MEDIA CONTACT: info[at]adalahny.org
New York, NY, February 13, 2010 – Fifty human rights activists performed for Valentine’s Day shoppers compelling them to boycott the Israeli diamond and settlement mogul Lev Leviev outside his store on Madison Avenue. The New York protest took place against the backdrop of an escalating arrest and harassment campaign by the Israeli military against Palestinian human rights organizations and protest and boycott activists from the West Bank villages where Leviev has built settlements.
Under the theme “A Diamond is Forever, but Apartheid Has to End,” protesters entertained shoppers by singing parodies of “Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend” and The Beatles’ “Can’t Buy Me Love” with lyrics such as:
Don’t buy me Lev, Lev
Don’t buy me Lev
Don’t buy a diamond ring from Lev, and now I’ll tell you why
Settlements on stolen land, he’s a really nasty guy
Lev’s a crook so… save your money, baby don’t buy me Lev
The protest also included a dance performed to a parody of Beyonce’s “Single Ladies,” which told “All the customers”:
Its Apartheid so you shouldn’t put a ring on it
Occupation is a crime so put an end to it
Since November 2007, Leviev and his companies have been the target of a successful boycott campaign due to their construction of Israeli settlements in violation of international law, and their human rights abuses in the diamond industry in Angola. A recent exposé in the Israeli paper Yediot Aharonot revealed that the Bukhara Community Trust, of which Leviev is one of the leaders, is funding construction in the E-1 settlement area between East Jerusalem and Ma’ale Adumim. The United States vigorously opposes construction in E-1 due to the fact that it will compromise Palestinian territorial contiguity, obstructing Palestinians” ability to travel between the northern and southern parts of the West Bank. 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.
Riham Barghouti from Adalah-NY commented, “Today’s protest is dedicated to Palestinian grassroots activists who are being detained for demanding that Israel be held accountable for its human rights violations. Israel’s recent arrests of Palestinian activists like Mohammad Othman from Jayyous and Abdallah Abu Rahmah from Bil”in, its raid on the offices of Stop the Wall and its confiscation of the organizations’ equipment are obviously attempts to suppress grassroots organizing in Palestine. Rather than deter the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel, these measures are making us more committed to ending Israeli Apartheid.”
Since December 12th, the Israeli military has been holding Abdallah Abu Rahmah, a schoolteacher and leading organizer of Bil”in”s five year nonviolent protest campaign against the Apartheid wall and settlement construction. Some 40 Palestinian anti-wall activists, many from Bil”in and from the neighboring village of Ni”ilin, also campaigning to save its land, are currently being detained by Israel. On February 7th, Israeli military raided the Stop the Wall office in Ramallah, where “soldiers searched rooms, turning the office upside down and confiscating computer hard disks, laptops, and video cameras along with paper documents, CDs, and video cassettes.”
In the past few years, UNICEF, Oxfam, The British Government and major Hollywood stars have all distanced themselves from Leviev. The investment firm BlackRock and the Swedish government recently sold off their shares of Leviev”s company Africa-Israel, though BlackRock denied they did so due to his settlement construction. In January of this year, the Danish Bank Danske added Africa-Israel to its list of companies that it would exclude from its investment due to its settlement construction activities, as did the Danish pension fund PKA. Another recent report indicates 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.