For Immediate Release
December 8, 2011, New York, NY – Fashion icon Daphne Guinness, New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) and the Breast Cancer Research Foundation (BCRF) were emailed follow-up letters this morning with comprehensive new documentation explaining why they should distance themselves from controversial Israeli diamond and settlement mogul Lev Leviev (see letters below). Today's letters followed upon initial November 21 letters from the same US and UK human rights groups calling on Guinness, FIT and BCRF to sever ties with Leviev over his companies’ Israeli settlement development and unethical business practices in the diamond industry in Angola and Namibia.
In an email response and phone calls to Adalah-NY two weeks ago, and discussions with reporters last week, Daphne Guinness, FIT and BCRF indicated that they were all looking into the issues raised in the initial November 21 letters. According to a November 29 report in report in Women’s Wear Daily FIT had said that it “needs some time to make a decision and is pursuing the matter very actively.” Neither Guinness, FIT or BCRF has commented since.
FIT accepted funding from the company Leviev Extraordinary Diamonds for the current exhibition of Daphne Guinness’ clothing at the Museum at FIT. BCRF also recently accepted funds from Leviev. Guinness, along with FIT and BCRF representatives also attended September soirées in their honor at Leviev’s Manhattan jewelry store. A number of organizations, governments and celebrities have sought distance from Leviev’s companies over human rights abuses,
The letters sent today included exhaustive new information – recent photos from the Israeli settlement of Zufim that is being developed by Leviev’s company Leader on the land of the West Bank village of Jayyous in violation of international law, added documentation from Israeli sources of Leader’s role in settlement expansion, and additional information on brutal human rights abuses in the diamond industry in Angola, where Leviev is a major actor.
Today's letters concluded with an offer to put Daphne Guinness, FIT and BCRF in touch “with experts and researchers who can verify the information above if that would help you as you come to a decision on this crucial ethical and human rights issue.” Organizations - including Oxfam America, CARE and UNICEF; governments - including Norway and the United Kingdom; major investment firms and Hollywood stars have all sought distance from Leviev’s companies over their involvement in settlement construction, and human rights abuses and unethical business practices in the diamond industry in Angola and Namibia.
Over the last week, human rights advocates have distributed hundreds of flyers outside the Museum at FIT calling on FIT to “Say No to Leviev” and urging people to call FIT to object to its ties with Leviev. The response to the flyers has generally been positive, with some FIT students expressing particular concern and promising to follow-up. The flyering at FIT is set to continue. A breast cancer activist has posted an online call for people to contact BCRF and ask them to break with Leviev over these human rights concerns.
Adalah-NY, CodePink and Jewish Voice for Peace, all signers of the letters, are organizing a protest outside Leviev’s Madison Avenue jewelry store on December 17th at 1 PM. Human rights advocates in London staged a protest outside Leviev’s Bond Street jewelry store on December 1st.
View the letters: