By Mohammad Sabry
CAIRO – A decision to allow Israeli billionaire and diamond magnate Lev Leviev, notorious for funding settlement construction in the occupied Palestinian lands, to open jewelry stores in Dubai has shocked pro-Palestine advocates.
"We want people to put pressure on Lev Leviev to stop funding settlement building in the Palestinian lands," Issa Ayoub, spokesman for the Coalition for Justice in the Middle East (Adalah-NY), told IslamOnline.net over the phone from New York.
Lev Leviev Diamonds has won approval from the government of Dubai to open two jewelry stores this year.
One of the stores will in the Burj Dubai Mall, the world’s biggest mall, under the world’s tallest building.
The other will be located in the lobby of the new Atlantis hotel resort on the Jumeirah Palm Island, currently scheduled to open in September 2008.
The diamond magnate, who has served in the Israeli army, already has a concession in Levant Jewellers which opened in the lobby of al-Qasr Hotel in the Madinat Jumeirah area of Dubai in March.
Leviev, ranked 210 among the world’s richest people, is a major financer of Jewish settlements in the occupied Palestinian lands.
His company Danya Cebus, a subsidiary of Africa-Israel, subcontracted the building of Mattityahu East settlement on the land of the Palestinian village of Bil’in.
It is also build housing units in Har Homa and Maale Adumim settlements, cutting occupied East Jerusalem from the West Bank.
Leviev’s company Leader is also building the settlement of Zufim on the land of the West Bank village of Jayyous.
The Israeli billionaire is also a major contributor to the Land Redemption Fund, a Jewish group accused of intimidation and strong-arms tactics to secure Palestinian lands for settlement construction.
There are more than 164 Jewish settlements in the West Bank, eating up more than 40 percent of the occupied territory.
The international community considers all Jewish settlements on occupied Palestinian land illegal.
Adalah-NY, a grassroots alliance of concerned organizations and individuals in New York formed to demand an immediate, unconditional, and permanent end to US and US-sponsored Israeli aggressions, is championing a boycott campaign.
"We want people to boycott Leviev to push him stop giving money to right-wing Jewish groups," said Ayoub.
Abdullah Abu-Rahma from the Palestinian village of Bil’in said allowing the Israeli billionaire to open stores in Dubai, a world’s hub of Jewelry trading, would mean more support to the Jewish settlements.
"Leviev’s companies are destroying the olive groves and farms that have sustained our villages for centuries, and are profiting from human rights abuses," he told IOL over the phone.
"We want all people and governments to boycott this billionaire."
Jewish and Palestinian activists have been staging rallies outside a Leviev-owned jewelry store in New York City to protest his support to settlement building.
The Jews Against the Occupation-NYC has urged Dubai authorities to join an international campaign to boycott Leviev’s companies.
Protests have also been staged in the Palestinian villages of Bil’in and Jayyous.
"We say to all Arabs in the UAE that allowing this billionaire to open stores in their country would mean that they are helping him confiscate our lands to build settlements," said Abu-Rahma.