West Bank’s Ahava Muddies Address as EU Boosts Israeli Rules
Ahava Dead Sea Laboratories Ltd., which makes skin creams from mineral-rich mud, moved its executives and researchers to new locations in Israel to get them away from its factory in a West Bank Settlement.
Unfortunately, that won’t be enough for Ahava to by-pass a new European Union ban on funding operations on Israeli-occupied land as the company seeks a $6.2 Million-Euro [$8.25 Million] EU grant to produce a new line of SuperFlex cosmetics for the elderly.
Israeli objects to the funding restrictions, meant to discourage Settlement activities on land that Palestinians claim for their own State, and a fifteen-year research collaboration with its largest trade partner could founder if it pulls out of a European Union grant program in protest.
The loss of funds would be “catastrophic,” said former lawmaker Naomi Chazan.
Furthermore, Chazan, a professor emerita of political science, also said:
“It’s not just the actual facts that Israel would lose but all the connections to the academic world in terms of scientific access, scientific innovation and collaboration.”
While Israel has said it cannot accept the new guidelines, it is looking for a compromise. Israel has began negotiations with the European Union on participating in its $80 Billion-Euro research grant program for the next seven years, Horizon 2020.
At that session, Israel told the EU it would be unable to join the program if the guidelines aren’t changed, the Israeli Foreign Ministry said in an e-mailed statement:
“Israel expressed its hope that a way to reach positive understandings on the guidelines’ implementation will be found so as to enable Israel to participate in Horizon 2020.”
An investment of $535 Million-Euros for the 2007 2013 agreement earned Israel $637 Million Euros in grants, said David Kriss, a European Union spokesperson in Tel Aviv.
Furthermore, Kriss said:
“The guidelines are an expression of frustration regarding Settlement building which threatens to make a Two-State Solution impossible, as well as a response to concerns by European taxpayers that EU funds were not invested in illegal Settlements.”
The restrictions build on a broader European effort, including plans to label the origin of Settlement goods, to squeeze businesses such as Ahava and SodaStream that operate in the West Bank and East Jerusalem captured from the Jordanians in the 1967 Six Day War and the heart of the Palestinians‘ hoped-for State.
While falling short of Palestinian-led campaigns to boycott all Settlement-made products, the new limits will test whether the European Union can use research funds it parcels out to influence policy and discourage Jewish Settlement.
Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu says the restrictions, issued last month before Israel and the Palestinians renewed long-stalled talks, threatens peacemaking.
Netanyahu told German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle on his August 12, 2013 visit to Jerusalem:
“I have to say, on a sad note, that I think Europe, the European guidelines by the EU, have actually undermined peace.”
Last month, Netanyahu said Israel would accept “no external dictates” on its borders.
It is disingenuous of Binyamin Netenyahu to be blaming the EU for undermining the peace process the very same week [August 14, 2013] the Israelis once again sat down with the Palestinians to discuss a peace agreement. This will be their third attempt in 13 years, the last round of talks ended in 2008.
Since then about 40,000 more Israelis have moved into illegal Settlement areas the Palestinian people rightfully believe to belong to them under International Laws. Moreover, this is Arab land that would eventually form part of a Palestinian state.
Therefore, with 40,000 illegal Israel settlers living within this Palestinian territory it is going to make it even more difficult to partition this land.
Furthermore, Israel has announced it will advance plans to build more than 3,000 new homes for Jews in the Occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem. Senior Palestinian official Hanan Ashrawi stated:
“It’s not just deliberate sabotage of the talks, but really the destruction of the outcome.”
Israel argued it’s mainly building in areas it wants to keep in any border deal. Israeli Government spokesperson Mark Regev said:
“This construction that has been authorized in no way changes the final map of peace.”
Clearly, Mark Regev’s statement is disingenuous.
The construction of Jewish Settlements on large areas of Palestinian land, is in clear violation of Article – 46  of the Fourth Geneva Convention which states:
“The Occupying power shall not deport or transfer part of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.”
