Adalah-NY: [email protected], www.mideastjustice.org
(see excerpt from Ha’aretz interview below)
New York, NY, March 7 – In a rare interview in the March 7 English edition of the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz Daily, Israeli billionaire Lev Leviev responded to questions about recent protests and calls for a boycott of his companies in response to their settlement construction in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.
Issa Mikel, a spokesperson for Adalah-NY – the group that has organized eight protests outside Leviev’s Manhattan jewelry store since it opened last November – commented, “Leviev’s responses were disingenuous and troubling. Leviev neglected to mention that his company Leader is building the settlement of Zufim, that he is a major donor to a company that acquires Palestinian land for settlements, and that all Israeli settlements violate international law. Leviev also portrayed his company’s monopoly over Gaza’s fuel supply as somehow charitable. Finally, as independent human rights activists, we challenge Leviev to provide evidence to support the completely false accusation he made that we have any relationship with or are “funded by business competitors.”
In the Ha’aretz interview by Anshel Pfeffer titled “We need Judaization” (http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/961664.html), Leviev responded to Pfeffer’s question, “Do you have a problem with building in the territories?” by saying, “Not if the State of Israel grants permits legally. But Danya Sibus is only a subcontractor; I didn’t even know it was building there.” Yet Danya Cebus’ construction in Maale Adumim and Har Homa was highlighted in multiple newspapers due to possible losses to Leviev’s Africa Israel, Danya Cebus’ parent company. Furthermore, in an August 24, 2004 interview in Globes, when asked about neglecting Israel, Africa Israel CEO Pinchas Cohen responded, “Heaven forbid! Our subsidiary, Danya Cebus, recently signed a very large contract to build 2,500 apartments in Matityahu Mizrach (Upper Modi’in), for a $130 million investment.” It seems unlikely that Leviev was unaware of all this construction.
Leviev also co-owns the company Leader Management and Development which is building the settlement of Zufim on the village of Jayyous’ land. Due to the strangulation of Jayyous caused by the construction of Zufim and Israel’s wall, more than 50% of families from this once prosperous farming village are now receiving food aid. The secretive, right-wing settler company the Land Redemption Fund, which Leviev funds according to a 2005 article in Yedioth Ahronoth, used fraud and deceit to secure Palestinian land from Jayyous and Bil’in for eventual settlement construction by Leader and Danya Cebus.
While Leviev uses Israeli law to justify his companies’ settlement construction, all Israeli settlements are judged to violate international law according to Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, the Israeli organization B’Tselem, the International Court of Justice, the United Nations, and every government in the world besides Israel.
Leviev asked Pfeffer, “If they want to demonstrate, why against us? After all Dor Alon, in which Africa-Israel owns 26 percent, is the only company that sells fuel to the Palestinians.” Yet, as the monopoly fuel supplier to Gaza, Dor Alon has profited for years from Israeli occupation by benefitting from non-competitive fuel provision to a “captive” market. Though a major offshore natural gas field with an estimated 1.4 trillion cubic feet of natural gas lies twenty miles from Gaza’s coast, for nearly a decade Israel has blocked the development of that resource, which could provide the foundation for sustainable economic growth and Palestinian fuel self-sufficiency.
Responding to Leviev’s professsed incomprehension of why groups are demonstrating against him, Adalah-NY spokesperson Ethan Heitner summarized, “Leviev has invested heavily in New York real estate. He and his former partner Shaya Boymelgreen have been singled out for their mistreatment of workers, their shoddy construction and their displacement of communities here. We also have close ties with Palestinian and Israeli activists working to save villages like Jayyous and Bil’in from Leviev’s settlements. Finally, when Leviev opened a swanky jewelry store here and we learned of his companies’ role in exploiting and abusing poor communities in Angola through his diamond mining, we said, enough. We must hold Leviev accountable for his business practices.”
We need Judaization, Anshel Pfeffer, Ha’aretz Daily, March 7, 2008
“In recent weeks there have been pro-Palestinian demonstrations in New York and London, calling to boycott Leviev’s jewelry stores because of the construction being done on the other side of the Green Line by the Danya Sibus firm, which is owned by Africa-Israel. Leviev suspects that financial interests are behind the demonstrations. ‘I don’t know what this is – after all, if they want to demonstrate, why against us? After all Dor Alon, in which Africa-Israel owns 26 percent, is the only company that sells fuel to the Palestinians. I think that it’s more groups that are funded by business competitors.’
Do you have a problem with building in the territories?
‘Not if the State of Israel grants permits legally. But Danya Sibus is only a subcontractor; I didn’t even know it was building there.’