U.K. boycotting Lev Leviev over West Bank construction
By Barak Ravid
Tags: East Jerusalem, Africa-Israel
The British embassy in Tel Aviv has stopped negotiations to lease a floor in Africa-Israel's Kirya Tower because of the company's role in West Bank settlement construction.
The British embassy had been expected to move from its current Hayarkon Street location into the office tower on the corner of Kaplan and Begin. The lease would have cost $162,000 a year, the British press reported.
Africa-Israel is owned by Lev Leviev, a tycoon who recently left Israel and settled in Britain.
After the planned move was publicized in the daily Globes about a year ago, British pro-Palestinian groups began protesting. The press ran several pieces detailing the activities of Africa-Israel and its subsidiary Danya Cebus, and its role in three West Bank construction projects: Matityahu East, Har Homa in Jerusalem, and in Ma'aleh Adumim.
The British press also published several petitions calling on the Foreign Office not to move its embassy to Africa-Israel's building. One such petition, which appeared in the Guardian several months ago, was signed by Palestinian Authority parliamentarians including Hanan Ashrawi and Mustafa Barghouti.
The petition said that moving the embassy into a building owned by a company that builds in the settlements would send a message contravening British policy, and would be tantamount to criminal complicity.
The petitioners also argued that choosing this location would enable Israel to continue violating Palestinian human rights in the West Bank.
Due to the public pressure, a special debate was held in the British parliament several months ago. Kim Howells, then minister of state at the Foreign Office charged with Middle East affairs, was asked to explain plans to move to the embassy into the building.
Ambassador Tom Phillips requested details from Africa-Israel about the nature of its activities in the settlements, and a week ago, the British embassy in Tel Aviv received the information. As a result, plans to move into the tower were frozen.
The embassy in Tel Aviv confirmed the details of the story and explained that its decision stemmed from the fact that Africa-Israel's response regarding its involvement in settlement activity failed to assuage Britain's concerns.
In a letter to Leviev, ambassador Phillips said that the decision was made even though 51 percent of the building no longer belongs to Africa-Israel.
An embassy spokesmen said that the search for a new location in Tel Aviv will continue.
Ha'aretz does not mention that Leviev also owns Zufim settlement, which is built on land stolen from the village of Jayyous. Jayyous has been holding weekly protests against the wall, which is stealing almost 6,000 dunums of their farmland, land which will be invariably be given to Leviev to expand Zufim. For the most part the international press has ignored these protests, which have been brutally repressed by Israeli colonizing forces, with live ammunition, tear gas, beatings, and mass arrests. From Jayyous today:
Jayyous under curfew; soldiers threaten demolitions
Occupation forces have put the village of Jayyous under curfew again today, following clashes with youth near the Wall. Soldiers arrested one person and threatened to demolish several farms on the south side of the village.
This afternoon, local youth and soldiers clashed near the Wall in the southern part of the village. Following an exchange of stones and bullets, no less than 10 jeeps invaded the village. Regular army and border police put the entire village under curfew and arrested a youth.
Following the incursion, the army spread out into the streets on foot. Three jeeps are stationed in the center of the village, where soldiers are firing sound bombs and tear gas. A patrol entered the chicken farm on the south side of the village, declaring the area a closed military zone. Farmers were told that if they did not prevent local youth from stoning military patrols, both the chicken and cow farms would be demolished.
See also,Jayyous, a village trapped: IPS, March 1
The UK government has done the right thing by Bilin & Jayyous. Now will the government of Dubai?
UPDATE: Ha'aretz has "Hampshired" the article title, removing both Leviev and "boycotting." It now reads, "U.K. embassy nixes move to building of company behind West Bank construction." However, the title in the sidebar reads: "U.K. boycotts Israeli magnate over West Bank construction."
The article is on the front page above the fold in the Hebrew print edition. The Hebrew internet edition's title is: The British Embassy will not move to a building owned by Leviev: a company he owns builds in settlements." Apparently most of the comments so far are favorable. More coverage in Jordan's Albawaba:
Sharif Omar, the head of Jayyous’ Land Defence Committee, commented, “We feel heartened by the UK government decision opposing Leviev’s settlement construction, and we expect our brothers and sisters in the UAE to follow the UK government's example by banning Leviev from selling his diamonds in Dubai. We need more pressure in order to end Israeli repression, return our land, and restore our rights.”
Omar is quite correct that more pressure is needed on Dubai: despite initial assurances from a Dubai-based official and UAE consular officers in New York, Leviev has been able to sell his gems in Dubai through a local Palestinian-Moroccan partner, Arif Bin-Khadra. Leviev's plan to open shops under his own name was scuttled due to the campaign initiated against him there by Adalah-NY, but his website lists a "Leviev store-in-store" in one of Bin-Khadra's Levant stores. Dubai is proudly listed as one of Leviev's locations on the door of his New York shop. According to the Gulf News, the Arab League's Damascus-based boycott office considered placing Leviev & Levant on their boycott list in a November meeting. But a well-placed source says that the UAE pressured the league not to take action, for fear of the damage it would do to Gulf-Israeli relations.
AFP covered as well, in French. Now in English, in a UAE pub. Also, the JC. And the AP, as carried by YNet.