The British scientific community is putting pressure on the National History Museum in London to stop its partnership with an Israeli skincare company that works in the West Bank and makes its products using Dead Sea minerals.
Over a dozen scientists signed an open letter asking the museum to stop working with Ahava, which has a large presence in Mitzpe Shalem, an Israeli settlement near the Dead Sea. The National History Museum is the lead partner of a four-year study of nanomaterials, a field in which the Israeli company is an expert.
The scientists’ letter says that Ahava “extracts, processes and exports Palestinian resources to generate profits that fund an illegal settlement,” a claim that Ahava has continually denied in the past, saying they take their materials from Israeli waters only.
“It is extraordinary, but true, that one of our great national museums is coordinating an activity that breaks international law. 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,” says the letter.
The Natural History Museum's Director of Science Professor Ian Owens defended the museum’s actions, saying that Ahava had been approved for the project by the European Commission.
"We work within the legal and policy boundaries established by politicians and policymakers, and would not participate in any academic or educational boycotts that could restrict academic freedom," he said in a statement.
Ahava has not yet released a response.