New York, NY, December 13, 2012 – The New Zealand Superannuation Fund, which invests money on behalf of New Zealand’s government, announced on December 12 that it is divesting from Israeli billionaire Lev Leviev’s company Africa Israel and its construction subsidiary Danya Cebus over their construction of Israeli settlements. The announcement came amidst heightened international criticism of Israeli settlement expansion. The move also follows a 2010 decision by the Norwegian government to divest from Africa Israel, and a 2009 decision by the British government not to do business with the company. The organizations Oxfam America, CARE and UNICEF have also severed ties with Leviev.
The announcement came as Adalah-NY is petitioning the New York City anti-hunger nonprofit City Harvest to publicly disavow Leviev, and is preparing for its sixth annual anti-apartheid caroling protest outside Leviev’s Madison Avenue jewelry store this Saturday. Adalah-NY launched a campaign for the boycott of and divestment from Leviev’s companies in 2007.
The New Zealand fund, which invests $20 billion for the government of New Zealand, announced that it would exclude Africa Israel and Danya Cebus, along with the Israeli companies Elbit Systems Limited and Shikun and Binui because the companies are involved in Israeli settlement construction and building Israel’s wall on Palestinian land in violation of international law. In a press release the New Zealand fund explained, “Africa Israel and its subsidiary Danya Cebus have been excluded because of their involvement in the construction of Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. The settlements have been cited as illegal under international law, and the Fund considers the companies’ involvement to be inconsistent with the United Nations Global Compact.”
Hazem Jamjoum from Adalah-NY stated, “We are very heartened to see the growing momentum to boycott and divest from Leviev’s companies. This announcement by New Zealand’s Superannuation Fund is a victory and yet another sign of the growing strength of the worldwide BDS movement which aims to pressure Israel through boycott, divestment and sanctions to respect Palestinian rights. We hope that City Harvest understands the seriousness of the human right issues at stake and follows this fund's lead.”
Daniel Strum from Adalah-NY and the We Divest National Coordination Committee added: "Both Africa Israel and Elbit Systems Limited are also part of US pension giant TIAA-CREF's investment portfolio. We strongly urge TIAA-CREF to follow the examples of Norway and New Zealand and divest from these two companies and others that support Israeli human rights violations."
From 2000-2008, Leviev’s flagship company Africa Israel built homes in the settlements of Har Homa, Maale Adumim (two projects), Adam, and in Mattityahu East on the land of the West Bank village of Bil’in. In November, 2010 Africa Israel made ambiguous statements, suggesting it would not build more settlements, seemingly as a result of international pressure. However, in June, 2012, Adalah-NY released extensive information showing that a subsidiary of Leviev’s company Africa-Israel is building homes in the settlement of Gilo. Additionally, a separate Leviev-owned company, Leader Management and Development, continues to develop the Zufim settlement on the land of the West Bank village of Jayyous (see documentation). Leviev has also been a major donor to the Land Redemption Fund, an organization dedicated to seizing Palestinian land for Israeli settlement expansion.
A number of media reports have stated that Leviev has hosted fundraisers for City Harvest, leading to two letters (First Letter, Second Letter) and an email campaign calling on City Harvest to publicly disavow Leviev. This Saturday at 1 PM, for the sixth consecutive year, human rights advocates will perform holiday carol parodies calling for the boycott of Leviev outside his Madison Avenue jewelry store.