Israeli ‘Blood Diamond’ at the Oscars

By Adalah-NY

Lev Leviev, the Israeli settlement builder and diamond mogul who has been accused of supporting human rights abuses in Angola, Burma, New York City and Palestine, is lending his jewelry to some attendees of the 80th annual Academy Awards this Sunday. The jewelry loan was reported by Warner Brothers ExtraTV. Leviev has made a concerted effort to associate himself and his businesses with global elites, but a barrage of negative publicity related to these rights abuses has tarnished Leviev’s image, suggesting that, as NY Jewish Week wrote recently, "For Leviev, All that Glitters Isn’t Gold." Human rights campaigners from Adalah-NY have pledged to contact Academy Award organizers and attendees to voice their concerns over Leviev’s involvement.

The annual Hollywood ceremony had been jeopardized by a protracted strike of the Writers Guild, which had been denied a share of revenue generated by their work online. Ironically, Leviev himself has also been at the center of labor disputes in New York City involving unpaid wages. Workers at construction sites co-owned by Leviev and Shaya Bolmelgreen in New York City have filed suits over withheld wages, and, according to the Laborers Union, have complained of dangerous work conditions, allegedly resulting in accidents and serious injuries.

Sadly, just one year after the film Blood Diamond was nominated for five Oscars, there is a chance that tainted Angolan diamonds that bypass the Kimberley Process which aims to eliminate trade in "conflict diamonds" will be worn by stars at the Academy awards. According to the 2007 "Diamond Industry Annual Review" for Angola produced by the watchdog organization Partnership Africa Canada (PAC), "the Angolan Kimberley System has no way of tracking" more than 10% of Angola’s "diamonds back to source." As a result, there are "more than a million carats per year exiting Angola… with the murkiest credentials." Leviev, who buys, polishes and sells Angolan diamonds, is directly involved in these failings. Furthermore, private security companies employed by Leviev in the mining districts in northeast Angola have been accused by Angolan human rights monitor Rafael Marques of "humiliation, whipping, torture, sexual abuse, and, in some cases, assassinations." Leviev has close ties with Angola’s repressive and corrupt Dos Santos regime which has failed to hold elections since 1992.

Leviev’s companies have also built homes in at least five Israeli settlements on Palestinian land in the Israeli-occupied West Bank in violation of international law. The settlements that Leviev has built seize vital resources and divide Palestinian territories into isolated enclaves, destroying hopes for the creation of a viable Palestinian state.

Leviev became involved in a flap with the international charity Oxfam after the New York human rights coalition Adalah-NY contacted Oxfam on January 8 following media reports that Oxfam had accepted support from Leviev. In response, Oxfam stated publicly that Leviev had never been an Oxfam donor, nor would they accept donations from any individual who constructs settlements in occupied territory in contravention of international humanitarian law. Twenty days after Adalah-NY raised the issue, an article which claimed that Leviev donated to Oxfam was finally removed from the news site belonging to an organization of which Leviev is the president.

After attending the gala opening of Leviev’s first US diamond store in Manhattan, actress Susan Sarandon was approached by Israeli, Palestinian and US human rights organizations urging her to cut ties with the billionaire. An open letter sent to Sarandon from the US-based Jewish Voice for Peace noted Leviev’s alleged misdeeds in Angola, Burma, and New York, as well as in the Occupied Palestinian Territories saying: "Leviev’s strong support of the settlements seriously compromises any efforts at a just peace in the region. His efforts to expropriate more lands from Palestinians, using both financial and strong-arm tactics, greatly increase Palestinian suffering. . . As Jews who yearn and work for a just peace for Palestinians and Israelis, we implore you to take a public stand against Leviev."

(The above release was issued by the Adalah-NY: The Coalition for Justice in the Middle East)

(The Palestine Chronicle is a registered 501(c)3 organization, thus, all donations are tax deductible.)
Our Vision For Liberation: Engaged Palestinian Leaders & Intellectuals Speak Out