New York, NY, December 21, 2014—Forty New York human rights advocates arrived to protest Saturday afternoon at Israeli billionaire Lev Leviev’s flagship Madison Avenue diamond store and were surprised to find the store closed and the display cases completely emptied of all merchandise during the busiest shopping period of the year. The New Yorkers had gathered for the eighth consecutive year to sing parody holiday carols opposing Leviev’s companies’ construction of Israeli settlements on Palestinian land in violation of international law (PHOTOS).
Leaning signs against the empty store, the protesters sang what have become Adalah-NY anti-apartheid holiday classics with lines such as, “We wish you a loss of business, we wish you a loss of business, we wish you a loss of business and a poor fiscal year,” and “It’s beginning to look a lot like failure, at Leviev’s store.”
Hannah Mermelstein from Adalah-NY commented, “Leviev’s billions have come from exploiting Palestinian and Angolan communities. So today we celebrate because it seems our years of holiday wishes have come true: Leviev’s store is empty.”
Staff from neighboring stores offered varied explanations, with one saying the Leviev store had been closed and sold, and another saying it was emptied of all merchandise the day before. Adalah-NY was unable to confirm any of this information, including whether the store was closed temporarily or permanently. Leviev’s website lists the Manhattan store as open. Leviev has been engaged in multiple legal battles with partners in the diamond industry.
In another unexpected twist, Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, who calls himself “America’s Rabbi” and boasts of friendships with Sheldon Adelson, Cory Booker and Samantha Power, arrived just as the protest was ending and began yelling at the protesters. Boteach shouted, “Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East,” “Down with Hamas,” and Down with the Palestinians. He suddenly stopped, complaining that he was being videotaped. Police then told Boteach to leave as he was drowned out by chants of “How fancy, how pretty, Leviev out of New York City.” Boteach has expressed admiration for Hebron’s notoriously violent and racist settlers. (VIDEO of Boteach)
Today’s protest came amid growing evidence that Leviev’s companies are feeling boycott pressure. Murky reports have been published in Israeli media raising questions about whether Leviev’s involvement in settlement construction through his companies Africa Israel and Leader Management and Development could possibly be winding down. Africa Israel and Leader Management and Development have built thousands of homes for Israeli settlers on Palestinian land in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. The governments of Norway and the United Kingdom, New Zealand’s Superannuation Fund, Oxfam America and UNICEF, along with CARE and Hollywood stars have all sought distance from Leviev’s companies over their human rights record.
Representatives from Leviev’s company Africa Israel recently told an Israeli newspaper that the company will stop building settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. However, Africa Israel made similar statements in the past and was proven to be lying, prompting the Norwegian government to reimpose a ban on investment in Africa Israel and its construction subsidiary Danya Cebus.
A recent Israeli newspaper report, just translated to English for Adalah-NY, about another Leviev settlement company, Leader Management and Development, says that Leviev secretly transferred his stake in Leader to a mysterious “foreign company” whose owners went unidentified by Leader’s attorney Moshe Glick. Leader Management and Development owns and operates the settlement of Zufim on the land of the Palestinian village of Jayyous. The reputed transfer has angered some owners of Zufim settlement homes, prompting them to sue Leader. Glick’s settlement organization, The Land Redemption Fund, was a past recipient of Leviev donations, and helped to establish Zufim settlement with Leader, according to an Israeli government database.
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.” A new video has just emerged of private Angolan security forces working for the Leviev-owned mine Luminas torturing community members.
Adalah-NY is a part of the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement targeting Israel that is modeled on the international campaign that helped to end apartheid in South Africa.