Inside the Cosmetics convention, Ahava boss denies the Occupation

by Nancy Kricorian on July 22, 2010

On Monday, July 19th, Jodie Evans of CODEPINK and supporter Zissa went to the Cosmetics Professionals (COSMOPROF) Convention at the Mandalay Bay Hotel in Las Vegas to confront Ahava North America CEO Michael Etedgi for the second year in a row. Last July, Jodie and another woman did a bikini and mud protest in the Ahava booth at the convention. This year they were hoping to have a dialogue with Etedgi and to educate more cosmetics professionals about the illegal practices of Ahava Dead Sea Laboratories.

The two women picked up their credentials, and then handed out Stolen Beauty AHAVA boycott fliers to conference attendees (as Jodie related to me later). They subsequently entered the convention hall, and as they walked towards the Ahava booth, Ahava”s CEO Michael Etedgi immediately recognized Jodie. Etedgi greeted Jodie by saying, “We know who you are. You are CODEPINK. You disrupted this booth last year and I have to ask you to leave.” The four-man security detail at the booth grabbed Jodie and Zissa, pulling the two women by their arms. As this was happening, Jodie looked Etedgi in the eyes and said, “I am not disrupting. I came to have a conversation with you.”

Etedgi called off security, and he and Jodie had an exchange that lasted for about ten minutes. Jodie asked him why Ahava wasn”t moving its factory out of the Occupied Territories so that they would no longer be violating international law. He claimed that what he was doing was perfectly legal. In his opinion, the factory was in Israel. Jodie said that she had visited the West Bank, and the factory was clearly north of the internationally recognized Green Line that demarcated Israel from the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Every government in the world–including that of the United States and with the exception of Israel”s–recognized this land as occupied.

Etedgi argued that they were not “occupied” territories but rather “disputed” territories. He went on to claim that the dispute would be over when peace came and this question would be resolved because the land would all belong to Israel and there would no longer be a problem. He refused to answer any questions about the violations of rights of the people in the Occupied Territories. Etedgi stated that the factory was going to stay put. And then he threatened to bring legal action against CODEPINK and the Stolen Beauty campaign because we were defaming his company.

During this interchange in the Ahava convention booth, the crowd watching the debate was growing, Zissa was chanting Stolen Beauty slogans, and when it was apparent that the dialogue was at an impasse, Etedgi finally told security to haul the two women away. They loudly objected to being ejected, and continued chanting “Ahava, you can”t hide, we can see your dirty side” at the main entrance until two building security guards escorted them outside and unceremoniously stuffed them into a taxi. Jodie and Zissa instructed the driver to take them around the building to the hotel”s main entrance.

Jodie changed clothes, and headed back to the entrance of the convention hall, where she spent an additional two hours handing out over 1,000 fliers, giving out 500 STOLEN BEAUTY stickers, and educating passersby about Ahava”s illegal practices.

Despite Etedgi”s pretense to the contrary, the factory is in an Israeli settlement in the Occupied Palestinian Territory on land that belonged to the Palestinian village of Arab et Ta’amira. Additionally Ahava excavates mud from the shores of the Dead Sea near the Israeli settlement of Kalya. This is exploitation of occupied natural resources by an occupying power, a practice that is explicitly forbidden by the Geneva Conventions. Finally, Mitzpe Shalem and Kalya, two Israeli settlements in the Occupied West Bank, collectively own 43% of Ahava Dead Sea Laboratories, meaning that the company”s profits are subsidizing Israel”s illegal settlement project, which has been globally recognized as an impediment to a just peace for both Israelis and Palestinians.

Ahava Cosmetics: Made by Israeli profiteers in Occupied Palestine.

Nancy Kricorian is a writer and activist in New York, she is the campaign manager for CODEPINK’s Stolen Beauty Ahava boycott.

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