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New York, NY, Jan 21, 2008 – Twenty-five New York protesters and dozens of Madison Avenue passers-by braved sub-freezing temperatures Monday evening to watch the award winning documentary “Bil’in My Love” on the sidewalk 20 feet from the Madison Avenue jewelry store of Israeli diamond magnate Lev Leviev. Leviev’s company Danya Cebus has been building the Israeli settlement of Mattityahu East on the land of the West Bank village of Bil’in, threatening the village’s survival. The film, by Israeli director Shai Pollak, documents the first two years of Bil’in’s three year creative, nonviolent struggle to save its land from Israel’s wall and Leviev’s settlements.
Adalah-NY spokesperson Ethan Heitner explained, “The screening tonight brought images of the impacts of Leviev’s violations of international law in Palestine and the courageous resistance of his victims to his Manhattan doorstep, in one of wealthiest neighborhoods in the world.” The protest, organized by the New York activist group Adalah-NY and calling for a boycott of Leviev, was the sixth held at LEVIEV New York since the store opened in November.
“Bil’in My Love,” won Best Documentary at the 2006 Jerusalem Film Festival, and a special award at the 2006 Rotterdam film festival. On the US holiday honoring the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., hundreds of passers-by received flyers with photos juxtaposing the Palestinian struggle for freedom with the struggle against Apartheid South Africa and the US civil rights struggle of African-Americans.
The Israeli military has injured over 800 Israeli, Palestinian and international protesters in more than 200 demonstrations in Bil’in over three years. 49 Bil’in residents, including some protest leaders, have been arrested. Some spent months in prison. The flyer quoted Mohammed Khatib from Bil’in’s Popular Committee Against the Wall and Settlements, and Sharif Omar of Jayyous’ Land Defense Committee explaining that, “We are engaged in a struggle for justice, for our freedom – indeed, for our very lives . . . . Leviev is destroying the olive groves and farms that have sustained our villages for centuries, and is profiting from human rights abuses.”
In addition to Mattityahu East, Leviev’s company Danya Cebus is building homes in the illegal settlements of Har Homa and Maale Adumim, surrounding East Jerusalem. Leviev’s company Leader is building the settlement of Zufim on the land of the village of Jayyous, the site of another long Palestinian nonviolent campaign. Leviev has been a major donor to the Land Redemption Fund, an Israeli organization that uses dubious means to secure Palestinian land to expand settlements. All Israeli settlements are widely deemed illegal under international law.
Dor Energy, a company which is 26% owned by Leviev’s company Africa Israel and is the monopoly fuel supplier to the Gaza Strip, has plunged Gaza City into darkness by participating in a cut of the fuel supply to Gaza with the Israeli government. In Angola, where Leviev mines many of his diamonds, a security firm he employs has been accused of brutal human rights abuses against Angolans. In New York City, Leviev, along with his former New York business partner Shaya Boymelgreen, was the target of a campaign by the ACORN and the Laborers Union in Brooklyn for their use of underpaid non-union labor to carry out sub-standard development projects.
Leviev has recently been caught up in a controversy—covered by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Ma’ariv and The Chronicle of Philanthropy—over media reports that he supports the charity Oxfam. Oxfam has reviewed its records and denies these claims, noting that Oxfam refuses donations from businesses that violate international law.
Issa Mikel of Adalah-NY noted that, “We’ll be back at LEVIEV New York with a bigger protest on Saturday, February 9 to tell New York shoppers that buying Leviev’s jewelry for Valentine’s Day supports the abuse of marginalized communities in Palestine, Angola, and right here in New York City.”
Jan. 21 photos: http://www.mideastjustice.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=150&Itemid=73
Jan. 21 Video: http://www.mideastjustice.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=154&Itemid=72