The Marker: Ha’aretz Daily’s business magazine
By: Nimrod Halperin
(Translation by Adalah-NY )
The exclusive jewelry shop that Lev Leviev opened in New York became a focus for protests against the extensive construction of settlements in the territories that is being implemented by the construction company Danya Cebus, owned by the diamond and real estate magnate. The New York Post reported that currently, in addition to the protests outside Leviev’s jewelry shop on Madison Avenue in New York, calls are being made to famous people — celebrities, who are also supporters of human rights–to boycott the store, which opened last month.
An American Jewish human rights organization, Jewish Voice for Peace, posted an open letter on their website to the film actress Susan Sarandon, who attended the official opening of the store last month while a protest was taking place outside. In the letter, the Oscar winning actress was asked to “sever her connections” with the jewelry store. “As long time admirers of your work on social justice issues and as Jewish activists working to promote a peaceful resolution to the Israel-Palestine conflict, we in Jewish Voice for Peace write to call your attention to the crimes of Lev Leviev and to urge you to announce publicly that you are severing all connections with him and his company” said the letter.
A representative on behalf of Sarandon responded that Sarandon’s attendance at one event in his shop does not constitute “ties.” He added that “she is not connected to any jewelry company.”
Sarandon is not the only celebrity who visited Leviev’s shop and was criticized for doing so by human rights activists. More than a month ago the famous attorney Alan Dershowitz, a prominent pro-Israel supporter in the United States, visited the store at a time when a demonstration outside had been organized. When Dershowitz left the store, in his hand a gift bag, demonstrators asserted that he was a supporter of apartheid.
The company Danya Cebus, which is a subsidiary of Leviev’s company Africa-Israel, is one of the partners spearheading the construction of Modi’in Illit and many other settlements. Modi’in Illit was built on the land of five Palestinian villages, among them the village of Bil’in.
A spokesman on behalf of Leviev stated in a response to the Post that: “the demonstrators are not accurate” in their claims against the Leviev diamond brand. In his words, “the Leviev diamond brand scrupulously follows the Kimberley Process, which follows the origins of diamonds in international markets with the goal of eliminating the trade of blood diamonds.”
The British newspaper “The Sunday Times” uncovered in September that Leviev’s diamond shop in London sold “blood” gems that originated in Burma [Myanmar], and thus contributed to the funding of the military junta government in that country.
The journalist for that newspaper, disguised as a customer, visited Leviev’s flagship boutique on Old Bond Street in London the week before. She requested jewelry that included rubies of Burmese origin. She was shown a ring worth 500,000 UK pounds sterling [approximately one million US dollars] in which was set a five carat ruby and diamonds.
The military junta in Burma receives tens of millions of pounds each year from the sale of precious gems by way of jewelry stores in London, among them Leviev’s boutique, as well as Cartier, Harrod’s and Asprey.
Upwards of 90% of rubies in the world are of Burmese origin, however, often stones are polished in other nearby states such as Thailand, and because of this the origin of the stone is not recorded by customs authorities.
Adalah-NY: Susan Sarandon exploring request that she cut ties with Leviev over Israeli settlement construction
A colorful convoy of Burmese solidarity activists drives by Adalah-NY’s protest at Leviev’s Manhattan Jewelry store on Dec. 8