Jews Against the Occupation/NYC (JATO), Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), and Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD)
For Immediate Release
US and Israeli Jews Support UNICEF's Decision to Cut Ties to Leviev
Call on Anti-Defamation League to Reject Donations from Human Rights Violators
June 25, 2008 – New York City - Jews Against the Occupation/NYC, Jewish Voice for Peace and the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions fully support UNICEF's decision to reject funds from sources it does not regard as partners in the worthy endeavor of protecting and nurturing the world's children. Lev Leviev's ongoing and direct support for settlement building and land expropriation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories constitutes an explicit violation of Palestinians' human rights, undermines Palestinian families' livelihoods and thus threatens any viable and peaceful future for both Palestinian and Israeli children. Lev Leviev is no partner for UNICEF. Indeed, all those who support children and families and their fundamental right to security should reject Leviev for his direct involvement in crimes against Palestinians.
We are disturbed to see today's call by the Anti-Defamation League for UNICEF to resume a financial relationship with Lev Leviev. We hope that UNICEF will continue to reject funding from untoward sources and strongly disagree with the ADL's accusation that UNICEF is discriminatory. We challenge the ADL to defend Leviev's business dealings (settlement growth, land expropriation) as actions that improve the lives of all children. UNICEF's decision to cease accepting money from the man responsible for the construction of illegal Israeli settlements on the land of villages under military occupation in the West Bank and East Jerusalem is nothing less than an assertion that human rights and international law are universal. As an organization which touts its commitment to securing "justice and fair treatment to all", the ADL should know better than to call for an exception to be made for Mr. Leviev.
Leviev, one of the richest men in Israel, has a long history of involvement in human rights abuses. He made his fortune doing business with the diamond mines of apartheid-era South Africa, and has continued his involvement with this bloodiest of trades in partnership with the Angolan government, which is presently attempting to expel the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights so it can more easily fix an election. Leviev is a longtime funder of the Land Redemption Fund, an arm of the Israeli far right settlers' movement Gush Emunim, known for its use of deceit and intimidation to illegally acquire the land of Palestinian villages, as well as a settlement builder himself. His Danya Cebus company has been active in Mattityahu East, Maale Adumim and Har Homa settlements, while another subsidiary, Leader, is building Zufim settlement. Residents of the villages whose land is being stolen to build the first and last of these, Bil'in and Jayyous, have reported new settlement expansion in process in the past month.
UNICEF made its determination after several months of 'due diligence' investigation of Leviev's business and political activities, in response to concerns raised by human rights groups. Their research included a formal visit to Palestinian villages whose land has been illegally seized for Leviev's projects. These villages include Bil'in, where attacks by Israeli soldiers on weekly nonviolent demonstrations against land theft have injured over 1,000 people over the past three and a half years, including around 300 children, and Jayyous, which submitted the following statement to UNICEF to make clear just how deep the effects of Leviev's settlement building have been on the children of these communities:
"More than 70% of Jayyous' farmers are now denied access to their land, which in many cases happens to be the very area where Leader plans to expand Zufim. As a result, our once-prosperous farming village of 3,400 hundred souls, which once provided food for 60,000 Palestinians, is now impoverished and dependent on external food aid. 57% of Jayyous' families now depend on food aid... [while] 70% of families, are in great need of food aid, and this number is constantly increasing.
Leviev's settlement and Israel's wall have impoverished our village to such a degree that 103 out of a total of 195 students in grades 7-12 were compelled to drop out of school. [Students'] dreams of attending universities now seem impossible. In 2002, before Israel began construction on the wall, 180 high school graduates from Jayyous were enrolled in university studies. That number has now dropped to 50. We understand that Leviev contributes to fundraising events in France benefitting UNICEF programs to educate girls in Senegal. We ask why UNICEF, an organization dedicated to improving the lives of children worldwide would accept Leviev's support in educating Senegalese children while his companies are destroying the lives of Palestinian children in places like Jayyous?"
Nowhere in its statement does the ADL dispute UNICEF's findings in relation to Lev Leviev. It merely claims that they should be overlooked, that looking at this record is "arbitrary, unnecessary and discriminatory". The organization's rush to leap to the defense of a documented violator of human rights and international law would be laughable if it did not involve the lives and livelihoods of entire communities. The ADL's insistence that an exception be made for Lev Leviev - that Palestinians should not be considered humans with rights worth respecting - is appalling. For it to do so for no reason other than Leviev's Israeli citizenship and Jewish identity lends ammunition to those who foment anti-Jewish prejudice and violence by claiming that Jewish organizations care only about defending 'their own'.
No organization which claims to speak for justice can justify accepting financial support from those who violate human rights. This applies no less to private NGOs like the ADL than to international agencies like UNICEF. We call on the Anti-Defamation League to live up to its charter and follow the lead of UNICEF and Oxfam (8) in severing any financial ties it may have to Lev Leviev and his corporate arms, as well as his fellow violators of international law and human rights.