New York, NY - Winning actress and UNICEF goodwill ambassador Susan Sarandon has told a New York City activist group, Adalah-NY, that she is exploring Israeli diamond magnate Lev Leviev's construction of Israeli settlements in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and exploitation of marginalized communities in other parts of the world. Sarandon was responding to a letter from Adalah-NY requesting that she boycott Leviev. According to The New York Post, Sarandon attended the November 13 gala opening of Leviev's Madison Avenue jewelry boutique LEVIEV New York, as Adalah-NY protested Leviev's illegal activities outside.
The November 20th letter to Ms. Sarandon requested that she "refrain from making any purchases from Leviev-owned businesses" and "join our campaign and add [her] prominent voice to the call for a boycott of Leviev's products." The letter was endorsed by a number of groups and individuals, including Jews against the Occupation-NYC, the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee - New York Chapter, and representatives from the West Bank Palestinian villages of Jayyous and Bil'in, two communities that Leviev is destroying by building settlements on their land. Following discussions between representatives of Ms. Sarandon and Adalah-NY, Susan Sarandon's Assistant Mark Edlitz responded in a December 7 email to Adalah-NY that, "We received the information you sent. Ms. Sarandon will do her own exploration on this topic before drawing any conclusions."
Since LEVIEV New York's opening, Adalah-NY has organized escalating protests and leafleting at the store. Sixty people attended the most recent protest on December 8, which featured a band and dabke, the traditional Palestinian folk dance. During the protest, Harvard Law School professor Alan Dershowitz made a purchase at LEVIEV New York, evidently signaling his public support Oscarfor Leviev's construction of illegal Israeli settlements. In stark contrast, Adalah-NY's letter recognized that Sarandon is "known and appreciated for raising [her] voice and speaking out, time and time again, against human rights abuses" and respected "as an outspoken voice of conscience in a world where most remain silent."
The letter explained that Leviev, "together with partner Shaya Boymelgreen, is building the Mattityahu East settlement on the lands of the Palestinian village of Bil'in. Mr. Leviev is also building the Zufim settlement on the lands of the village of Jayyous, and the strategic West Bank settlements of Har Homa and Maale Adumim around Jerusalem, which divide the West Bank in two, destroying any hopes for a future viable Palestinian state. All of these Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories are illegal under international law, as recognized by the International Court of Justice in 2004 and all major human rights organizations. In Bil'in and Jayyous, Leviev is building settlements on village land despite intensive nonviolent protest campaigns mounted by the two Palestinian villages."
The letter further noted that Leviev carries out diamond mining in Angola in close partnership with the repressive Dos Santos regime, and that his US partner until this summer, Shaya Boymelgreen, "has developed such ill repute among New Yorkers that local housing and labor organizations started a campaign against his abusive land development and unfair employment practices." Additionally, in October, Leviev was warned by the EU to stop all gem trade with Burma's military junta or face prosecution.
Adalah-NY spokesperson Issa Mikel explained, "We greatly appreciate that Ms. Sarandon has taken the issue of human rights abuses in Palestine so seriously. Mr. Leviev's human rights abuses and exploitation of communities from Palestine to Angola to Brooklyn are clear. As noted in our letter, we are confident that Ms. Sarandon was unaware of Leviev's activities. We expect that once she verifies the facts, she will conclude that the only appropriate action is to sever her ties with Leviev. Many organizations and individuals have been asking us about Ms. Sarandon's response, and we are pleased that she is closely studying the issue."