Settlement builder met with worldwide protests

Signaling growing outrage at Israeli billionaire Lev Leviev’s businesses’ global rights abuses, on 12 and 13 December human rights advocates in Dubai, London and two West Bank Palestinian villages held protests against Leviev’s settlement construction. According to Gulf News, the protest in Dubai, unprecedented in the United Arab Emirates, came after a screening at the Dubai International Film Festival of a documentary film about Palestinian hip-hop artists. Leviev’s sale of his diamonds through Arif Bin Khadra’s Levant jewelry stores in Dubai has stirred controversy there.

Dubai’s Gulf News reported that on Friday, “Forty T-shirts and one hundred letters from the West Bank town of Jayyous were distributed to the audience at the screening of Slingshot Hip Hop.” Gulf News continued, “The distributed T-shirts called on Dubai residents to boycott Leviev as well as Levant Jewellery, owned by Leviev’s local agent, Palestinian-Moroccan Arif Bin Khadra. Meanwhile, activists campaigning against Leviev’s activities have set up a Facebook group that is calling for a boycott of all Dubai venues that host stores selling Leviev diamonds. The group has gained almost 400 members in less than two weeks since its launch, according to group administrator Jabbar, a UAE-based Palestinian rapper.” Jackie Salloum, the Arab American filmmaker who made Slingshot Hip Hop, has visited Jayyous, one of the West Bank villages where Leviev is building Israeli settlements. She described the situation there as “dire,” saying that “the ‘security barrier’ and colonies being built by Israel there have robbed its residents of their livelihoods.”

Adalah-NY previously reported that, despite a commitment by a Dubai official to ban the sale of Leviev’s jewelry, his merchandise is for sale and prominently displayed in the windows of the Levant store at the Atlantis hotel. Leviev’s jewelry and logo are also featured at the Levant store at the Al Qasr Hotel. On 24 November, Adalah-NY released a letter in Arabic and English from the villages of Bilin and Jayyous imploring the Khadra family to pressure their relative to end his partnership with Leviev.

In London, on Saturday, 13 December, rights activists protested outside Leviev’s Bond Street store for the second time. According to a statement from Saturday’s protest organizers, the International Solidarity Movement in London, “Despite initial opposition by Leviev’s security guards, management and police officers, the demonstration went ahead undeterred. Activists shouted various chants, read out facts about Leviev’s human rights abuses and war crimes, distributed leaflets and spoke with members of the public … Even the security guards took an interest and it was suggested they find an alternative company they could be proud to work for. Nonetheless, after a couple of hours, we felt we had successfully deterred potential customers, with no one during the entire time of our presence even entertaining the idea of entering the store.” The British government is under pressure not to rent space for its new Tel Aviv embassy from Leviev.

On Friday, 12 December in the West Bank, protests were also held by the villages of Bilin and Jayyous, along with their Israeli and international supporters, against the construction by Leviev’s companies of the Zufim and Mattityahu East settlements and against the construction of Israel’s wall on those villages’ land. In 2002, Jayyous was the first village to start a nonviolent protest campaign against Israel’s wall and settlements. Since 2005, Bilin has held over 200 protests against the settlements and wall. Both Bilin and Jayyous have been devastated by Israel’s seizure of at least half the villages’ agricultural land for settlement construction.

In addition to building Israeli settlements in violation of international law, Leviev’s companies have also been accused of human rights abuses in the diamond trade in Angola and Namibia. On 4 December, the Israeli financial journal Globes published an exposé of Leviev’s serious rights abuses in Angola. The United Nations agency for children, UNICEF and the Oxfam coalition have both renounced all connections with Leviev over rights abuses.

Adalah-NY also announced plans to hold a protest on Saturday 20 December atpm at Leviev’s Madison Avenue store. Participants will sing parody holiday carols highlighting Leviev’s rights abuses. The parody carols from last year’s protest at Leviev have received thousands of hits on YouTube.

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