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BDS Victories: Online retailer drops Ahava; Kuwait boycotts companies with settlement ties

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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.


Nancy Kricorian
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 VolvoHeidelberg Cement, DexiaPizzarotti, 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.

About Adam Horowitz

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13 Responses

  1. michelle
    October 29, 2014, 1:05 pm

    oh oh oh
    this is good news
    is there an ever growing list for public access (here)
    of where not to shop and what not to buy
    (the stores and items that support illegal trade)
    and maybe another list
    of the best ‘shops’ ever
    (the ones that support justice and humanity)
    G-d Bless

    • michelle
      October 29, 2014, 1:22 pm

      add in
      schools ‘churchs’ charities ….
      support just and human choices
      the places that are active against justice & humanity
      need to be addressed/properly educated
      G-d Bless

    • amigo
      October 29, 2014, 2:54 pm

      “Is there an ever growing list for public access (here)
      of where not to shop and what not to buy
      (the stores and items that support illegal trade) “Michelle.

      The BDS site has a comprehensive list of “Contraband ” and the names of companies selling it.

      You can also download a Bar-code scanner app for both Android and Apple that allows you to determine where any given product originates.

      I don,t have a link but if you just google “Barcode scanner app ” it should get you what you may want.

  2. Kay24
    October 29, 2014, 1:58 pm

    Good job BDS. I am however disappointed that these Arab nations still have dealings with the occupier, surely if they all banded together (if that is possible) and boycotted ALL Israeli products it would send a stronger message and hit Israel where it hurts most.

    • Maximus Decimus Meridius
      Maximus Decimus Meridius
      October 29, 2014, 4:16 pm

      All of the Gulf states have relations with Israel. Some – notably the UAE – aren’t even trying to hide it anymore. I used to live in the region and was shocked by how many Caterpiller bulldozers I saw on the many building sites in Gulf cities. And these are the same countries which organised mass demonstrations against little Denmark because of a few cartoons. The biggest supermarket chain in KSA still refuses to stock Lurkpak butter and other Danish products because of the Mohammed cartoons.

      • Kay24
        October 30, 2014, 5:56 am

        I am surprised that these Arab nations are so indifferent to the Palestinian issue, that they would use caterpillar bulldozers and other boycotted products for their convenience. What is wrong with these Arab nations? They show a double standard, and yes get all upset about a cartoon, but still prefers to sleep with the devil.

        I agree with Walid that ALL products associated with the occupier must be boycotted. Enough is enough.

    • Walid
      October 30, 2014, 1:39 am

      “… 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.”

      Real victories will be when settlements will start to decamp. Going after companies located in settlements or are doing business with settlements is not much more than nipping at Israel’s ankles and being an overall pain in its ass. I agree with you that ALL Israeli products should be boycotted. Going after settlements stuff is weak-hearted that will take 72 years to achieve anything substantial. The worse offenders in dealing with the bad guys are the Arab states so don’t look to see any worthwhile BDS effort from them other than some token moves, as with Kuwait, to keep the natives from becoming restless.

  3. Sycamores
    October 29, 2014, 2:12 pm

    i’m not sure has this been mention already but Sodastream is moving its West Bank factory to the Negev in 2015. of course the company is saying it’s for commercial reasons and nothing to do with the BDS movement.,7340,L-4585841,00.html

  4. amigo
    October 29, 2014, 2:46 pm

    “These companies include many of the BDS movement’s primary targets such as Volvo, Heidelberg Cement, Dexia, Pizzarotti, Alstom and Veolia.”

    Thanks very much for this.I was considering buying a Volvo just this week.I can now reduce my search options .

  5. American
    October 29, 2014, 2:56 pm

    Why not start a movement to boycott all Israel products not just the settlements.
    Israel is responsible for the settlements.

  6. Krauss
    October 29, 2014, 3:21 pm

    Annie, Adam, et al.

    Have you guys seen this?,7340,L-4585841,00.html

    Sodastream moving its facilities out of the occupied areas. Because “boycotts don’t work”.

    • Walid
      October 30, 2014, 1:10 am

      Nothing to get excited about; SodaStream moving out of one settlement and into another newly created one by the displacement of the Bedouins in the Negev. Meanwhile, Ma’aleh Adumin with its 40,000 squatters continues to thrive. There’s undoubtedly a substantial incentive package offered by the Israeli Government for the move to the Negev to develop a settlement there and provide jobs for settlers. Anyone giving a thought to the hundreds of Palestinians that work at the Ma’aleh Adumin plant?

      It’s Israel itself that must be boycotted for establishing and maintaining settlements.

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