Israel accused of pillaging Dead Sea resources in occupied territory

Dead Sea

Israel is “pillaging” the natural resources of the Dead Sea which lie in occupied Palestinian territory in violation of international law, a report which singles out the cosmetics firm Ahava for criticism.

According to the Palestinian human rights organisation al-Haq, the “appropriation and exploitation of Palestinian land and natural resources in the occupied Dead Sea area by Israeli settlers and companies … meet the requirements of the crime of pillage”.

Its report, Pillage of the Dead Sea, says Israeli restrictions on planning and movement “have severely hampered the ability of Palestinians to use and access their land and other natural resources in the region. The presence of settlers who directly utilise and profit from the Dead Sea wealth has severely exacerbated this situation and contributed to the over-exploitation of the area, resulting in severe environmental damage.”

Almost two-thirds of the western shore of the Dead Sea lies within the West Bank, which Israel has occupied since 1967. The remaining area is in Israel, and the eastern shore is in Jordan. At the lowest point on Earth, 410 metres below sea level, the inland sea is a magnet for tourists keen to float in its salt-saturated waters and for industries which extract its minerals.

Ahava Dead Sea Laboratories, which manufactures and markets beauty products based on Dead Sea minerals and mud, is located within the Israeli settlement of Mitzpe Shalem in the West Bank. It is licensed by the Israeli government to mine Dead Sea raw materials. According to al-Haq, almost 45% of its shares are owned by Mitzpe Shalem and another Israeli settlement on the Dead Sea shore, Kalia.

Within two decades of its launch in 1988, Ahava’s annual global sales had reached almost $150m (£95m). The company has been the target of boycott campaigns by anti-settlement activists, which contributed to its decision to close its store in Covent Garden, London, a year ago.

The al-Haq report says Ahava is “unlawfully utilising the Palestinian natural resources of the Dead Sea area for its own economic profits and therefore can be considered directly responsible for the pillage of the occupied territory’s natural resources in clear violation of customary international law”.

However, in a letter circulated in 2010, Ahava said: “The mud and minerals used in Ahava’s cosmetic products are not excavated in an occupied area. The minerals are mined in the Israeli part of the Dead Sea, which is undisputed internationally.”

Ahava did not respond to a request for comment on the al-Haq report.

The land along the Dead Sea shore was classified as “Area C” in the 1993 Oslo accords, in which Israel has full military and administrative control. Much of the land has been declared or registered as “state land”, which has “dispossessed Palestinians of extensive portions of the Dead Sea land, effectively depriving them of the possibility of benefiting from [its] natural resources,” according to the report.

Al-Haq says “Israel is openly in violation of its obligations under international and humanitarian law as an occupying power … because it is encouraging and facilitating the exploitation of Palestinian natural resources and actively assisting their pillaging by private actors.” It cites The Hague regulations and the statute of the international criminal court.

In a statement, the Israeli foreign ministry said that, under the Oslo accords, Israel had territorial jurisdiction that includes land, subsoil and territorial waters in Area C. It “therefore would be entitled to licence a company to excavate mud in that area if it chose to do so”.

The al-Haq report calls on the European Union to adopt restrictions on the import of Israeli products originating from settlements, and urges cosmetic retailers to provide clear information about the origin of products they sell to allow consumers to make an informed choice about purchases.

Israel accused of pillaging Dead Sea resources in occupied territory

Ahava finally closes its doors in London

Ahava store in London shut down 021010

Cosmetics company Ahava is finally to close its controversial Covent Garden store this week, and manager Odelia Haroush said that the company had no plans to move elsewhere in the city, at least for the foreseeable future.

Demonstrations by pro-Palestinian activists have dogged the store for years. Protesters claim the products sold in the store are manufactured in a factory in Mitzpe Shalom, an Israeli settlement.

In April this year, a judge ruled that four activists who chained themselves to concrete blocks inside the Ahava shop were illegally trespassing. The four arged that Ahava was committing “war crimes” by selling products from the West Bank.

Owners of the surrounding stores in Seven Dials complained to the landlord Shaftesbury PLC that the repeated protests were affecting their business. A pro-Israeli group also held fortnightly counter- demonstrations, which attracted renewed controversy when members of the English Defence League turned up, unasked, and joined in the demonstrations in support of Ahava.

