A Palestinian human-rights organisation has convinced Unicef to reject further financial support from the billionaire diamonds entrepreneur Lev Leviev, whose construction company builds in Israeli settlements.
New York-based Adalah has been pressing for a consumer boycott against the Russian-born Israeli’s jewellery shops since the Denya-Sibos construction company, controlled by his Africa-Israel group, began building houses in three areas of the West Bank.
Mr Leviev had sponsored Unicef fundraising events in France. Over the years, the children’s foundation has received both direct and indirect funding from Mr Leviev, who moved to London last year.
Adalah-NY said the rejection followed a meeting in which it presented Unicef with letters from Palestinian communities advocating a boycott of his companies.
It added that Unicef officials visited Jayyous, a Palestinian community near Kalkilya, where it claims a Leviev company is building another Israeli settlement.
Unicef spokesman Christopher De Bono said: “Unicef took this decision based on due diligence it undertook on Mr Leviev and his corporate entities, following a series of enquiries from civil-society organisations. This diligence revealed that Mr Leviev’s corporate entities are controversial and are engaged in gambling and in construction work in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.”
Asked how this tied in with Unicef’s goal to “cultivate policy positions on a wide range of issues that affect children”, he said: “Tests we use to determine whether a person is a suitable partner are designed to achieve this, and to preserve the integrity of the organisation.”
Ethan Heitner, spokesman for Adalah-NY said: “All Israeli settlements violate international law and Palestinian rights, impoverish Palestinians and destroy hopes for peace. Boycott actions to stop settlements are therefore essential. ”
Dani Carmon, deputy head of Israel’s UN delegation in New York, said: “Israel has been active and donates annually to the UN and its branches, among which is Unicef, and it will not accept boycotting the state of Israel or any other Israeli company.”
According to aides, Mr Leviev has profited from the recent controversy. Efforts by Palestinian lobby groups to boycott his diamond shops led to a wave of “sympathy purchases”.