous language, how Israel’s
    power would be reorganised in three distinct spheres—the civil institutions,
    the economy and law enforcement. In exchange for providing Israel an array
    of services, Israel offered the fledgling PA some sort of truncated sovereignty
    over the occupied people, while it, in turn, continued to control most of the
    occupied land. The overarching logic informing the different agreements is
    straightforward: transfer all responsibilities relating to the management of
    the population to the Palestinians themselves while preserving control of
    Palestinian space.

    The partition of space and the reorganisation of power were intricately
    tied. Oslo divided the West Bank into Areas A, B and C, as well as H1 and
    H2 in Hebron and Yellow and White Areas in Gaza.35 Areas A, B and C
    determined the distribution of power in the West Bank by creating internal
    boundaries. These boundaries produced a series of new ‘insides’ and
    ‘outsides’ within the Occupied Territories, each one with its own specific
    laws and regulations. While in all three areas the PA assumed full
    responsibility over the civil institutions, in Area A, which in 1995 amounted

    The partition of space and the reorganisation of power were intricately
    tied. Oslo divided the West Bank into Areas A, B and C, as well as H1 and
    H2 in Hebron and Yellow and White Areas in Gaza.35 Areas A, B and C
    determined the distribution of power in the West Bank by creating internal
    boundaries. These boundaries produced a series of new ‘insides’ and
    ‘outsides’ within the Occupied Territories, each one with its own specific
    laws and regulations. While in all three areas the PA assumed full
    responsibility over the civil institutions, in Area A, which in 1995 amounted to 3% of the West Bank’s land and 26% of its population, the PA was given
    full responsibility for maintaining law and order. In Area B, which amounted
    to 24% of the land and 70% of the population, the PA was handed
    responsibility for public order, but Israel maintained overriding responsibility
    for security and in Area C, which comprised 73% of the land and 4%
    of the population, Israel retained full responsibility for security and public
    order as well as for civil issues relating to territory (planning and zoning,
    archaeology, etc). Thus in 1995 the PA was responsible for managing all of
    the Palestinian inhabitants, but had full control of only 3% of the West
    Bank’s land (ie the cities Jenin, Nablus, Tulkarem, Qalqilya, Ramallah,
    Bethlehem and Jericho). By 2000, following a series of agreements, the
    18%, Area B 22% and Area C 64%.36 Area A was divided into 11 separate
    clusters, Area B was made up of 120 clusters, while the 64% that constituted
    Area C was contiguous. The areas in which the Palestinians had full control
    were like an archipelago of sorts, while the areas controlled by Israel were strategic corridors that interrupted the territorial contiguity of the West Bank. Thus the division of space within the Occupied Territories not only determined the distribution of certain powers, but also allowed Israel to maintain the distinction between the Palestinian population and their land.

    Wittingly or unwittingly the specific organisation of space and the transfer
    of authority over civil institutions to the PA reflects the beginning of a
    transformation from the principle of colonisation to the principle of
    separation, where the latter does not mean the termination of control but
    rather its alteration from a system based on managing the lives of the
    occupied inhabitants to a system which is no longer interested in the lives of
    the Palestinian residents. Consequently Israel no longer provides any kind of
    ‘account’ of the conditions under which the Palestinians are living. One
    important manifestation of this change is that the Israeli Bureau of Statistics
    has stopped monitoring any development pertaining to the Palestinian
    population in the Occupied Territories. Another manifestation involves
    Israel’s relation to the law. If up until September 2000 Israel controlled the
    occupied inhabitants primarily through the application of multiple legal
    frameworks—including, to be sure, the enforcement of draconian laws that
    both legalised the incarceration of thousands of political prisoners and
    permitted deportations, house demolitions, torture, extended curfews and
    other forms of collective punishment—one of the most striking characteristics
    of the second intifada, alongside the separation principle, is the
    extensive suspension of the law.

  8. Blake on September 5, 2012, 6:13 pm

    South Africa Zionist Federation takes anti-Israel measure to court
    The South African Zionist Federation decided to play hardball after realizing that negotiating with Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies would lead nowhere.

    JOHANNESBURG – Nearly two weeks after South Africa’s government adopted a regulation to label goods produced in the West Bank as originating from the “Israeli Occupied Territories,” it has emerged that the country’s Zionist Federation decided long before then to take the issue to a Pretoria court.

    The South African Jewish community was outraged by the cabinet’s decision on August 22 to ratify the measure first proposed on May 10 by Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies. His office placed a notice in the Government Gazette (where all government business is published), saying it wants merchants “not to incorrectly label products that originate from the Occupied Palestinian Territories as products of Israel.” The regulation also holds merchants responsible for identifying the provenance of products they sell.

    Yet it has come to light in recent days that while some Jewish groups made a submission to parliament in response to the notice, the South African Zionist Federation has been quietly working on taking the matter to court, in an attempt to have the measure declared fatally flawed (legally-speaking), and therefore invalid.

    The South African Zionist Federation and importers of Ahava – one of the companies singled out in the government’s notice to label Israeli-made goods produced beyond the Green Line – launched a court application on July 5.

    Their application avoids dealing with the bigger political issues at hand – the labeling or boycott of Israeli-made goods – and instead focuses on technical aspects of Minister Davies’ notice, which the Zionist Federation’s attorneys said were deficient.

    Avrom Krengel, chairman of the South African Zionist Federation, said that the technical legal approach might ensure that the matter is heard relatively soon, possibly before the end of the year. If the notice that launched the labeling is invalidated, the entire process that followed would also be nullified, said Krengel.

    Krengel explained that after South African Zionist Federation realized that Davies was playing hardball on the issue, his group resolved to eschew negotiation with the minister, whose meeting with Jewish community leaders was not cordial, and to return fire with fire.

    “It seemed clear that we weren’t going to get anywhere by talking to the minister, so we took [our lawyer’s] advice and decided to let the courts deal with the issue,” Krengel said.

    The South African Zionist Federation has joined a number of other organizations that have found it necessary to “go to the law” if they want action, or a reaction, from the government. There has been an increasing trend over the last two years to take contentious matters to court. One of the best-known cases happened about two months ago, when the NGO Section 17 successfully sued the Basic Education Ministry because of its inability to deliver textbooks on time to schoolchildren in the Limpopo province.

    Meanwhile, the Zionist Federation and Ahava importers are basing their action on three claims: They allege that the government notice was badly drafted, in terms of stipulations outlined by the consumer protection act (CPA). They also claim that Minister Davies used a “general” notice to deal with a specific complaint (that goods from the “occupied territories” are not labeled as such). The plaintiffs argue that, in legal terms, such an action – not letting the national consumer commission deal with the specific matter in the first place – is legally “incompetent.”

    The petitioners also claim that the minister’s notice is “unconstitutionally vague,” meaning that it is impossible to ascertain from it precisely which issue he is trying to remedy. In addition, they argue that the minister has no right to place the onus of labeling certain goods on the “traders.”

    The Zionist Federation’s Krengel said that as a result of the litigation process, his organization has been given access to documents in the general “file” on the issue of labeling Israeli-made products from the West Bank.

    “Interestingly, it would appear from certain correspondence, from the head of the [pro-Palestinian] NGO Open Shuhada Street to the minister, in which this person ‘extends his deepest thanks to the minister regarding agreement on Ahava products’ – it would appear that this whole business was a done deal by the middle of December 2010,” Krengel said. “All that we have been going through is bureaucratic posturing. Not very democratic, was it?”

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