Gush Shalom call on Ahava – press release, 17 November 2009
Gush Shalom Press Release: The Dutch Foreign Minister: products from the Palestinian part of the Dead Sea are not Israeli products and deserve no tax exemption.
Dutch Foreign Minister Maxime Verhagen ordered an urgent investigation to confirm unequivocally the origin of the “Ahava” cosmetics marketed in the Dutch market, so as to confirm that they are produced in occupied Palestinian territory – and in that case, deny them the tax exemption due to Israel products and impose on the full customs duty due.
The Foreign Minister took this action following a debate in the Dutch Parliament where MP van Bommel, of the opposition Socialist Party, claimed that this was a case of fraud – products marked “Made in Israel” arrive in the Netherlands, when in fact they are produced in a settlements in occupied Palestinian territory which is not part of Israel.
“The Dutch Government will not tolerate any attempt to defraud the customs authorities and avoid paying the sums due by false claims – not even when such attempted fraud is committed by a friendly country such as Israel. We will deal firmly with any such attempt” said the Foreign Minister. MP van Bommel, at whose initiative the issue was put on the Parliamentary agenda, expressed satisfaction with the minister’s response, but stated that the activity of “Ahava” constitutes a severe violation of International Law, as the company is using resources from the Palestinian shore of the Dead Sea. This is in contravention of the Geneva Convention which forbids an Occupying Power – including its citizens and companies registered in its territory – to make use of the Occupied Territory’s natural resources. Therefore, van Bommel said that – beyond denying the “Ahava” products a tax exemption – these products should be altogether banned from the Dutch market and that of other European countries.
The “Ahava” laboratories are located at the “Mitzpe Shalem” settlement on the north-western shore of the Dead Sea, a part of the West Bank occupied by Israel since 1967 and which according to the Oslo Agreements should have been handed over to Palestinian rule already during the 1996-1999 interim period envisaged in these agreements. However, the first Netanyahu Government did not fulfill that obligation. The Israel customs authorities have only provided to their Dutch opposite numbers the postal code address of Mitzpe Shalem and avoided confirming that it is located in Occupied Territory. However, there is no need of any through or deep investigation by the Dutch Embassy to confirm the factory’s location.
The Ahava Company launched some years ago an extensive campaign aimed at penetrating the European market, and it is conducting advertisement campaigns in various European countries. The step taken in the Netherlands, and which is likely to be emulated by various other Europeans countries as well as by the EU as a whole, might cause severe damage to its business activity. The activity of “Ahava” is recently getting considerable attention from opponents of the government of Israel’s occupation policy. The large British charity Oxfam severed relations with cancelled the model Kristin Davis due to her signing a contract with “Ahava”. In London, peace activists broke into the Ahava offices, where they barricaded themselves for several hours, raising the placard “This beauty comes from theft.
Gush Shalom sent a letter to the directorate of the Ahava Company, stating: “It is long overdue for you to see the writing on the wall and start practical preparations for moving your operations out of the Occupied Territories and back into sovereign Israeli territory. Your decision to locate in Occupied Territory and make use of natural resources which do not belong to Israel was a mistaken gamble which already harmed your interests and might harm them even much further. Sooner or late you will have to get out of this damaging and illegal location – and the sooner, the better”.
Adam Keller, 054-2340749, firstname.lastname@example.org