July 2, 2008
Open letter to Susan Sarandon:
Follow UNICEF’s lead and publicly cut ties with Lev Leviev
From: Adalah-NY; the West Bank villages of Bil’in and Jayyous; Jewish Voice for Peace; Defence for Children International-Palestine Section; The Steering Committee of the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee; and The Coalition of Women for Peace, Israel
As seven diverse groups committed to justice, human rights and peace, and representing hundreds of organizations and tens of thousands of people in the US, Palestine and Israel, we call on you as a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, to follow the lead of UNICEF which told Reuters on June 20th that it was cutting all ties with Israeli billionaire and diamond mogul Lev Leviev. UNICEF took this action due to Leviev’s companies’ construction of Israeli settlements in occupied Palestinian Territory. In a June 19 letter to Adalah-NY, Chris De Bono, senior communications advisor to UNICEF’s Executive Director, explained: "Yesterday we confirmed that UNICEF has concluded that it will not consider partnerships - direct or indirect - with Mr. Lev Leviev or any of his corporate entities, and will not accept financial or other support that we know is from him or his corporate entities. The concerned parts of the UNICEF family, including our national committees, have been advised of this."
Like UNICEF, which did not know until we informed them, we understand that when you attended the November 13, 2007 gala opening of Leviev’s Madison Avenue jewelry store, as Adalah-NY protested outside, you were unaware of Leviev’s record of human rights abuses in Palestine, Angola and beyond. However, as a popular and respected human rights advocate and a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, not publicly severing ties with Leviev has sent and will continue to send a message to the world that you support Leviev's highly unethical business activities which result in grave human rights abuses in Palestine.
On December 7, 2007 your assistant Mark Edlitz informed Adalah-NY that you were exploring these issues. UNICEF’s public rebuke of Leviev, which follows Oxfam International’s similar announcement on January 11, 2008, now provides an appropriate opportunity for you, as a member of the UNICEF family, to set the record straight and once again stand courageously for human rights.
West Bank Villages of Bil'in and Jayyous: Our villages, known worldwide for multi-year peaceful protest campaigns, supported by Israeli and international activists, to save our land, affirm that Leviev's settlements are destroying the olive groves and farms that have sustained our villages for centuries. The settlements of Maale Adumim and Har Homa, where Leviev's companies have recently built homes in violation of international law, are being built expressly to sever East Jerusalem from the West Bank, destroying any hopes for peace. Leviev has also financially supported the settler organization the Land Redemption Fund which has used highly dubious means to secure Palestinian land in villages including Bil'in and Jayyous for settlement expansion.
Defence for Children International - Palestine Section: Recognizing your concern for children worldwide, we note that in order to build these illegal colonies, the State of Israel has confiscated acres and acres of cultivated and non-cultivated privately-owned Palestinian land, depriving scores of families of their assets and livelihood, thus severely compromising their ability and options to provide for their children. In some cases this leads to a reversal of roles, whereby the children have to drop out of school in order to help provide for their families, by working to supplement income or by saving their parents the need to pay for school fees.
Steering Committee of the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee (BNC): As representatives of a wide coalition of 171 of the largest Palestinian mass organizations, trade unions, networks and organizations, we believe that it is of crucial importance that prominent figures like you come out to speak about justice and against war and occupation everywhere, from Iraq to Palestine. We view boycott as a non-violent, civil form of pressure against Israel. Inspired by the global movement to isolate apartheid South Africa, Palestinian civil society has called on the world to start once again a boycott movement in the pursuit of justice.
Jewish Voice for Peace: We represent 23,000 Jews and allies who yearn and work for a just peace for Palestinians and Israelis; we implore you to take a public stand against Leviev. Leviev's strong support of the settlements seriously compromises any efforts at a just peace in the region. His efforts to expropriate more lands from Palestinians, using both financial and strong-arm tactics, greatly increase Palestinian suffering.
The Coalition of Women for Peace, Israel: Representing ten Israeli women's organizations, we affirm that developers and investors who take part in maintaining the occupation and the settlement industry must be made publicly accountable for their actions. We ask you to join us in publicly disavowing Lev Leviev's businesses until he withdraws his involvement in any such projects.
Together, all of our organizations echo the following words of our friends in the villages of Bil'in and Jayyous: We are engaged in a struggle for justice, for our freedom - indeed, for our very lives. We call on you, Ms. Sarandon, to stand with us in our struggle to save our land and our communities.