First Letter Sent to City Harvest re: Donations from Lev Leviev

Ms. Jilly Stephens
Executive Director
City Harvest
6 East 32nd Street, 6th Floor
New York, NY

CC: [email protected], [email protected]

 

November 7, 2012

Dear Ms. Stephens,

As New Yorkers and others concerned with social justice and human rights, we recognize the valuable role that City Harvest plays in helping to alleviate hunger and address the underlying causes of poverty in our city, especially at this time of crisis for many in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. Knowing City Harvest’s mission, we feel certain that you will be concerned to learn that, according to a press report, City Harvest is now benefiting from support from Lev Leviev, who is directly involved in increasing food insecurity and poverty of Palestinian families by developing Israeli settlements on expropriated Palestinian farmland. Leviev’s diamond companies are also involved in brutal human rights abuses, unethical business practices and impoverishing communities in Angola and Namibia.

In light of this information, we expect that City Harvest will do the right thing, and refuse donations linked to Leviev, following the example of prominent nonprofits - Oxfam America, CARE, and UNICEF; governments - including Norway and the United Kingdom; and Hollywood stars that have all sought distance from Leviev’s companies over their unethical business practices.

Leviev’s companies have a long, well-documented history of construction of Israeli settlements on Palestinian land, as detailed below. While all Israeli settlements violate international law, they also increase Palestinian poverty. A November 2011 report by the United Nations Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) explains that Israeli settlement “activity has resulted in the progressive takeover of Palestinian land, resources and transportation routes.” A 2008 World Bank report adds, “Palestinian farmers with agricultural land near settlements can find these properties difficult to cultivate and harvest due to intimidation, violence, or property damage by settlers. Furthermore, in some areas near settlements considered to be high friction areas, harvesting of olive orchards is limited to only specific days designated by the Israeli military with a military escort. As a result, much agriculture land is in effect withdrawn from production, or shifted to lower value and less perishable crops (e.g. from fruit and vegetable to cereals), while hardly any infrastructure investment is carried out, be it on- or off- farm, with resultant decline in income.”

From 2000-2008, Leviev’s flagship company Africa Israel built homes in the settlements of Har Homa, Maale Adumim (two different projects), Adam, and in Mattityahu East on the land of the West Bank village of Bil’in. Leviev’s flagship company Africa Israel is currently building apartments in the settlement of Gilo in Israeli-occupied East Jerusalem. Press accounts from October 24, 2010, reported that Africa Israel’s construction subsidiary Danya Cebus planned to build four 10-12 story apartment buildings in Gilo. 2012 Photos from Gilo that were posted online by Adalah-NY show signs and construction equipment emblazoned with the name Danya Cebus. In May 2012, a marketing representative for the project told the Israeli watchdog group Who Profits that three buildings are in advanced stages of construction, and that the last building will be completed in May 2014.

Another Leviev company, Leader Management and Development, is developing the settlement of Zufim on the agricultural land of the West Bank Palestinian village of Jayyous, and the land of other neighboring villages (click for original Hebrew and translated English ownership documents and see Who Profits, and Israel’s Peace Now), According to Israel’s Ministry of Defense’s official Spiegel database for settlements from 2007, Leader was responsible for establishing the settlement of Zufim and responsible for construction and infrastructure in the settlement (English translation). Photos compiled by Adalah-NY from Zufim show signs for Leader and settlement homes in and around Zufim. A Hebrew language website advertisement for Leader’s activities in Zufim says, among other things, “We in Leader Company offer you developed lots for self-construction in diverse options that give you the opportunity to build your dream house.”

In Angola, where Leviev is a major partner of the Angolan government in the diamond industry, human rights abuses and the impoverishment of local communities by diamond companies have also been thoroughly documented. In 2011, leading Angolan researcher Rafael Marques explained in the Guardian’s Comment is Free that, “In the Lundas region, which produces over a billion dollars a year of revenue from its diamonds, the government and the mining companies regularly destroy subsistence farming and the livelihood of the local communities uprooted as a result of mining operations, without providing jobs or alternative means of subsistence.” Marques has reported extensively on the mining companies that partner with Angola’s government and military, including Leviev’s companies. In a December 2008 article in the Israeli financial journal Globes that was translated to English by Adalah-NY, Marques said, “The only people who really profit from the Kimberly Process are Leviev and Morris Templesman [another diamond man who purchases unprocessed diamonds] who use it for their own purposes and who get a cover for exploiting workers from the Kimberly Process."

A June 2010 report in the Wall Street Journal “The ‘Blood Diamond’ Resurfaces,” cites Leviev’s companies as major players in Angola’s Lundas region. The article explains, “A visit to Angola's diamond heartland reveals that plenty of blood still spills over those precious stones… a violent economy prevails in which thousands of peasant miners eke out a living searching for diamonds with shovels and sieves. Because they lack government permits, miners and their families say they are routinely beaten and shaken down for bribes by soldiers and private security guards—and, in extreme cases, killed.”

Accusations of diamond smuggling by Lev Leviev Diamonds Namibia led the Namibian government to shut down Leviev’s operations there and caused renewed labor strife. In 2008 Lev Leviev Diamonds in Namibia fired 153 striking low-wage workers.

We feel certain that City Harvest would not want to taint its credibility by accepting money from a businessman who impoverishes and abuses Palestinians, Angolans and Namibians in order to reduce hunger in New York City. Therefore, we call on City Harvest to reject support from and cut ties with Lev Leviev.

We would be happy to meet with you to discuss these issues, and to provide any additional information that might be helpful in your decision-making.

Thank you,

Patrick Connors and Hannah Mermelstein, Adalah-NY: The New York Campaign for the Boycott of Israel (adalahny.org)

Charlotte Philips, Brooklyn For Peace (brooklynpeace.org/)

Fahd Ahned, DRUM (Desis Rising Up and Moving) (www.drumnation.og)

Nikhil Aziz, Grassroots International (www.grassrootsonline.org/)

Donna Nevel, Jews Say No! (jewssayno.wordpress.com/)

Park Slope Food Coop Members for BDS