Since November 2007, Adalah-NY has been carrying out an effective boycott campaign against Lev Leviev, one of Israel’s wealthiest and most powerful businessmen. In addition to regular protests in front of Leviev’s flagship US store on 700 Madison Avenue in Manhattan, the campaign against Leviev has succeeded in getting UNICEF, OXFAM, Hollywood celebrities, the UK government, and a number of investment banks to end their connections with Leviev due to his severe violations of human rights and international law in Palestine, Angola, and Namibia. In August 2010, the Norway Ministry of Finance announced the Norwegian Pension Fund’s divestment from Africa Israel and its subsidiary Danya Cebusdue to the companies’ settlement construction activities in the occupied Palestinian territories.
Leviev’s business empire includes a number of diamond and jewelry companies known collectively as Lev Leviev Diamonds (LLD), and he is the world’s largest cutter and polisher of diamonds. He is also deeply involved in diamond sales and in diamond mining in Angola, Namibia, and Russia. In Palestine, Leviev’s companies Africa-Israel and Leader are responsible for the construction of settlements on confiscated Palestinian land; these settlements are destroying Palestinian communities.
Leviev’s company, Africa-Israel, owns the subsidiary Danya Cebus, which is responsible for building 30% of the homes in the Israeli settlement of Mattityahu East on land confiscated from the Palestinian village of Bil’in. The village of Bil’in has been carrying out a multi-pronged campaign since 2005, to resist confiscation of its lands, which has included calls for boycott, legal action, and weekly protests, now well established, with support from Israeli and international activists. Danya Cebus is also responsible for settlement construction in Har Homa on Jabal Abu Ghneim and Ma’ale Adumim in Jerusalem.
Leviev’s company Leader Management and Development owns and is expanding the settlement ofZuffim on the land of the village of Jayyous. Recent reports from Jayyous indicate additional construction of the settlement of Zuffim in ongoing violation of international law and the supposed settlement freeze. Due to the strangulation of Jayyous caused by the construction of Zufim and Israel’s wall, more than 50% of families from this once prosperous farming village are now receiving food aid.
Leviev’s settlement activities are an integral part of Israel’s efforts to seize control of, and annex, strategic areas of the West Bank. Settlements take water and key agricultural areas from Palestinians, carve up Palestinian areas of the West Bank into isolated enclaves, cut off East Jerusalem from the West Bank, and separate the northern and southern West Bank.
Most of the settlements that Leviev has built or is building are located west of the route planned for Israel’s wall, in the West Bank settlement blocs that Israel aims to annex. Indeed, there is clear evidence, according to a report by the Israeli human rights organizations B’Tselem and Bimkom, that the wall’s path deep within the West Bank was drawn with the intention of facilitating the expansion and annexation of these settlements.
Leviev has also been a donor to two Israeli groups - the Land Redemption Fund and the Bukhara Community Trust, both of which have been involved in expanding Israeli settlements. Leviev has also been rumored to donate to Elad which is taking over the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan.
In January 2010, a police station in the E1 section of Jerusalem was constructed by the right-wing NGO the Bukharan Community Trust, one of whose leaders is Lev Leviev. Construction in E-1 is highly contested internationally, even by Israel’s closest ally, the United States government, due to the fact that it will compromise Palestinian territorial contiguity, obstructing Palestinians’ ability to travel between the northern and southern parts of the West Bank.
Leviev’s Africa-Israel has also violated rights of Palestinian living inside Israel by destroying their homes and heritage. In recently publicized cases, Africa-Israel initiated projects to destroy the remains of, and build on top of, the Palestinian villages of Sheikh Muwanis and Sumail, located in what is now Tel Aviv.
In Angola, Leviev’s close partnership in the diamond trade with the Dos Santos regime supports a repressive and corrupt government. A security company contracted by Leviev was accused of participating in practices of “humiliation, whipping, torture, sexual abuse, and, in some cases, assassinations in Angola.” Further, according to 2007 and 2008 reports by the non-governmental watchdog Partnership Africa Canada, Angola and Leviev have failed to fully comply with the Kimberley process, which aims to eliminate conflict diamonds. And in Namibia, where Leviev operates a diamond polishing factory, in the summer of 2008, Leviev fired around 200 striking workers, some of whom were already struggling to survive on less than $2 (US) per day, the threshold set for poverty worldwide.
In the past few years, Leviev has purchased over a billion dollars’ worth of real estate in Manhattan, including the former Met Life clock-tower, the former New York Times building, and 50% of the Apthorp building. While these purchases evoke images of wealth and glamour, many of his New York City real estate activities have also been characterized by abusive behavior toward communities and workers. Leviev’s construction projects have used underpaid workers laboring in dangerous conditions and have displaced the local low- and moderate-income families.