Protesters urge local nonprofit City Harvest to reject Leviev support
New York, NY, December 15, 2012 – Eighty New Yorkers sang parody carols in front of Israeli settlement-developer and diamond magnate Lev Leviev’s Madison Avenue jewelry store this afternoon. This was the sixth annual holiday demonstration at the store. Leviev’s companies have built thousands of Israeli settlement homes on Palestinian land, and are also involved in human rights abuses and unethical business practices in the diamond industry in Angola, Namibia and Zimbabwe.
The protest took place during a period of heightened international criticism of Israeli settlement expansion. This week New Zealand’s Superannuation Fund, which invests $20 billion on behalf of New Zealand’s government, announced its divestment from Leviev’s companies and two others due to their construction of settlements and Israel’s wall in violation of international law. Holding signs pointing to Leviev’s theft of Palestinian land and urging shoppers to boycott the store - including one sign with a female figure weeping diamond tears - protesters sang songs such as “Buy Yourself a Merry Little Tchotchke” and “Leviev the Two-Faced Magnate.” The demonstration also featured accompaniment by the Rude Mechanical Orchestra, which played a new arrangement of the Palestinian song “Wein ‘a Ramallah.” “Whitewashing,” set to the tune of “White Christmas,” was also debuted, including the verse “Lev’s dreaming about whitewashing / The kind he did back in the days / But then Oxfam blocked him / Unicef chopped him / They won’t let him help fundraise.” The lyrics highlighted how Oxfam America and UNICEF, along with CARE, the governments of Norway and the United Kingdom, and Hollywood stars have all sought distance from Leviev’s companies over their human rights record.
Members of Adalah-NY handed leaflets to holiday shoppers, including several who stopped on the sidewalk to listen to the music. One passer-by identified himself as a Palestinian. “This means so much to me,” he said before joining in for a few songs. A worker came out of a nearby business and explained that he watches the event every year and “thinks it’s a good thing you’re all doing.” There was even an appearance by the Christmas-stealing Grinch, who danced in front of the Leviev store’s window display to the amusement of children and adults alike.
Speaking to the crowd, Riham Barghouti of Adalah-NY detailed the recent call for the anti-hunger nonprofit City Harvest, which has been reported to be the recipient of fundraisers hosted by Leviev, to reject funds from and disavow any relationship with him. Barghouti explained, “Making Palestinians hungry by taking away their land and livelihoods is no way to fight hunger in New York.”
Israeli-American demonstrator Udi Pladott added, “Israel's illegal settlements in the West Bank stand in the way of justice and peace for Palestinians and Israelis. As long as Leviev's companies take part in building those settlements, I think City Harvest should cut off all ties with them.”
A subsidiary of Leviev’s company Africa Israel is currently building homes in the Israeli settlement of Gilo. 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.
Adalah-NY began a campaign to boycott the companies of Lev Leviev in November 2007. Today’s protest was endorsed by over 20 groups, reflecting the rapid growth of the international movement for boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) against Israel as a non-violent strategy to pressure Israel to respect Palestinian rights.
Photos’ from today’s protest in front of Leviev’s New York City store