Adalah-NY Contacts: [email protected]
New York, NY, Jan 14, 2008 – Correcting earlier media reports of a relationship between Israeli billionaire Lev Leviev and Oxfam, Oxfam told the New York City human rights group Adalah-NY that “Leviev has not been a donor to Oxfam.” Oxfam explained that it does not “knowingly accept funds from any business involved in any illegal activity, or operating in any illegally occupied territory, including settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories.” Following reports that Leviev contributes to Oxfam in Women’s Wear Daily, Lifestyles Magazine and on the news site of the Federation of Jewish Communities of the CIS, of which Leviev is the President, Adalah-NY had written to Oxfam asking the international charity to reject contributions from Leviev. There was no immediate explanation of why these publications had reported that Leviev supported Oxfam.
Adalah-NY began a boycott campaign focusing on Israeli diamond mogul Lev Leviev due to his companies’ settlement construction in the Occupied West Bank in violation of international law, and his abuse of marginalized communities in Angola and New York City. Adalah-NY has conducted five protests over two months at Leviev’s new Madison Avenue jewelry store. In December, US actress Susan Sarandon was asked to cut ties with Leviev by the West Bank villages of Bil’in and Jayyous where Leviev is building settlements, the US organization Jewish Voice for Peace, Israel’s Coalition of Women for Peace, and leading Palestinian civil society organizations.
A September 5, 2007 article in Women’s Wear Daily on Leviev claimed that Leviev is “a philanthropist” who is involved with “Oxfam America,” among others. A December 28, 2007 article in Lifestyles Magazine about Leviev, entitled “The Benefactor” noted that Leviev’s “philanthropic activities” touched US charities including “Oxfam America.” The Lifestyles Magazine article, including the claim of ties to Oxfam America, was also posted on the news site of Leviev’s Federation of Jewish Communities of the CIS.
Following these media reports, Adalah-NY sent a January 8 open letter to Oxfam noting that Leviev had been “touting his charitable contributions to Oxfam to deflect scrutiny from his violations of international law and his role in the deteriorating humanitarian situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.” Citing settlement construction by Leviev’s companies, his company’s complicity in cutting the fuel supply to the Gaza Strip, and his companies' violations in Angola and in New York City, Adalah-NY called on Oxfam “to raise your prominent voice in bringing to light Leviev's unlawful and unethical activities.” (The full letter to Oxfam)
January 11 emails to Adalah-NY from Alex Renton of Oxfam Great Britain and Adrienne Smith of Oxfam America responded that: “Contrary to various citations, Lev Leviev is not a donor to Oxfam America and has never been one. To the best of our knowledge Mr. Leviev has not been a donor to Oxfam or any of its affiliates. Oxfam International is an organization of 13 national affiliates working in 100 countries, and we are checking thoroughly whether any Oxfam has had any relationship with Mr. Leviev.”
“Oxfam’s policies on donations, corporate and private, are clear. We don’t knowingly accept funds from any business involved in any illegal activity, or operating in any illegally occupied territory, including settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories. Oxfam abides by international humanitarian law, and thus has a long-standing policy of opposition to such settlements.” Oxfam’s response was also posted on the Israeli website www.kibush.co.il and on the UK website www.bigcampaign.org.uk/.
Adalah-NY spokesperson Ethan Heitner commented, “We are unable to explain why articles praising Leviev and touting his charitable contributions, including an article on the news site of an organization he heads, claimed a link with Oxfam which Oxfam has now verified doesn’t exist. We are gratified that Oxfam has reiterated its longstanding opposition to Israeli settlement construction and refusal to accept donations from businesses like Leviev’s that are involved in violations of international law.”
Update: Adalah-NY Letter to Oxfam on Lev Leviev
January 11, 2008
Adalah-NY, a grassroots strategic alliance of concerned organizations and individuals in New York, confirmed today with Oxfam America and Oxfam Great Britain that, contrary to reports in a number of online and print publications, Israeli billionaire and settlement-builder Lev Leviev is not and has never been a donor to any of the Oxfam member organizations.
