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New York, NY – Sixty human rights advocates, many sporting Santa hats, performed Christmas carol parodies and theatrical skits calling for the boycott of Israeli diamond mogul and settlement-builder Lev Leviev outside his Madison Avenue store this afternoon. Carolers celebrated the boycott movement’s success in pressuring Leviev’s company Africa Israel to cease settlement building and demanded that Leviev’s company Leader Management and Development do the same.
Carols, including “The 12 Days of Boycott,” highlighted the achievements of growing boycott movement. To the tune of “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen,” the carolers chorused, “Oh justice for Palestinian, women and men, the question is not i-i-if, but when.”
A street theater skit, “The Grinch who Tried to Steal Palestine,” unmasked Leviev’s settlement construction, saying, “If you take off his mask, and expose his dark task, you will see his true crime is to steal Palestine.” Hundreds of Madison Avenue shoppers, many clad in fur coats, took holiday card flyers with a poem inside that began, “Twas the night before Christmas in Lev Leviev’s shop, Not a customer was browsing, shopping season a flop.”
Riham Barghouti of Adalah-NY told the participants “Today’s demonstration honors Abdallah Abu Rahmah and all the Palestinian political prisoners being held illegally in Israeli jails. Abdallah was arrested in 2009 on international human rights day, mainly for his leadership in a six-year nonviolent resistance campaign being carried out by his village of Bil’in against the wall and settlements, one of which was built by Leviev’s company Africa Israel.” The State Department said this week that it has raised Abu Rahmah’s case with the Israeli government.
Community leaders from Jayyous told Adalah-NY this week that another Leviev company, Leader Management and Development, continues building the Zufim settlement on the West Bank village’s land. (Leviev ownership document secured by Israel’s Coalition of Women for Peace - Hebrew, English).
Adalah-NY began a campaign to boycott the companies of Lev Leviev in November 2007. The campaign has since gained support from allies around the world. As a result, the Norwegian and Swedish governments have divested from Africa Israel, as have a number of major international investment firms. The British government, UNICEF, Oxfam and CARE have all severed ties with Leviev, and major celebrities have quietly disassociated themselves from him. In November, Leviev's company Africa Israel made ambiguous statements suggesting it would not build more settlements.
Leviev’s companies have built Jewish-only settlements on Palestinian land in the West Bank, impoverishing Palestinian communities and violating international law. Leviev has also donated to Israeli groups that help to expand Israeli settlements. In December 2008 an Israeli newspaper detailed Leviev’s serious rights abuses and failure to fully comply with the Kimberley Process in the diamond industry in Angola (English translation). In New York, Leviev's real estate ventures have been associated with abusive business practices. Last week, The New York Times exposed that since Africa Israel purchased Manhattan’s famous Apthorp building, the building’s rental tenants have lodged complaints about mice and lack of heat.
This fourth year of holiday protest caroling outside Leviev’s New York store is part of the growing Palestinian-led movement for boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) against Israel, a non-violent strategy to pressure Israel to respect Palestinian rights.
Protest photos: http://adalahny.org/photo-galleries/leviev-caroling-12-18-10
Caroling Songbook: /resource/990/anti-leviev-holiday-songbook-2010