WASHINGTON – A call to boycott Israeli-made Ahava products in a Maryland beauty
supply store backfired last week when pro- Israel activists countered by
purchasing the shop’s entire Ahava inventory.
When the Jewish Community
Relations Council of Greater Washington found out that the pro-Palestinian group
Sabeel DC had organized a protest and boycott call at Ulta in Silver Spring last
Saturday, the organization sent out an action alert urging supporters to visit
the store and buy Ahava.
“They cleaned the shelves out. It was the best
Ahava sales weekend the store has ever seen. They had to order an expedited
shipment” afterward, said Arielle Farber, director of Israel and International
Affairs for the Community Relations Council. “The greater Washington community
is not going to stand for this campaign to delegitimize Israel.”
Kramer, a Maryland state senator, was among those answering the Community
Relations Council call. When she heard of the boycott, she though “it’s a good
opportunity for the community to show its support for Israel.”
the midst of a re-election campaign, Kramer pushed back her schedule to hit the
store on Saturday morning. When she got there at 10:15 a.m. the store had
already sold out of many Ahava lines, but she managed to tally up a $200
It was the first time she had ever bought Ahava products, a brand
that uses Dead Sea minerals in hand creams, body lotions and other beauty
products. “I’ve been using them since I bought them and they’re wonderful,” she
Faith McDonnell, another area pro-Israel activist, was moved to
show up on Saturday morning because she figured many members of the Jewish
community wouldn’t be able to come due to observance of Shabbat.
were a lot of Christians who were standing with the Jewish people and Israel on
this,” McDonnell said.
In its literature announcing the event, the Sabeel
DC Metro chapter that organized the action said it was held on Saturday morning
to take advantage of the large crowds attending a farmers’ market held by the
Paul Verduin, who cocoordinated the Saturday event and was one of
12 participants, said he wasn’t disappointed by the outcome, which saw Ahava
“We operate under the concept of witness. We’re trying to
testify to the fact that Ahava is one of the products being sold in the US
claiming to be an Israeli product when it is made in the West Bank,” he said,
saying that Sabeel is a nonviolent organization that seeks a “just peace”
between Israelis and Palestinians.
In his letter announcing the boycott,
Verduin described Ahava products as “made by West Bank settlers from natural
resources stolen from the Palestinian people.”
In a statement on the
subject, Ahava countered that “the mud and materials used in Ahava cosmetics
products are not excavated in an occupied area. The minerals are mined in the
Israeli part of the Dead Sea, which is undisputed
Further, it states that Mitzpe Shalem, a West Bank
kibbutz where Ahava products are produced, “is not an illegal
Ahava North America CEO Michael Etedgi told The Jerusalem
Post that despite boycott actions in California, New York and Texas as well as
in Washington, DC, business has not suffered, nor has he heard from any company
that plans to stop selling Ahava as a result.
“None of our retail
partners are thinking about it, and we have a complete and open dialogue with
them about the situation,” he said. “I’m happy and they’re happy. They’re trying
to put the political issue aside.”
But he added, “I’m not saying it’s not
disruptive or annoying... No one wants to have people demonstrating outside
their front door.”
Carrie Lannon, Ulta’s director of public relations,
said in a statement that “Ulta selects the products that its stores carry based
strictly on products’ sales and customer interest. Ulta does not take a position
on or get involved with politically charged issues in relation to the
merchandise that it offers in its stores.”
Still, Verduin said that his
Sabeel chapter intended to carry on with its efforts.
“We will continue
this until the occupation stops,” he said.
The Sabeel Ecumenical
Liberation Theology Center is a Christian liberation theology organization based
in Jerusalem. It was founded by a Palestinian Anglican priest, Rev. Naim Ateek,
the former canon of St. George’s Cathedral in Jerusalem, and is an official
partner of the Presbyterian Church USA.