UNICEF cuts ties to Israeli billionaire Leviev
Fri Jun 20, 2008 5:31pm EDT
By Daniel Trotta
NEW YORK, June 20 (Reuters) - The U.N. children's fund UNICEF has severed ties with an Israeli billionaire and financial backer due to his suspected involvement in building settlements in the occupied West Bank, UNICEF said on Friday.
Lev Leviev, a real estate and diamond mogul who is one of the richest men in Israel, has supported UNICEF with direct contributions and indirectly by sponsoring at least one UNICEF fund-raiser.
He is chairman of Africa Israel Investments, a conglomerate whose units include Danya Cebus, which the Arab rights advocacy group Adalah-NY charges has carried out settlement construction, considered illegal by the United Nations.
UNICEF decided to review its relationship with Leviev after a campaign by Adalah-NY and found "at least a reasonable grounds for suspecting" that Leviev companies were building settlements in occupied territory, a UNICEF official said.
"I can confirm that UNICEF has advised Adalah in New York that it will not be entering into any partnerships or accepting financial contributions from Lev Leviev or his corporate people," Chris de Bono, a senior adviser to the executive director of UNICEF, told Reuters.
"We are aware of the controversy surrounding Mr. Leviev because of his reported involvement in construction work in the occupied Palestinian territory," de Bono said, adding that it was UNICEF's policy to have partners who were "as non-controversial as possible."
UNICEF could not say how much Leviev had donated as an individual. In his only known partnership with UNICEF, Leviev last year donated jewelry to a fashion event in France that benefited the French national committee for UNICEF, de Bono said.
Representatives of Leviev's jewelry and real estate businesses were not immediately available to comment on Friday, in part because of religious observances after dark in Israel. (Editing by Todd Eastham)
The Reuters piece is a simultaneous headline on Ha'aretz, Jerusalem Post, and YNet, not to mention MSNBC.
One wonders if all this bad publicity is worth stealing more land. But it doesn't appear to be stopping Leviev's plans to expand his settlement Zufim onto the land the Israeli government is helping the "diamontaire extraordinaire" steal from the beleaguered village of Jayyous, which already can neither feed nor educate its children anymore. Recently the village has reported electrical pylons have been erected to grid a new 1,500 unit outpost for Zufim, and Israel has shown villagers a map that shows only 50% of the village's farmland which it has enclosed behind its wall (which is 70% of its land overall) will be "returned" to the village. And it won't even put a gate in the wall anywhere near the village, so any farmers whose land won't be flattened under "Zufim North" will be screwed anyway.
In Jayyous, as in Bil'in, the Israeli High Court of Justice has shown just how worthless its diktat is -- the army has simply ignored highly-touted decisions to move the wall and give back some of Lev's ill-gotten gains. In Bil'in Israeli forces have lately been bravely shielding Leviev's illegal suburban paradise Mattityahu East with a new multiple-round tear gas machine, a sound weapon that messes with the inner ear and causes protestors to tumble, and shooting an Italian judge in the head with a tear-gas grenade. Not to mention using live fire on unarmed protestors, as seen in this graphic video from last week:
UPDATE: Defense for Children International, which wrote a letter to UNICEF urging it sever ties with Leviev, welcomes the organization's decision.
UPDATE: JTA blogs about this not once, but twice, and not too favorably. The Chronicle of Philanthropy runs the Reuters article and gets good comments. NY Sun invokes UN critic Anne Bayefsky. Al-Jazeera runs a story on Leviev/UNICEF, as does Press TV in Iran, and top trade pub National Jeweler Network runs a favorable piece with the money quote: Diamond mogul facing increasing pressure for human rights violations. It didn't even say they were "alleged" violations! Globes quotes IDF Radio. Palestine Human Rights Commission (PHRC) in Gaza thanks UNICEF.