REPORT FROM JERICHO-WHY SHOULD ANYONE IN THE WEST BOYCOTT AHAVA PRODUCTS WHEN PALESTINIANS IN JERICHO ARE SELLING THEM?
While the international pro-Palestinian boycott movement has been actively promoting a boycott of Ahava skin care products for the last couple of years, in Jericho, under the auspices of the Palestinian Authority, Palestinians are not only not boycotting the Ahava products, they are vigourously promoting sales of such products.
In Canada, in the fall of 2011 the boycott movement tried to convince Hudson's Bay in Toronto to take the products off the shelf and took credit for the fact that Ahava products disappeared from the shelves for a while. ( by June 2012, the products were back at the Bay and the Bay claimed that the line was taken down as it was in the process of being rebranded, not due to the boycott). If the boycott movement tries such antics again against Ahava products, they should be asked why it is that a Canadian company ought not carry the products, when the Palestinians themselvesin Jericho are selling them?
When I was in Jericho two weeks ago, the first thing that my Palestinian driver Faisal, wanted to show me in Jericho was the store selling "Ahava products." He was going to take me to see the old city of Jericho, and stopped just outside the entrance way where there is a large store called "Ahava Temptation" in English (see photo). The store was filled to the brim with Ahava products with prices that are all marked in American dollars for tourists to buy. Virtually every tour bus that comes to Jericho is directed into that store, to buy Ahava and other products at prices that are not cheap at all. So, in other words, if the Palestinians are buying Ahava products and making money off them, why should Canadians boycott Ahava?
The main manufacturing plant for Ahava products made with minerals from the dead sea is in in Mitzpe Shalem, a kibbutz located on the Dead Sea, technically over the green line in the West Bank, ( I would venture a guess that many Palestinians work there).
What was also interesting was to see the other amount of Israeli products being sold there. After looking at the Ahava products and also looking at the impressive ruins of old city of Jericho, several Palestinians flagged me down to look at their wares. They were at an outdoor shop just outside the entrance to the archeological ruins of the old city of Jericho . They were trying to sell a few of the same T-shirts at the Ahava Temptations complex but at half the price. A Palestinian vendor showed me the array of T-shirts he was selling, all of which had Hebrew on them. None had Arabic on them-just English and /or Hebrew. I said I wanted a T-shirt that said Palestine on it, but ironically he didn't have any that said Palestine. He showed me one that referred to the Galil on it with Hebrew writing. "Here, this is Palestine," he said. He repeated it. I decided not to start up by telling him that the Galil is Israel, under any recognized international map. It reminded me that a day earlier I had been at the American Colony Hotel in East Jerusalem and looked at a new tourism for palestine brochure set out in the lobby, which interestingly enough featured restaurants and accommodations not only in Ramallah, and Bethlehem but also in Nazareth. I noticed that when the brochure referred to places in Nazareth, it generally didn't say "Nazareth Israel" but just Nazareth---as if Israel didn't exist. There was only one time that Nazareth was referred to as Nazareth Israel, and I think that that was because the authors had somehow missed that page and forgotten to delete the word Israel as they had on all the other pages.
I asked the Palestinian vendors selling T-shirts why twenty years after Jericho became the first autonomous area under the Palestinian Authority, he wasn't selling anything other than Israeli made t-shirts. He didn't have an answer.
I asked if he had ever thought of selling a T-shirt with a photo of PA Mahmoud Abbas on it? He responded, "It's too expensive?" I replied, "How expensive could it be--it can't be hard to get a photo of him? It made me begin thinking that throughout the day in Jericho, where we drove through much of the town for several hours, I hadn't seen one photo or poster of PA President Mahmoud Abbas anywhere. There wasn’t any sign of his popularity from what I could see. In local municipal elections that took place in October 2012, it was reported that preliminary results showed a Fatah win in Jericho (with Hamas boycotting the elections]. Other areas showed Fatah losing to independent candidates, showing a weakened Fatah, and voter discontent with Fatah’s perceived corruption.
On a final note, I did try to get my driver to take me to the downtown circle of Jericho, with shops frequented by local residents but Palestinian rather than ones catering only to tourists, but my driver clearly did not want to go anywhere near them. He took me very quickly through the circle of the centre of town where there were a fair number of Palestinian policemen stationed (traffic police I think). I wanted to get out and walk around (to see what prices were for locals, not tourists), but Faisal ignored the request. I have been wondering why Faisal only wanted to take me to the Ahava Temptations complex. Could it be because he, and other drivers, gets some sort of kick-back for bringing me there?