New York, NY, December 19, 2009 – On a snowy Saturday afternoon, forty-five human rights carolers serenaded Madison Avenue shoppers with familiar holiday tunes outside the storefront of Israeli diamond and settlement mogul Lev Leviev, but their lyrics called for the boycott of Leviev”s companies. The New York protest took place against the backdrop of a growing arrest campaign by the Israeli military against Palestinian protest and boycott activists from West Bank villages where Leviev has built settlements.
Ethan Heitner from Adalah-NY commented, “Today in New York City we celebrated the many victories of the international movement to boycott companies like Leviev”s that support Israel”s oppression of the Palestinian people. At the same time, we”re angry that our Palestinian colleagues, like Mohammad Othman from Jayyous, Abdallah Abu Rahmah from Bil”in and Jamal Juma” from Stop the Wall, have been imprisoned by Israel for organizing nonviolent protests and boycotts. Still, the Israeli government”s desperate measures won”t succeed in crushing the growing movement for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel. Instead they just provide further proof to the world of why BDS is necessary.”
Groups worldwide have conducted a successful boycott campaign against Leviev”s companies due to their construction of Israeli settlements in violation of international law, and their human rights abuses in the diamond industry in Angola. With Leviev”s companies in freefall, New York human rights advocates, many wearing Santa hats, returned to his store for a third year of holiday caroling, and greeted Madison Avenue holiday shoppers with choruses like this, to the tune of “Jingle Bell Rock”:
So Lev as you, watch while your, stock goes kaput,
Think of the folks you”ve hurt,
And we”ll keep being the thorns in your side,
Til” there”s justice for,
And you”ve paid for your crimes!
In a new development, three heavyset, middle-aged men, seemingly employed by Leviev, videotaped and photographed the carolers from the storefront throughout the event.
Leviev’s companies Africa Israel and Leader have built Jewish-only homes on Palestinian land in the Israeli settlements of Zufim on the land of the village of Jayyous, Mattityahu East on the land of the village of Bil”in, and Har Homa and Maale Adumim, impoverishing Palestinian communities and violating international law. On December 12th in the middle of the night, the Israeli military arrested Abdallah Abu Rahmah, a leading organizer of Bil”in”s five year nonviolent protest campaign to save the village”s land from Israel”s wall and settlements. Many other protesters from Bil”in and from the neighboring village of Ni”ilin, also campaigning to save its land, have been arrested recently in nighttime raids. The Palestinian organization Stop the Wall announced that its Coordinator, Jamal Juma”, was arrested on December 16th. Israeli authorities have jailed Jayyous protest and boycott organizer Mohammad Othman, also from Stop the Wall, without charges since September 22nd. This week, Israeli settlers from Zufim, built on Jayyous” land, attacked Israeli soldiers who were attempting to slow settlement expansion there.
Leviev is facing a financial crisis, imperiling his control of his flagship company Africa-Israel, that appears to have been aggravated by the growing boycott movement. UNICEF, Oxfam, The British Government and major Hollywood stars have all distanced themselves from Leviev. The investment firm BlackRock, pension giant TIAA-CREF and the Swedish government recently sold off their shares of Leviev”s company Africa-Israel, though BlackRock and TIAA-CREF denied they did so due to his settlement construction. New reports indicate that the second largest Dutch pension fund PZVW divested from Africa-Israel. Eleven organizations have asked the Norwegian government to sell its pension holdings in Africa-Israel over ethical concerns.