Shaftesbury PLC eventually refused to renew Ahava’s lease.

Lawyer Anthony Julius of Mishcon de Reya, who is also chairman of the JC, confirmed that he had held preliminary discussions with Ahava about trying to seek an injunction against the protests, but he said that the company did not follow through.

It had been thought that the store would seek new premises in north London, but Ms Haroush now says they have no concrete plans to do so, despite telling the JC in March that it was very important to the Israeli company to have a presence in the UK. “It’s not just about making money,” she said.

Jonathan Hoffman, co-vice chair of the Zionist Federation, has led counter-demonstrations in support of the shop every fortnight for the last 15 months.

He said: “The closure of the shop is very bad news but it has to be said that Ahava has done little to help itself in the face of a sustained campaign of hate against it. Neither has there been any support from politicians for a legitimate business, which was hounded out of London, as if it were Berlin in the 1930s.

“The aim of the delegitimisers in the UK is nothing less than a complete eradication of Israeli-owned businesses and Israelis.”

Ahava finally closes its doors in London

Protests drive Ahava out of Covent Garden


The UKbranch of Israeli cosmetics store, Ahava, is moving from its central London shop after years of pro-Palestinian demonstrations.

Protesters claim that the products sold in the store are manufactured in a factory in Israeli settlement, Mitzpe Shalom in the West Bank but are “misleadingly” labelled as produced in Israel.

The owner of the shop, currently in Monmouth Street, Covent Garden, is looking for other sites after owners of neighbouring stores complained to the landlord following protests.

Supporters claim it has been “chased out” of its location by regular “noisy and intimidating” demonstrations.

A spokeswoman for Shaftesbury PLC, which owns the property as well as several others in the Seven Dials area, said: “When Ahava’s lease expires in September, we will not offer them a new one.”

Pro-Palestinian protesters have been demonstrating fortnightly outside the shop, which opened in April 2007, for more than two years. A counter group of pro-Israeli supporters also demonstrate outside.

Police were drafted in to control the protests and set up a meeting last October between the protesters and other shop managers.

Last week, four demonstrators stood trial for aggravated trespass after they chained themselves to a concrete block inside the store last year.

Colin George, manager of clothes shop The Loft, next door to Ahava, said: “I’m pleased Ahava is leaving. It’s brought the street down. I’ve complained to the landlords, as has everyone here. Everyone would like them to leave. I wish they had left two years ago.

“Protesters are just going to follow them around, wherever they go. Maybe they should be an online business instead.”

Ahava UK’s accounts up until the end of 2009 show a total loss of more than £250,000, despite receiving more than £300,000 from its Israeli parent company, with no repayment plan.

Odelia Haroush, director of the UK branch of Ahava, Dead Sea Laboratories UK, said: “We are now in the process of looking for another location.”

She said that she was looking in several places, including sites in north-west London.

“Shaftesbury PLC own most of Covent Garden and some of the other properties in our street belong to them,” she said. “Other retailers are very upset with what’s going on and Shaftesbury PLC doesn’t want to inflame the situation.

“It’s very important to the Israeli company to have a presence in the UK. It’s not just about making money. It has a big cosmetic market and we want to be a player.”

Richard Millett, who attends the counter-demonstrations, said: “Maybe the neighbours could have had a more positive role and spoken to the protesters, rather than take it out on Ahava.

“It’s sad that this country will allow a lawfully trading shop to be chased out because of the politics of people who disagree with Israel’s basic existence.”

Protests drive Ahava out of Covent Garden

Ahava Boycott Israel Protest


Approximately 60-70 Pro-Palestinian supporters gathered outside AHAVA cosmetics in London Monmouth Street, near Covent Garden where they were calling for a boycott of all Israeli goods.

Their website says:
“Because Ahava is hiding the ugly truth—its products actually come from stolen Palestinian natural resources in the Occupied Territory of the Palestinian West Bank, and are produced in the illegal settlement of Mitzpe Shalem. Don’t let the “Made in Israel” sticker fool you—when you buy Ahava products you help finance the destruction of hope for a peaceful and just future for both Israelis and Palestinians.”

