Press Release

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July 1, New York, NYIn a letter made public today, nine organizations and 34 individuals from the US, Palestine, Israel and South Africa called on Oprah Winfrey to publicly distance herself from the companies of Israel billionaire Lev Leviev. Ms. Winfrey wore Leviev diamonds on the cover of the May 2015, 15th anniversary issue of O, The Oprah Magazine. The letter detailed Leviev’s companies’ involvement in serious human rights abuses in Palestine and Angola.

On May 29, Adalah-NY emailed the letter to executives at O and the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN). The letter noted, “We fear that this publicity conveys to your peers and to the public your implicit endorsement and promotion of Leviev’s companies.” Chelsea Hettrick, Communications Director at OWN, told an Adalah-NY representative that Ms. Winfrey was reviewing the letter, and that Ms. Winfrey’s team would respond soon. However, Ms. Hettrick then failed to reply to further calls and emails.

Among those who have severed ties with Leviev’s companies over their human rights abuses are UNICEF, Oxfam America, the British and Norwegian governments, and New Zealand’s pension fund.

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New York, NY, April 12th, 2015 – On the evening of Sunday April 12th, 40 New York human rights advocates from Adalah-NY, Jewish Voice for Peace, Jews Say No,  and others protested the performance by Israeli singer Idan Raichel at the Beacon Theatre at 75th St. and Broadway. Idan Raichel calls himself a cultural ambassador for Israel and is an outspoken and uncritical supporter of the Israeli army (photos). His band, The Idan Raichel Project, is part of the Israeli government’s Brand Israel public relations campaign, which uses art and music to distract from Israel’s violations of Palestinian rights.

Although he presents himself as a proponent of peace, Raichel has strong ties to the Israeli military. In his endorsement of the right-wing US organization Thank Israeli Soldiers, he said that supporting Israeli soldiers “is a fulfillment of the Jewish ideal.” Raichel performed for the army before, during, and after its August 2014 attack on Gaza, which killed over 2100 Palestinians, including 500 children. Even more recently he began his US tour by attending a gala fundraiser for Friends of IDF.

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New York, NY, March 10, 2015 - Sixty New Yorkers weathered Tuesday evening’s downpour to protest the gala fundraiser organized and hosted by US nonprofit Friends of the Israel Defense Forces (FIDF) at the Waldorf Astoria. Demonstrators demanded that FIDF be stripped of its current tax-exempt status, which allows it to raise funds used to subsidize the Israeli military at the American taxpayers’ expense. Last year, the FIDF’s tax-exempt fundraising was subsidized by taxpayers to the tune of at least $20 million. Signs and pamphlets at the demonstration reminded attendees and passersby that these tax-exempt millions are not supporting a humanitarian cause, but a military force with a known record of egregious human rights abuses.

New York, NY, December 21, 2014—Forty New York human rights advocates arrived to protest Saturday afternoon at Israeli billionaire Lev Leviev’s flagship Madison Avenue diamond store and were surprised to find the store closed and the display cases completely emptied of all merchandise during the busiest shopping period of the year. The New Yorkers had gathered for the eighth consecutive year to sing parody holiday carols opposing Leviev’s companies’ construction of Israeli settlements on Palestinian land in violation of international law (PHOTOS).

Leaning signs against the empty store, the protesters sang what have become Adalah-NY anti-apartheid holiday classics with lines such as, “We wish you a loss of business, we wish you a loss of business, we wish you a loss of business and a poor fiscal year,” and “It’s beginning to look a lot like failure, at Leviev’s store.”

Hannah Mermelstein from Adalah-NY commented, “Leviev’s billions have come from exploiting Palestinian and Angolan communities. So today we celebrate because it seems our years of holiday wishes have come true: Leviev’s store is empty.”

November 19, New York, NY –  Demonstrators protesting the performance of Israeli musician Idan Raichel overflowed police barricades in front of Symphony Space Tuesday evening (PHOTOS). With creative signs, songs, poetry, dance and hip-hop performances, over 60 New Yorkers braved the sub-freezing temperatures to highlight the contradiction between Raichel’s self-image as a representative of a “tolerant, multi-ethnic Israel” and his role as a cultural ambassador for Israel and its brutal policies toward Palestinians.

