Cosmetic company pillaging Palestine for raw materials

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September 3, 2012 by SCNCC

A new report from the Palestinian rights group al-Haq, accuses Israel of unlawfully exploiting Dead Sea mineral resources in the Occupied Territories. The group says that while Israeli authorities have impeded Palestinian access to the sea and caused environmental devastation, the cosmetics giant Ahava and the settler state has raked in millions. Here’s the report’s executive summery:

The Dead Sea area is the lowest point on Earth and the world’s saltiest body of water. It is renowned for its distinctive geographical, mineral and climatic features and is rich in natural resources. The wide variety of minerals present in the area permits the development of profitable cosmetic industries and raw materials, such as silt, sand, gravel and mud, are regularly extracted for these purposes.

Since 1967, Israel has unlawfully appropriated vast portions of Palestinian land in the occupied Dead Sea area primarily to establish settlements and through these exerting a firm control over the region, including over its natural resources. Through the implementation of harsh restrictions on planning and movement, the Israeli authorities have severely hampered the ability of Palestinians to use and access their land and other natural resources in the region. The presence of settlers who directly utilise and profit from the Dead Sea wealth has severely exacerbated this situation and contributed to the over exploitation of the area, resulting in severe environmental damage.

This report examines Israel’s responsibilities as an Occupying Power with respect to the treatment of the occupied territory’s natural resources in the Dead Sea area. By virtue of the temporary nature of the situation of occupation, Israel must be regarded only as the administrator of the natural resources belonging to the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT), and is obliged to administer them in accordance with the rule of usufruct. Accordingly, Israel is prohibited from exploiting them in a way that undermines their capital and results in economic benefits for Israeli citizens, including settlers, or for its national economy.

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. The latter is considered a peremptory norm of international law, that is to say a norm that is binding on all States and from which no derogation is permitted.

By granting substantial financial benefits to the settlers living in ‘Mitzpe Shalem,’ as well as by licensing Ahava Dead Sea Laboratories Ltd., 44.5 per cent of whose shares are owned by the settlements of ‘Mitzpe Shalem’ and ‘Kalia,’ to mine and manufacture products that utilise the mud extracted from the occupied Dead Sea area, Israel is openly in violation of its obligations as an Occupying Power in the OPT, because it is encouraging and facilitating the exploitation of Palestinian natural resources and actively assisting their pillaging by private actors. Given that the settlers and Ahava Dead Sea Laboratories Ltd. directly profit from the appropriation of the Dead Sea natural resources and from the trade of the products extracted and processed in this area, they can be considered as primary perpetrators of the war crime of pillage.

In light of the seriousness of the violations of international law committed in the occupied Dead Sea area, Al-Haq calls on the Israeli authorities to immediately stop the pillaging of the Palestinian natural resources, including when committed by private individuals, and to provide measures of restitution and reparation to Palestinian land owners and Palestinian communities that comply with international legal standards. In addition, Israel should halt the concession of substantial financial incentives to the settlements and settlers in the occupied Dead Sea area and withdraw the mud mining permission granted to Ahava Dead Sea Laboratories Ltd. at once.

In consideration of Israel’s breaches of peremptory norms of international law, such as the violation of the Palestinian right to self-determination, third-party States must abide by their legal obligations under international law and ensure that Israel’s violations do not remain unpunished. In addition, the High Contracting Parties to the Geneva Conventions must ensure Israel’s respect of the Conventions by taking concrete measures to pressure Israel to bring to an end its violations of international humanitarian law and must refrain from providing any form of assistance to such violations, including by maintaining business relationships with economic actors allegedly involved in pillage in the occupied Dead Sea area.

By allowing Ahava Dead Sea Laboratories Ltd. to participate in European Union (EU) funded projects and granting it financial assistance, the EU is acknowledging and supporting the company’s illegal activities, thus failing to adhere to its commitment to international law and appropriately implementing the recent EU Strategic Framework on Human Rights and Democracy.

In light of the current debate at the European level on the legality of settlement products and on the possible legal implications arising from their trade in the European market, Al-Haq demands the EU to strengthen its efforts to ensure that its neighboring countries, which participate in the European Neighborhood Policy (ENP) framework, comply with their international legal obligations, as well as assuring that the European trade policies and preferential trade schemes concluded by its member States do not contribute to the perpetration of violations of international humanitarian and human rights law.

The EU should develop firm regulations and procurement guidelines as regards the purchase of Dead Sea products by the public sector, and adopt restrictive measures on the import of Israeli products originating from settlements, because of the serious violations of peremptory norms of international law that settlements and their related infrastructure entail. Furthermore, the EU should ensure that appropriate safeguard clauses, or mechanisms, are included in EU-Israel cooperation instruments in order to guarantee that only Israeli entities with headquarters, branches and subsidiaries registered and established in Israel, and conducting activities in Israel proper, are able to participate in European programs, such as HORIZON 2020 (successor of the Seventh Framework Programme on Research and Development).

In conclusion, worldwide cosmetic retailers should provide their customers with clear information about the origin of the products that are sold in their stores, thus enabling the consumers to make a conscious and informed choice about the cosmetic products purchased.

Click here to download the full report.

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