Leviev’s Companies’ Involvement in Human Rights Violations & Questionable Practices

November 21, 2011

Leviev’s Israeli Settlement Construction: From 1999 onward Leviev’s companies Africa Israel and Leader Management and Development have announced plans to build approximately 5000 housing units in the Israeli-occupied West Bank in violation of international law in Israeli settlements including Maale Adumim, Har Homa,[1] Adam,[2] Ariel,[3] Mattityahu East[4] and Zufim.[5] Some of these announced construction plans were not implemented, mostly due to protests and legal challenges by Palestinian and Israeli civil society groups. Other settlements were built by Leviev’s companies with devastating impacts on Palestinian communities in the regions of Bethlehem and East Jerusalem, and in Palestinian villages like Bil’in and Jayyous. The West Bank communities of Bil’in andJayyous have become well-known worldwide for their long nonviolent campaigns of protests and legal challenges attempting to prevent the construction of Leviev’s settlements on their farmland.

All Israeli settlements violate international law, specifically the 4th Geneva Convention, and are a major obstacle to peace in the region. They seize vital Palestinian residential and farmland, devastating communities, and they carve the Occupied West Bank into disconnected islands, restricting employment, education, health care and normal life.

Today Leviev’s company, Leader Management and Development, continues to build and manage the settlement of Zufim on the land of the West Bank village of Jayyous.[6] Israeli sources told Adalah-NY in November 2011 that hundreds of new settlement homes have been built in Zufim in the last few years,[7] and that construction continues. Palestinians from Jayyous have seen new water and sewage lines installed, as well as new Israeli government planning maps, suggesting even more settlement expansion is being prepared on Jayyous land. Leader and the Israeli government are seizing the village’s farmland and water resources to build the settlement, which is secured by Israel’s West Bank wall, with devastating impacts on the once prosperous farming village.[8]

In November 2010, Leviev’s company Africa Israel announced that it had no plans to build further settlements,[9] presumably in response to the many organizations, governments, investment firms and stars that had distanced themselves from Leviev. However, the ambiguous language used by Africa Israel[10] in commenting on its own statement that it had no plans to build settlements mean that continued vigilance is required to monitor if Africa Israel restarts settlement construction.

Leviev’s Companies’ Abuses in the Diamond Industry in Angola and Namibia: Leviev’s companies have also been involved in human rights violations and questionable business practices in Angola and Namibia. In Angola, Leviev's close partnership in the diamond trade with Angola’s President Dos Santos supports a repressive and corrupt regime.[11] Angolan human rights activist Rafael Marques explains that, "The diamond trade has flourished on the back of a socio-economic system based on opacity, extreme violence, and exploitation."[12] New York Magazine reported in 2007 that, "A security company contracted by Leviev was accused this year by a local human-rights monitor [Rafael Marques] of participating in practices of 'humiliation, whipping, torture, sexual abuse, and, in some cases, assassinations.' Leviev's formal response to the report did not directly address the abuses but touted his charitable activities in Angola.'"[13] Similar accusations in Angola, along with weak rebuttals from Leviev, were again the subject of a December 4, 2008 expose in the Israeli financial newspaper Globes.[14] Also, according to 2007 and 2008 reports by the non-governmental watchdog Partnership Africa Canada, Angola and by extension close partners like Leviev, have together failed to fully comply with the Kimberley process, which aims to eliminate conflict diamonds.[15] PAC's 2009 Diamond Industry Annual Review reports that, "Several reports from Partnership Africa Canada have further illustrated Angola’s complete inability to track its artisanal diamonds from source to sale, putting it in contravention of its KP commitments."[16]

The government of Angola, Leviev’s partner, continues to systematically repress its citizens. As just one recent example, a September 14, 2011 Human Rights Watch (HRW) report said that the Angolan authorities were pressing “politically motivated charges against 18 people who were convicted after unfair trials for their participation in an anti-government demonstration in Luanda.” HRW further explained that, “On September 3, 2011, police agents and groups of unidentified men apparently allied to the authorities violently dispersed an anti-government rally involving several hundred protesters in Luanda… There are credible accounts that plainclothes security agents infiltrated the demonstration and committed violence.”