Raichel’s image as a musician who crosses cultural boundaries has made him an important cultural ambassador for Israel in its rebranding campaign. Israeli Foreign Ministry official Andy David said of Raichel: “I think Idan is maybe the best ambassador that Israel has through his music and his inclusiveness.” Raichel has affirmed his role in drumming up support for the Israeli government, saying, “I believe that our role as artists is to enlist in the Israeli propaganda campaign [Hasbara].”

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November 13, 2014, New York, NY - On busy Lafayette Avenue outside Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM), 80 New Yorkers gathered last night to dance and sing in protest of Batsheva Dance Company's performances in BAM's 2014 Next Wave Festival (photos). Batsheva's appearance is part of the “Brand Israel” initiative designed to distract from the facts of Israel’s ongoing occupation and colonization of Palestinian land, and its denial of rights to Palestinians the world over. The demonstration was organized by Adalah-NY and endorsed by 15 other local human rights organizations including the BDS Arts Coalition, Brooklyn For Peace, Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, and the Ya-Ya Network.

Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs touts Batsheva as "perhaps the best known global ambassador of Israeli culture." Batsheva is funded in part by that government office as well as by the Ministry of Culture and Sports. While Batsheva artistic director Ohad Naharin has criticized Israeli abuses of Palestinians, Batsheva Dance Company continues in its role as a prominent cultural ambassador of the Israeli state.

November 4, 2014, New York, NY - In a public letter, over 4000 individuals and 50 groups from around the world have called for the New York-based World Music Institute (WMI) to cancel their presentation of a concert by Israeli musician Idan Raichel on November 18 at New York City’s Symphony Space due to Raichel’s role as a cultural ambassador for Israel who provides “uncritical support for the Israeli military and government.” Raichel will be performing with the Malian musician Vieux Farka Touré.

Current signatories to the letter calling on WMI to drop Raichel include filmmaker and WMI honorary board member Mira Nair; the Grammy-nominated Haitian band Boukman Eksperyans, scheduled to perform with WMI in May; Egyptian writer and activist Ahdaf Soueif; musician Shubha Mudgal; writer and art critic Lucy Lippard; poet Ammiel Alcalay; actor David Clennon; the Palestinian hip hop group DAM; playwright Naomi Wallace; and groups from the US, India, South Africa, Latin America, Europe and the Middle East.

New York, NY, September 2, 2014 - On August 23, the Los Angeles group Creative Community for Peace (CCFP) released a widely reported on statement in Billboard Magazine - “200 Hollywood Heavyweights Support Israel.” What was not reported is that CCFP is a “creative” front group for the right-wing, pro Israeli settler nonprofit StandWithUs, that has a close relationship with the Israeli government. Though CCFP carefully avoids explaining this on their website and materials, CCFP is the same legally-registered nonprofit as StandWithUs (SWU), and, as of October 2013, operated from within SWU’s LA office.

Felice Gelman from Adalah-NY: The New York Campaign for the Boycott of Israel commented, “We wonder if CCFP explained to the Hollywood luminaries who signed its statement, like Ziggy Marley and Sarah Silverman, that its apolitical message of ‘art building bridges for peace’ is actually a sanitizing front for the right-wing, pro-settler organization StandWithUs, that has deep ties to the Israeli government? We are also concerned that US media covering the statement did not report on who CCFP really is.”

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New York, NY, July 24, 2014 – Tonight close to two thousand New Yorkers protested Israel’s military assault on Gaza in a rally at Foley Square. The crowd, led by protest organizers, spoke aloud the names and ages of the over 170 Palestinian children killed in Israel’s current assault. The protesters then marched through lower Manhattan carrying Palestinian flags and signs demanding an end to the US government’s and New York City elected officials’ support for Israel’s current massacre in Gaza, and Israel’s ongoing occupation and colonization of Palestine. They also called for a boycott of companies profiting from Israel’s human rights abuses, and an end to the siege of Gaza.

The march stepped off to the rhythms of an activist marching band, the Rude Mechanical Orchestra (RMO). Protesters chanted, “Israel bombs, we protest—boycott, sanction, and divest!” As the group passed, cars honked in support, and tourists videoed and gave thumbs-up signs. The march ended next to the Hudson River, where the RMO led the group in singing the popular Palestinian song “Wein a Ramallah.”

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