Neutrality Is A Lie

A few days ago, I got linked to Code Pink's Stolen Beauty Campaign, a boycott against AHAVA Dead Sea Laboratories. AHAVA is an Israeli company that makes bath and beauty products with Dead Sea mineral mud and is sold worldwide. However, while they advertise as an Israeli company and product, their production facilities and visitor's center are located in the Occupied Territory of the Palestinian West Bank. It is illegal for them to label their products as "made in Israel", though they do. Furthermore, they use the mud and resources of the West Bank in production of their products, in direct contravention of the Geneva Conventions, which forbid occupying powers from profiting from the natural resources of an occupied territory. The fourth Geneva Convention explicitly forbids an occupying power from removing the captured natural resources for its own use.

I read about the boycott and actions against AHAVA, filed it away in my "read more later when there's more time" file mentally...but I left the tab open and just worked around it. (I tend to run anywhere from a half dozen to two dozen open tabs at once, so it's not that unusual for me to leave something up for a few days.)

And then today, in perusing my morning's readings from the 80+ blogs I follow, I encountered a post on Temptalia, a makeup and beauty blog I follow. Christine (owner and blogmistress of Temptalia) had posted a review of AHAVA's body wash line. I read through it, and it was a glowing review of the product. I reread it. Where was the caution about the controversy surrounding the product? Where was it mentioned that AHAVA profits from the occupation of the Palestinian Territories, by stealing their natural resoures? There was not so much as a single footnote detailing even a hint of reservation about endorsing this apparently! great! product!

So I waded in, teaspoon held high, and posted a comment:
Christine, please don't advocate, product-push, advertise, review, whatever you want to call it, for AHAVA products. They advertise as being made in Israel, but the products are actually manufactured in a factory compound located in an illegal settlement in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, using resources stolen from Palestinian land, in direct contravention of international law. According to international public law, including the relevant UN Security Council Resolutions, the West Bank cannot be considered to be part of the State of Israel; thus, their labeling as being "made in Israel" is false and illegal. This also means AHAVA profits by stealing, manufacturing and selling resources from Palestine: because it harvests minerals from mud pulled from the Dead Sea, from the Occupied West Bank (Palestinian) land, it is technically stealing resources. The fourth Geneva Convention explicitly forbids an occupying power from removing the captured natural resources for its own use.

You have a big following, and your words can make a difference to many people. Please use this positively, to help bring attention to the illegal actions of this company, rather than approvingly reviewing the product and recommending it to your readers.

I'll give her credit for this: she's fast on the draw. Within ten minutes of posting that comment, which got held up in moderation since I'd included a couple of links to the Stolen Beauty Campaign, I received a response by email. I won't post it here, but the gist of it was that since Temptalia is not a political blog, she didn't wish to get into a political discussion on the issue. She wanted, she said, to remain neutral. If I wanted to reword my comment as a general educational spiel to the readership instead of as a call for her to stand up and do something, I was welcome to re-post it.

She wanted to remain neutral, she said. Neutral?

The problem is, there is no such thing as neutrality. You either support the status quo, or you challenge it. By saying "I'm neutral," by standing back and refusing to speak, you support the status quo. A refusal to act is an act of refusal. To claim neutrality is a cop-out. It's the coward's way. It is saying, "This may be a bad thing, but I am not going to involve myself. I'm going to let it happen unchallenged." If you aren't a part of the solution, you are a part of the problem. There is no third option. This is the very foundation of All In, the corollary to Teaspoon Theory, the two most basic laws by which I strive to live my life.

I responded to say I respected her wishes and would re-word and re-post my comment, but I also told her my views on neutrality.

When I returned to the post to retry my comment...I found it missing. She emailed me later to say she'd removed the post, pending further research. The power of teaspoons!

And I think, now, that I, like McCain who didn't believe in women's "health", will start putting air quotes around concepts I don't believe in. And "neutrality" is the first to get that treatment from me.

Because there is no Switzerland. "Neutrality" is a lie.


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