In Namibia, where Leviev operates a diamond polishing factory, in the summer of 2008, Leviev fired around 200 striking diamond polishers,[17] some of whom were already struggling to survive on less than $2 (US) per day,[18] the threshold set for poverty worldwide, and approximately 50% of the prevailing average Namibian minimum wage for all major sectors.[19]

More recently in Namibia, according to Namibian[20] and Israeli[21] media reports, Interpol and the Namibian police are investigating an alleged international diamond theft syndicate operating out of Leviev’s Namibian offices. The investigation began after an Israeli employee of Leviev’s was caught with diamonds of unknown origin. The newspaper The Namibian reported that, “The Interpol representative in Namibia, Chief Inspector Immanuel Sam, said that Interpol has made ‘significant progress’ and that ‘there are a few countries involved’ apart from Namibia and Israel, but declined to name them. He said it was ‘a matter of time’ before an arrest was made.”[22] The Israeli newspaper, Ha’aretz Daily reported on November 17, 2011, that the key Israeli figure in the affair says he was told by Leviev’s people “to leave Namibia immediately, and if caught, to say the stones were Namibian.”[23]

1 See various sources via Adalah-NY

2 See Globes, June 2003, via Adalah-NY

3 See excerpt from Israel Business Today, June 1999, via Adalah-NY

4 See various sources via Adalah-NY

5 New Yorkers Protest Settlement-builder Leviev, Call for Mothers Day Jewelry Boycott, May 2011

6 See Israeli government documents secured by Israel’s Coalition of Women for Peace showing Leviev’s ownership of Zufim in Hebrewand English

7 May 2011 photo of Zufim construction taken by Jayyous resident

8 Palestinian Farmers Fear Advance of West Bank Wall, Financial Times, September 2006

9 Israeli Holding Company Africa Israel Claims It Will Not Build in Settlements, Coalition of Women for Peace, November 2010

10 In a follow-up article in the Israeli publication the NRG Online in Hebrew, Africa Israel said that the statement was "a description of the business today" and that "Africa Israel builds for all the public in Israel, and does not deal in politics or any other policy."

11 For more information on Leviev in Angola see the Adalah-NY website. In 2010 Angola was classified among the most corrupt countries in the world in Transparency International's Corruption Perception's Index, ranking 168th out of 178 countries.

12 Lundas: The Stones of Death, 2004

13 Meet the Mogul: The Putin Pal who just bought the old New York Times building, New York Magazine, Ben Smith, May 7, 2007; Ben Smith's article refers to a report posted by the UK-based Business and Human Rights Resource Centre about the Angolan diamond industry, including Leviev, by Angolan human rights activists Rafael Marques, and Leviev's formal response to that report. The Business and Human Rights Resource Centre also outlined the process for soliciting diamond industry responses

14 See the English translation via Adalah-NY

15 2009 Diamond Industry Annual Review, Partnership Africa Canada; 2008 Diamond Industry Annual Review, Partnership Africa Canada; Diamond Industry Annual Review: Republic of Angola, 2007, Partnership Africa Canada

16 2009 Diamond Industry Annual Review, Partnership Africa Canada

17 MUN Blamed for Diamond Impasse, The Namibian, Denver Isaacs, July 14, 2008

18 Striking LLD Workers Suspended, New Era, John Ekongo, June 20, 2008

19 The Wage Bargaining Report: 2005, Labor Resource and Research Institute

20 LLD Gems Probe Widens, The Namibian, Denver Kisting, August 17, 2011

21 Interpol probes Leviev's Namibian diamond factory, Globes, August 18, 2011

22 Kisting, 2011

23 Dispute in Leviev Group Over Alleged Namibian Gem Swap, Ha’aretz Daily, November 17, 2011

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