Here’s a factoid about the Middle East that may have slipped by you while focusing on Iran’s nuclear program, Syria’s massacres, Egypt’s Islamization and Israel’s response to Mitt Romney’s recent visit: The highest consumption of beauty products and cosmetic surgery in the world today exists in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
This is surprising on many levels, and I admit to having been puzzled when I heard about it — since the only benefit I see in veils is the freedom not to wear make-up. This is particularly true these days, as was pointed out brilliantly by the late, great Nora Ephron, who bemoaned the endless time a woman has to spend on hair, nails and skin so as not to feel ungroomed. Personally, I can’t think of anything better than a burka for solving that particular problem. Apparently, however, rich Saudi ladies view it differently.
To add giggle to guffaw, the country in the region with the biggest booming cosmetic surgery tourism industry is Lebanon. This necessitates travel from Riyadh to Beirut to have “work done.” And since a Saudi woman needs her husband’s permission to get a passport, it makes sense that she would want to look her best for him when she removes all her coverings. One false move, or new wrinkle, and such a privilege might be revoked without as much as a by-your-leave.
Well, girls, the news out of Beirut is not good. No, I’m not referring to Hezbollah strongholds scattered throughout civilian areas, nor to unrest next door, with Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad still slaughtering any rebel he can sink his bombs and bayonets into.
I’m talking about something much more up close and personal. The Lebanese branch of the Campaign to Boycott Israel Supporters has been uncovering some very disturbing trade secrets in the medical community. In particular, it has revealed that many of the companies that provide high-quality equipment and products used in the cosmetic surgery industry are — gasp! — Israeli.
Being the sensitive guy he is, CBIS activist Samah Idriss kept the scandal under wraps (no pun intended) until this month, so as not to shame any of the Lebanese distributors of the Zionist merchandise. After all, they might not have been aware that the equipment was produced in one of four companies based in “Occupied Palestine.” (It should be noted here that these companies are located in Yokneam, a town near Haifa, indicating what we already knew — that the CBIS movement considers Israel’s very existence to be illegitimate.)
So, instead of going public with the information, Idriss first approached the Lebanese medical community to inform it of the situation, and warn it not to continue to participate in the outrage. He then demanded that Lebanese doctors cease holding conferences sponsored by the Israeli firms, and refrain from promoting their products on TV commercials.
Shocked at the suggestion of collusion with anything having to do with Israel, the director of the Lebanese Society for Dermatologists vehemently denied knowledge of the origin of the high-end equipment and medications that have been making Middle Eastern women beautiful. In his defense, he pointed to the fact that the Lebanese Health Ministry and Order of Physicians are the bodies responsible for approving equipment and making it legally available on the market. In other words, if it’s out there on sale, how was he supposed to know that it came from Israel?
Idriss now says he will no longer remain silent about this travesty, and expects the Lebanese government and health authorities to confront and eradicate it.
This is not only bad news for the affluent Arab Botox crowd, who may soon be left with no alternative but to go under the knife without the benefit of Israeli ingenuity and entrepreneurship. It is also an impossible mission for the CBIS.
In the first place, to be successful at implementing the boycott of anyone and anything connected to Israel, this group would have to rob the societies in which it operates of a lot more than smooth cheeks and enhanced breasts. This is because every computer, phone or other piece of machinery in the world contains an Israeli part in it and/or Israeli innovation behind it.
Secondly, the CBIS should not underestimate the power and will of women on a vanity trip — even those who are not permitted to expose their faces in public.
Ruthie Blum is the author of “To Hell in a Handbasket: Carter, Obama, and the ‘Arab Spring,’” now available on Amazon and in bookstores in Europe and North America.