Ahava factory and visitor’s center in the Mitzpe Shalem settlement, October 2010
(Photo: CODEPINK via Who Profits)
European Union (EU) guidelines on Israeli settlements have nixed the cosmetics company Ahava’s participation in a research project. The profitable Israeli firm will no longer receive EU funding because its main factory is located in an settlement near the Dead Sea.
Ahava won’t obtain $8.25 million in EU cash it was expecting for a skin care project because of new rules on settlements scheduled to go into effect in 2014, according to a report by Bloomberg’s Jonathan Ferziger & David Wainer. The SuperFlex project was meant to create skin care products for the elderly, and two-thirds of the funding for the project came from the EU. It was set to begin next month.
In July 2013, the European Union announced that “grants, prizes or financial instruments” will not be given to Israeli entities in the West Bank. The guidelines are only binding on the EU, though, and not on member states. While the economic impact of the rules are limited, and occupation critics point out that the whole Israeli economy is tied to the settlements, Ahava is one company that will feel the heat from the EU policy.
In a statement to Bloomberg, though, Ahava said that “the EU’s decision does not concern Ahava.”
The move to cut Ahava off from EU money comes despite the the company having executives and researchers within Israel proper. According to Eness Elias, a member of the Who Profits? project, Ahava opened a lab in Ein Gedi, Israel in 2009 and expanded it in 2012. The company’s headquarters are also located within the Green Line, in Holon. But its main factory is located in the settlement of Mitzpe Shalem, which owns 37 percent of the company, and other shareholders in the company are also deeply implicated in Israel’s settlement project.
“We had feared that Ahava’s ploy of relocating its executives and research staff out of the West Bank while its manufacturing facility remained at the illegal settlement of Mitzpe Shalem would allow the company to continue feeding at the EU trough,” Nancy Kricorian, the coordinator for Code Pink’s anti-Ahava Stolen Beauty campaign, told me in an e-mail. “We are heartened by this [Bloomberg] report that the EU settlement exclusion clause and concomitant sanctions will be applied to Ahava and its settlement profiteering.” Ahava has been the target of an international boycott campaign due to its settlement links.
While Ahava’s participation in the SuperFlex project will get the ax, another EU-funded project with Ahava will continue to get funding. David Kriss, the spokesman for the EU in Israel, said in an e-mail that “existing projects” are “going ahead.” The EU is currently funding the SmartNano project, an effort to “develop an innovative, cost-effective technology platform” for research into nanoparticles and their effect on consumer products. Ahava is one of seven participants in the project, which started in June 2012 and will end in 2016.
The company, which made $160 million last year, has long benefited from EU-funded projects. But the EU’s new settlement guidelines could mean an end to Ahava’s close relationship with the union.