Lebanese Boycott of Israel: Purely Cosmetic
By: Bassam Alkantar
Published Monday, July 30, 2012
An investigation by the Campaign to Boycott Israel Supporters in Lebanon has exposed that Israeli-made products are being widely used in the beauty and cosmetics sector in Lebanon.
Therapeutic and cosmetic laser surgery is now an integral part of a booming medical tourism industry in Lebanon. Medical and beauty centers are sought after by locals and patients from the Arabian peninsula.
But unknown to most of these patients, the Lebanese market hosts a wide variety of medical equipment originating in Israel. These banned products make their way into the Lebanese market disguised as imports from the US, Europe, and Dubai. They are marketed through distributors who have no problem getting front seats at specialized conferences organized by the Lebanese health ministry.
The issue is under investigation and scrutiny by the Campaign to Boycott Israel Supporters in Lebanon, which found that the Lebanese market has been invaded by four such Israeli companies.
Boycott campaign activist Samah Idriss told Al-Akhbar that they had been working on the case for a long time, but did not want to slander distributors of Israeli products. Instead, he had met with them to warn them about the identity of these companies which tend to conceal their primary source or that they originate in Israel.
Idriss indicated that the campaign expects that the ministries of economy and health will seriously tackle the issue. They need to conduct a comprehensive survey to discover the amount and types of Israeli products in the cosmetic medicine sector in Lebanon, and confiscate them immediately.
He said it was unfortunate that medical scientific associations welcome the sponsorship of their medical conferences by these companies. Some doctors even boast about these products on television.
Idriss said that the campaign will decide what to do next based on steps taken by Lebanese authorities, but it will not remain silent.
The most famous of these companies is Syneron. Its products are available on the Lebanese market, as confirmed by its sole agent, Medica, located in Jal el-Dib with headquarters in Dubai.
Its products are marketed under the Syneron and Candela brands, the most prominent of which are CO2RE, ePrime, eLaser, elōs Plus, eMatrix, eMotif, VelaShapeII, VelaSmooth, and Ultrashape.
Medica enjoys remarkable promotion for its Israeli products on many Lebanese stations, including MTV (Murr TV) and Sawt al-Mada radio station. The two outlets responded to a letter sent by the boycott campaign and vowed to stop broadcasting ads from the agents of such products.
Syneron was established by Shimon Eckhouse, a physicist who later specialized in medical technology. Its main headquarters are in the Yokneam Illit industrial zone in occupied Palestine, south of Haifa. It is listed on the NASDAQ stock exchange.
Eckhouse had worked in the Rafael military technology complex in Israel, before founding a wide range of Israeli medical equipment companies.
Another activist from the Campaign to Boycott Israel Supporters in Lebanon, Asad Ghsoub, described to Al-Akhbar how a delegation from the campaign visited Medica’s headquarters in mid-May. They were met by the company’s manager Elias al-Chabtini.
Chabtini explained that Medica imports Syneron products from Irvine, California to Dubai, before they are re-exported to Beirut. He told the delegation that the company was not aware of the Israeli origin of the products and that they were misled by the company’s representative in the US.
The campaign requested customs records that indicate the US origin of the products, but the company’s lawyer responded by saying that they are not obliged to provide the campaign with such documents.
Syneron manufactures a wide range of medical equipment, including face reconstruction and anti-wrinkle instruments; laser hair removal; Botox technologies; body and face liposuction; fat injection to fill wrinkles in the face, hands, and other skin blemishes; treatment of varicose veins; and hair transplants. Eckhouse also developed the Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) treatment.
In an interview with Israeli business website Globes, Eckhouse said that Israeli technology is distinguished by the desire for progress and creativity. He himself became famous for developing a home hair removal system which combines infrared light waves and radio waves.
Although the product is not available in Lebanon, it is sold in GCC countries. Saudi social networking sites are full of comments and praise about the device.
Notably, before moving to Syneron, Eckhouse had established and managed a company called Lumenis, a leader in Israeli medical technology. In 2002, Lumenis filed a lawsuit against Eckhouse and demanded a $30 million compensation, accusing him of stealing the company’s secrets and taking a large number of its clients to his new firm.
