Ms. Jilly Stephens
6 East 32nd Street, 6th Floor
New York, NY
CC: Cara Taback, Associate Director/Communications
December 5, 2012
Dear Ms. Stephens,
We are writing to follow up on our November 7th letter, and our November 16th phone discussions with City Harvest’s Cara Taback regarding an October 2012 media report that businessman Lev Leviev is providing support to City Harvest. We noted in our letter that Leviev’s companies are involved in human rights abuses, unethical business practices and impoverishing communities in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, Angola and Namibia. Because City Harvest aims to alleviate hunger and address underlying causes of poverty in New York City we suggest that Leviev, who does the contrary in other countries, is not an appropriate donor.
We were relieved to hear from Ms. Taback that City Harvest had no knowledge of an October 2012 fundraising event at Leviev Diamonds in New York City to benefit City Harvest, had received no funds from such an event and was not aware of Leviev Diamonds’ plans to support City Harvest with a portion of its November sales.
Unfortunately, additional research has since revealed to us that over a period of more than two years, a number of articles have created an image of Leviev as a patron of City Harvest, whether or not this is true. To counter the public impression that a notorious human rights abuser is a regular benefactor of City Harvest, we believe that City Harvest should now publicly disavow any connection with Leviev. Otherwise, Leviev will exploit City Harvest’s name to deflect attention from his unethical business practices.
In addition to the October 2012 article we originally noted saying that Leviev Diamonds plans to donate a portion of it sales to City Harvest, the blog of the celebrity photographer Patrick McMullan includes an October 22 post headlined, “LEVIEV celebrates the launch of the LVD Collection with Heather Mnuchin & Nina Rennert Davidson to benefit City Harvest,” followed by 100 photos of the event. Yet, the October 22, 2012 event was not the first that Leviev held for City Harvest. Bloomberg Businessweek reported in July 2012 that, “City Harvest board member Heather Mnuchin is doing so [opening her home] in August for a viewing of the diamond collection of Leviev LVD, a City Harvest supporter.” A February 10, 2010 news piece in Women’s Wear Daily explained that, “There were diamonds but seemingly no divas at Leviev on Tuesday afternoon at a pre-gala kick off luncheon for City Harvest.” Heather Mnuchin and Nina Rennert Davidson are highlighted in these and other articles as organizers of Leviev events benefitting City Harvests Ms. Mnuchin is listed as Vice Chairman of the City Harvest Board. In City Harvest’s 2011 Annual Report, Ms. Mnuchin and her husband are listed as donating more than $500,000 that year to City Harvest, while Ms. Davidson and her husband are listed as donating between $50,000 – $99,000.
Lastly, while we detailed Leviev’s involvement in human rights abuses and unethical business practices in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, Angola and Namibia in our November 7th letter, new questions have since been raised about Leviev’s business practices in Zimbabwe, a country that has been the focus of extremely heavy international scrutiny for human rights abuses committed by the Zimbabwean government against local communities in the Marange diamond fields. In a new report, “Reap What You Sow: Greed and Corruption in Zimbawe’s Marange Diamond Fields,” diamond industry watchdog Partnership Africa Canada (PAC) explained that Leviev “has been a frequent visitor to Zimbabwe in recent years and is known to have participated in an auction of Mbada diamonds in May 2010—a full three months before the KP [Kimberley Process] authorized two conditional sales as per the ‘St. Petersburg Agreement.’” PAC does not conclude whether or not Leviev purchased diamonds in violation of the Kimberley Process, the international regulatory system aimed at reducing the trade of conflict diamonds.
Unfortunately, City Harvest is now clearly linked to Leviev’s abysmal human rights record through a number of media reports over a two year period, saying that Leviev is hosting fundraisers and donating money to City Harvest. We call on City Harvest to stand by its mandate of supporting impoverished communities by publicly distancing itself from Leviev, following the examples of UNICEF, Oxfam America, CARE International and the UK and Norwegian governments.
We look forward to hearing your response, and please do be in touch if you have further questions or need further clarification on any of these points.
Ryvka Barnard, Adalah-NY: The New York Campaign for the Boycott of Israel (adalahny.org)
Charlotte Philips, Brooklyn For Peace (brooklynpeace.org/)
Nikhil Aziz, Grassroots International (www.grassrootsonline.org/)
Donna Nevel, Jews Say No! (jewssayno.wordpress.com/)
Park Slope Food Coop Members for BDS