Diamond magnate may be lying about Israel settlement pullout, activists warn

Construction site of Africa Israel housing project in the Gilo settlement, occupied east Jerusalem, 28 August 2013.

Ta’ayush

The campaign group Adalah-NY has given a skeptical welcome to reports that Africa Israel, the company controlled by diamond magnate Lev Leviev, has pulled out of all its settlement construction activities in the occupied West Bank.

According to a statement from Adalah-NY, Israel’s Ynet reported this week “that representatives from Africa Israel (AI) and its construction subsidiary Danya Cebus, targets of the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement, say they will stop building Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories, including in Jewish settlements in East Jerusalem.”

But, the statement warns, “this announcement – undoubtedly the result of seven years of pressure generated by Adalah-NY and allied groups worldwide and a sign of the growing strength of the BDS movement – should be greeted with vigilance because Africa Israel has in the past made similar statements that proved to be untrue.”

Lying to Norway

In 2010, Norway’s government excluded Africa Israel and its subsidiaries from eligibility to be included in the portfolio of a state pension fund because of the firm’s role in settlement construction.

In August 2013, the ban was lifted based on assurances from Africa Israel that these activities had stopped.

But video, photographic and documentary evidence emerged that the company was lying and in January this year, based on this evidence, Norway reimposed the exclusion.

Adalah-NY points to another instance of Africa Israel engaging in deception about its practices. In September 2013, the firm told the UK-based Business and Human Rights Resource Centre that the settlement of Gilo built in the occupied West Bank should not be considered a settlement at all.

“Given Africa Israel’s pattern of falsely representing its settlement construction to the public, and even to the Norwegian government, and AI’s disagreement with international law and the international community over the very definition of a settlement,” Adalah-NY says “careful monitoring and review of Africa Israel’s work over a substantial period of time is required before AI’s statements today are accepted as accurate.”

Ongoing ties to colonization

Additionally, according to occupation watchdog Who Profits, Africa Israel “owns 26 percent of Alon Group, which has a monopoly over gas supply to the Gaza Strip, and controls the Blue Square retail chain, which has branches and offices in multiple settlements throughout the occupied territories.”

And, notes Adalah-NY, Africa Israel chair Lev Leviev is co-owner of a separate settlement company, Leader Management and Development, which “owns and operates the Israeli settlement of Zufim, which has been built upon the expropriated, fertile agricultural land of the Palestinian village of Jayyous, as well as the land of neighboring Palestinian villages.”

Adalah-NY, which began its campaign against Africa Israel’s occupation profiteering in 2007, also states that Leviev’s companies have been “involved in human rights abuses and unethical business practices in the diamond industry in Angola and Namibia.”

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Ali Abunimah

Ali Abunimah's picture

Co-founder of The Electronic Intifada and author of The Battle for Justice in Palestine, now out from Haymarket Books.

Also wrote One Country: A Bold-Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse. Opinions are mine alone.