Opposing these were members of the Zionist Federation and the English Defence Leagues Jewish Division (supported by the Croydon Division and London Division.)

The demo passed peacefully, with no arrests and mostly good banter, although a couple of the chants (from both sides) did get a bit close to the mark.

Both sides were well behaved, apart from a minor incident when one member of the Boycott group wanted to attack the EDL.

AHAVA Boycott Israel Protest

Ahava picketted by JBIG


From 12pm until around 3pm Ahava beauty products in London was picketed in protest over the sale of illegal Israeli settlement products at the shop. About 20 demonstrators attended, and their presence, as well as a large police turnout and a private security guard seemingly hired for the day, seemed to have discouraged people from entering the shop, Ahava did very little business during the demonstration.

The demonstration was organised by Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods (JBIG), although some activists from other organisations attended. All products on sale at Ahava come from the illegal Israeli settlement of Mitzpe Shalem near the dead sea. Ahava then transport their products into Israel proper and package them as ‘made in Israel’, thus enjoying special tax rates under the EU-Israel trade agreement, in effect dodging British tax.

Palestine Solidarity Campaign branches throughout London will be conducting a rolling picket of Ahava from 2pm until 4pm every Saturday for the next two months, although everybody is welcome to attend.

Ahava picketted by Jewish Palestine activists

Ahava store in London occupied by activists


Yesterday activists occupied the Ahava cosmetics shop in central London, in protest against the Israeli government’s deadly massacre of Palestinian civilians in Gaza, and Ahava’s own activities. Indeed, the Israeli-owned shop sells cosmetic products that have been manufactured on an illegal Israeli settlement in the occupied West Bank. Activists put up banners, locked themselves to the shop door and distributed informative leaflets to passers-by and local shops.

The shop was closed from 11am, and the police didn’t managed to remove the activists from the shop until 4.30pm, they shop was forced to close for the duration of the action. Three activists were arrested and, as they refused to give their names to police, only to a judge, have skipped the police bail stage of the legal process and have already been charged with aggravated trespass.

The action aimed to draw public attention to Ahava’s involvement in war crimes and crimes against humanity in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. The West Bank is Palestinian territory which was occupied by the Israeli army at the end of the 1967 war. The Israeli occupation of the West Bank is still ongoing, and has involved the creation of Israeli settlements, which is a war crime under international law.

One of Ahava’s main factories is located in the illegal Israeli settlement of Mitzpe Shalem. In consequence, the sale of Ahava products is illegal, and Ahava Dead Sea Laboratories is ancilliary (complicit) to war crimes and crimes against humanity under international law and British law according to section 52 of the International Criminal Court Act 2001.

Furthermore, the pattern and strategy of illegal Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory has been a racist and colonial one, intending to forcibly annex the greatest possible portion of Palestinian land without its indigenous population, and settle it with Israeli Jews. These illegal settlements linked by a road network that is forbidden to Palestinians have created Israeli-style apartheid, which is also a crime under international law.

The timing of this action was chosen to coincide with the day of national demonstrations against the ongoing Israeli government massacre of Palestinian civilians in Gaza. Today is the 14th day since the beginning of the Israeli aggressive military campaign ‘Operation Cast Lead’ which as of yesterday had killed 804 Palestinians including 230 children and 93 women, and injured and maimed over 3310. Obviously tax Ahava pay in Israel proper funds the slaughter in Gaza.

Ahava store in London occupied by activists for Palestine


ahava (1)

Ahava Dead Sea Laboratories is an Israeli cosmetic company that develops, produces and markets cosmetic products based on the Dead Sea mud and minerals and made in the illegal Israeli settlement of Mitzpe Shalem in the occupied West Bank. It is owned by Kibbutz Mitzpe Shalem (41%), Hamashbir Holdings (which is owned by Benny Gaon’s Gaon Holdings and the Livnat family, 41%), and the Kibbutz Kalya and Kibbutz Ein Gedi (18%) (see this article).

On 10th January 2009, Ahava’s newly opened store in Covent Garden, central London, was occupied by activists in protest at the Israeli massacre of Palestinian civilians in Gaza and to draw public attention to Ahava’s involvement in the occupation and illegal settlement business (see a report here).

Direct Action Against Israel – Part 1

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