The occupation profiteer Africa Israel remains involved in the construction of housing units in the illegal settlement of Gilo in eastern occupied Jerusalem, despite claiming that it was no longer helping to colonize the West Bank. As a result, Norway’s finance minister is coming under pressure to exclude the firm — owned by diamond magnate Lev Leviev — and its subsidiary Danya Cebus from a state pension fund.
The Oslo ministry had decided in late August to revoke an earlier decision to exclude Africa Israel from the fund.
Four campaigning organizations have now called for the ban to be reinstated. The Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee (BNC), Adalah-NY: the New York Campaign for the Boycott of Israel, the Civic Coalition for Palestinian Rights in Jerusalem, and Stop the Wall have written this letter to Norway’s Council of Ethics:
We are writing to express our concern that Norway’s ministry of finance has lifted its 2010 ban on investing funds from Norway’s Global Pension Fund in the Israeli company Africa Israel and its construction subsidiary Danya Cebus. The lifting of the ban was based on April 2013 statements by Lev Leviev’s company Africa Israel falsely suggesting that the company was not involved in the construction of illegal Israeli settlements in occupied Palestinian territory. However, as the Israeli civil society Coalition of Women for Peace’s Who Profits project yet again documented with photos, video and a pamphlet immediately after learning of Norway’s decision, Africa Israel and Danya Cebus are currently building homes in the illegal Israeli settlement of Gilo. They have been doing so for more than two years.
We call on Norway’s ministry of finance to swiftly re-impose the prohibition on investment in Africa Israel and Danya Cebus. The ministry noted appropriately in 2010 that these companies “are contributing to or are themselves responsible for grossly unethical activity.” The ministry should adhere to the same standards that led to the 2010 decision to divest from the two companies due to their long history of settlement construction in occupied Palestinian territory in violation of international law. Without quick corrective public action there is a significant danger that other actors may follow Norway’s well-publicized example and clear these companies for reinvestment, also based on false information.
As Norway’s minister of finance noted in the 2010 decision, “the international community is united in the view that the area east of the 1967 line is occupied territory and as such comes under the purview of the fourth Geneva Convention.”
The settlement of Gilo, with a population of approximately 30,000 Jewish settlers, is located on the southern edge of Israeli-occupied and annexed East Jerusalem on land confiscated from the Palestinian communities of Beit Jala, Sharafat and Beit Safafa. The large Israeli settlement separates Palestinians in occupied East Jerusalem from Palestinians in the rest of the West Bank, and it connects the Israeli settlements in the southern West Bank with Israel. Israel continues to expand the Gilo settlement due to its strategic role in creating a Jewish majority population in occupied Palestinian Jerusalem and in annexing de facto its so-called Gush Etzion settlement bloc in the southern West Bank to Israel.
Furthermore, we are concerned that the Council on Ethics failed to perform due diligence by consulting with Palestinian civil society present in the occupied West Bank and organizations like ours, or with Who Profits, all of whom closely follow corporate involvement in Israeli human rights abuses and had provided the documentation of extensive settlement construction that contributed to Norway’s 2010 divestment from Africa Israel and Danya Cebus. A review of our websites, or the website of Who Profits, would have revealed Africa Israel’s ongoing settlement construction in Gilo. Additionally, another Leviev-owned company, Leader Management and Development, continues to develop the Israeli settlement of Zufim on the land of the Palestinian village of Jayyous in the West Bank, and Leviev has donated to settlement organizations.
In April 2013 Africa Israel told the Council on Ethics, “Africa Israel Investments Ltd. and its subsidiaries have no current construction projects concerning Israeli settlements in the West Bank, and at the present have no plans for such activities in the future.” Africa Israel issued a very similar official statement to Who Profits in November 2010, which, like the 2013 statement, was misleading, because in October 2010, Africa Israel had announced that it would be building “121 five-room apartments in three buildings of ten-11 stories each, a fourth building with 12 stories, and a two-level parking garage” in the settlement of Gilo. Who Profits documented this construction on its website with June 2011 photos, and Adalah-NY publicized the Gilo construction in 2012. An Africa Israel representative told Who Profits that its Gilo construction would continue through May 2014.
This case and others prove that statements by companies involved in supporting Israeli human right abuses and violations of international law cannot be trusted. In addition to Africa Israel’s two blatantly deceptive public statements, other companies under scrutiny, including Ahava, Dexia Bank, SodaStream and Veolia, have also seriously misrepresented their business activities, hiding their respective involvement in or profiting from Israel’s occupation, including the illegal wall and settlement enterprise,