To view original article, published by Gulf News on the 19th September, click here
Tel Aviv: The chosen location for the new UK embassy in Tel Aviv has proven controversial, with human rights activists arguing that it contravenes the country’s policy towards Jewish colonies on Palestinian land.
Palestinian rights activists in the UK, Israel and beyond have been pressuring the British Foreign Office to revoke its decision to rent the embassy venue from diamond mogul and notorious Jewish colony builder Lev Leviev.
Abe Hayeem, founder of the UK-based Architects & Planners for Justice in Palestine, wrote in The Guardian earlier this month that renting from a Leviev owned company sends Israel “the wrong message”.
“Rewarding Leviev with the contract for our new embassy shows that Her Majesty’s government is not serious about stopping Israeli settlements. Rather than mouthing admirable but empty platitudes about freezing settlements, for the sake of all Israelis and Palestinians, let us apply serious sanctions to stop Israel expanding illegal colonies and the Wall, and take our business elsewhere,” he wrote.
News of the new UK embassy location was followed by a letter writing campaign to the Foreign Office by eight advocacy groups and prominent opponents of Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories, according to New York based Adalah.
Ex-BBC Middle East Correspondent Tim Llewelyn wrote to the Foreign Office that, “If this goes ahead it makes a nonsense of Gordon Brown’s pledges to Palestinian prime minister Abu Mazen.”
Lawyers for Palestinian Human Rights, chaired by Daniel Machover, warned that renting space from Leviev’s company, “would be tantamount to condoning Israel’s colony building, supporting clear violations of international law, in some cases amounting to grave breaches of the Fourth Geneva Convention” and “in violation of third party obligations”.
US academic Norman Finkelstein said that, “It would be regrettable if the British government elects to collaborate with someone involved in on-going war crimes.”
The Foreign Office has responded with an email saying that “no decision on a site has been taken and no leases have been signed,” and that “colonies contravene international law,” according to advocacy groups, but activists said the statement was not enough and the office should explicitly state not to rent from Leviev.
British charity organisation Oxfam and the UN Children’s Fund Unicef have both recently stated that they will not accept donations from Leviev due to his companies’ construction of Israeli colonies. The Arab League told Gulf News earlier that it will consider placing Leviev and his companies on the body’s boycott list.