It seems as though not everyone in Holland is thrilled with Ahava beauty products. In a discussion held in the Dutch parliament a few days ago, Dutch Foreign Minister Maxime Verhagen agreed to launch an investigation of the Dead Sea company's products marketed in Holland in order to ascertain whether they are manufactured in Palestinian territory held by Israel, according to the Dutch Socialist Party's website.
According to the report, Verhagen acted at the behest of Socialist Party parliament member Harry van Bommel to check whether the products exported to Holland under the Israeli flag in actuality "create revenue for the occupier."
The site claims that van Bommel explained in the discussion that "This issue stands in the way of reaching a fair, honest, and just solution to the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians."
The accusation against Ahava is that the company manufactures cosmetic products in a lab located in Mitzpe Shalem, a kibbutz on the western bank of the Dead Sea and uses minerals suspected of being Palestinian.
The company's products are exported to Holland with the stamp "Made in Israel," but, according to the Dutch socialists, the territory on which the products are manufactured does not belong to the State of Israel. The kibbutz is located on the northwest shores of the Dead Sea.
If it will be found that the Ahava products are made on occupied territory, Bommel said that he "will call for a boycott of these products" because selling them "violates international law that forbids an occupying power from selling products whose raw materials belong to the occupied nation under its name."
What do they want from Ahava?
This is not the first time noise has been made in Holland about the cosmetics company. A group known as the Badjassen Brigade, which regularly organizes protests against "the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories," held demonstrations in the past outside stores that sell Ahava products. They called the protest campaign "Stolen Beauty" ("Gestolen Schoonheid").
The group is trying to prevent Ahava from opening a chain of sales points in Holland. Their initiative is being undertaken in collaboration with a weekly wellness television program called "Health Works," that is broadcast on RTL4.
The companies actions have drawn attention recently from groups, some of them temporary, who oppose the Israeli government's policies. British charity organization Oxfam cancelled a contract with model Kristin Davis after she signed a contract to be a spokesperson for Ahava products. Left-wing activists broke into Ahava's London offices and locked themselves in for a number of hours.
This recent publicity was not wasted on the Gush Shalom movement, whose spokesperson quickly sent a communiqué Monday to Ahava CEO Yaakov Ellis expressing his concern for Ahava's state of affairs.
It is about time that you read the writing on the wall and start making practical arrangements to leave the occupied territories and return to the sovereign borders of the State of Israel," the peace movement wrote.
"Your decision to locate yourselves on occupied land and exploit the natural resources that do not belong to the State of Israel was a mistaken gamble that has already harmed you and brought about the worst damage to your business. Sooner or later, you will need to leave this illegal and harmful location, and the sooner you do so, the better, both for Ahava and its business and for the State of Israel and the future of the Middle East that necessitates making peace with the Palestinians."
Gush Shalom even went to the trouble of finding an alternative factory for the cosmetics company. "There is a long beach south of Ein Gedi that is under Israeli sovereignty," said an organization spokesperson to Ynet. "Move it there and no one will make claims against you anywhere in the world."
Ahava reported in response: "The Dead Sea and its treasures are international and do not belong to one nation. The Ahava company develops beauty products based on minerals from the Dead Sea that are mined from authorized areas. Our activities are undertaken while preserving the beauty of the region and the resources tucked away in it.
The company was founded out of love for the magical environs of the Dead Sea and throughout the years has been driven by a deep passion to reveal the secrets of the minerals' rejuvenating effects on the skin. Therefore, the natural location of the factory is along the western shore of the Dead Sea."