Letter to the Editor of Fortune Small Business

December 12, 2009
Stolen Beauty responds to article: “Turning Dead Sea Mud into Money” by discussing the illegality of “pillage” or “plunder” under international humanitarian law.


In her article “Turning Dead Sea Mud Into Money” (12/10/09), Michal Lev-Ram states, “…Ahava won't say whether its merchandise has ever been officially boycotted in the U.S.” While Ahava may not have wanted to answer Ms. Lev-Ram's question, by putting the words “Ahava” and “boycott” into a Google search, the answer is easily obtainable.

In June 2009, CODEPINK Women for Peace, a U.S.-based peace and social justice organization, launched a boycott campaign against AHAVA that we called Stolen Beauty (stolenbeauty.org). We chose AHAVA Dead Sea Laboratories as a boycott target because the company's practices are in violation of international law. International activists in Canada, England, France and The Netherlands have joined the Stolen Beauty boycott campaign.

Ahava's main factory and its visitors' center are located in the Israeli settlement of Mitzpe Shalem in the Occupied Palestinian West Bank. (All Israeli settlements in the West Bank are illegal under international law. Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention states that, “The Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population in the territory it occupies.”)

Not only does Ahava profit from the occupation by locating its main plant and store in an illegal Israeli settlement, it also uses in its products mud from the Dead Sea, excavated in an occupied area, and thus it exploits occupied natural resources for profit. This “pillage” or “plunder” is illegal under international humanitarian law, specifically under Articles 23, 53 and 55 of the Hague Regulations; Articles 51 and 53 of the 4th Geneva Conventions; and Article 8(2)(b) of the Rome Statue of the International Criminal Court.

Ahava products are labeled as ‘Product of Israel,' but according to international law, including the relevant UN Security Council Resolutions, the West Bank cannot be considered to be part of the State of Israel. This misleading labeling makes it difficult for consumers to identify the actual source of the products they are purchasing. There are many consumers who buy Israeli-made products but who would not purchase a product that they knew to be made in Israel's illegal settlements in the West Bank. The settlements are an impediment to a just peace in the region, and the Israeli companies that base their operations in the occupied West Bank are considered to be war profiteers.

In her account of the Ahava/Kristin Davis/Oxfam controversy, Ms. Lev-Ram uses an unclear antecedent in her sentence, “Oxfam denies these allegations,” leading the reader to believe that: 1. Oxfam is not against what are commonly referred to as settlement products; and 2. Oxfam denied suspending Kristin Davis. Both of these assumptions are, of course, false, as is clear in the New York Postarticle about the controversy.

In November 2009, the Dutch Foreign Minister agreed to launch an investigation into the conditions under which Ahava products are made to ascertain whether the company's location and practices contravened international law and European Union labeling regulations. Immediately after this announcement from the Dutch government, the Israeli peace group Gush Shalom sent an open letter to Ahava's management calling on them to “read the writing on the wall” and move their factory out of the Occupied West Bank.

Ms. Michal's article also paints boycotts against Israeli products as being lead by “pro-Palestinian” and “anti-Israeli” groups. The fact is that the growing international Ahava boycott movement is a “pro-peace” initiative—and a just and sustainable peace in Israel and Palestine can only benefit both Israelis and Palestinians.


Nancy Kricorian
Stolen Beauty Campaign Manager
CODEPINK Women for Peace