Africa Israel, a firm owned by the diamond magnate Lev Leviev, has confirmed that it is operating in an Israeli settlement in eastern occupied Jerusalem.
Last month, the Business and Human Rights Resource Centre invited me to comment on a recent decision by Norway’s finance ministry to reverse an decision banning Africa Israel and its subsidiary Danya Cebus from a state pension fund. The U-turn was made after Africa Israel claimed that it was no longer involved in the building of Israeli settlements in the West Bank. The Electronic Intifada has previously published evidence which showed that Africa Israel has remained involved in settlement construction in East Jerusalem.
Business and Human Rights confronted Africa Israel with the allegations made in my blog post and by the campaign group Who Profits and invited the company to comment. In its response, Africa Israel admitted that its subsidiary Danya Cebus is indeed “involved as a general constructor, in the Jerusalem-C project at Gilo, Jerusalem.” Africa Israel wrote:
As a leading real estate group in Israel, the company and its subsidiaries engage in numerous projects in Jerusalem, which is the capital of the State of Israel and one of its major cities. Nevertheless, we were surprised to learn that one can consider Gilo neighborhood, which is one of the well-established neighborhoods located in the heart of Jerusalem to be “a settlement in the occupied West Bank” and find such broad definition to be erroneous.
Gilo is a settlement
This image from Google Maps shows the location of Africa Israel’s settlement construction site in Gilo, East Jerusalem. The site is situated on the Palestinian side of the Green Line — the demarcation line between Israel and the occupied West Bank.
“Gilo is a Jewish-only settlement/colony established in Israeli-occupied East Jerusalem,” Dr. Jeff Handmaker, a senior lecturer in law, human rights and development at the International Institute of Social Studies in Erasmus University told me by email this week. “Gilo settlement is illegal according to international law, including Security Council Resolution 242, which clearly demands Israel withdraw from the territories it has occupied since June 1967, including East Jerusalem.”
Handmaker pointed out that Israeli, Palestinian and international human rights organizations have documented numerous violations of human rights and international law, and in particular the confiscation of Palestinian land, as a result of construction work in Gilo settlement.
Meanwhile, Israeli authorities announced on 13 August the expansion of Gilo by approving the construction of 942 more settler homes. “This is in blatant defiance of demands by the United Nations, European Union, United States and Russia, and is, furthermore, in violation of European Union guidelines,” Handmaker stated.
Africa Israel has revealed its disregard for international law by claiming that “Jerusalem is the capital of the State of Israel” and by denying that Gilo is a settlement.
The company has made it perfectly clear that it has no intention to end its involvement in the construction of Israel’s settlements on stolen Palestinian land.