MEDIA CONTACT: [email protected]
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
New York, NY, February 19, 2014 – Adalah-NY announced today that contrary to 2012 media reports touting Israeli billionaire Lev Leviev’s support for the New York City anti-hunger nonprofit City Harvest, the organization received no support of any kind from Leviev during that period. In November 2012, after media reported on Leviev’s support for City Harvest fundraisers, Adalah-NY mobilized letters from organizations and from over 600 individuals calling on the award-winning organization to reject funds from and publicly disavow Leviev due to his companies’ construction of Israeli settlements in violation of international law, and unethical business practices in the diamond industry in Southern Africa.
City Harvest’s just-issued 2013 annual report, and their 2012 annual report both show no support from Leviev. City Harvest spokesperson Cara Taback confirmed in a February 18 phone call with Adalah-NY that the annual reports provide a full and accurate list of all the organization’s donors, and that Leviev indeed had not been a City Harvest donor during the July 2011 – June 2013 period covered by the two reports.
Ethan Heitner from Adalah-NY commented, “We’re glad that City Harvest apparently took note of the information we provided and refused to allow Leviev to exploit City Harvest’s good name to whitewash his companies’ violations of Palestinian rights and their misdeeds in Southern Africa. City Harvest’s vital mission of alleviating hunger in New York City is only enhanced when the organization ensures that it is, at a minimum, doing no harm to communities abroad.” Adalah-NY is part of the growing, Palestinian-led movement for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel, and has organized a now six-year campaign for the boycott of Leviev’s companies.
The already long list of organizations, financial institutions and governments worldwide that have rejected ties with Leviev and his companies is growing. In January 2014, following contacts from civil society groups including Adalah-NY, the Norwegian Government reinstated its ban on investing Norway’s Pension Fund Global in Leviev’s company Africa Israel and its subsidiary Danya Cebus due to their construction of Israeli settlements. Oxfam America, UNICEF, and CARE, the government of the United Kingdom, Denmark’s largest bank, New Zealand’s Superannuation Fund, and Hollywood stars have all sought distance from Leviev’s companies over their human rights record.
Haute Living reported on an October 22, 2012 benefit event for City Harvest organized by City Harvest’s then Vice Board Chair Heather Mnuchin and Nina Rennert Davidson at Leviev’s Madison Avenue diamond store, saying that the event featured “a seated lunch for forty,” and that “a percentage of sales of the LVD [Leviev Diamond] collection through November will benefit City Harvest.” A celebrity photo blogpost on the same event was headlined “the launch of the LVD Collection… to benefit City Harvest,” and included photos of a large display of City Harvest’s booklet, The Definitive Guide to New York’s Most Generous Restaurants. New York Social Diary also noted the “benefit for City Harvest… at the Leviev Boutique.” In July 2012 Bloomberg Businessweek reported on another event, saying that then Vice Board Chair Mnuchin was opening her Hamptons home “for a viewing of the diamond collection of Leviev LVD, a City Harvest supporter.”
After sending City Harvest letters in response to these media reports, in November 2012 Adalah-NY spoke by phone with City Harvest’s Cara Taback who would not say whether or not the organization would take money from Leviev. In January 2013, she referred a reporter to City Harvest’s then forthcoming 2012 Annual Report, and declined comment on possible funding from Leviev. While the 2012 annual report does not include Leviev as a donor, the report covers only the period through June 2012. The new 2013 annual report, which also makes no mention of Leviev, covers July and October 2012, the dates when media reported that Leviev/City Harvest events were held. In contrast, in 2010, after Women’s Wear Daily reported on a “luncheon for City Harvest” at Leviev’s Madison Avenue store, City Harvest’s 2010 Annual Report listed Leviev as a corporate supporter, donating between $25,000 and $49,999.
Leviev’s companies Africa Israel and Leader Management and Development have built thousands of Israeli settlement homes on occupied Palestinian land in violation of international law. His companies have also been accused of involvement in human rights abuses and unethical business practices in the diamond industry in Angola and Namibia, and possibly in Zimbabwe as well.
In New York City, Leviev’s companies have helped to gentrify neighborhoods in Brooklyn and Manhattan. Now 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.