Charities and celebs seek distance from controversial Israeli settlement-builder
See Oxfam Statement
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
New York, NY, October 27, 2008 – The October 28 release of the celebrity portrait book Hollywood Pinups by photographer Timothy White is being marred by controversy, as a charity and stars distance themselves from Israeli billionaire Lev Leviev who provided the jewelry worn by stars in the book. Oxfam America is named in the book as recipient of White’s book sales proceeds, and on the page immediately before, Leviev is thanked for his “support and contribution” to the book. In response, Oxfam America, which had renounced Leviev in January, has again decried Leviev’s settlement construction and diamond mining practices, and announced that it will be informing others of “the deliberate strategy of Leviev Diamonds to connect itself with unwitting charities and celebrities.” In June, UNICEF renounced all connections with Leviev.
Eighteen of twenty-three celebrity women in the book wore Leviev’s diamonds. The New York rights coalition Adalah-NY has contacted many - Susan Sarandon, Tea Leoni, Felicity Huffman, Vanessa Williams, Kate Hudson, Kate Walsh, Molly Sims, Mary-Kate Olsen, and Gina Gershon - and asked them to renounce all connections with Leviev. Adalah-NY also notes that a photo of Oxfam “Ambassador” Kristin Davis wearing Leviev’s jewelry has been removed from Leviev’s website. Susan Sarandon, who was previously embroiled in controversy after attending the opening of Leviev's New York jewelry store despite a protest, wrote the book’s foreward, but did not wear Leviev’s diamonds in her photo in Hollywood Pinups.
Lubna Ka'aabneh of Adalah-NY explained, "We don't believe that the stars who wore Leviev's diamonds knew that the diamonds were tainted by human rights violations in Palestine and Angola. Now that they do, we expect them to follow Oxfam and UNICEF's lead, by forbidding Leviev from using their names and photos." In a related development, after contacts from Adalah-NY, Leviev was removed from the list of previously announced sponsors of the Children's Diabetes Foundation's (CDF) star-studded Carousel of Hope Ball held last Saturday in Beverly Hills. CDF said this did not represent a judgement on the merits of Adalah-NY's claims about Leviev (see related press release).
In January, Adalah-NY informed Oxfam that Leviev was touting support for the organization. Oxfam responded by stating that it had not received support from Leviev, and that it does not accept support from individuals who violate international law. But Leviev's claims of links to Oxfam continued.
In an October 27 statement on Hollywood Pinups posted on their website, Adrienne Smith, an Oxfam America spokesperson in Boston, explained, "At some point in the process, Leviev Diamonds offered to provide diamonds for some of the photo shoots, but Oxfam was not aware of this. Just a few weeks ago, Adalah-NY tipped us off to the fact that Leviev Diamonds were promoting their inclusion in the book and using this to claim to be Oxfam supporters... Oxfam reiterates our policy 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."
Leviev's LA-based PR firm BluPRint has a case study about Leviev on their website explaining their strategy of "engaging the Hollywood and celebrity community," 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 signal the collapse of Leviev and BluPRint's cynical public relations strategy. No amount of deception, branding and PR can make a businesses' human rights abuses acceptable."
Leviev's companies Africa Israel and Leader have recently built homes in at least four Israeli settlements in the West Bank. In 2007, New York Magazine reported that Angolan security companies employed by Leviev were accused of torture, sexual abuse 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.
Oxfam and Leviev: A chronology of events
October 27, 2008
September 5, 2007: An Article in Women's Wear Daily, "Lev Leviev's Diamond's: US bound", says that Leviev "is also a philanthropist and is involved with the Carousel of Hope Ball, UNICEF and Oxfam America, to name a few."
December 28, 2007: An article in Lifestyles Magazine (available by subscription), that is poorly reproduced on the website of the Federation of Jewish Communities of the CIS, where Leviev is the President, reported that: "Leviev's philanthropic activities have also touched U.S. cultural institutions, such as the Museum of the City of New York, and U.S. charities, such as the annual Angel Ball (which raises money for cancer research;, the Carousel of Hope Ball (one of the most prominent and influential charitable even of its kind), and Oxfam America." The article has since been removed from the FJC CIS website, but is available via web archive.
January 8, 2008: Based on these media reports, Adalah-NY asks Oxfam to renounce Leviev
January 11, 2008: Oxfam announces publicly on multiple websites that it has received no support from Leviev, and that Oxfam does not accept support from violators of international law.
January 13, 2008: The Jewish Telegraphic Agency reports on Oxfam's statement renouncing Leviev.
January 18, 2008: The Chronicle of Philanthropy reports on Oxfam's statement renouncing Leviev.
January 21, 2008: A major Israeli newspaper, Maariv, reports on Oxfam's statement renouncing Leviev (translation),
January 28, 2008: On the website of London-based the Business and Human Rights Resource Center, following an exchange with Adalah-NY on Leviev's mis-statements about support to Oxfam, the Lev Leviev Group of Companies announces that "the corrected version of the Lifestyles piece (mentioned by Adalah), which correctly lists the groups and institutions that have been recipients of Mr. Leviev's philanthropy." Oxfam is removed from the Lifestyles article.
March 5, 2008: An article in jewelry industry publication on the resignation of Celine Assimon from Leviev notes her role in "setting up various partnership programs on behalf of LEVIEV: the Museum of the City of New York, The Carousel of Hope Ball, Glamour Girls by Patrick McMullan, and Hollywood Pin Ups with Timothy White to benefit OXFAM."
March 7, 2008: A second article in a jewelry industry publication on Assimon's resignation notes her role in facilitating "marketing partnerships and events. These include the Museum of the City of New York, The Carousel of Hope Ball and Hollywood Pin Ups with Timothy White to benefit OXFAM."
June 20, 2008: Reuters reports that UNICEF has decided to sever all ties with Leviev.
September 13, 2008: Adalah-NY discovers the March, 2008 jewelry industry articles linking Oxfam and Leviev via the book Hollywood Pinups, as well as a related post on the website of the LA-based public relations firm bluPRint. bluPRint is the PR firm for both Leviev and the photographer Timothy White, who created the book Hollywood Pinups. On the bluPRint website, the page for Timothy White (this page for White has since been disabled: http://www.blupr.com/clients.html) explained that, "bluPRint was sought out to secure A-list celebrity women to pose for White's latest book project, "Hollywood Pinups," being published by Harper Collins in Holiday 2008, with sales benefitting Oxfam America. bluPRint was also responsible for securing partnerships for "Hollywood Pinups," including Dior Beauty as the makeup team charged for creating the looks and LEVIEV Diamonds as the exclusive jewelry partner." A September 17, 2008 screenshot of this now disabled page is available on request from Adalah-NY ([email protected])
September 15, 2008: Adalah-NY informed Oxfam America in Boston that Leviev contributed to the book Hollywood Pinups.
September 19, 2008: An Oxfam America representative told Adalah-NY that Oxfam was unaware of Leviev's involvement in the book, and that Oxfam was examining how to respond.
October 21, 2008: Oxfam America provided a statement on Hollywood Pinups to Adalah-NY.
October 27, 2008: Oxfam America posted the Oxfam statement on the Oxfam America website.
October 28, 2008: The book Hollywood Pinups is released to the public for sale.