Celebrities asked to boycott diamonds from settlement builder

20 February 2009

Adalah-NY and Jews Against the Occupation-NYC (JATO-NYC) have called on 16 Hollywood PR firms and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to ensure that no stars wear Leviev diamonds at this Sunday’s Academy Awards. In a two week campaign involving letters and dozens of phone discussions with PR firms, the groups drew attention to Leviev’s violations of human rights and international law in the occupied West Bank where his companies build Israeli settlements, and in the diamond industry in Angola and Namibia. Leviev reportedly controls one-third of the world’s diamond mines.

The 16 PR firms contacted include six firms representing the ten nominees for best actress and best supporting actress, and representatives for many other female stars. The PR firms acknowledged receiving the Adalah-NY/JATO-NYC letter, and a number of the firms said the letter had been circulated among their senior staff. In a 18 February phone call with Adalah-NY, a press spokesman for the Oscars also said they had received Adalah-NY and JATO-NYC’s letter, but had no comment on the letter’s appeal to ban Leviev’s jewelry, or the groups’ assertion that “the presence of Leviev jewelry at the Academy Awards would taint the events with complicity in Leviev’s companies’ egregious” human rights violations.

Salma Hayek wore Leviev’s jewelry to the 2006 Academy Awards. In a 19 February 2008 report on Warner Brothers Extra TV days before the Oscars, host Dayna Devon said she was wearing “$17 million of Leviev jewels you’ll also see at the Oscars.” However, there were no subsequent reports that Leviev’s jewelry was worn at the 2008 Oscars. Dita Von Teese wore Leviev’s diamonds at a 19 February 2008 pre-Oscars party.

Alexis Stern of Adalah-NY commented, “After the outreach we’ve conducted, we certainly hope that the Academy Awards and the stars attending the awards ceremony and related events will steer clear of any association with Leviev. It would be a shame to link such a high-profile event with the destruction of Palestinian communities, the firing of Namibian workers, the abuse of Angolan miners, and with blood diamonds.” Riham Barghouti of Adalah-NY added, “As Palestinians in Jayyous and Bilin struggle to save their villages from Leviev’s settlement construction there can be no excuse for promoting Leviev’s name. Just yesterday, in an effort to crush Jayyous’ protest campaign, the Israeli army held the village under curfew and detained 50 residents. Jayyous’ Mayor Mohammed Taher Jabr called for international support, saying that that ‘the Israelis are using any means necessary to try and force us off our land.’”

Leviev has suffered a string of setbacks since he was lauded by the New York Times in September 2007. One of his major companies, Africa Israel, has lost 90 percent of its value and has been engaged in an embarrassing battle over plans to turn the Manhattan landmark the Apthorp into high-priced condos. Adalah-NY has held 13 protests at Leviev’s Madison Avenue jewelry store since it opened. UNICEF and Oxfam have renounced Leviev over human rights, major Hollywood stars have distanced themselves from him, and the governments of United Kingdom and Dubai are under pressure to boycott Leviev’s businesses. Leviev was also dropped from the sponsor list of the star-studded Carousel of Hope Ball last October.

Leviev’s companies Africa Israel and Leader have built Jewish-only homes on occupied Palestinian land in the Israeli settlements of Zufim, Mattityahu East, Har Homa and Maale Adumim, impoverishing villages like Bilin and Jayyous and violating international law. Leviev also funds the settlement organization the Land Redemption Fund. In December, the Israeli financial journal Globes published an expose of Leviev’s serious human rights abuses and failure to fully comply with the Kimberley Process in Angola, where Leviev benefits from close ties with the repressive Dos Santos regime. And in Namibia, Leviev recently fired around 200 striking diamond polishers, some of whom were already struggling to survive on less than $2 per day.

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