Reports that Leviev was an Oxfam donor first appeared in sources such as Women's Wear Daily, Lifestyles Magazine and on the website of the Federation of Jewish Communities of the CIS, of which Leviev is president.. Leviev has been widely criticized for illegal and unethical business practices in places such as Palestine, Angola and Brooklyn. Oxfam stated in conversations with Adalah-NY that it had conducted extensive searches of its records and confirmed that such reports are incorrect.
Adalah-NY is continuing to investigate the matter and will issue further updates as our understanding of the matter develops.
An Open Letter to Oxfam: Refrain from Accepting Donations from Lev Leviev
Mr. Mark Bailey
Occupied East Jerusalem
January 8, 2008
Dear Mr. Bailey:
Recognizing Oxfam's admirable efforts in defense of human rights and justice worldwide, it is with concern we bring to your attention that Israeli billionaire Lev Leviev is touting his charitable contributions to Oxfam to deflect scrutiny from his violations of international law and his role in the deteriorating humanitarian situation in the Occupied Palestinian territories.
As Oxfam has acknowledged, all of Israel's rapidly expanding settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories contravene international law. Mr. Leviev's companies, Africa Israel and Leader Management and Development, are displacing Palestinians in the Occupied West Bank and threatening their livelihood by building homes in the Israeli settlements of Zufim, Mattiyahu East, Maale Adumim and Har Homa. Previously Danya Cebus, the subsidiary of Africa Israel that builds settlements, was also contracted to build homes in the settlement of Adam. The five settlements in which Leviev has built homes seize vital Palestinian water resources and agricultural land, carving the West Bank into disconnected enclaves and rendering the creation of a viable Palestinian state impossible. Up to half the population of the farming village of Jayyous is on food aid, according to the Financial Times, because the expansion of the all-Jewish settlement of Zufim, coupled with the construction of Israel’s wall, separates them from two-thirds of their land and six water wells. Meanwhile residents of Bil'in, who along with the villagers of Jayyous have engaged in a three year non-violent campaign against the theft of their lands and the illegal construction of the wall, stand to lose 50 percent of their land to the Mattityahu East settlement. Residents of Jayyous and Bil'in—along with prominent Palestinian civil society organizations, Israel’s Coalition of Women for Peace, and Jewish Voice for Peace—have issued public statements supporting a boycott of Leviev's businesses.
Leviev is also a primary donor to the right-wing Land Redemption Fund according to the Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth. The Land Redemption Fund allegedly uses fraud and strong-arm tactics to extort land from Palestinians for settlement expansion.
In addition to his development of illegal Israeli settlements, Mr. Leviev is implicated in the worsening humanitarian conditions in Gaza. In a November 21, 2007 press release, Oxfam reported on the plight of civilians in Gaza, specifically the denial of enough drinking water for 1.5 million Palestinians due to Israeli-imposed fuel restrictions that have rendered water pumps inoperable. Only weeks earlier five Gazans drowned in a wave of waste overflowing from a malfunctioning sewage plant that Oxfam stated had not been repaired as a result of the severely limited supply of diesel and spare parts. Adalah-NY recalls Oxfam's demand "for the immediate resumption of unimpeded fuel deliveries to the territory" and your call to "the international community to speak out against the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Gaza and to hold responsible actors accountable for protection of civilians".
While Adalah-NY applauds Oxfam for holding the Israeli government accountable for the crisis in Gaza, the government is not acting alone. We direct your attention again to Mr. Leviev, whose company Africa Israel (originally named Africa Palestine Investments Ltd. —the motives behind this substitution are not so subtle) controls 26% percent of Dor Energy. The respected Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz Daily disclosed on Dec. 3 that Dor Energy, the sole fuel supplier to the people of Gaza (it enjoys "exclusive rights" courtesy of the Israeli government), independently and severely cut Gaza's fuel supply despite the tragic repercussions for ordinary civilians:
"The current gas and diesel shortage in Gaza, which has resulted in the closure of nearly 70 percent of all stations there, is not, however, the result of the Israeli government's decision to cut fuel supplies to the Hamas-controlled Strip. Months ago the defense establishment cut the gasoline supply to the Strip by 12 percent, and diesel by 5 percent. It turns out that unpaid bills to Dor Energy - the Israeli fuel supplier – is what has led to the current, drastic situation. According to the Association of Gas Stations in Gaza, Dor Energy has cut its fuel supply by nearly 75 percent in recent days."
