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Israeli cosmetic products seized by Palestinian officials

By Katie Bird , 17-Dec-2009

Products from Israeli company Dead Sea Cosmetics have been destroyed by Palestinian custom officials as part of a campaign against goods manufactured in Israeli settlements.

The company has factories in Israeli settlements in the West Bank, which has led to a number of organisations to call for a boycott of its products in particular the internationally available Ahava brand.

Palestinian custom officials this week destroyed €38,000 worth of Ahava products, including shampoos, face cream and hand lotions, according to press reports.

“This destruction ... is in keeping with the decision of the Palestinian leadership to prevent the import and sale of products produced in the settlements,” local official Munthar Erakat said, as quoted in news agency the Associated France Press.

The company is also being scrutinised by Dutch officials, but this time regarding a tax issue.

Dutch foreign minister Maxime Verhagen has asked that the company’s practices be investigated after a question was raised in parliament as to whether Dead Sea Cosmetics is benefiting from the lower tariffs reserved for ‘Made in Israel’ products, when in fact they are produced in the settlements.

Codepink boycott

Earlier this year spokesperson for the brand Kristin Davis came under criticism following a boycott of the products by US women’s peace organisation Codepink.

Entitled Stolen Beauty, the boycott claims the company is stealing Palestinian natural resources in the illegally occupied territories of the West Bank in the form of Dead Sea minerals and mud.

“Don’t let the “Made in Israel” sticker fool you—when you buy Ahava products you help finance the destruction of hope for a peaceful and just future for both Israelis and Palestinians,” the campaign reads.

Labelling origin

Products from the West Bank also hit the headlines in the British news this week when the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) issued advice for retailers wanting to provide more information about the origin of food produced in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

Current labelling requirements would result in a ‘Produce of the West Bank’ label, but Defra advise retailers and importers who wish to respond to consumer pressure to be more specific, to use wording such as ‘Produce of the West Bank (Israeli settlement produce)’ or ‘Produce of the West Bank (Palestinian produce)’, as appropriate.

This information should be available due to the obligation placed on Israel to mark products with their postcode of origin, which allows retailers and importers to distinguish between those produced in Israel and those produced in settlements outside the country’s internationally recognised borders.

No one from Dead Sea Cosmetics was available to comment on this issue at the time of publishing.

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