An Open Letter to the Fashion Institute of Technology
Dr. Joyce F. Brown President FIT New York, NY
Valerie Steele Director The Museum at FIT New York, NY
November 21, 2011
Dear Dr. Brown and Ms. Steele,
As groups committed to human rights in the Middle East we were concerned to read reports and find confirmation on your website that the Fashion Institute of Technology recently accepted a grant from the LVD Foundation, which is headed by businessman Lev Leviev. Evidently, Leviev’s funding is being used to finance an exhibition of British designer Daphne Guinness’ clothing at the Museum at FIT.
We expect that you were not aware that Lev Leviev’s companies have become notorious for their involvement in Israeli settlement construction in violation of international law in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, and for human rights violations and questionable business practices in the diamond industry in southern Africa. Because of this many respected organizations - including Oxfam America, CARE and UNICEF; governments - including Norway and the United Kingdom; major investment firms and Hollywood stars have all sought distance from Leviev’s companies.
Leviev’s companies have long histories of building Israeli settlements on occupied Palestinian land. Though a year ago Leviev’s company Africa Israel announced that it had no plans to build Israeli settlements, presumably in response to pressure, today Leviev’s company Leader Management and Development continues to build hundreds of housing units in the settlement of Zufim on the land of the West Bank Palestinian village of Jayyous. Leviev’s settlement construction is separating Palestinian families from their farmland, and impoverishing this once thriving agricultural community.
Leviev’s companies have a history of involvement in human rights abuses in the diamond industry in Angola. Leviev works in close partnership with that country’s repressive and corrupt government. The Angolan government also fails to respect the Kimberley Process which was put in place to stop the worldwide trade in conflict diamonds. In the diamond industry in Namibia, Leviev’s company fired around 200 striking, low-wage factory workers in 2008, and this year his employees in Namibia have been accused of trading in illicit diamonds.
We expect that FIT’s mission of providing its students with “a global perspective” includes encouraging respect for global human rights. Therefore, like the other organizations and governments that sought distance from Leviev, we feel confident that you do not wish to tarnish the good name and the good works of the Fashion Institute of Technology by associating yourself with Lev Leviev’s companies’ human rights violations and questionable business practices. We call on FIT to return all funds received from the LVD Foundation and sever any ties to the Foundation and Lev Leviev.
Attached is more detailed information on the role of Leviev’s companies in Israeli settlement construction, and in human rights violations and questionable business practices in the diamond industry. We would be happy to meet with you to discuss this information further.
Patrick Connors and Alexis Stern Adalah-NY: The New York Campaign for the Boycott of Israel (US) adalahny.org
Rae Abileah and Nancy Kricorian CODEPINK Women for Peace (US) www.codepink.org
Rebecca Vilkomersom Jewish Voice for Peace (US) jewishvoiceforpeace.org