By Ben Kochman
Last Updated: 11:51 PM, July 11, 2010
The centuries-old Middle East conflict turned into a bizarre form of mud-slinging on quiet Montague Street on Friday when protesters demanded that the Ricky’s cosmetics shop stop selling a dirt-based cosmetic that, apparently, is helping Israel’s “illegal” occupation of the West Bank.
The store’s crime, according to the Brooklyn for Peace protesters, is its selling of lotions and creams made by Ahava, an Israeli company that takes mud from the Dead Sea and manufactures it into beauty products in an Israeli settlement in the West Bank.
“Hey Ricky, what’s that scent? Smells like an illegal settlement!” chanted the crowd, many of whom were decked out in spa attire for the occasion.
Friday’s protest was the first Brooklyn stop of the protesters’ “Stolen Beauty” tour, a campaign started by the anti-war interest group Code Pink. The group labels the occupation of the West Bank a violation of international law, and Ahava’s business a “dirty” exploitation of Palestinian resources.
In an earlier phase of the campaign, Code Pink took its fight to retail giant Costco — and won. Costco quickly folded under the public pressure and pulled its Ahava products. Now the group has turned its attention to Ricky’s, whose owner, Dominick Costello, has so far resisted demands that he remove the goods from his 24 New York-area locations.
The protest raged on — complete with a guitar — but Ricky’s employees said that they just want to sell cosmetics in peace.
“We can’t bend over backwards for everyone who’s not happy,” said the Montague Street store’s manager, who declined to give his name. “If I stop selling this, then what’s next? We take away all our toothpaste because someone doesn’t like that? If they have a problem, these people should go to the source. I’m in retail, not politics.”
The manager added that Ahava products sell well. Some people, he said, bought them out of spite because they didn’t agree with the protesters.
“People seem so pissed about this that we’re selling more of this stuff than ever before,” he laughed.