Carousel of Hope Ball signals collapse of Leviev PR strategy, 10/24/2008

Controversial Israeli settlement-builder loses “charity alliances”


New York, NY, October 24, 2008 – In a stunning reversal, Israeli billionaire Lev Leviev will not be sponsoring the Children’s Diabetes Foundation’s (CDF) 2008 Carousel of Hope Ball in Beverly Hills this Saturday evening. Leviev sponsored the 2006 Ball and was announced in media reports as a sponsor for the 2008 Ball. Following letters by Adalah-NY and other groups to the Denver-based CDF, Leviev was removed from the list of sponsors for the 2008 Ball. CDF’s lawyer Mark Cohen told Adalah-NY in an October 1 letter that, while Leviev will not sponsor the event, this did not represent a judgement on the merits of Adalah-NY’s claims about Leviev. The October 25 fundraiser for CDF will feature stars including Denzel Washington, Sidney Poitier, Josh Groban, Quincy Jones and Kenny “Babyface” Edmonds.

The rights coalition Adalah-NY has called for a boycott of Leviev’s businesses due to their human rights abuses and unethical practices in Palestine, Angola, Namibia and New York. In January, 2008, Oxfam denied claims by Leviev that he supported Oxfam and denounced him. UNICEF renounced Leviev’s support in June. This week, Oxfam America renounced Leviev yet again, after learning that he contributed diamonds worn by stars in Timothy White’s photo book Hollywood Pinups, scheduled for release on October 28th, with White’s sales proceeds to benefit Oxfam America.

Leviev's LA-based PR firm BluPRint has a case study about Leviev on their website explaining their strategy of building "a brand presence in the United States," "engaging the Hollywood and celebrity community in Los Angeles and beyond," and aiding "in Leviev's charity alliances and event partnerships to maximize the brand recognition and partnering opportunities in the US." Alexis Stern of Adalah-NY explained that, "The developments with CDF, Oxfam, UNICEF and various stars appear to signal the collapse of Leviev and BluPRint's cynical public relations strategy. The message is that no amount of deception, branding and PR can make a businesses' human rights abuses acceptable."

In late August and early September, Adalah-NY and Jews Against the Occupation-NYC sent letters to the Children's Diabetes Foundation calling for Leviev to be dropped as a sponsor due to his companies' human rights abuses. With no response from CDF, Adalah-NY sent letters to some of the stars involved in the Carousel of Hope Ball urging them to use their influence to have Leviev dropped. The Middle East Collective of the Rocky Mountain Peace and Justice Center in Boulder also wrote to CDF asking them to drop Leviev. Finally, in an October 1 letter, CDF's lawyer Mark Cohen informed Adalah-NY that, "Mr. Leviev will not be a sponsor of this years Carousel of Hope, but that does not represent a judgement on the merits of your organization's claims about him...the Foundation is not equipped to investigate allegations such as those Adalah has made against Mr. Leviev and therefore respectfully takes no position concerning the merits of those allegations."

A September 5, 2007 article in Women's Wear Daily, Lev Leviev's Diamond's: US bound, boasted that Leviev "is also a philanthropist and is involved with the Carousel of Hope Ball, UNICEF and Oxfam America, to name a few." However, Oxfam announced in January, 2008 that it had never received funds from him. After Oxfam learned of new insinuations of partnership with Leviev, and that, unbeknownst to Oxfam, Leviev provided diamonds for Hollywood Pinups, Oxfam America spokesperson Adrienne Smith announced on October 21, 2008 that, "we are not and never will be partners or beneficiaries of Leviev because of both his mining practices and his support of Israeli settlements on Occupied Palestinian Lands which is in contravention of International Law and a major obstacle in the road to peace... Oxfam is disturbed to find ourselves used in this way and we intend to be proactive in informing those in our community about the deliberate strategy of Leviev Diamonds to connect itself with unwitting charities and celebrities." After investigation last March, UNICEF informed Adalah-NY that Leviev had only supported UNICEF indirectly three times, by aiding the fundraising activities by an approved UNICEF partner, Gala Magazine in France.

Leviev's companies Africa Israel and Leader have built homes in at least four Israeli settlements in the West Bank in recent years. In 2007, New York Magazine reported on accusations that Angolan security companies employed by Leviev have been involved in torturing, sexually abusing and even murdering Angolans. In Namibia Leviev recently fired 222 striking diamond polishers. And in Brooklyn and at the Apthorp in Manhattan, Leviev's construction of luxury apartments threatens to displace low- and moderate-income residents.

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October 24, 2008

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