Norwegian pharmaceutical retail chain VITA announced on Friday that the company will cease "all sales of products originating from settlements in occupied territories," such as the Israeli
cosmetic brand Ahava.
VITA's CEO Roar Arnstad explained the company's decision by saying that the settlement in which the products are manufactured in, was "established in violation of international law" according to the International Court of Justice in Hague.
"We consider it difficult to buy goods from the occupied area from the 1967 war and will from this date suspend the purchase of goods from the occupied territory," said Vita CEO Roar Arnstad.
According to the Norwegian People’s Aid and the Norwegian Union of Municipal and General Employees, Ahava's
production of beauty products takes place in the Mitzpe Shalem settlement and the company is owned by settlers.
In response to VITA's boycott on the Israeli beauty company, a group of pro-Israel Norwegians
created a Facebook page calling on the public to boycott VITA's 160 stores in Norway.
Pro-Israel Norwegians slam VITA's boycott on Ahava produts
One of VITA's representatives responded to the public's questions over VITA's ban of Ahava products on Facebook. "We're not boycotting Israel, but we do say no to trade with occupied territories. Such territories in Israel have been occupied since 1967, and according to the International Court, the Norwegian Foreign Ministry and the Ethical Trading Initiative, the settlement was established in violation of international law."
One member of the Facebook group slammed VITA's decision: "Are products from China, Turkey and Morocco also banned? All three countries are considered to be occupying nations. Or are there different rules for them?"
VITA has been the main retailer of Ahava products in Norway and this decision will be a serious blow to its sales in the country.
It appears that the recent ban of Ahava cosmetic products is not based on the publics' preference but is derived from some political agenda: One VITA's major shareholders is Norgesgruppen, which is also one of the largest importers of goods in Norway.
The 49% shareholder has declared that the company's "will only buy products that were not manufactured in occupied territories."
Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Store has responded to the recent boycott on Israeli goods and said that "Norwegian companies' are free to choose with which Israeli companies' to do business with, including companies' that manufacture products in the West Bank.
"There are no imposed international sanctions against the settlements in question," he said.
The Israeli Embassy in Oslo said that, "The only way to resolve the painful conflict between Israelis and Palestinians is through direct negotiations and dialogue between the parties. A Boycott in this case is counterproductive."
Ahava has claimed time and again that the minerals are extracted from the Israeli part of the Dead Sea and that the production of the products is not conducted on occupied territory.
Ahava offered no comment on the matter.