The INDEPENDENT: Natural History Museum attacked over links to ‘illegal’ Israeli company

London's Natural History Museum

UPDATED: 23 January

 EXTRA, EXTRA!

 Note: The article and letter below were published in the 17 January 2012 edition of The Independent, a major UK national daily newspaper. 

It’s beyond belief that the Natural History Museum is so deeply involved with both Ahava and Veolia – two companies that were proven beyond a doubt to be complicit in Israel’s violation of international law – and yet care so little about public opinion, despite receiving funding from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.  

We encourage all people of conscience to contact the Natural History Museum on one of their many platforms and urge them to immediately terminate their involvement with both Ahava and Veolia.

Please see the ‘WHAT YOU CAN DO’ section at the bottom of this post for contact information and links.  

ARTICLE: Natural History Museum attacked over links to ‘illegal’ Israeli company
The INDEPENDENT, Tuesday 17 January 2012
 
By Cahal MILMO
 

The Natural History Museum is today accused by a coalition of prominent academics and cultural figures of helping to break international law by leading a research project which involves an Israeli cosmetics company based in an “illegal” settlement in the occupied West Bank.

In a letter to The Independent (scroll down), leading scientists and the film directors Mike Leigh and Ken Loach, condemn the London museum – which is the fourth most visited in Britain – for its research collaboration with Ahava – Dead Sea Laboratories (DSL), which sells beauty products based on minerals extracted from the Dead Sea.

The museum, which has a substantial academic research team, is co-ordinating NANORETOX, a European Union-funded project looking at any risks to human health and the environment posed by so-called nanoparticles – microscopic engineered materials which scientists are developing for multiple uses from cancer treatment to double glazing.

Ahava-DSL, which is one of a dozen institutions and companies involved in the project including two University of London colleges, has its registered headquarters listed in Israel but most of its activities are carried out in Mitzpe Shalem, a Jewish settlement on the edge of the Dead Sea in the West Bank.

Settlements in the Occupied Territories have been declared illegal under international law by the United Nations and the International Court of Justice. But despite international condemnation, the Israeli government insists that a large number of the settlements, including more than 120 on the West Bank, are not illegal.

In their letter, the 21 signatories, who include the eminent biologist Sir Patrick Bateson, president of the Zoological Society of London, and leading intellectual Sir Jonathan Miller, claim that the Natural History Museum’s connection with Ahava-DSL means that it is “co-ordinating an activity that breaks international law”.

They said: “[Ahava-DSL] extracts, processes and exports Palestinian resources to generate profits that fund an illegal settlement. Israel’s settlement project has been held… to break international law. Organisations which aid and abet this process may well themselves be found to be in violation.

“We find it almost inconceivable that a national institution of the status of the Natural History Museum should have put itself in this position. We call on the museum to take immediate steps to terminate its involvement in [the project] and to establish safeguards that protect against any comparable entanglement.”

The NANORETOX project began in December 2008 and is due to conclude at the end of this year, although campaigners say the involvement of Ahava-DSL has only now come to their attention. The company, which has conducted extensive research on nanoparticles for its products, was appointed to the project to supply materials and carry out toxicity tests.

The Natural History Museum yesterday defended its role in the research, saying that Ahava-DSL was chosen from a listed of scientific partners approved by the European Commission and suggested that any decision to boycott the project could be a challenge to “academic freedom”.

In a statement, Professor Ian Owens, the museum’s director of science, said: “We work within the legal and policy boundaries established by politicians and policy makers, and would not participate in any academic or educational boycotts that could restrict academic freedom.”

Ahava-DSL, which has been the subject of a boycott campaign targeting its shops in Europe and America, did not respond to requests for a comment. The company has previously said that the Dead Sea mud and materials used in its products are excavated from Israeli land outside the occupied territories and that Mitzpe Shalem is not an illegal settlement.

LETTER: Museum must drop West Bank link
The INDEPENDENT, Tuesday 17 January 2012
 

It is extraordinary, but true, that one of our great national museums is co-ordinating an activity that breaks international law. That museum is the Natural History Museum, which is collaborating in research with an Israeli commercial firm located in an illegal settlement in the Palestinian West Bank.

The firm is Ahava/Dead Sea Laboratories, whose business is manufacturing cosmetics out of mud, which it excavates from the banks of the Dead Sea. Ahava/DSL is located at Mitzpe Shalem, a settlement 10km beyond the Green Line. The collaboration with the Museum is through an EU-funded project called Nanoretox, in which Kings College London, Imperial College and a number of foreign institutions are also involved. The museum is the coordinating partner for this project.

Ahava/DSL is based on occupied territory. It extracts, processes and exports Palestinian resources to generate profits that fund an illegal settlement. Israel’s settlement project has been held by the International Court of Justice to break international law. Organisations which aid and abet this process may well themselves be found to be in violation. We find it almost inconceivable that a national institution of the status of the Natural History Museum should have put itself in this position.

We call on the museum to take immediate steps to terminate its involvement in Nanoretox and to establish safeguards that protect against any comparable entanglement.
 
Professor Sir Patrick Bateson FRS, University of Cambridge
 
Professor Malcolm Levitt FRS, University of Southampton
 
Professor Tim Shallice FRS, SISSA, Trieste
 
Mike Leigh
 
Ken Loach
 
Jonathan Miller
 
Victoria Brittain
 
Baroness Tonge
 
Dr Gillian Yudkin
 
Professor Laurence Dreyfus FBA, University of Oxford
 
Professor Jacqueline Rose FBA, Queen Mary University of London
 
Professor Jonathan Rosenhead, London School of Economics
 
Professor John Armitage, University of Bristol
 
Professor Haim Bresheeth, University of East London
 
Professor Barry Fuller, University College London
 
Professor Colin Green, University College, London
 
Dr Ghada Karmi, University of Exeter
 
Professor Adah Kay, City University
 
Professor David Pegg, University of York
 
Professor Steven Rose, Open University
 
Professor Lynne Segal, Birkbeck College
 

WHAT YOU CAN DO:

  • Contact the Natural History Museum: NHM, Cromwell Road, London SW7 5BD, Tel: 020 7942 5511, or send them an email via a reply form.
  • Leave an appropriate message on the Natural History Museum’s Facebook page.
  • Tweet the Natural History Museum: @NHM_London
  • Contact your MP to  let them know how you feel. The Natural History Museum receives funding from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.
  • Join us outside the Natural History Museum on Saturday, January 28th between 12-2pm. All welcome!

About London BDS

The resistance must be continuous

One thought on “The INDEPENDENT: Natural History Museum attacked over links to ‘illegal’ Israeli company

  1. Pingback: Working at theNaturalHistoryMuseum « Confessions Of A YEC

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