9 May 2009
On the day before Mother’s Day, 40 New York human rights advocates gathered at the Leviev jewelry store on Madison Avenue and called on throngs of weekend Madison Avenue shoppers to boycott Israeli diamond mogul Lev Leviev over his companies’ construction of Israeli settlements on Palestinian land in West Bank villages including Bil’in and Jayyous. Mother’s Day is one of the biggest jewelry shopping periods in the US annually. The New York protest came as controversy is growing in Norway over Norwegian government investments in Leviev’s company Africa-Israel. The New York protesters also commemorated Bassem Abu Rahma from Bil’in who was shot to death by Israeli soldiers last month during a peaceful protest against the construction on Bil’in’s land of Israel’s wall and of the Mattityahu East settlement by a Leviev company.http://blip.tv/play/8zyBgMAoiep1
Riham Barghouti of Adalah-NY explained, “Thousands of New Yorkers heard our message today that Leviev should not be allowed to exploit this holiday honouring mothers while his companies are ruining the lives of Palestinian mothers by stealing their land for Israeli settlements.” Alexis Stern from Adalah-NY added, “The government of the United Kingdom, UNICEF and Oxfam are all now boycotting Leviev. We’re calling on New Yorkers, and the government of Norway to join them.”
The Norwegian government is under increasing pressure to divest from its pension holdings in Leviev’s Africa-Israel. An April 28 article in the UK’s Guardian by Abe Hayeem of Architects and Planners for Justice in Palestine urged Norway to follow the UK’s example and sever its relationship with Leviev’s companies. The villages of Bil’in and Jayyous then wrote to Norwegian officials asking them to divest from Leviev’s companies, citing the devastating impacts of settlement construction on their villages’ agricultural land. This was followed by a May 5th letter from Adalah-NY and ten national and international organizations and networks from Europe, Palestine, Israel and the US calling on Norway to comply with its ethical guidelines for investment and divest.
During the New York Mother’s Day protest, the terrible impacts of Leviev’s settlement construction were brought home in a commemoration of Bassem Abu Rahma from Bil’in. Video from April 17th shows that Abu Rahma, a dedicated nonviolent activist, was participating in a peaceful protest in Bil’in against the settlement and the wall when he was suddenly shot directly in the chest with a teargas canister from a short distance by an Israeli soldier. One New York activist read aloud a tribute to Bassem written by his friend and colleague from Bil’in Mohammed Khatib. Two Jewish-Americans who have protested in Bil’in with Bassem then spoke of the courage of Bassem, of the people of Bil’in and of the millions of Palestinians confronting Israeli repression daily, and urged people in New York and around the world to stand with them.
Inspired by Bil’in’s four-year nonviolent campaign, that continues despite Bassem’s death and the injuring of 1,300 civilians, New York protesters chanted, “Your mama didn’t raise you that way, don’t buy from Leviev on Mother’s Day!” They passed out hundreds of copies of the cartoon flyer, Who Is Lev Leviev?, and carried signs saying, “Embrace moms, don’t displace moms.” Customers sitting outside at an upscale restaurant near Leviev’s store listened as protesters sang, “Mamas don’t let your babies grow up to build settlements,” and, to the tune of “Mama Said” by The Shirelles:
Mama said don’t build settlements,
don’t build on other people’s lands,
Mama said don’t buy diamonds,
from a guy with blood on his hands.
Leviev has also been criticized for human rights abuses in Angola where his companies mine diamonds.