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NY Jewish Week: Protesting Leviev, From Here To Dubai

by Walter Ruby – Special to The Jewish Week. To view original article, click here

N.Y.-based Arab-Jewish group claims credit for UAE snub of diamond merchant; Leviev spokesman says stores will open under his name.

Leviev already operates two jewelry stores in Dubai under the name “Levant” through a Moroccan-Palestinian agent Arif Bin Khadra.

Israeli diamond producer and retailer Lev Leviev’s penchant for flamboyantly branding his posh jewelery stores with his own name appears to have gotten him into trouble again – this time with the government of the glittery Arabian emirate of Dubai.

Leviev has been under siege from pro-Palestinian protestors who have been picketing his posh diamond shops on Madison Avenue and London for months. They are protesting the fact that subsidiary firms of Leviev’s company Africa-Israel have been constructing Jewish settlements in the West Bank.

The diamond producer suffered a new setback last week when a high-ranking Dubai official last week stated that his opulent city-state in the United Arab Emirates will not grant the Uzbekistan-born magnate a trade license to open two new stores there – at least not under the name “Leviev.”

But a Leviev spokesman insisted the 51-year-old billionaire will get his way in the end and open “Leviev” stores in Dubai to add to those already in existence in New York, London and Moscow.

Responding to a recent announcement by Leviev that he plans to open new stores this fall in Dubai, Ali Ebrahim, deputy director general for executive affairs in Dubai, said: “We are aware of these reports and have not granted a trade license to any business of this name. If such an application does come to us, we will deal with it accordingly.”

According to Leviev, one of the new stores is slated for the Dubai Mall, soon to be the world’s tallest building; the other is slated for the Atlantis Hotel, on a recently constructed artificial island.

Ebrahim said Israeli citizens are not permitted to operate businesses in Dubai. He added that such citizens would also be prevented from operating through local partners, even though Leviev already operates two jewellery stores in Dubai under the name “Levant” through a Moroccan-Palestinian agent Arif Bin Khadra. According to media reports, Israeli diamond traders have operated openly in Dubai for years.

Ebrahim made his comments after Adalah-NY, a pro-Palestinian group here that has been holding anti-Leviev demonstrations since last November outside the magnate’s diamond shop on Madison Avenue, strenuously protested to the Dubai government over Leviev’s plans to open new diamond stores there.

Yet on May 4, Leviev spokesman Justin Blake told The Jewish Week that, Ebrahim’s comments to the contrary, Leviev remains committed to his goals for Dubai.

“The stores will be opening in Dubai under the Leviev name as planned,” Blake said, declining to respond to questions as to how Leviev will manage to open his stores in Dubai despite the stated refusal of the authories there to allow him to do so.

Before Blake made his comments, observers in Dubai speculated that Leviev, acting through Bin Khadra, would ultimately agree to open his new stores there under the name “Levant” rather than his own name.

Yet Blake’s remarks indicate that Leviev may be planning to fight Dubai’s decision not to allow him to brand the stores with his own name, and will likely press the U.S. government to apply pressure on Dubai to reverse its decision. Leviev has previously asserted that attacks on his business activities by Adalah-NY and other groups are “politically motivated” or impelled by anti-Semitism.

Ethan Heitner, a spokesman for Adalah-NY, which is composed almost equally of Arabs and anti-Zionist Jews, claimed primary credit for Dubai’s reversal of its earlier apparent willingness to allow Leviev to open his stores there. “Working in conjunction with activists in Dubai and Palestine, Adalah-NY sent out a press release calling for Dubai to boycott Leviev on the basis of his violations of international humanitarian law. … We’ve heard reports of UAE papers and officials receiving our press release from multiple sources and angry phone calls.”

Heitner said that even if Leviev ultimately succeeds in opening his new stores in Dubai under the “Levant” name, Adalah-NY will still have achieved a moral victory. “Before our boycott call … Leviev was proudly planning to open an eponymous flagship boutique in the tallest building in the world – a grand symbolic achievement for a titan of global capitalism. Now, that’s not going to happen.”

Lev Leviev appears to believe otherwise.

See also: “For Leviev, all that Glitters isn’t Gold,” NY Jewish Week, Feb. 20