As groups committed to human rights in the Middle East we were concerned to learn that the current exhibition of your clothing at the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) in Manhattan is being funded by diamond mogul and Israeli settlement-builder Lev Leviev. As you would have seen during your November 3 visit to FIT, Leviev’s name as a sponsor is prominently displayed just below your name on exhibition signs outside and inside the museum.
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.
The UK Foreign Office once considered leasing floors in a Leviev-owned office block in Tel Aviv for their embassy. However, after warnings regarding Leviev’s illegal settlement building, the Foreign office told the Jerusalem Post, "We can confirm that we have withdrawn from negotiations on a lease for the Hakirya Tower premises in Tel Aviv…The UK government's firm stance is that the construction of settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories is unlawful under international law; this is an important policy issue for the UK government."
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 recognize your strong commitment to supporting women’s rights around the world, to countering AIDS in Africa and to helping the needy in places like Haiti. Therefore, like the organizations, governments and individuals who have sought distance from Leviev, we feel confident that you do not wish to tarnish your name and good works by associating yourself with Leviev’s companies’ human rights violations and questionable business practices. Leviev’s companies undermine the very rights and humanitarian causes that you support. Therefore, we call on you to act swiftly to sever all ties between the exhibit at FIT that bears your name, 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
Abe Hayeem Architects and Planners for Justice in Palestine (UK) apjp.org
Rae Abileah and Nancy Kricorian CODEPINK Women for Peace (US) www.codepink.org
Rebecca Vilkomersom Jewish Voice for Peace (US) jewishvoiceforpeace.org
Deborah Fink Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods (J-BIG) (UK) jews4big.wordpress.com
Sarah Colborne, Director Palestine Solidarity Campaign (UK) www.palestinecampaign.org