May 5, 2009
The Council on Ethics
Norwegian Government Pension Fund
Government of Norway
Dear Members of the Council on Ethics,
As diverse organizations concerned with human rights, international law, justice and peace in the Middle East, we are writing in support of the West Bank villages of Bil’in and Jayyous to call on the Norwegian government to conform with its own ethical guidelines[i] and divest its pension holdings from the company Africa-Israel, owned by Lev Leviev. According to a Norwegian Government report,[ii] as of December 31, 2008 a total of 6,665,567 Kroner in Norwegian government pension funds were invested in Africa-Israeli Investments and Africa-Israel Properties.
Africa-Israel, of which Lev Leviev is the chairman and controlling shareholder, has built Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories in direct violation of international law, specifically Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention which prohibits the Occupying Power from transferring "parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies." In addition to Africa-Israel, other branches of Leviev's business empire are involved in Israeli settlement construction, and in serious human rights violations in the Angolan diamond industry. Therefore, the Norwegian government's investment in Africa-Israel clearly violates government guidelines which require the exclusion of "companies from the investment universe where there is considered to be an unacceptable risk of contributing to... serious violations of individuals' rights in situations of war or conflict" and "other particularly serious violations of fundamental ethical norms." For these reasons, we strongly urge Norway to follow the lead of UNICEF,[iii] Oxfam[iv] and the government of the United Kingdom,[v] all of which have ended their relationships with Leviev over human rights violations, and divest from its holdings in Africa-Israel.
Africa-Israel's Support of Israeli Settlements and Occupation: Though Israel's settlements clearly violate international law, the company Danya Cebus, a subsidiary of Leviev's Africa-Israel, has recently built homes in the Israeli settlements of Mattityahu East,[vi] Maale Adumim and Har Homa.[vii] These settlements seize vital Palestinian water resources and agricultural land, carve the West Bank into disconnected enclaves, sever East Jerusalem from the West Bank, and destroy hopes for the creation of a viable Palestinian state. Additionally, Israeli media reports have connected Africa- Israel and Danya Cebus with planned settlement construction in Maale Adumim in 2000 in Adam in 2003, [viii] and in Ariel in 1999.[ix]
The village of Bil'in stands to lose 57.5 percent of its land to the Mattityahu East settlement, which is part of the larger Modi'in Illit settlement bloc. Residents of Bil'in have engaged in a four-year nonviolent campaign of over 250 peaceful protests against the theft of their lands for Israel's wall and the Mattityahu East settlement. Bil'in resident Bassem Abu Rahme was killed by Israeli soldiers on April 17, 2009 during a peaceful protest against the wall and settlements. Additionally, during Bil'in's four-year nonviolent campaign, the Israeli military has injured around 1,300 civilian protesters, including approximately 400 children, and arrested 60 protesters, 15 of whom were children from Bil'in.
In addition to settlement construction, Africa-Israel subsidiaries provide other support to Israeli settlements and occupation in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Africa-Israel owns the Israeli company Anglo-Saxon Real Estate.[x] Anglo-Saxon has offices in the settlements of Maale Adumim and Efrat-Gush Etzion,[xi] from where it sells settlement homes to foreigners, as reported recently by Al Jazeera.[xii] Africa-Israel also owns 26% of the Alon Group and its subsidiary Dor Alon. As the monopoly fuel provider to the Gaza Strip, Dor Alon serves a captive Palestinian market and has followed Israeli government policy by cutting vital fuel supplies to Gaza. The Alon Group also owns gas stations and convenience stores in West Bank settlements.[xiii]
Other Leviev Involvement in Serious Human Rights Abuses: Other arms of Leviev's business empire are also involved in Israeli settlement construction, and in human rights abuses in Africa. While these activities do not fall under Africa-Israel, where Leviev is the chairman and controlling shareholder, Leviev's personal financial resources, some of which are invested in Africa-Israel, directly support these abuses.
