UNICEF: Distance yourself from tainted money

The following is an open letter dated 9 April 2008 from the Palestinian Boycott Campaign’s National Committee to Executive Director of UNICEF Ann Vennemen:

Dear Ms. Venneman:

In response to a letter authored by human rights activists in New York, calling upon [UN agency for children] UNICEF to refrain from accepting any contributions from Mr. Lev Leviev, Israeli diamond tycoon and developer of illegal Israeli settlements, due to his “unlawful and unethical activities,” UNICEF asserted that: “where UNICEF is the beneficiary of events that are organized by approved partners, UNICEF does not, as a matter of course, conduct diligence on sponsors or advertisers identified by those partners.” The Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Campaign’s National Committee (BNC) finds this defense morally and politically problematic, if not untenable.

Would UNICEF have accepted indirect donations from a South African businessman involved in illegal and racist activity during the apartheid era? Would UNICEF accept, even now, indirect financial support from a company that is proven to be complicit in violations of international humanitarian law in Darfur, occupied Iraq or Colombia?

Furthermore, the fact that Mr. Leviev has used his donations (given on three different occasions) to UNICEF to deflect or assuage condemnation of his dismal human rights record should itself motivate UNICEF to distance itself from him and his companies, lest it becomes indirectly complicit in promoting his deceptive image and, therefore, covering up his human rights abuses.

Unfortunately, several UN agencies and organizations have recently fallen under overwhelming US influence, a fact that has led, among other things, to their acceptance of Israel as if it were a normal member of the community of nations, not a state that is built on and openly practices apartheid and colonial oppression. Some, like [the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization] UNESCO, have gone as far as promoting Palestinian-Israeli “cooperation” as if no occupation exists, in a disturbing display of dereliction of duty in holding Israel and Israeli institutions to account in the face of their persistent, decades-old crimes and human rights abuses. We sincerely hope that UNICEF will continue to distinguish itself in its utmost respect for human rights, paramount among which is the right of all children to live in peace and security, free of all oppression and foreign occupation.

Just as in the case of South African apartheid, the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Campaign urges the UN and its leading organs to play a decisive role in imposing sanctions against Israel’s own version of apartheid. This is the only way left to enhance the chances for a just peace based on international law and universal human rights.

BNC - The Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee

Related Links