If you visit a shopping centre, chances are that you’ll eventually come across a kiosk selling Dead Sea beauty products. These kiosks have attracted a lot of attention, not just for the origin of their natural resources, but also for their shady practices and coercive sales techniques that would make a snake oil salesman blush.
Stop for just a few seconds to check the label and you’ll be approached by a young Israeli of the opposite sex, dressed in black and pawing at your hands to entice you to purchase an overpriced container of lotion. If you think they’re just being friendly, think again. Most of them work from scripts like this and this.
Kiosks stocking Dead Sea beauty products can be found in many malls run by Israeli companies who employ almost exclusively Israelis.
These kiosks are legitimate targets, as every sale supports companies who in turn support the apparatus of oppression in the racist apartheid state. Dead Sea Premier kiosks were targeted in April and July 2011 at malls in Auckland, New Zealand and in June and November, Seacret kiosks in Brisbane and Perth Australia were also targeted.
The video below is an example of the sales tactics these companies use. Clearly this Israeli saleswoman won’t take no for an answer:
There’s uncertainty not just about the origin of any natural resources, but also about the immigration status of many kiosk workers. In December 2009, eight Israelis were arrested by the UK Border Agency in a Bristol mall and later deported. Arrests and deportations have also taken place in America, Canada and even New Zealand – where Israelis claimed to police that they weren’t being paid, but were volunteer goodwill ambassadors for the apartheid state!
In 2008, The Wall Street Journal published an insightful article entitled: Shalom, Christmas Shoppers: Israelis Sell Cosmetics, Toys at the Mall.
Unfortunately, since that exposé was published, the ‘cancer’ has spread.
A LEAKED US EMBASSY CABLE FROM TEL AVIV
The problem of Israelis working illegally at kiosks throughout America has become so serious that in January 2010, the former US Ambassador to Israel, James Cunningham sent a report to his bosses in Washington, DC entitled Dead Sea Cosmetics and Skincare Industry Fraud.
This diplomatic cable, posted on WikiLeaks, shed light on the activities of Israelis selling Dead Sea beauty products at kiosks throughout America, Australia, New Zealand and Europe. It details widespread immigration fraud, worker exploitation, tax evasion, money laundering and the involvement of organised crime on a massive-scale. The original document is in a run-on format, so here’s an easy-to-read version.
The US embassy in Tel Aviv even went so far as to produce a video (below) warning Israelis of the risks of working illegally in America that is also endlessly played in the embassy’s waiting room, but it seems to have little effect, as many feel that stronger deterrents are needed.
The 2010 cable reveals that some Dead Sea cosmetic and skin care products that are labelled “Made in Israel” may actually originate elsewhere such as China, which has both ‘dead seas’ and cheap labour. One company allegedly manufactures soaps in the USA who employ illegal workers from Central America and then label the product as originating from the Dead Sea. Yet another reportedly imports soaps and lotions in bulk into Israel, where they are packaged before being exported and sold in America, taking advantage of Israel’s most favoured trading nation status to qualify for a reduced tariff on imported goods.
Interestingly, the cable also reveals that most companies hire only those who have completed military service in the Israel Occupation Force - which of course excludes the overwhelming majority of Palestinians.
A company called Gadi has kiosks at the West One Shopping Centre off Oxford Street, at Victoria Place near Victoria Station and at other locations in Central London while Southside Wandsworth centre has seen a Dead Sea Premier kiosk mysteriously come and go in only a few weeks and not surprisingly, at the Brent Cross Shopping Centre in North London, there’s a SeaSpa kiosk.
However, the lion’s share of kiosks can be found inside malls owned by the Westfield Group who manage over a hundred malls throughout America, Australia, New Zealand and the UK.
When we raised the possibility that some of their tenants employ illegal workers, staff at Westfield Stratford didn’t seem too bothered, as the Australian-based group was co-founded by Zionist Frank Lowy, a close confidant of former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.
After arriving in Palestine from Hungry in 1946, Lowy served as a commando in the Haganah, precursor of the Israeli Occupation Force and later the notorious Golani Brigade who were very active during the Nakba, terrorising and murdering Palestinians in large numbers. In 1952, Lowy emigrated to Australia where he made his fortune building shopping centres. Now retired, Lowy reportedly spends much of his time in Israel.
A VISIT TO ONSEN
Here’s one person’s experience when stopping at Onsen’s kiosk in Westfield Stratford:
I was approached by a very friendly sales assistant named “Yoni” who told me that their products used technology and minerals that were more advanced than any other product.
Me being very cautious and aware of marketing tactics, I wasn’t at all convinced but he was extremely persistent. He wouldn’t allow me to leave until he’d show me the face peel, so he poured some of it on to my hand. It was a clear gel substance and he rubbed it around my hand and eventually it formed white and grey particles.
He told me that it was dirt and that a clean hand wouldn’t have that dirt and said if it could do that for my hand; imagine what it could do for an oily face.
However, I was aware that all the gel needed was body heat to form those particles and it was false advertising, but I just played along.
He then showed me the hydration cleanser and milk lotion cleanser and told me a bunch of facts behind the “natural” product. He then took me to the computer screen and showed me that on the Onsen website, the face peel product was US$129.95 online, but if I bought the product at the kiosk today, it would only be £60.00 or £120.00 for both products.
I thought this was an extreme rip-off for a product I had never heard of.
“Yoni” then told me: “I wouldn’t do this for everyone but I can see that you’re interested and I’m willing to offer you my personal employee discount for £30.00 a product or £60.00 for two.” (Inside I was laughing at the fact my acting skills worked). But I told him I still wasn’t interested.
At this point, I was approached by one of Yoni’s friends who tried to sell me something else. He applied some cream under my left eye and immediately he tried to convince me that he could see my skin tightening up and my eyes were less puffy and dark.
This was a complete lie because obviously the skin under my eye was still as dark as ever.
A popular consumer website, Complaints Board details a plethora of complaints against Onsen and other companies at Westfield and at other malls throughout America, suggesting that this is only the tip of the iceberg.
SOAP & CO
Companies such as Soap & Co often recruit using their own sites and Hebrew-language online noticeboards, as well as through informal social networks shortly before they complete their military service. Most Israelis who want to work overseas know its pretty easy to find a job “on the carts.”
Here’s a Soap & Co recruitment video that promises “real money” in addition to the excitement of working in London:
We visited Soap & Co’s registered address at 272 Regent’s Park Road N3 3HN in the north London Borough of Barnet ready to pose questions about their hiring of illegal workers and high pressure sales tactics.
As it turned out, the address was not that of Soap & Co, but of the auditing firm of Spencer Hyde Ltd who confirmed that they are Soap & Co’s accountants, but were not willing to divulge any further information concerning their connection with this elusive company.
So there you have it.
It’s time the Home Office, UK Border Agency and HM Revenue & Customs take appropriate action to terminate this ‘industry’ which has an unsavoury record and proven history of flouting consumer protection, employment, immigration and tax legislation - as well as international law.
Their free ride will soon be over.