Lumenis is based in the Yokneam industrial zone. Among its most popular brands are LighSheer, UltraPulse, VersaPulse, Novus, and Selecta II.
Primary information obtained by Al-Akhbar indicated that the agent for Lumenis in Lebanon was Hajj Medical. Surprisingly, the company provided Al-Akhbar with requested import-related information.
Hajj Medical General Manager Antoine al-Hajj maintained that the company “used to import the LightSheer laser hair removal device from a US company called Coherent, which had sold the brand to Lumenis a long time ago. Hajj Medical no longer imports the product to Lebanon.”
He indicated that one of their clients had requested spare parts for LightSheer two years ago and they had imported them for him without any obstacles.
But Hajj Medical’s denial of importing new Lumenis equipment into Lebanon does not change the fact that they are still being sold on the Lebanese market. Al-Akhbar could not find the agent that currently imports them.
The third Israeli company to penetrate the Lebanese market long ago was Alma, through its Beirut-based agent, Kalium. Kalium imports the products from Alma’s US branch. It produces a range of specialized medical equipment used for aesthetic and eye surgery.
Its main headquarters are in the Caesarea Industrial Park in al-Qaisariya in occupied Palestine. Its board of directors is made up of Ziv Karni, Karen Sarid, Ronen Lazarovich and Lior Dayan.
Alma’s products were identified in a booklet which included the program for the Seventh National Congress of the Lebanese Society for Dermatologists, held under the auspices of Lebanese Health Minister Ali Hassan Khalil in Beit al-Tabib in Beirut on May 24 of this year.
The most popular products available in dermatology and aesthetic clinics in Lebanon are Harmony, Soprano, Accent, and Pixel CO2.
Alma has been sponsoring medical conferences in Lebanon for many years. Notably, this year it included the phrase “Made in the USA” on its posters, in a blatant attempt to cover up the fact that the company and its products are “Made in Israel.”
Al-Akhbar and the Campaign to Boycott Israel Supporters in Lebanon both tried to contact the company for clarifications. But all requests were denied. The Kalium employee in Beirut who answered our calls refused to provide any information on the products they imported.
The fourth Israeli company whose products are on the Lebanese market is Invasix, also based in Yokneam and with a branch in the US. Research conducted by the campaign shows that company products, most prominently Body Tite, are available in at least two Lebanese clinics.
The first is the aesthetics clinic run by Brazilian-Lebanese doctor, Toni Nassar. Its website mentions that they use the Body Tite technique.
The British website for Zenith Cosmetics Clinics says the Body Tite technique was introduced in Beirut to treat excess body fat.
The website claims that “it’s not just women in Beirut who are interested in having the procedure either. Because the technology is particularly effective in fibrotic areas like men’s love handles and gynecomastia (breasts), men in particular are reaping the rewards of the operation.”
“Dr. Ashok Maini, from Zenith Cosmetic Clinics has been training and lecturing in Beirut” and “recently gave a lecture and live demonstration at the International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ISAPS) Conference, in Beirut.”
Al-Akhbar attempted to contact several cosmetic surgeons to inquire about the use of Israeli technology and equipment. But none of those contacted replied to our repeated email queries.
In a phone conversation with Al-Akhbar, president of the Lebanese Society for Plastic, Reconstructive, and Aesthetic Surgeons Nabil Hokayem said that he abides by the decision of the head of the Beirut Order of Physicians, Sharaf Abu Sharaf, not to speak to the media for three months.
On the other hand, he promised that the association would follow up on the issue of Israeli-made aesthetic equipment in the coming period. He assured us that specialized doctors will abide by the decisions of Lebanese authorities.
For his part, the head of the Lebanese Society for Dermatologists Fouad al-Sayyid denied to Al-Akhbar that he had any knowledge of Israeli equipment or medications in Lebanon.
He referred the issue to the Order of Physicians and the health ministry who are required to control the process, pointing out that Lebanese doctors use equipment that is approved and legally available in the Lebanese market.
This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.