There are presently over 250 Jewish Settlements in the West Bank with a population of approx-imately 306,000 settlers, 165,000 of whom reside in Arab East Jerusalem.
[The Palestine – Israeli Journal – 2012]
Furthermore, Israel says East Jerusalem and the West Bank aren’t Occupied because they weren’t recognized as belonging to anyone before the 1967 Six Day War.
The Palestinians say Israeli construction in those two Occupied Territories is a War Crime that violates the Fourth Geneva Convention, which Israel was a signatory to.
Hanan Ashrawi, a former Palestinian negotiator, praised the European Union guidelines, saying Israel‘s Occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem must be “held to account.”
For Ahava, interpretation of the EU‘s guidelines will be key. Like other companies operating in the West Bank, including SodaStream International Ltd., it has so far avoided EU sanctions by moving its official headquarters inside Israel‘s internationally recognized borders.
Ahava‘s SuperFlex project, conducted with The Hebrew University in Jerusalem, uses nano-technology to produce skin care products for the elderly, with two-thirds of the funding coming from the European Union.
Its West Bank location means it will no longer qualify for the funds, said David Kriss, the EU spokesperson.
Ahava a closely held company with $160 Million in global sales last year, argues that its research facility is located inside sovereign Israel, about fifteen kilometres [nine miles] south of its factory in the Mitzpe Shalem Settlement.
Furthermore, executives now sit one-hundred thirty kilometres from the West Bank factory at an office park beside Israel‘s Ben Gurion International Airport.
In an e-mailed statement, Ahava said:
“The European Union’s decision does not concern Ahava.”
But pro-Palestinian activists say the Ahava headquarters address is a smokescreen that lets companies operate from Occupied Territories.
Scientific and technological innovation drives Israel‘s economy, which is powered by industries such as electronics, aerospace, medical systems, biotechnologyand arms dealing.
Dan Catarivas, Director of the Foreign-Trade and International Relations Division at the Manufactures Association of Israel, said:
“Israel and Europe have great business ties, but the political forces in Brussels are casting a cloud over some of our collaboration.”
The European Union bought $14.4 Billion in Israeli exports in 2012, or 31 percent of total sales abroad.
Exports from the West Bank account for $100 Million, less than 1 percent, the Manufacturers Association said.
NASDAQ traded SodaStream, whose advertising campaign attacking both Coca-Cola and Pepsi was removed from the Super Bowl, acknowledges European Union sanctions and boycott efforts have taken a toll.
SodaStream wrote in its Annual 20-F Statement to the United States Securities and Exchange Commission, filed in April 2013 that:
“We may in the future be required to transfer additional manufacturing activities to a location outside of the disputed Territories.”
Moreover, SodaStream, whose shares have risen 53 percent in the past twelve months, says hundreds of Palestinian employees would be hurt if it were forced to leave its West Bank factory in Mishor Adumin near Jerusalem.
Settler spokesperson, Dani Dayan said the European Union action represents a “moral low” for the organization and will inflict little damage on Settlements.
Peace Now, an Israeli organization opposed to Settlements, hailed the European Union guidelines.
Lior Amihai, who follows Settlement construction for Peace Now, said:
“Settlers have been trying to blur the border lines but this works to make the division more clear.”
[Adapted from – bloomberg.com/news/2013-08-14 – Written by: J. Ferziger and D. Wainer.]
Last year, a spokesperson for Who Profits stated Israeli Settlement companies exploit Palestinian labourers while claiming that the work benefits them:
“A business that operates unlawfully cannot demand legitimacy on behalf of the workers and at its expense.”
Furthermore, the spokesperson explained that in other cases of exploitive employment:
“Civil society worldwide rejected employers as legitimate representatives of their workers” and maintained instead that “major corporations and colonial powers be held accountable for their actions.”
[Stephanie Westbrook – May 9, 2013 – at Electronic Intifada]