Correcting media reports, Oxfam says received no support from Leviev, condemns Israeli settlements, 01/14/2008

Correcting media reports, Oxfam says received no support from Leviev, condemns Israeli settlements

Adalah-NY Contacts: [email protected]

New York, NY, Jan 14, 2008 – Correcting earlier media reports of a relationship between Israeli billionaire Lev Leviev and Oxfam, Oxfam told the New York City human rights group Adalah-NY that “Leviev has not been a donor to Oxfam.” Oxfam explained that it does not “knowingly accept funds from any business involved in any illegal activity, or operating in any illegally occupied territory, including settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories.” Following reports that Leviev contributes to Oxfam in Women’s Wear Daily, Lifestyles Magazine and on the news site of the Federation of Jewish Communities of the CIS, of which Leviev is the President, Adalah-NY had written to Oxfam asking the international charity to reject contributions from Leviev. There was no immediate explanation of why these publications had reported that Leviev supported Oxfam.

Adalah-NY began a boycott campaign focusing on Israeli diamond mogul Lev Leviev due to his companies’ settlement construction in the Occupied West Bank in violation of international law, and his abuse of marginalized communities in Angola and New York City. Adalah-NY has conducted five protests over two months at Leviev’s new Madison Avenue jewelry store. In December, US actress Susan Sarandon was asked to cut ties with Leviev by the West Bank villages of Bil’in and Jayyous where Leviev is building settlements, the US organization Jewish Voice for Peace, Israel’s Coalition of Women for Peace, and leading Palestinian civil society organizations.

A September 5, 2007 article in Women’s Wear Daily on Leviev claimed that Leviev is “a philanthropist” who is involved with “Oxfam America,” among others. A December 28, 2007 article in Lifestyles Magazine about Leviev, entitled “The Benefactor” noted that Leviev’s “philanthropic activities” touched US charities including “Oxfam America.” The Lifestyles Magazine article, including the claim of ties to Oxfam America, was also posted on the news site of Leviev’s Federation of Jewish Communities of the CIS.

Following these media reports, Adalah-NY sent a January 8 open letter to Oxfam noting that Leviev had been “touting his charitable contributions to Oxfam to deflect scrutiny from his violations of international law and his role in the deteriorating humanitarian situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.” Citing settlement construction by Leviev’s companies, his company’s complicity in cutting the fuel supply to the Gaza Strip, and his companies' violations in Angola and in New York City, Adalah-NY called on Oxfam “to raise your prominent voice in bringing to light Leviev's unlawful and unethical activities.” (The full letter to Oxfam)

January 11 emails to Adalah-NY from Alex Renton of Oxfam Great Britain and Adrienne Smith of Oxfam America responded that: “Contrary to various citations, Lev Leviev is not a donor to Oxfam America and has never been one. To the best of our knowledge Mr. Leviev has not been a donor to Oxfam or any of its affiliates. Oxfam International is an organization of 13 national affiliates working in 100 countries, and we are checking thoroughly whether any Oxfam has had any relationship with Mr. Leviev.”

“Oxfam’s policies on donations, corporate and private, are clear. We don’t knowingly accept funds from any business involved in any illegal activity, or operating in any illegally occupied territory, including settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories. Oxfam abides by international humanitarian law, and thus has a long-standing policy of opposition to such settlements.” Oxfam’s response was also posted on the Israeli website www.kibush.co.il and on the UK website www.bigcampaign.org.uk/.

Adalah-NY spokesperson Ethan Heitner commented, “We are unable to explain why articles praising Leviev and touting his charitable contributions, including an article on the news site of an organization he heads, claimed a link with Oxfam which Oxfam has now verified doesn’t exist. We are gratified that Oxfam has reiterated its longstanding opposition to Israeli settlement construction and refusal to accept donations from businesses like Leviev’s that are involved in violations of international law.”