The Israeli chain Sabon currently has 20 branches in Israel and exploits minerals from the Dead Sea. Israel limits Palestinians’ access to the Dead Sea and prohibits them from using its natural resources. All of Sabon’s products are made in the city of Kiryat Gat, built on land from the demolished Palestinian villages al-Faluja and Iraq al-Manshiyya.
According to Israeli historian Benny Morris’s The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem Revisited(Cambridge University Press, 2004), in 1949 Israeli troops promptly mounted “a short, sharp, well-orchestrated campaign of low-key violence and psychological warfare designed to intimidate the inhabitants [of al-Faluja and Iraq al-Manshiyya] into flight.” During this time, United Nations observers reported not only beatings and robberies faced by Palestinians in the two villages, but also cases of attempted rape and “promiscuous firing” on civilians by Israeli soldiers (Walid Khalidi, All That Remains: The Palestinian Villages Occupied and Depopulated by Israel in 1948, [Washington, D.C.: The Institute for Palestine Studies, 1992], 97, 108).
On March 6, 1949, Israel’s foreign minister at the time, Moshe Sharett, sent a memo to the Israeli army, charging that its actions in the villages were jeopardizing their “sincerity as a party to an international agreement” under which Israel agreed to guarantee the safety of the 3,100 Palestinian civilians in the area. Noting that Israel was arguing before the UN that it was not responsible for creating the Palestinian refugee crisis, he wrote, “From this perspective, the sincerity of our professions is tested by our behavior in these villages. . . . Every intentional pressure aimed at uprooting [the local population] is tantamount to a planned act of eviction on our part.”
Sharett also made statements about a “whispering propaganda campaign,” through which the Israeli army was threatening Palestinian civilians with attacks and acts of vengeance if they didn’t leave their homes. “This whispering propaganda is not being done of itself,” Sharett wrote. “There is no doubt that here there is a calculated action aimed at increasing the number of those going to the Hebron Hills [then controlled by Jordan] as if of their own free will, and, if possible, to bring about the evacuation of the whole civilian population” (Khalidi, 97).
By mid-March all of the residents of al-Faluja had fled their village (Khalidi, 97) and on April 21 and 22, residents of Iraq al-Manshiyya fled their homes in convoys organized by the Red Cross. Five days later, Yitzhak Rabin ordered the demolition of both villages.
Israel denies Palestinian refugees their UN-sanctioned inalienable right to return to their villages. By operating from these villages, Sabon is complicit in violations of international law and Palestinian human rights.