Leviev is the co-owner of the Israeli company Leader Management and Development. Leader owns and operates the settlement of Zufim, built on the land of the West Bank Palestinian village of Jayyous.[xiv] Jayyous has held over 80 nonviolent protests against the confiscation of its land for Israel's wall and the Zufim settlement since 2002. Some residents of this once prosperous farming village are now dependent on food aid, because the expansion of the all-Jewish settlement of Zufim, coupled with the construction of Israel's wall, separates Jayyous' farmers from two-thirds of their farmland and six wells.
Leviev is also a donor to the Land Redemption Fund, a settlement organization, which, according to the Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth, uses deceit and strong-arm tactics to extort land from Palestinians for settlement expansion.[xv] The Land Redemption Fund was central to securing the land from Jayyous and Bil'in that was used for eventual settlement construction by Leviev's companies. Yedioth Ahronoth explains, "The LRF also was responsible for purchasing the land on which parts of Oranit near Kafr Kassem was built, and for Tzofim [Zufim] near Tzur Yigal." The village of Bil'in's 2006 Israeli Supreme Court Appeal[xvi] explains the Land Redemption Fund's central role in securing Bil'in's land, noting that, as just one example, "On 28 August 1990, Attorney Moshe Glick, the representative of Respondent 4 [The Fund for the Redemption of the Land], contacted Ms. Plia Albek, director of the Civil Department in the State Attorney's Office, and informed her that his client, the Fund, had acquired several plots in the land of the village of Bil`in."[xvii]
In Angola, Leviev's close partnership in the diamond trade with President Dos Santos supports a repressive and corrupt government.[xviii] [xix] Angolan human rights activist Rafael Marques explains that, "The diamond trade has flourished on the back of a socio-economic system based on opacity, extreme violence, and exploitation."[xx] New York Magazine reported in 2007 that, "A security company contracted by Leviev was accused this year by a local human-rights monitor [Rafael Marques] of participating in practices of 'humiliation, whipping, torture, sexual abuse, and, in some cases, assassinations.' Leviev's formal response to the report did not directly address the abuses but touted his charitable activities in Angola.'"[xxi] Similar accusations in Angola, along with weak rebuttals from Leviev, were again the subject of a December 4, 2008 expose in the Israeli financial newspaper Globes.[xxii] Also, 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.[xxiii] PAC's 2008 Diamond Industry Annual Review reports that, "Angola's Kimberley Process controls for the informal artisanal sector remain as ineffective and open to abuse as ever."[xxiv] And in Namibia, where Leviev operates a diamond polishing factory, in the summer of 2008, Leviev fired around 200 striking diamond polishers,[xxv] some of whom were already struggling to survive on less than $2 (US) per day,[xxvi] the threshold set for poverty worldwide, and approximately 50% of the prevailing average Namibian minimum wage[xxvii] for all major sectors.
The settlement construction in the Occupied Palestinian territories by Leviev's company Africa-Israel unequivocally violates the Government of Norway's ethical guidelines for investment. The additional settlement construction and human rights abuses conducted under other branches Leviev's business empire serve to support and reinforce the clear violations committed by Africa-Israel. Therefore, we call on the Norwegian Government to enforce its ethical guidelines and swiftly divest from Africa-Israel.
