Lebanese Women's Dilemma: A Wrinkle-free Face or Boycotting Israel

Israeli products are reaching Lebanon via indirect routes, bearing the brand names of American and European firms, and even firms from Dubai.

Seriously now, what’s more important? A shapely body, wrinkle-free face and permanent hair removal – or boycotting Israel?

Beauty salon owners, cosmeticians, physicians and tens of thousands of their customers in Lebanon and beyond will have to confront this weighty question in the face of a campaign being launched against the use of Israeli beauty techniques and devices.

Lebanon’s Al-Akhbar newspaper ran a lengthy article Monday morning railing about how the Lebanese market has been totally “breached” by Israeli companies that are supplying devices, beauty treatments and other cosmetic products.

According to the report by Bassam Kuntar (brother of convicted terrorist Samir Kuntar, who spent nearly three decades in Israeli prisons), the Israeli products are reaching Lebanon via indirect routes, bearing the brand names of American and European firms, and even firms from Dubai.

The report quotes Lebanese Health Minister Ali Hassan Al-Khalil, a Hezbollah member, as saying that his ministry would soon start taking measures against companies that import or use Israeli techniques and products.

Cosmetology and beauty enhancement is one of Lebanon’s liveliest economic sectors, drawing women from all over the Arab world, particularly from the wealthy Gulf States, for treatments. Compared to other Arab states, Lebanon takes a benign view of such pursuits, imposing no restrictions. The country has always been considered a pioneer in most areas involving women and breaking down the social and religious barriers aimed at them.

One of the activists behind the anti-Israel campaign, Samah Idriss, told Al-Akhbar that the issue has been under discussion by campaign organizers for a long time. Meetings have been held recently with representatives from Lebanese companies that import the Israeli products in an effort to persuade them to drop the practice before the issue attracted public attention, he said. Apparently that effort failed.

The report mentions four Israeli companies with headquarters in Yokneam and Caesarea, and even lists the products and devices, as well as Lebanese clinics that use them. According to the paper, one of the Israeli companies sponsored a special conference for dermatologists in Beirut in March, at which the guest of honor was none other than the health minister himself, who had no knowledge of the company’s origins or its products.

The chairman of the Lebanese Society for Plastic, Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgeons Dr. Nabil Hokayem, declared that the use of Israeli products by Lebanese doctors will now be monitored by the society. Plastic surgeons and other physicians will have to commit to not using treatments and techniques that originate in Israel, he said.

Laws boycotting Israel have been on the books in Lebanon since July 1955. By law, Lebanese citizens are categorically forbidden to enter into business agreements, direct or indirect, with Israeli suppliers, whether they are companies or individuals, who live in Israel or work for its benefit. The law also bans from Lebanon any international company that has branches in or commercial agreements with Israel or Israeli companies.

The Lebanese health minister and the Israel Boycott Office, which operates under Lebanon’s Economic Affairs Ministry, said a selection process would soon weed out firms found to have business links with Israel or use Israeli products, and that the law would be strictly enforced.