For Immediate Release
January 6, 2012, New York, NY – In a letter today, the Land Defense Committee from the West Bank village of Jayyous implored fashion icon Daphne Guinness, New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) and the Breast Cancer Research Foundation (BCRF) not to “help Lev Leviev to whitewash his illegal settlements on Jayyous’ farmland.” An exhibit of Daphne Guinness’ clothes at the FIT Museum, funded by diamond and settlement mogul Lev Leviev, is closing on January 7th, as scheduled after almost four months. Leviev has also recently donated to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.
In November 21 and December 8 letters, a coalition of US and UK human rights groups, including Adalah-NY, CODEPINK: Women for Peace and Jewish Voice for Peace, called on Daphne Guinness, FIT and BCRF to distance themselves from Leviev. The groups cited Leviev’s companies’ development of Israeli settlements in violation of international law, and involvement in human rights abuses and unethical business practices in the diamond industry in Angola and Namibia.
Sharif Omar for Jayyous’ Land Defense Committee detailed the development by Leviev’s company of the Zufim settlement on Jayyous’ farmland in today’s letter. The letter also asserted, “Nonprofit organizations in the US like the Fashion Institute of Technology and the Breast Cancer Research Foundation and individuals who care about human rights like Daphne Guinness have an obligation to support people’s right to live in dignity, and to support Jayyous’ families’ efforts to remain on their lands, instead of cooperating with Lev Leviev who steals our lands, and food, in order to build illegal settlements.”
Nancy Kricorian from CodePink explained, “After we first wrote to them, Daphne Guinness and FIT told us they were looking into the issues we raised. But a month and a half later, and after we gave them extensive documentation, it’s looking instead like they were trying to avoid making any statements, while maintaining their relationship with an egregious human rights abuser.”
FIT told Women’s Wear Daily on November 29 that it was “pursuing the matter very actively.” However, in late December, FIT repeatedly ducked phone calls and emails from one reporter requesting comment.
Rebecca Vilkomerson from Jewish Voice for Peace said, “FIT, Guinness and BCRF risk indelibly staining their reputations by knowingly associating themselves with human rights violations. We call on them to renounce Leviev’s settlement construction and unethical practices in the diamond industry before it’s too late, and to commit to rejecting future support from Leviev.”
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.
Twenty-five New York City human rights advocates protested outside the Museum at FIT on December 17th, immediately following a holiday caroling protest earlier that day at Leviev’s Madison Avenue jewelry store.