The Israeli Exploitation of Palestinian Natural Resources: Part IV Ahava

Update | Nov 2016

Since its occupation of the West Bank in 1967, Israel has systematically exploited the resources of the Jordan Valley and the northern Dead Sea area more intensively than elsewhere in the West Bank. Israel has controlled the area’s major tourist sites and natural resources, including its minerals, fertile land, and water sources. As Who Profits’ report revealed in 2012, Ahava has been exploiting Palestinian natural resources by operating a mud excavation site in the occupied territory, on the shores of the Dead Sea, since 2004. In this update, Who Profits examines the latest information regarding the activities of Ahava in the occupied Dead Sea.

Abuse of Natural Resources in the Dead Sea Area

Since its occupation of the West Bank in 1967, Israel has systematically exploited the resources of the Jordan Valley and the northern Dead Sea area more intensively than elsewhere in the West Bank. Israel has controlled the area’s major tourist sites and natural resources, including its minerals, fertile land, and water sources. [1]

Over the years, Israel took control of large swaths of land in the Jordan Valley and northern Dead Sea area and it is continuing to do so until today. [2] Seventy-seven percent of these lands have been declared closed military areas, nature reserves and state land. Israel prohibits Palestinians from staying in these areas, even if they have been living there for generations. [3]

In the Oslo Accords, Israel committed to allowing Palestinians free access to the Dead Sea, for bathing and for the use of the sea’s natural resources, yet this obligation remained only on paper. As of 2011, there were at least 11 checkpoints in the Jordan Valley, restricting the daily movement of the Palestinian residents in the area. These areas are also part of the separation wall. [4]

From 1967 to 2011, the various Israeli governments established 37 settlements in the Jordan Valley and in the northern Dead Sea area. The establishment of these settlements was accompanied by policies implemented by the State to encourage Jewish Israelis to move to these settlements,[5] among which were subsidies of utilities and housing costs and further tax benefits. [6] Although the Israeli settlements in the Jordan Valley have a relatively small population, 86% of the land falls under the jurisdiction of their regional councils, and 94% of the Jordan Valley is under direct Israeli control (Area C). [7]

Ahava – Dead Sea Laboratories

Ahava is a private Israeli cosmetics company that is located in Mitzpe Shalem settlement in the occupied Dead Sea area in the West Bank, where it manufactures its products and exports them to more than 30 countries around the world.

Recently, Ahava has signed a contract to sell all its shares to the Chinese company Fuson. The transfer of ownership is still in process and currently, only one of the owners has sold its shares to Fuson. The sale of the entire company is supposed to be finalized in the coming months.

Production in Settlements

Since June 2015, the Israeli press have been publishing that Ahava intends to relocate its factory from the West Bank settlement of Mitzpe Shalem to the city of Ein Gedi within the Green Line. In response to these publications, the company stated that the factory in Ein Gedi will be in addition to its existing factory in Mitzpe Shalem. Who Profits have been following this process since this announcement was released, however, according to our information, Ahava‘s factory and visitors’ center in Mitzpe Shalem are still operational.

In 2004, the internal report dubbed the “Spiegel Report” was commissioned by the Prime Minister at the time, Ariel Sharon, in order to assess the status of construction and land in the settlements. The document was classified until it was leaked to the press in 2009. The Spiegel Report documents how Israel took over private Palestinian land to establish the settlement of Mitzpe Shalem, among others. According to the Spiegel Report, Mitzpe Shalem was established through a procedure in which areas are declared “State Land”. [8] This is the main legal mechanism the Israeli authorities have been using to take over land in the West Bank. Mitzpe Shalem was founded by the Israeli state on May 5, 1970, on the land of the Bedouin village of Eyn Treibah, and claimed to serve as an “agricultural observatory”. [9] In 1977 it became the “civil” settlement of Mitzpe Shalem.

The Ahava plant is used by the Mitzpe Shalem and Kalia settlements to draw new Jewish Israeli residents. Ahava receives numerous tax benefits from the Israeli government, most of them are granted by law to companies located in settlements. In addition to the employment of settlers, Ahava also gives work to several Palestinian workers from East Jerusalem who hold an Israeli residency card. [10]

Ahava’s labels claim that its products originate from “The Dead Sea, Israel” while in fact they are made in the settlement of Mitzpe Shalem in the occupied West Bank. This deceptive labeling raises issues pertaining to consumer deception, and may even amount to consumer fraud. Ahava’s product labeling is also illegal under European Union law. [11]

Mud extraction from occupied land

As Who Profits’ report revealed in 2012, Ahava has been exploiting Palestinian natural resources by operating a mud excavation site in the occupied territory, on the shores of the Dead Sea, since 2004. Through a Freedom of Information request, the Israeli civil administration confirmed to Who Profits that Ahava is the only company that holds an excavation license, which allow it to operate a mud excavation site from the occupied area of the Dead Sea. In May 2011, the Civil Administration also confirmed that it is an active excavation site. The mud extracted from the occupied territory is used by Ahava in its mud product, marketed world-wide.

