UPDATE: Settlement-builder Lev Leviev’s Company Africa-Israel in Dire Straits

Lev Leviev”s company Africa-Israel is unable to repay its loans and is foundering. An Africa-Israel subsidiary, Danya Cebus, has built homes in a number of settlements on Palestinian land in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. Reporting on Africa-Israel”s severe financial problems, the Associated Press noted that Leviev”s “construction activities in the West Bank have come under fire from settlement opponents in the US and Britain.” Initiated by Adalah-NY in November 2007, the worldwide campaign to boycott Leviev”s companies due to their settlement construction and other human rights abuses has achieved a number of successes that have helped to damage Leviev”s business and credibility. Highlights of Adalah-NY”s work to boycott Leviev”s companies include:

* Blackrock Divests from Africa-Israel: BlackRock Inc., one of the world”s largest investment management firms, divested from Leviev”s Africa-Israel after three Norwegian banks expressed concerns over Africa-Israel”s role in settlement construction.

* Norway Pushed to Divest from Africa-Israel: In May, eleven organizations, including organizations from Norway, Palestine, Israel and other countries, along with Adalah-NY, called upon the Norwegian Government Pension Fund to divest from Africa-Israel. The fund is reportedly the fifth-largest shareholder of Africa-Israel. In a May 15th response to Adalah-NY, Aslak Skancke of The Norwegian government Pension Fund”s Council on Ethics noted that the fund is assessing “whether companies in the Fund have activities which can be considered supportive of violations of international humanitarian law. One area of such interest is the construction of various forms of infrastructure in occupied territories.” A decision on the Norwegian government pension fund investment in Africa-Israel is expected in the fall.

* British Government Rejects Business Deal with Leviev: In March, 2009, following a campaign by human rights advocates, the government of the United Kingdom announced that it had dropped plans to move its Tel Aviv embassy into a building owned by Africa-Israel. A spokesperson for the United Kingdom said in addressing the government’s decision regarding Africa-Israel, “The UK government’s firm stance is that the construction of settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories is unlawful under international law; this is an important policy issue for the UK government.”

* Celebrities Seek Distance from Leviev: Following complaints by at least four major Hollywood stars whose photos were posted on Israel diamond mogul Lev Leviev”s website, in December, 2008 Leviev staff removed the entire celebrity photo section from his website www.leviev.com. This came after Adalah-NY and Jews Against the Occupation-NYC contacted 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 Celebrity section of Leviev”s website.

* Oxfam Renounces Leviev: A strong October, 2008 statement by Oxfam America renouncing Leviev”s rights abuses and his efforts to exploit unwitting charities and celebrities, as covered in media like The Forward.

* UNICEF Renounces Leviev: Oxfam”s statement followed UNICEF”s earlier public renunciation of Leviev.

* Leviev Dropped from Charity Ball: Following an Adalah-NY letter writing campaign, the withdrawal of Leviev from the sponsors list for the prestigious Hollywood fundraising gala The Carousel of Hope Ball, featuring celebrities like Denzel Washington, and Sidney Poitier.

In addition to Africa Israel”s settlement construction in Mattityahu East on the land of the village of Bil”in, and in the settlements of Har Homa and Maale Adumin, Leviev”s company Leader Management and Development also owns and is expanding the settlement of Zufim on the land of the village of Jayyous. Leviev also provided financial support, according to the Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth, to the settler organization the Land Redemption Fund. Yedioth Ahronoth and other sources explain that the Land Redemption Fund has used large sums of money, strong-arm tactics and deceit to secure Palestinian land for settlement expansion. (Click for more on Leviev”s involvement in settlement construction)

Leviev”s companies have also been involved in abusive labor practices in the diamond industry in Angola and Namibia. (Click for more on Leviev”s involvement in the diamond industry)

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