A British MP Makes a Case Against AHAVA

Excerpt from speech by Dr. Phillis Starkey, Minister of Parliament, made on 1/27/10 regarding labeling of Israeli settlement products. This section focuses on AHAVA Dead Sea Laboratories.

Full transcript of the day”s debates in Parliament available here.

The text below comes from a marginally edited version posted by the U.K. site Jews for Justice in Palestine.

Excerpt: I now turn to a specific case relating to cosmetics in which it seems to me that even more blatant fraud is occurring. Cosmetics, particularly from Dead sea products, are very significant imports into the UK; there were 417 consignments of beauty and skincare products in 2009. I want to focus on Ahava, a firm that is part-owned by two co-operatives based at Mizpe Shalem and Kibbutz Kalia. Both are in the occupied Jordan valley and both are on the EU list of settlements. The products that Ahava produces are based on Dead sea mud, which is extracted at both those sites and processed at Mizpe Shalem. There is no evidence of any other production facilities and certainly none within Green Line Israel, although the head office is near Tel Aviv.

The Ahava website and product labels clearly give the postcode at Mizpe Shalem and then say “Israel”, which is an incorrect description. Its chief executive was totally open in a BBC interview a year or so ago about the fact that it uses the head office address, not the site of production, to justify the “Made in Israel” claim. That could not be more blatant. There is no argument about this one, and when… the firm was challenged about where its site of production was, it made no attempt to rebut its site in the occupied territories, but just waffled about how

“The Dead Sea treasures are international and do not belong to one nation”,

which was an interesting response to an HMRC request.

In answer to another written parliamentary question, HMRC confirmed that all such cosmetics- not just Ahava ones-are imported as “from Israel”. Many other companies working with Dead sea products and which are known to have their facilities in the west bank must also be using some other address to get the “Made in Israel” designation. It means that Ahava products, although labelled as “from the occupied territories”, must be designated as originating from Israel on the EUR1 form, which means that it is putting down the head office, not the site of production. Other companies that use products where the Dead sea mud and other minerals are processed or mixed with other ingredients from Israel should, on the EUR1 form, be setting out the proportions that originate from Israel and the proportion originating not from there, but from the west bank. However, they are obviously not doing that.

There is an additional issue that is beyond HMRC, which is whether Ahava and the others are violating article 55 of the Hague regulations on exporting non-renewable resources from an occupied territory. The Ahava case is so blatant that Dutch customs have now agreed to investigate after questions in Parliament from Socialist party MPs. Surprisingly, HMRC claims not to have shared any information with the Dutch authorities, which seems extraordinary. The HMRC claims to closely monitor imports, but has so far identified no cases where doubt existed over the place of production of imported cosmetics. However, it has asked the European Commission to check that the Israeli authorities are including the place of production and not the head office on the proof of origin.

That brings me to the role of the European Union. Apparently, UK Customs does not have the power to visit the occupied territories to check production facilities and so on, but the European Commission does. Any irregularities reported to the Commission are supposed to be disseminated to European Union member states, including information about the action taken. That does not seem to be happening in relation to Ahava or, in the German case, to BRITA.

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