Israel’s War Against Palestine: Documenting the Military Occupation of Palestinian and Arab Lands

Disney family member renounces her investments in Israel’s Ahava Cosmetics

16 July 2012

By Amira Hass, Haaretz – 16 July 2012

Abigail Disney, the granddaughter of Roy O. Disney, who co-founded The Walt Disney Company with his brother Walt, disclaims Ahava investment due to its location in an ‘Israeli settlement in the occupied West Bank.’

Abigail Disney, a descendant of one of the Disney Company founders, said Monday that she is renouncing her share of the family’s profits in the Israeli cosmetics company Ahava, saying it is engaged in the “exploitation of occupied natural resources.”

Disney said she will donate the profits and a sum equal to the worth of her shares to “organizations working to end this illegal exploitation.” Disney, 52, a filmmaker and businesswoman, is the granddaughter of Roy O. Disney, who co-founded The Walt Disney Company with his brother Walt.

Her move, however, has more of a symbolic significance than a financial one. Shamrock Holdings, the family firm in which she is a partner, has invested heavily in Israel, as evidenced by the wide-ranging activity of its Israeli affiliate, Shamrock Israel.

According to various media reports, Shamrock has invested some $400 million in Israeli companies, about a fifth of its capital. Among its holdings is an investment worth at least $12 million in Ahava, which is based in Kibbutz Mitzpe Shalem on the Dead Sea shores, outside Israel’s pre-1967 borders.

“Recent evidence from the Israeli Civil Administration documents that Ahava Dead Sea Laboratories sources mud used in its products from the occupied shores of the Dead Sea, which is in direct contravention to provisions in the Hague Regulations and the Geneva Convention forbidding the exploitation of occupied natural resources,” Disney said in a statement released after informing her family and partners of her decision.

“Because of complicated legal and financial constraints, I am unable to withdraw my investment at this time, but will donate the corpus of the investment as well as the profits accrued to me during the term of my involvement to organizations working to end this illegal exploitation,” she said.

One of Israel’s best known brands overseas, Ahava makes skin care products derived from Dead Sea mud and mineral-based compounds from the Dead Sea. It has stores in Israel, Germany, Hungary, the Philippines and Singapore.

Disney’s reference to “evidence from the Israeli Civil Administration” relates to a letter received from the Civil Administration by the Who Profits From the Occupation research project. In the letter the Civil Administration confirmed that the military government had issued a permit to Ahava allowing it to take mud from the area adjacent to the Dead Sea captured by Israel in 1967. Until two months ago, Disney had been deputy chairman of Shamrock Holdings, which was founded in 1978 by her father Roy E. Disney. The firm bought a 17 percent stake in Ahava in 2008. Ahava representatives said the investment gave them capital to expand overseas, particularly in the United States.

Shamrock also has a stake in the Teva Naot footwear company, which is located in the Gush Etzion settlement bloc south of Jerusalem, and in the Orad company, which makes, among other things, control and monitoring technology for the separation barrier running through the West Bank.

Disney, who has a Ph.D. in English from Columbia University, began making documentary films in 2007. Together with her husband, Pierre Hauser, Disney is co-founder and co-president of the Daphne Foundation, which makes grants to grassroots, community-based organizations working with low-income communities in New York City and describes itself as “progressive and seeking social change.”

For the more detailed Hebrew version.

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