FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
New York, NY, May 7 – On the day before Mother’s Day, 30 New Yorkers protested outside Lev Leviev’s Madison Avenue jewelry store against the illegal settlement construction by the Israeli billionaire and diamond mogul. The protesters called on shoppers to boycott Leviev even as residents from the West Bank village of Jayyous reported that a Leviev company, Leader Management and Development, continues to build settlement homes on Jayyous’ agricultural land. Following boycott pressure, one Leviev company, Africa Israel, stated in November 2010 that it had no plans to build additional Israeli settlements.
Riham Barghouti of Adalah-NY explained, “No diamond is worth the destruction of people’s lives. Millions of Palestinian mothers are unable to celebrate Mother’s Day because their children or husbands have been jailed or killed for opposing Israeli occupation, their farmland has been stolen for Israeli settlements or they have been forced to live as refugees in exile. As part of the global movement to boycott businesses that profit from Israeli apartheid, this protest aims to send a message of hope to Palestinian mothers.”
Protesters chanted “If you put that ring on your mama’s hand, you help Lev steal Palestinian land,” and “Lev Leviev shame on you, Palestine has mothers too.” Mother’s Day is the second biggest jewelry shopping period annually in the US.
Residents of Jayyous reported to Adalah-NY today that Leviev’s company Leader Management and Development is currently building an estimated180 new settlement homes on Jayyous’ farmland. Israel built much of its “separation barrier” deep inside the West Bank, including in Jayyous, where it cuts off much of Jayyous’ best farmland for settlement expansion. Around 45 Jayyous farmers have land in the area currently under construction, but the Israeli military has given only ten of them permits to reach their lands. One farmer recently observed five Caterpillar bulldozers uprooting his olive trees to prepare his land for settlement construction. (See 2010 documents secured by Israel’s Coalition of Women for Peace showing Leviev’s ownership of Leader - Hebrew, English, and for a May 7th photo of Zufim construction).
Through his company Africa Israel, Leviev previously built homes in a number of settlements, including in Bil’in where his settlement construction helped to spark a nonviolent protest movement by Bil’in residents that has continued for six years. Israeli settlements are widely recognized as violating international law and blocking any hope for a just peace.
Africa Israel's operations have been beset by controversy, including in the US. Bloomberg reported Friday that Africa Israel USA was sued by ex-CEO Richard Marin over alleged business abuses. According to the Chronicle of Philanthropy, last year Marin was also pulled into the Israeli settlement controversy, taking a leave of absence from the board of the international nonprofit CARE after Adalah-NY brought Africa Israel's settlement construction to the attention of CARE's board of directors. Strapped for cash, Africa Israel USA has been selling off New York City assets, including floors of the old New York Times building, and is now planning the sale of the MetLife Clock Tower to Tommy Hilfiger.
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 internationalinvestment firms. The British government, UNICEF, Oxfam and CARE have all severed ties with Leviev, and major celebrities have quietly disassociated themselves from him.
Leviev has also been criticized for involvement in human rights abuses in Angola where his companies mine diamonds. Leviev is being sued by convicted arms dealer Arkday Gadymak over the terms of their partnership that first brought Leviev into the Angolan diamond industry.
The boycott of Leviev’s companies is part of the Palestinian-led, international movement for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel, that aims to pressure Israel to respect the rights of Palestinians living under Israeli occupation, within Israel and as refugees in exile. BDS is a nonviolent movement modeled on the international boycott that helped to bring an end to apartheid in South Africa.
May 7th Zufim construction photo: https://picasaweb.google.com/