"It is in the settlements of Mitzpe Shalem and Kalia that Ahava mines and manufactures cosmetics from mud extracted from the occupied Dead Sea area. The company's annual revenue is $142 million, and 40 per cent of its products are sold worldwide, including in Australia, Britain and the United States.  "Israel's practices in the occupied Dead Sea area represent blatant violations of its legal obligations under international humanitarian and human rights law, since they favour Israeli economic interests while denying the Palestinian people their right to self-determination," Al-Haq says.

Ruth Pollard
Sydney Morning Herald
4th September 2012

A report by the human rights group Al-Haq has found Israel is "openly in violation of its obligations as an occupying power" by granting financial benefits to settlements whose residents own 44.5 per cent of Ahava's shares and by licensing Ahava Dead Sea Laboratories.

"[Israel] is encouraging and facilitating the exploitation of Palestinian natural resources and actively assisting their pillaging by private actors and … they can be considered as primary perpetrators of the war crime of pillage," the report says...

"Vast portions of land have been declared closed military zones and closed off to the Palestinian population, yet Israeli settlements … have been established" on the land, the report says.  It is in the settlements of Mitzpe Shalem and Kalia that Ahava mines and manufactures cosmetics from mud extracted from the occupied Dead Sea area. The company's annual revenue is $142 million, and 40 per cent of its products are sold worldwide, including in Australia, Britain and the United States.  "Israel's practices in the occupied Dead Sea area represent blatant violations of its legal obligations under international humanitarian and human rights law, since they favour Israeli economic interests while denying the Palestinian people their right to self-determination," Al-Haq says.

The European Union is also criticised for allowing Ahava to take part in EU-funded projects and giving it financial help.

In response to questions about the report, Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor referred to a letter sent by Ahava's president and chief executive, Yaakov Ellis, to cosmetics retailers in 2010.

"The mud and minerals used in Ahava's cosmetic products are not excavated in an occupied area. The minerals are mined in the Israeli part of the Dead Sea, which is undisputed internationally," Mr Palmor quoted the letter as saying.

Pending a permanent status agreement, Israel has "subsoil jurisdiction" in Area C until agreed otherwise and therefore would be entitled to license a company to excavate mud in that area if it chose to do so, "which it actually does not, according to the statement by the Ahava president", Mr Palmor said.

The general director of Al-Haq, Shawan Jabarin, said it was Israel's responsibility to comply with its obligations as an occupying power. "Israel is pillaging the Palestinians' natural resources. We are not just talking about the Dead Sea but throughout the Jordan Valley as well," he said.

Ahava in Israel did not respond to requests for comment. The director of Ahava Australia, Matoyla Kollaras, denied Palestinian resources were being exploited. "The Dead Sea belongs to everybody, so does the mud,'' she said. ''We're not exploiting anything"...

Full report in the Sydney Morning Herald 4 September 2012

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Israel and Settler Society by Lorenzo Veracini

The struggle between Israel and the Palestinians is not unique -- whatever the news media may suggest. Lorenzo Veracini argues that the conflict is best understood in terms of colonialism. Like many other societies, Israel is a settler society. Looking in detail at the evolution of other colonial regimes -- apartheid South Africa, French Algeria and Australia -- Veracini presents a thoughtful interpretation of the dynamics of colonialism, offering a clear framework within which to understand the middle east crisis.

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