Ahava’s excavation site in the occupied territory supplied at least half of the entire natural resources extracted from the Dead Sea region. The large scale excavations from the Dead Sea area have a detrimental environmental impact on the entire Dead Sea, including its Jordanian sections and the ones that are in the occupied Palestinian territories. [12]

In a research tour conducted by Who Profits in April 2013, we spotted Ahava’s mud, excavated from occupied territories, stored in the company’s production site in Mitzpe Shalem settlement.

Ahava’s management has continued to deny that the company is using natural resources from the occupied area in its products. Since February 2010, Who Profits sent letters to Ahava, asking for its response to the claim that the mud for its products is derived from occupied land. No response has been received from the company until this day.

A recent Freedom of Information request that was submitted by Who Profits in July 2015 concerning the mud excavation site was answered by the Civil Administration only in April 2016. According to the Civil Administration response, Ahava no longer holds a license to operate its mud excavation site in the occupied part of the Dead Sea area.

Who Profits will continue to follow up on this issue in the coming months, and update our database with any definite developments.

Financial Information

As mentioned above, Ahava signed a contract with the Chinese company Fuson to sale its entire shares to the Chinese company. Yet, this transfer is in process.

Currently, Ahava is still owned by Ahava holdings (68.92%), LP Shamrock Israel Growth Fund (10.3%), Shamrock Israel Growth Fund for Israeli investors (8.23%), Kibbutz Kalia (settlement) (5.85%), Dead Sea Kibbutzim holdings (6.7%).

Ahava holdings is owned by Hamashbir holdings (50%) and H.M.S Ahava holdings (50%). Hamashbir Holdings is owned by Avraham Livnat (50%) and B. Gaon retail and trade (50%). H.M.S Ahava Holdings is controlled by Kibbutz Mitzpe Shalem (96.84%).

Shamrock growth fund for Israeli investors is owned by: Gardencross PRY (Australia), GSPAN PTY, Shamrock Israel Partners (Cayman Islands), DAHELE PTY, Leumi stock market services (Israel), Migdal pension funds (Israel), Hafenix holdings (Israel), Klal insurance company (Israel), and more.

With regards to its income, Ahava relies heavily on export; 40% of its products are sold overseas. The company also operates Ahava stores in Budapest, Berlin, Seoul, Singapore and the Philippines. The products of the company are sold in branded Ahava stores as well as in pharmacies, department stores and retail chain stores, such as Sephora (Europe and the US), Bloomingdale’s and Saks (US), Printemps (France), Boots (UK), and Piper (Germany).

The company operates subsidiaries which conduct its marketing around the world, the American subsidiary is in NY (Ahava North America) and the European subsidiary is Ahava Cosmetics GmbH, Germany.

The company’s products can be found in the following countries: Azerbaijan, Austria, Belarus, Belgium, Cyprus, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Georgia, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Kazakhstan, Kirgizstan, Mauritius, Holland, Norway, Russia, Slovenia, Switzerland, UK, South Africa, US, Canada, Hong Kong, Cambodia, Japan, Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan, Australia.

 


[1] Akiva Eldar, Haaretz, November 18, 2011; Jillian Kestler-DAmours, In the Jordan Valley, existence is resistance, 29 Jul 2011, http://aje.me/JeOfhC.

[2] Israeli army Level tens of Dunums in the Jordan Valley, 22,March,2012, The Land Research Center – LRC, http://bit.ly/ICPXdY.

[3] Dispossession and Exploitation, 2011, B’Tselem; How Israel has secured the Jordan Valley, Silvia Boarini, January 31, 2012, http://www.palestinemonitor. org/?p=3789.

[4] Eye on the Jordan valley, p. 12-13; Movement & access restrictions, Ma’an Development Center, Spotlight 3, 2011, http://bit.ly/Iz9jvu. For further information about the wall and its effect on the Jordan valley, see: stop the wall – Palestinian Grassroots AntiApartheid Wall Campaign, Apartheid Wall: land theft and forced expulsion, http://bit.ly/9zfYEf.

[5] The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), Humanitarian fact sheet on the Jordan Valley and Dead Sea area, February 2012, hhttp://bit.ly/GUkfpx. In this fact sheet, OCHA warns that thousands of Palestinians in the Jordan Valley and the Dead Sea area risk forced displacement.

[6] The benefits are part of this area being declared a ‘national priority’ area by the Israeli governments.

[7] On the Brink, 8; MA’AN Development Center and Jordan Valley Popular Committees, Eye on the Jordan Valley, 2010, p. 3.

[8] The Spiegel Report, see government decision 569 (הת/1), May 5, 1970 and הת/9, April 19, 1977.

[9] Land Grab: Israel’s Settlement Policy in the West Bank, May 2002, B’Tselem, http://bit.ly/weoTqg.

[10] Benefits for the Settlers of Megilot Local Council (which includes all the settlements in the Dead Sea area), http://bit.ly/xQWDn1 (Hebrew), Nov. 22, 2011.

[11] Regulation (EC) No 1223/2009 of the European Parliament, 30 November 2009 on cosmetic products, http://bit.ly/Ihhqxv.

[12] The Privatization of Natural Treasures (Hebrew), June 2011, Adam Teva VaDin, http://bit.ly/Jp7bbf.




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