Tadamon! Open letter to Hudson’s Bay Company on Ahava statement

March 11th, 2011 | Posted in Boycott, Canada, Palestine, Quebec

Tadamon letter: Hudson’s Bay Company/Canada Israel Committee AHAVA release


    Photo: Israeli apartheid wall cutting through Palestinian territories.

Bonnie Brooks
President and CEO, the Bay
Hudson’s Bay Company
11 March 2011

Dear Ms. Brooks,

The purpose of this letter is to take issue with the content of a statement that you issued on 13 January 2011 referring to the decision of the Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC) to withdraw AHAVA brand skincare products temporarily from its store shelves. Available documentation indicates that the statement was “jointly issued” by you, the UJA Federation of Greater Toronto and the Canada Israel Committee (CIC). [1]

We are a grassroots collective based in Montreal working to advance social justice and improved conditions (economic, social, political) for the peoples of the Middle East. We give particular attention to the condition of Palestinians living in Israel/Palestine. In supporting Palestinians in their struggle for liberation and justice, we also support the call from Palestinian civil society organizations to advance a strategy of boycott, divestment and sanctions against the state of Israel until it complies with international law. We take issue with your “jointly issued” statement because it indicates that on the matter in question – the sale of AHAVA brand products at Bay stores – HBC chose to act with disregard for international law and principles of human rights. Further, in openly aligning itself with two organizations that engage in political advocacy in the interests of Israel, HBC is being blatantly one-sided on the Palestine-Israel question and, troublingly, choosing the side of apologetics for apartheid. We urge HBC to issue a retraction.

The purpose of the “jointly issued” statement is, ostensibly, to offer an explanation for HBC’s decision to withdraw the AHAVA brand products. The explanation is offered in order to dispel beliefs that the withdrawal was due to “political pressure”. Specifically, the statement makes the following assertion:

“At no point did political considerations enter into the exercise of HBC’s business judgment. HBC has made it clear that it has not “bowed to political pressure” in the past, has not done so now and will not do so in the future.”

The pressure in question is the call for consumers to boycott AHAVA products owing to their place of production. The products are manufactured on land in the West Bank that Israel – the occupying power in the territory – confiscated, in violation of international law, for the purpose of establishing a settlement colony for Israeli citizens. Israel has occupied the West Bank militarily since 1967. This occupation is illegal under international and humanitarian law as it violates the 4th Geneva Convention as well as other international statutes, such as the Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid. AHAVA products are manufactured at a factory located in the Israeli settlement colony of Mitzpe Shalem. They are labeled as being of ‘Israeli origin’. This is misleading because, under international public law, the West Bank cannot be considered to be part of the state of Israel.

Your statement indicates that the Hudson’s Bay Company has chosen to disregard the context (political, historical, legal) of the production of the AHAVA line. This, in the end, is the HBC’s prerogative. It will have to reconcile itself in some way to this choice to disregard human rights and international law. However, it defies credulity and credibility for HBC to explain this choice as a matter of principle or as a rule of practice as it does in the statement when claiming that HBC makes business decisions independent of political considerations and does not “bow to political pressure”. This is so for the following reasons:

1. HBC’s decision to stock the products in the first place is not independent of politics despite its claims to the contrary. Politics cannot be dissociated from business in the context of Palestine-Israel and especially of the West Bank. Everything about the West Bank, from the use of land and resources, to the everyday economic choices of West Bank residents, is reflected in and is determined by politics. The West Bank is occupied land. Virtually all aspects of human activity there are political. Thus, it is impossible to be politically neutral when doing business in the West Bank. Indeed, in doing business in the West Bank, the responsible and ethically principled thing to do is to make choices that recognize and advance the legitimate claims and rights of the Palestinian people. Refusing to purchase products made in Israeli settlement colonies would be one such choice. Anything less would be tantamount to turning a blind eye to military occupation and the theft of land and resources.

2. HBC has chosen to issue the statement jointly with the National Chair of the Canada Israel Committee, an organization that is explicitly and purposely political, and the UJA Federation of Greater Toronto, an organization that also engages in explicit political advocacy. Both organizations openly work to advance and represent the interests of the state of Israel and to defend its actions which include Israel’s devastating military assault on Gaza at the turn of 2009 resulting in the deaths of approximately 1400 Palestinians. [2] Issuing the statement jointly with these organizations indicates that you and HBC share their view on the matter of whether it is ethical to sell AHAVA products in your stores. Adopting this view and entering this political alliance is ill-conceived and troubling—it betrays a serious lack of understanding of the Palestine-Israel conflict on the part of HBC, and it shows a disturbing willingness to disregard ethics and legality where the rights of the Palestinian people are concerned. As such, HBC is opting to support and give legitimacy to the Israeli state’s occupation of Palestinian lands and continued violation of Palestinian people’s fundamental rights. In agreeing to issue this statement jointly with CIC and UJA, you and HBC are doing precisely what, in the statement, you claim not to be doing with respect to the AHAVA line: bowing to political pressure.

The joint statement discredits you and HBC. We hope that you will recognize the inconsistencies in your stance and the poor judgment that it shows and we urge you to issue a retraction and to make permanent the withdrawal of AHAVA products from Bay store shelves.

The Tadamon! Collective
tel: 514 664 1036
email: info[at]tadamon.ca


Buycot Israel. “The Bay and AHAVA: A Marketing Decision”, 13 January 2011, www.buycottisrael.ca

Levy-Ajzenkopff, Andy. “HBC stands firm against Israeli boycott calls”, The Canadian Jewish News, 20 January 2011.

Palestinian Center for Human Rights. “PCHR Release Genuinely Unwilling: Israel’s Investigations into Violations of International Law including Crimes Committed during the Offensive on the Gaza Strip, 27 December 2008 – 18 January 2009”, 11/02/10 PCHR

1 Comment »

Félicitations. Lettre très bien construite

Comment by Anne Salomon — March 13th, 2011 @ 11:30 AM

Leave a comment

Upcoming events