November 15, 2007

Diamonds are for yesha

Lev Leviev, one of Israel's leading personal funders of the settlement enterprise in the West Bank, got quite a shock the other night at the opening of his Madison Avenue store in New York City. In addition to the invited glitterati, Palestine solidarity activists also turned out in force to give Leviev the kind of exposure he can't have wanted. Here's New York's indymedia on the story:
Over 100 well-dressed, well-heeled New Yorkers attending the invitation-only opening of diamond mogul Lev Leviev’s Madison Avenue jewelry store this evening appeared stunned and aghast to find their evening derailed by a noisy protest against Leviev’s construction of illegal West Bank settlements. Gala attendees set down their champagne glasses and gathered by windows to view the signs and Palestinian flags, and hear protesters’ chants.

30 New York City human rights activists chanted, “You’re glitz, you’re glam, you're stealing Palestinian land.”, and “All your diamonds cannot hide, your support for Apartheid.” Protesters called on New York City’s upscale residents to boycott Leviev’s diamonds. Disconcerted attendees hastily exited to their limousines to loud chants of, “Occupation is a drag, just say no to your gift bag.”

Lev Leviev is one of Israel’s richest men. He built his enormous fortune trading in diamonds with Apartheid-era South Africa. His company now buys diamonds from the repressive Angolan government. Leviev uses profits from diamond sales to fuel the conflict in Palestine and Israel by funding the construction of suburban developments for Israeli settlers on occupied Palestinian land in the West Bank, undermining the prospects for Middle East peace, and threatening farmers' ability to survive and remain in their homes. Leviev’s diamonds are “conflict diamonds” in a broad sense of the term, funding repression in Angola and violations of international law in Palestine.

Leviev and his former US partner Shaya Boymlegreen have also angered New Yorkers with their abusive local developments schemes. Leviev has invested $1 billion in real estate in New York City over the last year. In New York City, Leviev and Boymelgreen have employed underpaid, non-union workers in hazardous conditions and violated housing codes to construct luxury apartments that displace low-income and moderate-income residents in Brooklyn, provoking local branches of the Laborer's International Union and ACORN to launch a campaign against these abuses ( Brooklynites remain concerned that Leviev and Boymelgreen are key developers in the planned Gowanus Village project.

Leviev’s real estate empire in Israel is building homes for Israelis in the West Bank settlements of Mattityahu East and Zufim, according to Gadi Algazi in the August, 2006 Le Monde Diplomatique, and in Maale Adumim and Har Homa, according to The Jerusalem Post. He has also built homes in the settlement of Ariel. All the settlements in which Leviev has built homes seize vital Palestinian water and agricultural resources and carve the West Bank into disconnected Bantustans, destroying hopes for a viable Palestinian state. All Israeli settlements built in the Occupied Palestinian Territories violate international law.
This story has also been picked up by Jewish media in America such as the Jewish Telegraphic Agency and Forward.

Forward had this to say in its article with regard to the protest and an Chabad event attended by Leviev:
A source close to Leviev said that the protesters were scapegoating the diamond merchant simply because he is an Israeli citizen. The controversies went unmentioned at the Chabad event — and they were also omitted from a lengthy recent story about Leviev in The New York Times Magazine.
All the news they see fit to print.


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