Adalah-NY: The Coalition for Justice in the Middle East (US) www.adalahny.org
Architects and Planners for Justice in Palestine (UK) www.apjp.org
Association France-Palestine Solidarite (France) www.france-palestine.org/
Electricians and IT workers Union (Norway) www.elogit.no
European Coordinating Committee of NGOs on the Question of Palestine
Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (Israel) www.icahd.org
Jewish Voice for Peace (US) www.jewishvoiceforpeace.org
Jews Against the Occupation-NYC (US) www.jatonyc.org
Norwegian Association for NGOs for Palestine (Norway) www.palestina.no
Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee (Palestine) www.bdsmovement.net
Palestine Solidarity Campaign (UK) www.palestinecampaign.org/
Cc: Kristin Halvorsen, Minister of Finance
The Office of the Prime Minister
Henriette Westhrin, Deputy Minister
Roger Sandum, Deputy Minister
Geir Axelsen, Deputy Minister
Roger Schjerva, Deputy Minister
Ole Morten Geving, Deputy Minister
[i] Ethical Guidelines, Norwegian Government Pension Funds - Global, http://www.regjeringen.no/en/sub/Styrer-rad-utvalg/ethics_council/ethical-guidelines.html?id=425277
[vi] Land Grabs and Lawsuits, The Montreal Mirror, Jesse Rosenfeld, July 31, 2008, http://www.montrealmirror.com/2008/073108/news2.html; and hyperlinks to an apartment contract and other media reports confirming the same: http://adalahny.org/campaign-main-document/541/sources-re-danya-cebus-construction-mattityahu-east
[vii] Africa Israel to Complete Building of two Heftsiba Projects, The Jerusalem Post, Matthew Kreiger, August 9, 2007, http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull&cid=1186557403465; and hyperlinks to other media reports confirming the same: http://adalahny.org/campaign-main-document/544/sources-re-danya-cebus-construction-har-homa-and-maale-adumim-2007
[xiv] Israeli government document showing Leviev's co-ownership of Leader Management and Development: http://adalahny.org/resource/983/israeli-government-document-showing-levievs-ownership-company-lider-building-zufim-sett; Leader ad for homes in Zufim: http://www.webadmin.co.il/clients/lider/; Israeli rights organizations B'Tselem and Bimkom also tie Leviev to Leader: http://www.btselem.org/Download/200512_Under_the_Guise_of_Security_Eng.pdf
[xv] See the English translation on the Peace Now website of The Settler National Fund, Yedioth Ahronoth, Shosh Mula and Ofer Petersburg, January 28, 2005, http://www.peacenow.org/hot.asp?cid=247
[xvii] The Land Redemption Fund's role in Bil'in and the crucial involvement of LRF attorney Moshe Glick were also outlined by Ha'aretz Daily's Akiva Eldar in 2005, http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/pages/ShArt.jhtml?itemNo=662729
[xviii] For more information on Leviev in Angola see: http://adalahny.org/campaign-main-document/537/leviev-diamonds
[xxi] Meet the Mogul: The Putin Pal who just bought the old New York Times building, New York Magazine, Ben Smith, May 7, 2007, http://nymag.com/news/intelligencer/31549/; Ben Smith's article refers to a report posted by the UK-based Business and Human Rights Resource Centre about the Angolan diamond industry, including Leviev, by Angolan human rights activists Rafael Marques (http://www.reports-and-materials.org/Operation-Kissonde-Rafael-Marques-Sep-2006.pdf ), Leviev's formal response to that report: (http://www.business-humanrights.org/Documents/Lev-Leviev-response-to-cocerns-about-abuses-related-to-diamond-mining-in-Angola-20-Sep-2006.doc). The Business and Human Rights Resource Centre also outlined the process for soliciting diamond industry responses (http://www.business-humanrights.org/Documents/Angola-diamond-summary-18-Oct-2006.doc)
[xxiii] Diamond Industry Annual Review: Republic of Angola, 2007, Partnership Africa Canada, http://www.pacweb.org/f/images/stories/documents/angola-ar2007-eng.pdf; 2008 Diamond Industry Annual Review, Partnership Africa Canada, http://www.pacweb.org/e/images/stories/documents/ar_diamonds_2008_eng.pdf
[xxv] MUN Blamed for Diamond Impasse, The Namibian, Denver Isaacs, July 14, 2008, http://allafrica.com/stories/200807141371.html
[xxvi] Striking LLD Workers Suspended, New Era, John Ekongo, June 20, 2008, http://www.newera.com.na/article.php?db=oldarchive&articleid=21504
[xxvii] The Wage Bargaining Report: 2005, Labor Resource and Research Institute, www.larri.com.na/research/AWARD%20Report%202005.doc