Daito Crea, the general agent in Japan for Ahava Dead Sea Laboratories, announced on its website (ahava.jp or megalodon.jp: ahava.jp) that they would no longer be distributing Ahava products as of January 31, 2012. This decision is the direct result of a concerted campaign by the Palestine Forum Japan starting in 2010 to educate DaitoCrea and Japanese consumers about Ahava's illegal practices. Activists wrote letters, organized a social media campaign, and eventually had a sit-down meeting with DaitoCrea. Once the
Japanese agent was made aware of the legal and ethical issues involved with Ahava's products, they began to take steps to sever ties with the company.
Ahava, an Israeli cosmetics concern with its manufacturing plant in an illegal West Bank settlement, has been the subject of an international boycott campaign (stolenbeauty.org) since 2009 because of its illegal practices. Ahava's plant, visitors center and research facility are in the West Bank settlement of Mitzpe Shalem. All Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian territory of the West Bank, including Mitzpe Shalem, are illegal under international law according to the International Court of Justice, all major human rights organizations, the Israeli human rights organization B'Tselem, the UN, and almost all governments worldwide. Not only is Ahava's factory based in an illegal settlement, but also the company's profits subsidize Mitzpe Shalem and the settlement of Kalia, both of which are co-owners of the enterprise. In addition, Ahava sources the mud used in its products from the occupied shores of the Dead Sea in direct contravention of the Geneva Convention's ban on the pillage of occupied natural resources.
In addition to its efforts directed at DaitoCrea, members of the Palestine Forum Japan also met with the Consumer Affairs Agency, the Ministry of Finance and Ministry of Foreign Affairs, informing them about Ahava's occupation profiteering and the occupation's harmful effects on the Palestinians of the West Bank. In a meeting with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in May 2010, the Ministry confirmed that it was inappropriate for Ahava to label its goods as "Product of Israel" when in fact they were manufactured in the Occupied West Bank. This fraudulent labeling has also come under scrutiny in France, The Netherlands, South Africa, and the United Kingdom.
This is the second major Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) victory in Japan, following on the success of the "Stop Muji" campaign (The Muji Decided to Cancel its Plan to Open a Store in Israel) in 2010. Activists used a variety of tactics --including sending post cards, organizing a Twitter campaign, and staging in-store protests --to pressure MUJI, a large Japanese retail chain that sells consumer goods and electronics, not to open a planned store in Israel.
Building on these two successes, the Palestine Forum Japan will continue its work to support Palestinian rights. There is plenty to do as Israeli companies seek to deepen their reciprocal ties with Asian countries while losing market share in Europe and North America because of human rights campaigns.
Last July, a Hello Kitty store was opened in the suburbs of Tel Aviv; this is the first Japanese retail shop in Israel. Classic Japan, a cut flower import company, was for many years a trading partner of Agrexco, a now bankrupt Israeli agricultural supplier that sold products grown in illegal West Bank settlements. Classic Japan is now importing flowers from Bickel, another Israeli agricultural concern with greenhouses in illegal Jordan Valley settlements. In October of this year, Synergy Trading in Osaka began to carry SodaStream products, which are manufactured in the illegal settlement of Mishor Adumim. In December, a prominent theater director, Yukio Ninagawa, announced plans to stage "The Trojan Women" in Tokyo and Tel Aviv with sponsorship of both governments.
As our governments continue to allow Israel to flout international law with impunity --witness the blockade of Gaza, the expansion of illegal settlements in the West Bank, the confiscation of land in Nabi Saleh, Bilin and other villages, the home demolitions in East Jerusalem --it is up to global civil society to hold Israel accountable. It is through grassroots BDS efforts that citizens of the world can support Palestinian human rights and work to end Israel's brutal occupation and its system of apartheid.
Palestine Forum Japan
February 27, 2012