FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
New York, NY, December 14, 2013 – As snow fell on the New York area Saturday afternoon, 40 human rights advocates gathered on Manhattan’s upscale Madison Avenue in front of the Leviev Diamond store and sang parody holiday carols protesting diamond magnate Lev Leviev’s construction of Israeli settlements. Many holiday shoppers, bundled against the cold, paused to listen to the carolers and appeared surprised but pleased by their human rights message.
The protest came days after popular mobilizations against an Israeli government plan to displace tens of thousands of Palestinian Bedouin citizens of Israel contributed to the plan’s cancellation, and amidst growing global recognition of the efficacy of the international boycott movement.
Andrew Kadi from Adalah-NY explained, “In 2007, when Adalah-NY began to protest against Leviev, we were one of the only groups in the US advocating for a boycott of Israel. This year our protest was endorsed by 12 groups in New York City alone, a clear sign of the spreading support for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel.” A week earlier, Adalah-NY and other New York groups held a protest calling for a boycott of SodaStream due to the company’s involvement in Israeli settlements.
Protesters at Leviev sang songs including “Stealing Palestinian Land” to the tune of “Winter Wonderland,” and “I Made a Little Settlement” to the tune of “Dreidel, Dreidel, Dreidel.” Another song, to the tune of “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen,” included the lyrics, “The people of these villages said heed the boycott call / With international pressure to help Apartheid fall / Each time we sing out in the cold their courage we recall / Oh justice for Palestinian, women and men / The question is not if but when.”
Song lyrics highlighted the fact that Oxfam America and UNICEF, along with CARE, the government of the United Kingdom, New Zealand’s Superannuation Fund, and Hollywood stars have all sought distance from Leviev’s companies over their human rights record. The government of Norway recently rescinded a ban on investing in Leviev’s company Africa Israel, but has said it is looking into the issue after learning of Africa Israel’s ongoing settlement construction.
Leviev’s companies are currently building homes in the Israeli settlement of Gilo and developing the Zufim settlement on the land of the West Bank village of Jayyous. They have built thousands of settlement homes for Jews only on Palestinian land in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. All Israeli settlements violate international law as well as seize vital Palestinian land, dividing the West Bank into disconnected bantustans, reminiscent of apartheid South Africa.
Leviev’s business ethics have come under fire worldwide. A young Angolan woman stopped at today's protest and spoke with a demonstrator about Leviev’s operations in her country, saying, “They steal everything from us.” In the diamond industry in Angola, Leviev’s mine security companies have been accused of acts of “humiliation, whipping, torture, sexual abuse, and, in some cases, assassinations.” Leviev was forced to shut down his diamond polishing plant in Namibia following accusations that his employee was smuggling diamonds.
In New York City, Leviev’s companies have helped to gentrify neighborhoods in Brooklyn and Manhattan. Now a Leviev subsidiary, Danya Cebus, plans to build high-priced apartments in East Harlem for the company HAP Investments, which aims to reap profits by gentrifying Harlem and Washington Heights.