[RAMALLAH, 21 June 2008] – DCI-Palestine welcomes UNICEF’s decision to reject any further support offered by Israeli businessman Lev Leviev, who owns companies that are responsible for building housing units in several settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt), in contravention of international humanitarian law.
Lev Leviev sponsored fundraising events for UNICEF in 2007, while actively promoting the construction in the occupied West Bank of settlements which are not only illegal but also have a profound negative impact on the lives of Palestinian children. Several international and Palestinian groups working to protect Palestinian human rights, spearheaded by New York-based Adalah-NY–The Coalition for Justice in the Middle East, had therefore been calling for UNICEF to publicly renounce connections with Leviev and to stop accepting any kind of support from his companies.
DCI-Palestine played an active role in raising this issue with UNICEF: we sent a letter of concern to UNICEF New York headquarters in April, organised meetings with the UNICEF-oPt Country Representative, and met with the UNICEF Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa in May. In addition, DCI-Palestine and the Palestinian Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign coordinated a field visit of UNICEF officials to Jayyous, a Palestinian village which has been severely impacted by the construction of a settlement supported by one of Leviev’s companies.
On Thursday 19 June, a letter to Adalah-NY from the senior communications advisor to UNICEF”s Executive Director, stated: “Yesterday we confirmed that UNICEF has concluded that it will not consider partnerships – direct or indirect – with Mr. Lev Leviev or any of his corporate entities, and will not accept financial or other support that we know is from him or his corporate entities.” (Further information in the Adalah-NY press release)
DCI-Palestine welcomes this decision, and would like to thank Adalah-NY and all the other groups who have worked together to achieve this important step towards improving accountability to principles of international humanitarian and human rights law. We also want to thank residents of the West Bank villages Bil”in and Jayyous, whose children directly suffer from the consequences of settlement and settlement building activities. The presence of Israeli settlements and settlers in the West Bank has a devastating impact on the lives of Palestinian children and adults living nearby. A forthcoming DCI-Palestine violation report will highlight the recent increase in settler attacks against Palestinian children.