Published: 27 August, 2010
by JAMIE WELHAM
A COVENT Garden cosmetics shop that sells mud from the Dead Sea is being investigated by Camden trading standards over claims it is “mislabelling” products.
A group of Palestinian activists claim Ahava is breaching strict trading laws by labelling products “Made in Israel” that are manufactured in a village in the occupied territories of the West Bank.
Last week four of the activists who hold fortnightly demonstrations outside the store in Monmouth Street, were acquitted of aggravated trespass charges at Highbury Corner Magistrates’ Court following a dramatic protest when they chained themselves to a barrel of concrete.
The activists say they are not deterred by counter-protests outside the store, most recently by the English Defence League, and that they will keep up the action until the company is forced to change its labelling.
Ahava’s headquarters are based in Tel Aviv, but the protesters claim it uses factories in Mitzpe Shalem, an illegal settlement outside of Israel’s borders.
The company has stores around the world and also sells products such as bath salts, sun screen, foot scrubs in department stores and pharmacies.
According to its website, its products give “wondrous affects of Dead Sea minerals on the skin”.
Jo Crouch, one of the activists said: “These products come from an illegal Israeli settlement. We want to let the public know so they can boycott the store.
Ultimately we want a ban on selling these products.
We’ll continue to challenged corporate complicity in the occupation and Israel’s impunity on the international stage. We want truth to be exposed and justice to be done.”
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs guidelines state: “The government considers that traders would be misleading consumers and would therefore almost certainly be committing an offence, if they were to declare produce from the [Occupied Palestinian Territories] OPT (including from the West Bank) as ‘Produce of Israel’.
This is because the area does not fall within the internationally recognised borders of the state of Israel.”
Israel currently benefits from a free trade agreement with the EU but it does not cover the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Activists claim the labelling allows the company to circumvent import taxes, an issue recently been flagged up by British customs officials.
A spokeswoman for Camden Council said: “We have received a complaint and trading standards officers are investigating it.”
Ahava headquarters failed to respond to West End Extra’s telephone calls.