Wealthy Madison Avenue holiday shoppers were greeted the afternoon of 8 December 2007 by boisterous music and dancing, as 60 New Yorkers protested in a growing campaign to boycott Israeli diamond magnate Lev Leviev over his settlement construction in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. Participants performed a joyous dabke, a traditional Palestinian dance, and chanted to music from the eight-piece Rude Mechanical Orchestra. During the protest, Harvard professor Alan Dershowitz entered LEVIEV New York and emerged to jeers as he displayed a LEVIEV shopping bag to the crowd.
Saturday’s event was the third and largest protest outside LEVIEV New York since the store’s 13 November gala opening. The protesters highlighted Leviev’s abuse of marginalized communities in Palestine, Angola and New York. In the West Bank companies owned by Leviev have built homes in at least five Israeli settlements. These settlements carve the West Bank into disconnected bantustans, seize valuable Palestinian agricultural and water resources, and isolate Palestinian East Jerusalem from the rest of the West Bank, rendering the creation of a viable Palestinian state impossible. All Israeli settlements violate international law. Yesterday, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice warned Israel against its plans to build new homes in Har Homa, one of the settlements where Leviev’s company Danya Cebus is building.
Midway through Saturday’s protest Alan Dershowitz suddenly appeared in front of LEVIEV New York. “Just before he entered the store, I told Mr. Dershowitz, ‘You claim to be for peace, but you are deliberately putting money in the pockets of a man who builds settlements and prevents peace,’” explained Issa Mikel of Adalah-NY. “Dershowitz responded, ‘Thank you for telling me about this place. I’m going to shop here from now on.’ It’s not surprising that Dershowitz is proud to support Israeli settlements, despite their illegality and immorality. Dershowitz is also a defender of torture, and has proposed that Israel destroy entire Palestinian villages.” As Dershowitz emerged from the store holding high his LEVIEV shopping bag, he was met by loud chants of “Alan, Alan, you can’t hide, your support for Apartheid.”
New Yorkers were joined by members of the New Jersey Star dance troupe for likely the first ever Madison Avenue performance of the Palestinian folk dance dabke. Riham Barghouti of Adalah-NY explained, “Our dabke performance at Leviev’s store was an affirmation of our identity as Palestinians, and of our refusal to accept Israel’s efforts to cleanse us from our land and destroy our culture.”
Participants were reminded of the breadth of Leviev’s abuses when a stream of cars decorated with Burmese flags and “Free Burma” banners drove by the protest honking their horns in support. In September, 2007 The Sunday Times in London reported that its undercover journalist was shown Burmese rubies for sale, allegedly “blood rubies” used to finance Myanmar’s military junta. UPI reported in October that Leviev was warned by the EU to stop doing business with Myanmar or face sanctions.
Protesters held signs saying, “Latkes not land theft,” and “Dreidels not demolition” and “Candles not confiscation.” Ethan Heitner of Adalah-NY explained, “I can think of no better way to celebrate Hanukah than to shine a light on the abuses Leviev is committing around the world.”
Leviev mines diamonds in close partnership with Angola’s repressive Dos Santos regime, and the security company Leviev employs in Angola has been accused of serious human rights abuses. In New York City, Shaya Boymelgreen, Leviev’s US partner until this summer, has been the target of a campaign by local groups for employing underpaid, non-union workers in hazardous conditions, and violating housing codes to construct luxury apartments that threaten to displace lower-income residents.
For more info: Adalah-NY: The Coalition for Justice in the Middle East: www.mideastjustice.org. All photos courtesy of Adalah-NY
- New York activists crash settler funder’s Madison Avenue gala, Adalah-NY (14 November 2007)
- BY TOPIC: Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions