The otherwise fragrant shops of Lush Cosmetics have recently been emitting a bad smell. This British company founded in 1995 is now a global brand enjoying success in different countries around the world, with one notable exception – Israel. Epitomising the ongoing virility of the Boycott-Divestment-Sanctions (BDS) campaign, Lush has refused to open a store in Israel, ironically citing concerns over "discrimination."
Last week the company told London's Jewish Chronicle, "We don't feel it's a safe environment to have a store [in Israel]. Would we want a shop where we couldn't have a mix? We have a multicultural attitude to everything we do; we want everyone in the country where we are trading to be on an equal footing as far as basic human rights go. Some of the team would have to come through checkpoints and be treated differently on their way to work – that would be our worry."
This is, of course, a straw man. In addition to stringent equality legislation in Israel, the country has Muslim and Arab citizens serving in its most senior quarters, including Members of Parliament, Supreme Court Justices, senior diplomats, top-flight physicians s in all its hospitals and professors in its universities Consider Ishmael Khaldi, a Bedouin who has risen to become Israel's highest ranking Muslim diplomat in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs – a role that has even seen him serve as an advisor to Avigdor Lieberman. The Israeli Defence Force also appointed its first Muslim Officer last year, Lieutenant Hesham Aborea.
By contrast, Lush maintains stores in Saudi Arabia where women cannot drive or leave their homes without male permission, where not even a Bible is allowed, and where no one but Muslims may enter what they consider their holy city. Similarly, Lush seems to find no problem doing business in Sri Lanka where the government ethnically cleansed an estimated 20,000 Tamils in the country's ongoing sectarian conflict. Neither country is a bastion of the egalitarian principles Lush so sanctimoniously claims to uphold.
There is a much broader point to consider than just the actions of a private company and where it chooses to do business. Lush is the symptom of a wider Boycott-Divestment-Sanctions (BDS) environment which strikes against the very idea of the free and democratic Israeli state itself. This campaign equates Israel with South African apartheid and seeks to isolate it internationally.
That much has been confirmed by Lush's promotion of a song by the OneWorld charity. Their aim is to encourage supporters to buy the music and secure its place in the charts, thereby making a political point through the published list of 'top 40' record sales.
On its website, Lush explains: "The project began after Faithless guitarist, Dave Randall returned recently from the West Bank. What he saw there convinced him that life for most Palestinians living under the illegal Israeli occupation is at least as bad as that endured by black South Africans in the bad old days of apartheid."
Lush also states that, "The catastrophe facing the Palestinian people is one of the defining global justice issues of our time." The song's lyrics pass off deeply contentious political issues as undisputed truth:
So many years of catastrophe, more than six million refugees,
it could be you and your family,
Forced from your home and your history.
We are the people, and this is our time,
Stand up, sing out, for Palestine
No matter your faith or community, this is a crime against humanity,
Gaza turned into a prison camp, apartheid wall divides the West Bank.
Among the British groups supporting OneWorld are Friends of al-Aqsa, which has a record of anti-Semitism. Its director, Ismail Patel, has glorified Hamas, saying, "Hamas is no terrorist organization. The reason they hate Hamas is because they refuse to be subjugated, occupied by the Israeli state, and we salute Hamas for standing up to Israel." I would urge him, or anyone else for that matter, to take a look at Hamas's charter, a compendium of libellous fabrications. He also approvingly quotes Holocaust deniers in both his lectures and in print.
Initiatives of this sort are becoming increasingly common in Britain and represent a not-so-insidious campaign to delegitimize Israel diplomatically and destroy its standing. None of these comments , of course, suggests that Israel is a flawless society without imperfection or discrimination. Clearly, problems persist. But what campaigns such as this promote is an essentialist view of Israel and its citizens as inherently illegitimate and evil.
So far those seeking to counteract this campaign have called for a boycott of Lush. That in all probability will not affect Lush economically, and also represents the same kind of miserable tactic that Lush is employing. What is needed instead, as well as exposing Lush's views for what they really are, is a coherent and coordinated campaign of education to correct the falsehoods that many millions of petro-dollar public relations firms and Islamist television broadcasts such as al-Manar have set in place, and to reasonably explains the issues at hand -- both the political and economic blackmail being perpetrated on the well-intentioned but grossly misinformed citizens of the West.