Celebrities further disassociate with settlement financier

Protesters chant outside of Lev Leviev’s Madison Ave. store in New York City, 20 December 2008. (Adalah-NY)

Thirty human rights carolers braved the cold and ice on 20 December to serenade Manhattan’s holiday shoppers with a call, for the second year, to boycott the jewelry store and companies of Israeli settlement-builder and diamond mogul Lev Leviev. Leviev’s Madison Avenue store has been the site of 12 protests since it opened in mid-November 2007, and protests against his businesses have spread to London, Dubai and the West Bank villages where he is building settlements. Additionally, during the past year the UN children’s agency UNICEF and the Oxfam coalition have renounced Leviev, major Hollywood stars have distanced themselves from him, and the governments of United Kingdom and Dubai are under pressure to boycott Leviev’s businesses.

The carolers, from the New York-based human rights coalition Adalah-NY and other groups, were accompanied in singing and chanting by a percussion section from the Rude Mechanical Orchestra. Hundreds of copies of the comic “Who is Lev Leviev?” were given to passersby, many of whom stopped to hear the parody holiday songs while carrying shopping bags from Madison Avenue’s most exclusive shops.

The most vigorously sung of today’s eleven parody holiday carols included the following refrain, to the tune of “Dreidel, Dreidel, Dreidel:”

Oh, boycott, boycott, boycott, don’t buy Leviev today;
Funds crimes with all those profits, who needs diamonds anyway.

The carolers noted that their musical wish for Leviev, first expressed a year ago during holiday caroling, had been granted, as they again sang to the tune of “We Wish You a Merry Christmas:”

We wish you a loss of business, we wish you a loss of business, we wish you a loss of business, and a poor fiscal year;
Apartheid is how Leviev gets rich, screwing workers and Angolans throughout the year.

Riham Barhgouti from Adalah-NY explained, “During the last year, the value of Leviev’s company Africa-Israel has plunged dramatically, imperiling his worldwide business empire, and Leviev’s image has been badly tarnished by media attention to his companies’ settlement construction in violation of international law, as well as his human rights violations in Angola and Namibia. In the new year, we wish that Leviev and all human rights violators will again receive appropriate rewards for their actions.”

In the most recent blow to Leviev’s reputation, on 19 December Adalah-NY announced that, following complaints by at least four major Hollywood stars whose photos were posted on Leviev’s website, Leviev staff removed the entire celebrities photo section from his website www.leviev.com this week. The removal of the photos came after Adalah-NY and Jews Against the Occupation-NYC sent letters to and spoke with representatives for Salma Hayek, Halle Berry, Drew Barrymore, Brooke Shields, Andie MacDowell, Lucy Liu, Whitney Houston and Sharon Stone, all of whose names and photos, apparently wearing Leviev jewelry, were featured in a celebrities section of Leviev’s website.

Leviev’s companies Africa Israel and Leader have recently built Jewish-only homes on Palestinian land in the Israeli settlements of Zufim, Mattityahu East, Har Homa and Maale Adumim, impoverishing Palestinian communities like Bilin and Jayyous and violating international law. Leviev also funds the settlement organization the Land Redemption Fund. In Angola, Leviev’s close partnership in the diamond trade with President Dos Santos supports a corrupt government. In December, the Israeli financial journal Globes published an exposé of Leviev’s serious rights abuses and failure to fully comply with the Kimberley Process in Angola. And in Namibia, Leviev recently fired around 200 striking diamond polishers, some of whom were already struggling to survive on less than $2/day. In New York, Leviev’s real estate ventures in partnership with Shaya Boymelgreen have been associated with the displacement of lower- and middle-income families, prompting community and labor groups to organize against them.

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