For Immediate Release
New York, NY, December 17, 2011 – Sixty New Yorkers sang parody holiday carols calling for a boycott of Israeli settlement-developer and diamond magnate Lev Leviev this afternoon outside Leviev’s Madison Avenue jewelry store. Twenty-five protesters continued on to the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) where they sang, chanted and distributed flyers in front of Daphne Guinness’ clothing exhibition there, which is sponsored by “Leviev Extraordinary Diamonds.”
Outside Leviev’s high-end Madison Avenue jewelry store, the carolers, many wearing Santa hats, greeted holiday shoppers for the fifth consecutive year with favorites from the Anti-Apartheid Caroling Songbook including, “We Wish You a Loss of Business” (“We Wish You a Merry Christmas”), “Oh, Boycott, Boycott, Boycott” (“Dreidel, Dreidel, Dreidel”), and “Lev We All Can see the Folly” (“Deck the Halls”). They sang new songs, including “Lev’s Dirty Rocks” (“Jingle Bell Rocks”) and “Diamond Mines” (“Silver Bells”). To the tune of “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen,” they recognized West Bank communities like Bil’in, Jayyous and Nabi Saleh that are protesting Israel’s seizure of their land for settlements, and sang:
The people of these villages said heed the boycott call,
With international pressure to help Apartheid fall,
Each time we sing here in the cold their courage we recall,
O-oh justice for Palestinian, women and men,
The question is not i-i-f, but when.
Holding signs in front of the Museum at FIT saying “Oppression Isn’t Fashionable,” they sang to the tune of the Mickey Mouse Club song:
Come along and sing a song and take a stand for peace,
F-I-T, Hey Daphne, Leviev’s not for me.
Riham Barghouti of Adalah-NY told the protesters, “We are here to send a clear message to Leviev that apartheid cannot be fashionably designed. And we are here to demand that FIT, Daphne Guinness and the Breast Cancer Research Foundation do as their predecessors have done, and distance themselves from Leviev and his illegal activities.”
In November 21 and December 8 letters, human rights groups called on FIT and Daphne Guinness, as well as the Breast Cancer Research Foundation (BCRF), to disassociate themselves from Leviev, detailing his companies’ construction of Israeli settlements on Palestinian land in violation of international law, and human rights abuses and unethical business practices in the diamond industry in Angola and Namibia. FIT told Women’s Wear Daily on November 29 that it was “pursuing the matter very actively,” but has yet to respond to the letters. Daphne Guinness and BCRF have not commented publicly.
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 human rights record. In November 2010, presumably in response to international pressure, Leviev's company Africa Israel made ambiguous statements suggesting it would not build more settlements. But a separate Leviev company, Leader Management and Development, continues development of the Zufim settlement on the land of the West Bank village of Jayyous, with devastating consequences.
Over the last two weeks, New York human rights advocates have distributed hundreds of flyers outside the Museum at FIT calling on FIT to “Say No to Leviev.” Londoners staged a protest outside Leviev’s Bond Street jewelry store on December 1st.
Adalah-NY began a campaign to boycott Leviev’s companies in November 2007. This year’s holiday caroling protest was endorsed by a coalition of both New York–based and national groups, reflecting the rapid growth of the movement for boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) against Israel. This nonviolent strategy to pressure Israel to respect Palestinian rights is modeled on the international boycott movement that helped bring an end to apartheid in South Africa.
Video of the song “Boycott Leviev Settlements” (“God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen”)
Photos from today’s protest at the Daphne Guinness Exhibition at the Museum at FIT