The Dead Sea is renowned for its distinctive geographical, mineral and climatic features and is rich in natural resources, such as groundwater, surface water, springs system and deposits. 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. Almost two-thirds of the western shore of the Dead Sea lies within the West Bank. 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. Ahava cosmetics company uses mineral-rich mud from the Dead Sea to make high end skin care products, and is based in the settlement of Mitzphe Shalem, established in 1970 on the land of the Bedouin village of Eyn Treibah, and claimed to serve as an “agricultural observatory”. According to an Al Haq report Ahava is "unlawfully utilising the Palestinian natural resources of the Dead Sea area for its own economic profits and therefore can be considered directly responsible for the pillage of the occupied territory's natural resources in clear violation of customary international law". The organization points out that Dead Sea mud has generated copious amounts of revenue for Ahava, Mitzphe Shalem, and other shareholders such as Gaon Holdings and Shamrock Holdings since 1988 while Palestinians are unable to enjoy the economic benefits of their confiscated lands and cannot move freely among Israeli settlements let alone live in them. Al-Haq has thus called on cosmetic retailers to provide clear information about the origin of products they sell to allow consumers to make an informed choice about purchases. They argue that there is international misinformation related with the origin of Ahava’s products, as in their labels it can be read “Made in Israel” and that this is a case of false advertising, as it hides their real origin and the fact that purchasing Ahava products finances injustices against Palestinians and diminishes Israel’s accountability in its unlawful land seizures.
It is alleged that the following rights under the law of the occupation are being infringed in this case: Prohibition of settlements of illegal transfer of civilians from the occupying power into the occupied territory, under Article 49(6) of the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949. The occupying power must respect private property under article 46 of the Hague Regulations. Destruction of existing infrastructure of the occupied population is also prohibited under article 23(g) of the Hague Regulations 56 and Article 53 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, unless the destruction is of absolute military necessity.
Under Article 43 of the Hague Regulations, the occupying power is prohibited from constructing permanent infrastructure in occupied territory, unless it serves military purposes or advances the interests of the occupied population.
Also under article 55 of the Hague Regulations, the occupying power should only function as a temporary administrator and usufructury (limited beneficiary) over the property and capital located in the occupied territory. The use by the settlements of natural resources permanently affect the natural assets of the occupied Palestinian territory and harm the environment, and violates article 55 of the Hague Regulations. And that in spite of these violations, these activities were validated by the Israeli High Court of Justice’s (HCJ) ruling in December 2011.
Activists have also called for international boycotts of Ahava products and in 2011 Ahava was forced to close its flagship store in central London in after two years of concerted campaigning by grassroots groups.