Posted by: Lister | December 9, 2007

Leviev Diamonds

3rd protest calling for a boycott of Israeli settlement magnate Leviev. The headline is Alan Dershowitz’s shopping trip. But there’s a lot more to the article:

Wealthy Madison Avenue holiday shoppers were greeted Saturday afternoon by boisterous music and dancing, as 60 New Yorkers protested in a growing campaign to boycott Israeli diamond magnate Lev Leviev over his settlement construction in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. Participants performed a joyous dabke, a traditional Palestinian dance, and chanted to music from the eight-piece Rude Mechanical Orchestra. During the protest, Harvard professor Alan Dershowitz entered LEVIEV New York and emerged to jeers as he displayed a LEVIEV shopping bag to the crowd.

Saturday’s event was the third and largest protest outside LEVIEV New York since the store’s November 13 gala opening. The protesters highlighted Leviev’s abuse of marginalized communities in Palestine, Angola and New York. In the West Bank companies owned by Leviev have built homes in at least five Israeli settlements. These settlements carve the West Bank into disconnected bantustans, seize valuable Palestinian agricultural and water resources, and isolate Palestinian East Jerusalem from the rest of the West Bank, rendering the creation of a viable Palestinian state impossible. All Israeli settlements violate international law. Yesterday, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice warned Israel against its plans to build new homes in Har Homa, one of the settlements where Leviev’s company Danya Cebus is building.

[…] Participants were reminded of the breadth of Leviev’s abuses when a stream of cars decorated with Burmese flags and “Free Burma” banners drove by the protest honking their horns in support. In September, 2007 The Sunday Times in London reported that its undercover journalist was shown Burmese rubies for sale, allegedly “blood rubies” used to finance Myanmar’s military junta. UPI reported in October that Leviev was warned by the EU to stop doing business with Myanmar or face sanctions.

Protesters held signs saying, “Latkes not land theft”, and “Dreidels not demolition and “Candles not confiscation”.” Ethan Heitner of Adalah-NY explained, “I can think of no better way to celebrate Hanukah than to shine a light on the abuses Leviev is committing around the world.”

Leviev mines diamonds in close partnership with Angola’s repressive Dos Santos regime, and the security company Leviev employs in Angola has been accused of serious human rights abuses. In New York City, Shaya Boymelgreen, Leviev’s US partner until this summer, has been the target of a campaign by local groups for employing underpaid, non-union workers in hazardous conditions, and violating housing codes to construct luxury apartments that threaten to displace lower-income residents.

Via Jews Sans Frontiers.

Bush Increases Pressure on Myanmar:

The European Union (E.U.) specifically banned trading of gemstones with Myanmar on October 15. In addition to gemstones, the E.U. halted trading of metal and timber. Three top jewelry retailers were told to stop conducting business with Myanmar including Asprey, Harrods, and Leviev, according to UPI and Agence France-Presse. Leviev has since stated to the media that the company does not deal in gemstones from Myanmar.

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Responses

  1. ‘Blood’ rubies bankroll Burmese junta:

    Last week an undercover reporter from The Sunday Times requested items of jewellery containing Burmese rubies at stores in London.

    At the Leviev store in Old Bond Street, she was shown a £500,000 ring boasting a five-carat ruby set in diamonds. “Many collectors want Burmese [rubies],” said the sales assistant. “No one talks about diamonds any more, it’s all Burmese or coloured diamonds.”

    Just up the road at Asprey, a company established in 1781, the reporter was shown a one-carat ruby ring costing £10,000.

    On sale at the Cartier store in New Bond Street was a 3.18-carat ruby ring valued at £120,000. A sales assistant later e-mailed details of a 10.04-carat stone costing £1.2m.

    “This is currently the largest example of a fine Burmese ruby that we could show you,” he wrote. “It is currently part of a major exhibition in the Far East. However, it may be possible to view in the UK in the not-too-distant future.”

    At Harrods Diamonds, a franchise based in the Knightsbridge department store, rubies from Burma were described as “the best” — and those which are “pigeon blood” in colour the most prized.

    More than 90% of the world’s rubies come from Burma, but they are often cut and polished in third countries such as Thailand which means they are not classed as being of Burmese origin by customs officials.

    Because of this loophole, it is difficult to estimate how much the Burmese ruby market is worth in Britain.

    […] A spokesman for Asprey said: “We have known the majority of our suppliers for many years. To the very best of our knowledge, these suppliers are not involved in funding conflict and the stones have been manufactured in compliance with internationally recognised ‘best practice’ principles.”

    A spokesman for Harrods said products were “sourced by reputable companies adhering to internationally recognised legal and ethical guidelines”.

    “The stones are purchased and finished by the jewellery brands themselves before being offered for sale.”

    He added: “There would never be any intentional effort by our sales people to disguise the source of the stones . . . Harrods feels that it is up to the individual to make his or her own buying decisions based on their own philosophy and beliefs.”

    Cartier denied buying gems directly from Burma: “If we have any Burmese rubies in our pieces then they are vintage.” Leviev said it was unable to comment.

    See JSF.

  2. JSF, again, on anti-Leviev demonstrations on Valentines day.

  3. From JSF, UNICEF severs ties with Leviev:

    The UN children’s fund UNICEF has severed ties with an Israeli billionaire and financial backer due to his suspected involvement in building settlements in the West Bank, UNICEF said on Friday.

  4. Via JSF, the Independent reports on Fury over British embassy link to Jewish settlement-builder, dated Sept 2008.

    And now the news from Haaretz: U.K. embassy nixes move to building of company behind West Bank construction.

    Due to the public pressure, a special debate was held in the British parliament several months ago. Kim Howells, then minister of state at the Foreign Office charged with Middle East affairs, was asked to explain plans to move to the embassy into the building.

    Ambassador Tom Phillips requested details from Africa-Israel about the nature of its activities in the settlements, and a week ago, the British embassy in Tel Aviv received the information. As a result, plans to move into the tower were frozen.

    The embassy in Tel Aviv confirmed the details of the story and explained that its decision stemmed from the fact that Africa-Israel’s response regarding its involvement in settlement activity failed to assuage Britain’s concerns.

  5. From the Forward:

    Uzbekistan-born diamond mogul Lev Leviev announced late in August that his company, Africa-Israel, was drowning in debt of more than $5.5 billion that it could not repay.

    […] Watching Leviev’s precipitous downfall from the sidelines were pro-Palestinian activists. And they were cheering.

    Though certainly not the cause of his financial collapse, for the past two years, these activists have singled out Leviev as one of their high-profile villains for his large contributions to West Bank settlements. And they have been effective gadflies.

    […] Lately, the fruits of this focus on Leviev have been piling up. On Sept. 11 TIAA-CREF, the giant pension fund, announced that it had divested from Africa-Israel last March after 59 of the company’s investors accused it of being “a company which violates human rights and international law.” UNICEF and OXFAM denied Leviev’s public claims to have given them generous contributions and added that they would not accept contributions from him because of his financial support for West Bank settlements. Also, in the past few weeks, a couple of Africa-Israel’s largest investors have sold their stock in Leviev’s company after receiving pressure from their clients. Most notable was BlackRock, the British subsidiary of the major Wall Street banking firm, which announced that it was divesting following concerns expressed by three client Scandinavian banks.

    “Those aren’t small things,” said Andrew Kadi, a member of Adalah who is involved with the Leviev campaign. “People don’t completely grasp how serious it is when two of your top 10 or 12 shareholders divest. We’re talking about millions of dollars.”


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