Further implicating Dor Energy, a November 6 article in Ha’aretz  revealed:
“Dor Alon V.P. marketing and sales Uri Shmuel was arrested yesterday on suspicion of selling fuel originally meant for the Palestinian Authority […]The Haifa Customs and VAT investigations department has been conducting a covert investigation for months, suspecting that fuels meant for use in the PA have not been reaching their destination, but are being sold within Israel off-record.”
At the mercy of their Israeli occupiers, Gazans have no alternative but to depend upon Israeli corporations such as Dor Energy for fuel. Israel controls the movement of all goods into and out of Gaza, and controls Gaza’s airspace and seacoast. As the monopoly fuel supplier to the Gaza Strip, Dor Energy enjoys inflated prices at the expense of Palestinian civilians. Though a major offshore natural gas field with an estimated 1.4 trillion cubic feet of natural gas has been discovered merely twenty miles from Gaza's coast, for nearly a decade Israel has blocked the development of the untapped resource, which according to experts "could provide the foundation for sustainable economic growth" and Palestinian fuel self-sufficiency.
Mr. Leviev, ranked the 210th wealthiest businessman in the world by Forbes Magazine, profits from the denial of Palestinians' right to develop their natural resources, and, is a principal actor in the worsening humanitarian conditions in Gaza.
Yet Mr. Leviev's human rights abuses do not end nor begin in Palestine. Leviev began to accumulate his vast fortune by trading in diamonds with the apartheid South African regime as a DeBeers site holder, while the rest of the world was building the boycott movement against the Apartheid government. In Angola Leviev enjoys a special relationship with the Dos Santos government to mine the country's diamonds. Under President Dos Santos, Angola has failed to hold presidential or legislative elections since 1992. Leviev shares headquarters with and employs the private security firm K&P Mineira, which has been accused of torturing, sexually abusing and even murdering Angolans so that they "can be the sole beneficiaries of the diamond resources leaving locals with virtually nothing.” Your Feb. 21, 2007 press release "Oxfam concerned over rising harassment of activists addressing impact of oil and mining in Africa" corroborates this dismal picture of a majority of Angolans drowning in extreme poverty while opportunistic miners like Mr. Leviev reap exorbitant profits from the resource-rich country.
More recently, in September 2007 The Sunday Times of London stated that one of its investigative reporters was offered a Burmese ruby for sale at Leviev's London jewelry store, possibly "blood rubies" used to finance Myanmar's military junta. The European Union has threatened Leviev with prosecution if he fails to abide by EU sanctions against the oppressive Burmese regime.
Adalah-NY launched a boycott campaign against Mr. Leviev this past November to expose his exploitation of marginalized people in Palestine, Angola, and in our very own communities. Mr. Leviev and his former partner Shaya Boymelgreen, who also is engaged in illegal-settlement building in the Occupied Territories, came under fire from housing activists and labor unions in New York City for employing underpaid, non-union workers in hazardous conditions for their local development schemes. In public statements and in their own defense, Leviev and his partners repeatedly assert that those who criticize Mr. Leviev are not aware of his philanthropy. However, we are well aware of Leviev's well-publicized charitable contributions, which are little compensation for his extensive human rights abuses and exploitation of impoverished people worldwide. As Angolan human rights activist Rafael Marquez put it best in a statement in which he refers to Mr. Leviev:
"…the diamond companies are happily publicizing their good deeds in terms of social responsibility […] But the locals cannot see such deeds. This prompts the question: Is the manipulation of social responsibility providing a license to kill and abuse people's rights?"
Noting the declaration in your mission statement "We influence powerful people", as well as your longstanding work towards economic and social justice for marginalized communities globally, we call upon Oxfam, which has been cited as a recipient of Mr. Leviev's ill-gotten money, to hold Leviev accountable for his record of abuse; to publicly refrain from accepting any contributions from Mr. Leviev that will only be used to conceal his abuses and impoverish communities from Palestine to Angola; and to raise your prominent voice in bringing to light Leviev's unlawful and unethical activities.
We look forward to your response.
Adalah-NY: The Coalition for Justice in the Middle East
Cc: Oxfam International (Oxford, Great Britain) and Oxfam America