February 16, 2008

More bad publicity for the gemstone cowboy

More bad publicity for Leviev, the gemstone cowboy. And this time it's in the UK's Jewish Chronicle:
Anti-Israel agitators target Leviev shops
By Rachel Fletcher
Anti-Israel demonstrators have targeted the diamond stores of Israel’s wealthiest man, Lev Leviev.

Protestors gathered outside the London and New York stores to deliver a “Justice Valentine”, claiming that “Lev’s diamonds are crime’s best friend.”

The Palestine Solidarity Campaign invited supporters to spread an existing American campaign boycotting Leviev diamonds to London, with 20 demonstrators picketing the Old Bond Street store on Saturday. The protests were timed to coincide with the last major shopping day before Valentine’s Day.

PSC’s website accused Mr Leviev of building illegal settlements in the West Bank and added: “His diamond company has been accused of supplying blood rubies from Burma used to finance Myanmar’s military junta” — a charge the company strongly denies.

London demonstrators included members of Architects and Planners for Justice in Palestine, Stop the Wall, and Jews for Justice for Palestinians, holding placards and leafleting passers-by.

In Manhattan, 45 protestors carried red heart-shaped signs with slogans such as “Settlements are Heartless” and sang a parody of the song Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend.

A statement from Mr Leviev and the Lev Leviev Group of Companies said the protests were “politically motivated. Those who personally attack the companies or its founder deliberately neglect their extensive humanitarian and philanthropic work, which includes building schools, orphanages, and fostering economic development in communities around the world.

“These protests are also inaccurate in their charges against Leviev diamonds. Leviev is a rigorous supporter of the UN-mandated Kimberley Process concerning conflict-free diamonds and ensures that all gemstones — of all colours — are sourced through internationally recognized legal and ethical guidelines.”
Hmm, humanitarian work. Building settlements for Jews only in occupied territory doesn't really count as humanitarian. But perhaps this is a reference to the claim that Leviev donates big time to Oxfam America.

It wouldn't surprise me if Oxfam took money from Leviev since they're happy to partner Starbucks. But Oxfam isn't so happy to be associated with Leviev. See this from the Adalah NY newsletter:
Leviev Boasts A Contribution That Never Existed: Ma'ariv
Ma'ariv On-Line (NRG)
Business tycoon Lev Leviev's website boasts a contribution to a human rights organization, but there was no contribution at all.
by Gal Karniel
January 21, 2008
Economics Page

Lev Leviev, known for his wealth and philanthropy, volunteered misleading information regarding the destination of his charitable donations.

On December 28th, 2007, Lifestyle Magazine conducted an interview with the philanthropist Leviev. During the interview, several organizations were mentioned as recipients of donations from Leviev, among them Oxfam-US. The donation to Oxfam was also noted in profile pieces and other interviews with Leviev, for example in Women's Wear Daily on September 5th, 2007. The Lifestyle interview was quoted in full within the magazine of the Federation of Jewish Communities of the CIS (Common-wealth of Independent States), an organization that supports Jewish communities in Russia, Israel, Germany, and the United States. Leviev is currently serving as the organization's president. [UPDATE - this link has now been disappeared and the Lifestyles mag article has removed all mention of Oxfam too.]

Following the supposed connection between Leviev and Oxfam, the organization Adalah-NY addressed Oxfam in a letter dated January 8th, 2008, which requested that Oxfam not accept donations from Leviev due to his involvement in settlement construction in the West Bank territories, in violation of international law. The letter also referenced Leviev's exploitation of the Angolan population working in the diamond trade, as well as the employment of workers and craftspeople under exploitative conditions in his Manhattan and Brooklyn enterprises, where many do not receive minimum wage and have complained of wage withholding.

Across from Leviev's Madison Avenue diamond store, human rights groups hold frequent demonstrations in denunciation of him and his activities.

The statement goes on to explain that "Oxfam's policies on donations are clear. We do not accept donations from businesses involved in illegal activities, or operating in occupied territory, including settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories."

Leviev's response did not arrive prior to the publication of this article.
I suppose we ought to be careful saying that he hasn't mde donations to Oxfam. He's a busy man. Maybe he just puts lots of coins in a blue tin or something like that.


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