Abigail Disney – filmmaker, philanthropist and great-niece of the legendary animator Walt Disney – has publicly renounced her share of the family profits from an Israeli firm she claims is exploiting “occupied natural resources”.
Her decision to donate the profits, as well as funds equal to the value of her shares in the Dead Sea minerals cosmetics firm Ahava, to “groups working to end this illegal exploitation,” is a high-profile boost to campaigners against trade with Israeli settlements and companies in the occupied West Bank.
While Ahava’s headquarters is in Israel, the company’s main factory is in the Jordan Valley settlement of Mitzpe Shalem. The Israeli anti-occupation, non-governmental organisation “Who Profits” has received confirmation from the Israeli military under Freedom of Information legislation that the company is licensed to extract mud from the West Bank section of the Dead Sea coast. Shamrock Holdings, owned by the Disney family, is believed to have an investment worth around $12m in the company.
A statement issued by Ms Disney says this is in “direct contravention” of both the 1907 Hague Convention and the Geneva Convention by exploiting natural resources in occupied territory. Settlements are also considered illegal under international law by most of the international community, including Britain.
Ahava is a well-known Israeli export brand and its skin care products from Dead Sea minerals and mud are also sold in the company’s own stores in Germany, Hungary, the Philippines and Singapore.
Ms Disney, 52, said in her statement: “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 organisations working to end this illegal exploitation.”