Open Follow-up Letter to the Museum at FIT re Ties with Leviev

Dr. Joyce F. Brown
227 West 27 St. room C908
New York, NY 10001-5992

Valerie Steele
The Museum at FIT
227 West 27 St. room E304
New York, NY 10001-5992

December 8, 2011

Dear Dr. Brown and Ms. Steele,

We were pleased to learn by phone from FIT General Counsel Steve Tuttle and from media reports that you are actively pursuing the issues raised in our November 21 letter to you in which we called on FIT to sever ties with Lev Leviev, a funder of the Daphne Guinness exhibition at the Museum at FIT. As we documented, Leviev’s companies are involved in settlement construction in violation of international law in the Israeli-occupied Palestinian Territories and in human rights violations and unethical business practices in the diamond industry in Angola and Namibia.

We are writing to follow up on our original letter, and to offer more details about Leviev’s illegal and unethical practices in order to aid you in your decision.

As we previously noted Leviev owns the company Leader Management and Development (click for original Hebrew and translated English ownership documents), a company that is developing the settlement of Zufim on the land of the West Bank village of Jayyous, and on the land of other neighboring Palestinian villages. All Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank violate international law according to the United Nations, the International Court of Justice, nearly all governments worldwide, and all major human rights organizations, including Amnesty International (Pg. 182), Human Rights Watch  and the Israeli organization B’Tselem.

Leviev’s ownership of Leader Management and Development and Leader’s construction in Zufim settlement have also been confirmed by Who Profits, a project of Israel’s Coalition of Women for Peace, and by Israel’s Peace Now. Peace Now’s September 2011 report shows in an attached spreadsheet that settlement construction continues in Zufim (also spelled Tzofim).

According to Israel’s Ministry of Defense’s official Spiegel database for settlements from 2007, Leader and the Land Redemption Fund (see more on the Land Redemption Fund below) were responsible for establishing the settlement of Zufim and responsible for construction and infrastructure in the settlement (English translation).

You can now find on the Adalah-NY website (click here) photos from Zufim showing different signs for Leader in and near Zufim. The signs advertise Leader’s sale of settlement homes, developments and lots for settlement homes in Zufim, as well as Leader’s claims to own land in Zufim. The photos were taken on December 4, 2011, July 2009 and in 2008. A Hebrew language website advertisement for Leader’s activities in Zufim says, among other things, “We in Leader Company offer you developed lots for self-construction in diverse options that give you the opportunity to build your dream house.” In addition to settlement homes, examples of Leader’s role in building infrastructure for the growing settlement in recent years are documented in minutes from meetings of Zufim’s town council that are posted on Zufim’s website. This includes parts of the settlement’s commercial area, a multi-functional community center, youth clubs, emergency shelters, kindergartens, a water pump, a synagogue and some of the roads for Zufim.

Leader’s efforts to build over 1000 additional housing units as "North Zufim" (Pg 23) on Jayyous' land have only been forestalled for now by legal challenges and protests by the village of Jayyous.

According to a 2005 exposé in the Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahoronoth, Leviev is also a donor to a major settlement organization, the Land Redemption Fund (LRF), that that secures land, including the land for Zufim, from Palestinians for Israeli settlement expansion through covert and often coercive purchases involving Palestinian collaborators. The article reports, “The LRF has purchased in its own name approximately 20,000 dunam in Judea and Samaria [Israeli settlers’ term for the West Bank], most of it funded by money from right wing Jewish millionaires such as Lev Levayev…”  The article explains, "The LRF also was responsible for purchasing the land on which parts of Oranit near Kafr Kassem was built, and for Tzofim [Zufim] near Tzur Yigal. Hundreds of families, with the potential for expansion of thousands more housing units." This is confirmed in the Ministry of Defense’s Spiegel database from settlements.

Human rights abuses in the diamond industry, including in Angola where Leviev is a major partner of the Angolan government, have been the subject of worldwide attention in the last weeks. On November 24, 2011, leading Angolan researcher Rafael Marques published an opinion article for the Guardian (UK) Comment is Free noting that, “In the Lundas region, which produces over a billion dollars a year of revenue from its diamonds, the government and the mining companies regularly destroy subsistence farming and the livelihood of the local communities uprooted as a result of mining operations, without providing jobs or alternative means of subsistence.” While Marques’ article focuses on the role of Angola’s generals in human rights abuses, Marques has also reported on the mining companies that partner with Angola’s generals, including Leviev’s companies.

A June 2010 report in the Wall Street Journal by Michael Allen titled “The ‘Blood Diamond’ Resurfaces” focused on flaws in the Kimberley Process in Angola and cites Leviev’s companies as major players in Angola’s diamond mining region, the Lundas. The article explains, “A visit to Angola's diamond heartland reveals that plenty of blood still spills over those precious stones… a violent economy prevails in which thousands of peasant miners eke out a living searching for diamonds with shovels and sieves. Because they lack government permits, miners and their families say they are routinely beaten and shaken down for bribes by soldiers and private security guards—and, in extreme cases, killed.” The article notes the Kimberley Process focuses on human rights abuses committed by rebel groups, but “doesn't take into account human-rights abuses in diamond territory controlled by governments themselves” and that this loophole has “has plunged the Kimberley Process into the worst crisis in its brief history.” Allen says that while attention has focused on Zimbabwe, “In Angola, which far overshadows Zimbabwe in importance to the jewelry market, the Kimberley Process appears to have little appetite for human-rights issues.”

In a December 2008 article on Leviev’s operations in Angola in the Israeli financial journal Globes that was translated to English by Adalah-NY, Rafael Marques said, “The only people who really profit from the Kimberly Process are Leviev and Morris Templesman [another diamond man who purchases unprocessed diamonds] who use it for their own purposes and who get a cover for exploiting workers from the Kimberly Process."

On December 5, 2011, Global Witness, one of the nonprofits that played a central role in creating the Kimberley Process in order to stop the flow of blood diamonds, shocked the diamond world by announcing its withdrawal from the Kimberley Process. Global Witness explained, “The Kimberley Process’s refusal to evolve and address the clear links between diamonds, violence and tyranny has rendered it increasingly outdated.” While Global Witness cited Kimberley Process failures in Zimbabwe, Cote D’Ivoire and Venezuela in its justification, Angola researchers, as noted above, suggest that similar egregious failures apply there.

Based on this information on Leviev’s companies’ involvement in Israeli settlements and in the diamond industry, we reiterate our call for you to preserve FIT’s good name and good works, follow the examples set by Oxfam America, CARE, UNICEF, Norway, the United Kingdom, major investment firms and Hollywood stars, and disassociate the exhibition from Leviev.

Please let us know if you would like us to put you in touch with experts and researchers who can verify the information above if that would help you as you come to a decision on this crucial ethical and human rights issue.

We look forward to your response.

Thank you,

Patrick Connors and Alexis Stern
Adalah-NY: The New York Campaign for the Boycott of Israel (US)

Rae Abileah and Nancy Kricorian
CODEPINK Women for Peace (US)

Rebecca Vilkomersom
Jewish Voice for Peace (US)

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