Daphne Guinness & Fashion Institute of Technology Asked to Break with Settlement Mogul Leviev

For Immediate Release:

New York, NY – Fashion icon Daphne Guinness and New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) have been asked by US and UK human rights groups to sever their ties with Israeli diamond and settlement mogul Lev Leviev. Representatives for FIT and Guinness responded that they are taking into account the groups’ concerns, but have not explained how, nor given any timeframe for a more specific response.

Announcements and posters for the exhibition of Guinness’ clothes at the Museum at FIT note that the exhibition "has been made possible in part through the generosity of LEVIEV Extraordinary Diamonds." Leviev also hosted a September 12 event celebrating Guinness and FIT’s Couture Council that Guinness attended, apparently at his New York City jewelry store.

The groups also called on the US charity the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, which also recently accepted funds from Leviev, to distance itself from him. Leviev has touted his support for FIT and BCRF in the media, calling the grants the first in "a broad based initiative that will benefit a variety of local and international charities."

In three separate letters emailed on November 21st , the groups said that GuinnessFIT and BCRF’s good names would be "tarnished" by associating with Leviev due to his companies' construction of Israeli settlements on Palestinian land in violation of international law, and their unethical business practices in the diamond industry in Angola and Namibia. For these reasons, the letters noted, "many respected organizations - including Oxfam AmericaCARE and UNICEF; governments - including Norway and the United Kingdommajor investment firms and Hollywood stars have all sought distance from Leviev’s companies."

Guinness, a native of the UK, frequently supports women’s rights and international aid charities. The groups writing to Guinness included Adalah-NY: The New York Campaign for the Boycott of Israel (US); Architects and Planners for Justice in Palestine (UK);CODEPINK Women for Peace (US); Jewish Voice for Peace (US); Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods (J-BIG) (UK); and Palestine Solidarity Campaign (UK).

Leviev’s company Leader Management and Development continues to build the settlement of Zufim on the land of the West Bank village of Jayyous (see Israeli government documents showing Leviev’s ownership of Leader, which conducts construction in Zufim inHebrewEnglish). Israeli sources told Adalah-NY in November 2011 that hundreds of new settlement homes have been built in Zufim in the last few years. Palestinians from Jayyous have seen new water and sewage lines installed, as well as new Israeli government planning maps, suggesting even more settlement expansion is being prepared on Jayyous' land. Leader and the Israeli government are seizing the village’s farmland and water resources to build the settlement, which is secured by Israel’s West Bank wall, with devastating impacts on the once prosperous farming village. In November 2010, a separate Leviev company, Africa Israel, announced that it had no plans to build further settlements, presumably because organizations, governments, investment firms and stars were distancing themselves from Leviev. All Israeli settlements violate international law.

Leviev’s companies also have a history of involvement in brutal 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.

View the letters:

Open Letter to the Fashion Institute of Technology

Open Letter to Daphne Guinness

Open Letter to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation

Detailed Information on Leviev’s Companies Attached to Each Letter