Controversy sells — and in Brooklyn Heights, it’s also good for the skin.
Local Jewish leaders and anti-Israel protesters faced off on Montague Street — again — on Tuesday, holding a raucous debate over whether West Bank-made lotions sold at Ricky’s cosmetics shop support Israel’s “illegal” occupation of the embattled region.
Not that there was any actual “debate,” of course, just shouting across the sidewalk, as those who called for a boycott of Israeli-manufactured Ahava cosmetics and purchasers of said projects faced off for the second time in as many months.
In the end, the boycott supporters ended up actually promoting the Ahava products, as Heights residents flocked to Ricky’s with their wallets open.
“I came in when I saw the flags — I think [the boycotters] are absurd,” said Ginger Berman, who bought a tub of Ahava bath salts. “There are so many other big issues to protest, why this?”
The reason, say opponents from Brooklyn for Peace, is that Ahava products use mud from the Dead Sea and other minerals from the West Bank — resources that rightly belong to Palestinians.
Protesters say that the Geneva Conventions is on their side in this millenial Mideast conflict, but Raskin and his crew say that a 1995 agreement between Israel and the Palestinians granted control of a large part of West Bank land to Israel — including the part where Ahava products are made.
Protesters may have outnumbered the supporters of the cosmetics company — including Rabbi Aaron Raskin of Congregation B’nai Avraham on Remsen Street in Brooklyn Heights, who has called the protests anti-Semitic.
Anti-Semitic, perhaps, but great for business. Ricky’s employees said that they sell out of Ahava products every time there is a protest — and there have been others in Manhattan, a neighboring city.
The timing of this week’s protest seemed designed to make a point, given that Israel’s 10-month moratorium on settlement-building in the West Bank expired on Sunday.
“This issue isn’t about Jews, it’s about justice for Palestinians whose minerals have been stolen,” said Felice Gelman at the rally. “We’ve asked Ricky’s to stop selling them, and they won’t.”
Given the soaring sales for Ahava products on Tuesday, the group may want to reconsider its boycott strategy.