NEW YORK, December 22, 2014 (WAFA) – A total of 40 New York human rights advocates protested on Saturday at the Israeli billionaire Lev Leviev’s flagship Madison Avenue diamond store, which is known for being complicit in the Israeli occupation and settlement activities in the West Bank.
The advocates had been gathering for eight years in a row around Christmas break to sing parody holiday carols, which express opposition against Leviev’s companies’ construction of Israeli settlements on Palestinian land in violation of international law.
The protesters arrived at the store to find it closed and the display cases completely emptied of all merchandise during the busiest shopping period of the year.
Hannah Mermelstein from Adalah-NY said in a press release, “Leviev’s billions have come from exploiting Palestinian and Angolan communities. So today we celebrate because it seems our years of holiday wishes have come true: Leviev’s store is empty.”
The Adalah-NY protestors sang anti-apartheid holiday classics with lines such as, “We wish you a loss of business, we wish you a loss of business, we wish you a loss of business and a poor fiscal year,” and “It’s beginning to look a lot like failure, at Leviev’s store.”
Neighboring stores’ staff the store was closed and sold while others said it was emptied of all merchandise the day before the protest. However, no reason was given for the sudden closure of the major store or whether it is temporary or permanent.
Leviev’s companies have been engaged in multiple legal battles with partners in the diamond industry.
Towards the end of the protest, pro-Israeli Rabbi Shmuley Boteach arrived at the protest and started yelling at the protestors saying that “Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East” and “Down with Hamas, down with the Palestinians.”
The protestors videotaped Boteach who was later drowned out by police away from the protest’s location. The protestors responded with chants of “How fancy, how pretty, Leviev out of New York City.”
According to the protestors’ testimony, Boteach expressed admiration for Hebron’s violent and racist settlers, who as OCHA reported commit crimes against Palestinians on regular basis such as, “Acts of vandalism, property damage, physical attacks, verbal abuse, and harassment of children on their way to school,” with the majority of crimes closed by the Israeli police with indictment.
The protest comes amid growing evidence that Leviev’s companies are feeling the boycott pressure, said Adalah-NY.
Leviev’s involvement in settlement construction through companies Africa Israel and Leader Management and Development continue to raise a lot of controversy.
Adalah-NY said, “Africa Israel and Leader Management and Development have built thousands of homes for Israeli settlers on Palestinian land in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.”
It added that Norway and the United Kingdom government, New Zealand’s Superannuation Fund, Oxfam America and UNICEF, as well as CARE and Hollywood stars chose to remain far away from Leviev’s companies over their record, which shows a huge amount of human rights violations.
According to media sources, Leviev said it will end building settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, which was proved to be a lie, leading to a further wave of boycotts.
In the diamond industry in Angola, Leviev’s mine security companies have been accused of acts of “humiliation, whipping, torture, sexual abuse, and, in some cases, assassinations.”
Adalah-NY is a part of the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement targeting Israel that is modeled on the international campaign that helped to end apartheid in South Africa.