Stars’ Photos Removed from Leviev Website as Celebs Seek Distance from Rights Abuser, 12/19/2008

After letters from Adalah-NY to Eight Stars, Leviev Removes Celebrity Photos


New York, NY, December 19, 2008 – Following complaints by at least four major Hollywood stars whose photos were posted on Israel diamond mogul Lev Leviev’s website, Leviev staff removed the entire celebrity photo section from his website this week. The photos’ removal came after Adalah-NY and Jews Against the Occupation-NYC sent letters to and spoke with representatives for Salma Hayek, Halle Berry, Drew Barrymore, Brooke Shields, Andie MacDowell, Lucy Liu, Whitney Houston and Sharon Stone, all of whose names and photos, apparently wearing Leviev jewelry, were featured in a Celebrity section of Leviev’s website.

After learning of Leviev’s involvement in rights abuses in Palestine and Southern Africa, representatives of four of the stars told Adalah-NY that they had contacted Leviev to have the stars’ photos removed. Subsequently, on Monday, December 15th, Leviev staff removed the entire Celebrity photo section of the website. Back in October, Oxfam Ambassador Kristin Davis’ photo was removed from Leviev’s website.

Ethan Heitner from Adalah-NY explained, "We are gratified that these stars have joined UNICEF, Oxfam and a growing list of others who have distanced themselves from Leviev over his companies' settlement construction in violation of international law in Palestine, and rights abuses in Angola and Namibia. Some immediately expressed concern when we explained that Leviev was using their photos to whitewash his unethical business practices. Their actions show that Leviev's wealth and diamonds can't buy impunity."

From December 1st - 15th, Adalah-NY sent letters to and spoke with representatives of eight of the sixteen stars whose photos were featured on - Salma Hayek, Halle Berry, Drew Barrymore, Brooke Shields, Andie MacDowell, Lucy Liu, Whitney Houston and Sharon Stone (December 8th screengrabs of their photos on the Leviev website are available on request by emailing [email protected]). Adalah-NY had not yet been able to contact the other celebrities on the site - HRH Princess Michael of Kent, Ginnifer Goodwin, Katharine McPhee, Teri Hatcher, Lauren Graham, Estelle Lefebure, Zara and Dita Von Teese - before all the photos were removed.

In addition to UNICEF and Oxfam's renunciation of Leviev over rights abuses, Leviev was also dropped from the sponsor list of the star-studded Carousel of Hope Ball last October. On top of his companies' construction of Israeli settlements on Palestinian land in the Occupied West Bank in violation of international law, Leviev's companies have been accused of human rights abuses in the diamond trade in Angola and Namibia. In December, the Israeli financial journal Globes published an expose of Leviev's serious rights abuses and failure to fully comply with the Kimberley process in Angola (English translation).

Signaling growing outrage at Leviev's businesses' global rights abuses, on December 12th and 13th human rights advocates in Dubai, London and two West Bank Palestinian villages held protests against his settlement construction. According to Gulf News, the December 12th Dubai protest, unprecedented in the UAE, focused on Leviev's sale of his diamonds through Arif Bin Khadra's Levant jewelry stores in Dubai, despite a commitment by a Dubai official to ban the sale of Leviev's jewelry. In London, on December 13th, rights activists protested outside Leviev's Bond Street store. The British government is under pressure not to rent space for its new Tel Aviv embassy from Leviev. On December 12th in the West Bank, the villages of Bil'in and Jayyous protested the construction by Leviev's companies of settlements and the construction of Israel's wall on those villages' land. Both Bil'in and Jayyous have been devastated by Israel's seizure of at least half the villages' agricultural land for settlement construction, despite hundreds of nonviolent protests.

Adalah-NY will hold yet another protest on Saturday, December 20th at 1:30 PM at Leviev's Madison Avenue store, with participants singing parody holiday carols highlighting Leviev's rights abuses.

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December 19, 2008

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