In a letter from Ahava Dead Sea Laboratories President and CEO Yaakov Ellis that was circulated in 2010 to cosmetics retailers, Elllis deploys specious information about his own company's business practices, contradictory claims about Israel's occupation of the Palestinian West Bank, and unfounded innuendo about boycott campaign supporters.
Note: The South African activist group Open Shuhada Street has also penned an open letter to the South African Zionist Federation in response to the Federation's support of Ahava CEO' Ellis' claims.
Please read this letter below, along with the Stolen Beauty Campaign's responses to some of these claims:
Download PDF version of the letter from Ahava Dead Sea Laboratories President and CEO Yaakov Ellis.
1. On the legality of our boycott campaign in the United States.
"These organizations are orchestrating a political boycott of the Ahava® products, and through it cause damage to the State of Israel. As you know, such boycotts are not only abhorrent, but illegal in the United States."
Ahava is telling its retail customers that our boycott campaign is illegal under U.S. law. This is not true. The National Lawyers Guild has advised us that activists are completely within the law to engage in a political campaign using the time-honored tactic of economic boycott to press Israel to comply with international human rights laws and end its abusive occupation of the West Bank and its blockade of Gaza. Our boycott campaign targets Ahava Dead Sea Laboratories because of the company's violations of international law. This campaign is protected by the First Amendment, as free speech and association. Boycotts were integral to the success of the anti-apartheid movement against South Africa, the civil rights movement in the southern United States in the 1960s and 1970s, the movement to force California grape growers to recognize their workers' union, and many other similarly honorable nonviolent struggles for human rights that Ahava would not dare to condemn now, in hindsight.
2. On the sourcing of Ahava's ingredients
"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."
In May 2011 our partners at Who Profits, a project of the Coalition of Women for Peace, received confirmation from the Israeli Civil Administration ( click here for Hebrew version) that Ahava Dead Sea Laboratories was granted an excavation permit in the jurisdiction of the Megilot Dead Sea Regional Council in 2004 and that the excavation site is currently active. This is documentary proof that Mr. Ellis' claim is false and that Ahava is exploiting occupied natural resources for profit.
The mud that is used in Ahava products is taken from a site that is next to the settlement of Kalia. 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.
3. On the contradictory claims that Mitzpe Shalem is situated in "undisputed territory," that Mitzpe Shalem is "not an illegal settlement," that Mitzpe Shalem does not violate international law, specifically because "there is no recognized right of any peoples other than Israel to the West Bank," and that "sovereignty over the West Bank has been in dispute for more than 60 years."
"Ahava does not interfere with the Palestinian population. Mitzpe Shalem is situated in an unpopulated area in undisputed territory in the Judea Desert, and there are no Palestinians residing in the vicinity of Mitzpe Shalem."
"Mitzpe Shalem is not an illegal settlement. Ahava's manufacturing facility is located at Kibbutz Mitzpe Shalem, on the North-Western shore of the Dead Sea, just 6 miles north of the "Green Line", within the area usually referred as the West Bank."
"Ahava's use of the Mitzpe Shalem facility is legal and does not violate any provision of International Law, especially as there is no recognized right of any peoples other than Israel to the West Bank."
"The sovereignty over the West Bank has been in dispute for more than 60 years. It is expected that the future of the West Bank, and in particular of that part where Mitzpe Shalem is situated, will be finally decided as part of the negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians."
These statements by Ellis are factually inaccurate and contradictory. The West Bank has been occupied by Israel since the 1967 war. Numerous United Nations resolutions and the ruling of the International Court of Justice in 2004 affirmed the Israeli Occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Also Israel's own Supreme Court stated in 2004 that Israel was holding the area "in belligerent occupation." As an occupied territory, the West Bank and its Palestinian residents are protected by the Geneva Conventions.
All Israeli settlements in the West Bank, including Mitzpe Shalem and Kalia, 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." Ahava's manufacturing plant and visitors center are located at Mitzpe Shalem. Ahava labels its goods as "products of Israel" when in fact they are made in the Occupied West Bank. This labeling is under investigation in the U.K., and activists in France have filed suit against Sephora for carrying these products because of Ahava's illegal practices.
The settlements of Mitzpe Shalem and Kalia are cooperatives owned by the settlers living in them, and together they own 44% of Ahava. Both of these settlements are deep inside Palestinian territory. Mitzpe Shalem is about 9 km from the Green Line and Kalia is 30 km from the Green line. Ahava profits are therefore subsidizing these illegal settlements and their residents. According to mapping done by Adalah, The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel (www.adalah.org), formerly there were a few Palestinian communities on the lands on which these two settlements are located: Nabi Musa where Kalia is now situated and 'Arab al-Ta'amira near Mitzpe Shalem.
Despite Yaacov Ellis's claims to the contrary, Ahava Dead Sea Laboratories is an Israeli profiteer in Occupied Palestine.