Leviev’s Africa Israel Continues Settlement-Building, Contradicting 2010 Pledge


June 18, 2012, New York, NY -  
Adalah-NY released new photos today showing that Israeli billionaire Lev Leviev’s flagship company, Africa Israel (AI), continues to build Israeli settlements, despite a November 2010 AI statement that it was not involved in settlement construction. Adalah-NY also revealed that US pension giant TIAA-CREF, already the target of a campaign calling for divestment from Israeli occupation, has renewed its investments in AI after selling its shares in 2009. Campaigns targeting Leviev and TIAA-CREF are part of the growing movement for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel until it ends its violations of Palestinian rights.

Riham Barghouti from Adalah-NY explained, "Despite a facade of transparency, philanthropy, and glamour, Leviev's companies, including Africa Israel, continue to violate international law by building Israeli settlements and engaging in unethical business practices in Africa. Investors like TIAA-CREF, organizations like the Fashion Institute of Technology and the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, and celebrities like Daphne Guinness should boycott Leviev's companies rather than abetting their human rights abuses."

In November 2010—after governments, organizations, investors, and stars had distanced themselves from Africa Israel over its settlement construction—AI told the Israeli group Who Profits: “Neither the company nor any of its subsidiaries and/or other companies controlled by the company are presently involved in or has any plans for future involvement in development, construction or building of real estate in settlements in the West Bank."

However, photos released today by Adalah-NY of a construction site in the Israeli settlement of Gilo in occupied East Jerusalem show signs and construction equipment emblazoned with the name Danya Cebus, AI’s construction subsidiary. While there is no information about the Gilo settlement construction on either the AI or Danya Cebus English or Hebrew websites, little-noted press accounts from October 24, 2010, reported that Danya Cebus planned to build four 10-12 story apartment buildings in Gilo. In May 2012, a marketing representative for the project told Who Profits that three buildings are in advanced stages of construction, and the last building will be completed in May 2014. The construction of Israeli settlements in both the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem is considered a violation of international law.

Leviev’s companies have a long history of illegal real estate construction in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. From 2000-2008, Danya Cebus built homes in the settlements of Har Homa, Maale Adumim (two different projects), Adam, and in Mattityahu East on the land of the West Bank village of Bil’in. Another Leviev company, Leader Management and Development, continues to expand the settlement of Zufim on the land of the West Bank village of Jayyous.

Despite AI’s history of settlement construction, which has resulted in wide-ranging divestments and the distancing of celebrities and organizations from Leviev, recent reports show that TIAA-CREF has renewed its investment in AI. According to the 3/31/12 Schedules of Investment for the College Retirement Equities Fund, TIAA-CREF has invested $371,000 in Africa Israel Investments Ltd (see pg. 118). In September 2009, TIAA-CREF had announced that it no longer owned shares in AI. TIAA-CREF is the target of a campaign by US human rights groups that aims to persuade the retirement fund to divest from companies supporting Israeli human rights abuses. Among the other companies in TIAA-CREF's investment portfolio that profit from Israeli occupation are Caterpillar, Northrop Grumman, Motorola Solutions, Elbit Systems, and Veolia.

Leviev’s activities in the diamond industry in Angola and Namibia are also the target of renewed allegations of unethical business practices. Accusations of diamond smuggling by Lev Leviev Diamonds Namibia led the Namibian government to shut down Leviev’s operations and caused renewed labor strife. Leviev is also defending himself against a lawsuit in London for allegedly swindling his ex-business partner in Angola, Arkady Gaydamak, out of $1 billion. Human Rights Watch reported in May on persistent human rights abuses in Angola’s diamond mining region, where Leviev is a primary partner of the Angolan government. Abuses by governments like Angola and Zimbabwe have led watchdog groups to push to broaden the definition of "conflict diamonds," popularly known as "blood diamonds," to include diamonds tainted by human rights abuses committed by governments, rather than just those committed by rebel groups.