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STOLEN BEAUTY: The Struggle for a Just Peace in the Middle East Coming to a Store Near You

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As
the dust settled on the destroyed homes, schools and lives in the
aftermath of Israel's assault on Gaza earlier this year, mainstream
human rights groups from Amnesty International to Physicians for Human
Rights/Israel issued reports condemning Israel's attack and alleging
that the Israeli government and the Israeli Defense Forces had
committed war crimes and crimes against humanity. The staff of CODEPINK Women for Peace
re-opened a discussion of what we could do about Israel's flagrant
flouting of international law and the brutality of the ongoing blockade
of Gaza, the occupation of the West Bank and the home demolitions in
East Jerusalem. We decided to revisit the idea of a boycott against
Israeli products-a boycott that was having more difficulty gaining
traction here in the United States than in Europe. But the best way to
end an occupation is to make it unprofitable, and one of the best
peaceful ways to make something unprofitable is to organize a boycott.

While doing research on the Global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement for Palestine (http://www.bdsmovement.net/), I came across the web site Who Profits (http://www.whoprofits.org/), a project of the Israeli Coalition of Women for Peace (http://coalitionofwomen.org/home/english).
On that site I found a list of Israeli and international companies that
are directly involved in and profit from the occupation of the
Palestinian West Bank. It seemed strategically and morally important to
select for our campaign a corporation whose practices were clearly in
contravention to international law. Many of the corporations on the Who
Profits list were either unfamiliar to me, discouragingly huge, or
didn't seem like obvious targets for a women's peace group. But I saw
one name that I recognized: Ahava Dead Sea Laboratories. In fact, I
knew there was a plastic bottle of Ahava Eucalyptus Mineral Bath Salts
sitting on the windowsill next to the tub in my bathroom.

If you take a look at Ahava's web site (http://www.ahava.com/),
you can read about the company's environmentally responsible practices:
"Our manufacturing processes are non-polluting and environmentally
conscious. No animals are involved in testing phases and all of our
products are encased in recyclable tubes, bottles and jars." Ahava's
spokeswoman is fresh-faced Sex & The City actress Kristin Davis,
whose commitment to doing good is evidenced by her status as an Oxfam
Goodwill Ambassador and her position on the advisory board of The Masai
Wilderness Conservation Fund. On the Ahava site, Davis is quoted as
saying, "My personal beliefs, which include treating both animals and
the environment with respect, are equally important to AHAVA."

If you navigate around the web site you will see pristine images of
the Dead Sea, enticing products with beautifully designed labels, and a
photo of a water lily leaf with the caption, "This leaf has nothing to
hide." But, unfortunately, Ahava does have something to hide-an ugly
secret about its relationship to a brutal occupation. The Hebrew word
"Ahava" means love, but there is nothing loving about what the company
is doing in the Palestinian territory of the West Bank. Ahava is an
Israeli profiteer exploiting the natural resources of occupied
Palestine.

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AHAVA Dead Sea Laboratories, an Israeli cosmetics company, has
situated its main manufacturing plant and showroom at the Israeli
Jewish settlement Mitzpe Shalem in the Occupied Palestinian West Bank
near the shores of the Dead Sea. Mitzpe Shalem, built on occupied land
in 1970, is an illegal settlement, as are all Jewish settlements in the
West Bank. Ahava's capture of Palestinian natural resources from the
Dead Sea is, according to the Fourth Geneva Convention, a patently
illegal use by an occupying power of stolen resources for its own
profit. To add insult to injury, Ahava's labels claim that the country
of origin of its products is "The Dead Sea, Israel"-this type of
labeling has been decried by Oxfam, among other human rights groups, as
blatantly misleading.

While we were working on putting together the new AHAVA boycott campaign we called STOLEN BEAUTY (www.stolenbeauty.org),
CODEPINK led several delegations to Gaza, one of which never made it
into the Strip because the Israeli government wouldn't let them through
the Erez crossing. Several CODEPINK activists decided to take a
fact-finding mission to the Ahava plant in the West Bank, corroborating
what we had read about the plant's location and its practices. The
women decided to seize the opportunity and-with the avid encouragement
of the Israeli Jewish and Palestinian peace activists that they had
met-they went to the Ahava store at the Hilton Hotel in Tel Aviv to
stage a protest action. Some put on bikinis, wrote on their bodies with
mud NO AHAVA/NO LOVE, while others carried signs with slogans such as
"There is no love in occupation." They chanted, sang and made the
Israeli evening news here.

About a week later, we heard that Kristin Davis was going to be at
Lord & Taylor on Fifth Avenue promoting Ahava products and signing
autographs. Two of us went to the store
to deliver a letter to Davis, requesting she stop letting Ahava use her
beautiful face and good name to cover up their crimes. She was less
than receptive, and we were escorted out of the store. A week later,
the CODEPINK bikini brigade showed up at the "Tel Aviv Beach
Party"-part of the Israeli government's multi-million dollar "Re-brand
Israel" campaign-in New York's Central Park. The bikinis and our
anti-occupation message made Fox News here.

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We recently sent letters to Ahava's headquarters in Holon, Israel,
as well as to Ahava USA and Kristen Davis, giving them notice of our
boycott. We sent copies of these letters to Shamrock Holdings, the
investment company of the Roy E. Disney family, which owns 19% of
Ahava's shares. On Monday of this week, CODEPINK women showed up in
bikinis and mud at the Cosmoprof North America Trade Show in Las Vegas
to let Ahava representatives know we were launching our STOLEN BEAUTY
campaign.

We have sent letters to over 100 retailers requesting that they
stop stocking Ahava products because Ahava helps finance the
destruction of hope for a peaceful and just future for both Israelis
and Palestinians. One day soon we'll be outside a drugstore, department
store or mall near you, exposing Ahava's dirty secrets and showing that
real beauty is more than skin deep. You can go to www.stolenbeauty.org to find out how to join our campaign. And you don't have to wear a bikini to do it.
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CODEPINK is a women-initiated grassroots peace and social justice movement working to end the war in Iraq, stop new wars, and redirect our resources into healthcare, education and other life-affirming activities. CODEPINK rejects the Bush (more...)
 

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