US billionaire owns corporations sued by Palestinian villagers

10 July 2008

Evidence gathered by Adalah-NY indicates that Brooklyn-based billionaire Shaya Boymelgreen owns the two little-known Canadian companies sued Wednesday for war crimes in Canada by the West Bank Palestinian village of Bil’in. Three Hebrew language Israeli media reports from 2005-2006 report that Boymelgreen owns the Green Park companies that are now being sued for $2 million in Quebec Superior Court for building and selling the Israeli settlements of Mattityahu East/Modi’in Illit on Bil’in’s land in violation of international law. The construction of Israeli settlements in Occupied Palestinian Territory violates the Fourth Geneva Convention according to a broad international consensus.

Additional evidence gathered by Adalah-NY shows that, though not a target of the lawsuit, the Israeli company Danya Cebus, a subsidiary of Lev Leviev’s company Africa Israel, was contracted by Boymelgreen’s Green Park to execute the settlement construction. Billionaires Leviev and Boymelgreen were US partners from 2002-2007.

Adalah-NY spokesperson Riham Barghouti explained, “We applaud the lawsuit filed by Bil’in for holding businesses accountable for settlement construction and violations of Palestinian rights. We also believe that these well-known Israeli businessmen like Boymelgreen and Leviev, who often try to hide their involvement in Israeli settlement construction from the international community, need to be made known to the public and to their business associates.”

The ownership of the two Canadian-registered companies named in the suit, Green Park International and Green Mount International, is murky, typical of many facts related to Israeli settlement construction. However, an 8 May 2005 article in Chabad On-line entitled “Boymelgreen is the controlling interest-holder in the Green Park Project” explains that Boymelgreen’s Green Park is building thousands of settlement homes in Modi’in Illit. In an 11 April 2006 article in Tsofar, Boymelgreen is quoted responding to a court petition that stopped construction by saying, “Flat buyers in my residential project, Green Park, in Modi’in Illit, will not be harmed.” A 16 February 2006 article about Boymelgreen in The Marker, the respected financial paper of the daily Haaretz, notes that “Of his investments in Israel, Green Park is noteworthy, a building project in Modi’in Illit …” Full English translations of these articles are available on the Adalah-NY website.

In their press release announcing the suit, Bil’in’s lawyers, Israeli Michael Sfard and Canadian lawyer Mark Arnold, noted that “the Green Park companies have … a single director who resides in the Montreal Region … it is believed that she is likely a nominal director having no direct involvement with Green Park.”

Though not a target of Bil’in’s suit, Israeli diamond mogul Lev Leviev is also implicated in the settlement construction in Bil’in, as well as in other parts of the West Bank. Three 22 and 24 August 2004 articles in the Israeli financial paper Globes announced Danya Cebus’ construction plans. The 22 August article noted, “Danya Cebus will build the $230 million Green Park project in the haredi (ultra-orthodox) town of Upper Modi’in … The company bought 939 dunam (234.75 acres) in the residential East Matityahu lot, zoned for the haredi community. Danya Cebus’s parent company, Africa-Israel Investments will market the project.” An 8 May 2005 Sales Agreement from Modi’in Illit between Green Park and a home buyer that was obtained by Adalah-NY notes, among many examples, that “it is known and agreed upon among the buyers that the landscaping work and building for the project will be carried out by the Danya Cebus Company, Ltd.”

Boymelgreen and Leviev have also earned reputations in New York City as developers who abuse laborers while building expensive condos that price low-income and middle-income families out of their communities. Leviev’s companies’ human rights records in Angola and Namibia, where he mines and polishes diamonds, have also been severely criticized.

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