Edition: 02 – March, 2008
Campaign against Leviev
The campaign against diamond tycoon Lev Leviev continues to move forward. Leviev initially was targeted by the Adalah-NY coalition for his involvement in funding Israeli settlement on Palestinian land in Jayyous, Bil’in and Jerusalem. Activists have engaged in awareness raising and have staged a number of protests in front of Leviev’s jewellery store in New York City. Protests have also been held at Leviev’s London store. Â
In Dubai, human rights have prevailed over profits, marking a success in the boycott campaign. According to a press release from Leviev, two diamond stores were to be opened this year in the Dubai Mall and the Atlantis Hotel. Following a campaign against these plans, Dubai officials have announced that no trade license has been granted to Leviev. Officials have also reiterated that it is illegal for Israeli businesspersons to open stores in Dubai, even if they attempt to do so through non-Israeli partners. Â
Under this storm, Leviev has been attempting to deflect criticism of his activities by drawing attention to his charitable contributions, particularly those that ostensibly show his support of human rights. This initially backfired when Oxfam distanced itself from Leviev after reports surfaced that he had contributed to the organization. Leviev is attempting a different avenue, this time through a donation to UNICEF. Adalah-NY initially confronted UNICEF this issue. The Palestinian Boycott National Committee (BNC) has issued an open letter to UNICEF, condemning the organizations willingness to accept money from a businessman actively involved in Israel’s colonial project.
To call on UNICEF to stop its relations with Lev Leviev, write to:
Mr. Chris de Bono
Senior Advisor, Communication
Office of the Executive Director
For information on the campaign, Dubai, and the full letter to UNICEF, click here, here or here.
Divest from Veolia
Veolia is one of the companies contracted by the Occupation government to construct the tramway system in Jerusalem. The tramway is meant to further solidify the illegal settlement ring around the city by linking illegal settlements with the core of Jerusalem. At the moment, Dutch SNS Bank has been confronted by activists and is contemplating divesting from Veolia. SNS Bank’s subsidiary, ASN, has already divested from the company. Â
For more information on Jerusalem and the tramline, see Stop the Wall, EI or CCDPRJ
Israeli business expanding in Europe
Tower Semiconductor, partially owned by Israel Corp., is expanding its business in the European market. [MORE]
Comverse Technology Inc., one of the largest producers of voice-mail software, won a contract from the Norwegian company Netcom. Comverse, initially an Israeli company, has moved many of its operations to the United States, although it still retains a number of offices in Israel, including R&D. The firm is experiencing legal trouble for defrauding investors. [MORE] and [MORE]
IBM is set to acquire Israeli startup FilesX Inc. According to Globes, IBM will pay between $70 and 90 million. IBM has also purchased another Israeli technology company, Diligent, for $165 million.
Alony Hetz investments in India
Alony Hetz Property and Investments Ltd. has signed a memorandum of understanding with a US investment fund for the purchase of a lot in Pune in India’s Maharashtra state for $25 million. Construction is expected to begin later this year and be completed in five years time. [MORE]
Israel Chemicals LTD. to expand production
According to Reuters, Israel Chemicals (ICL) aims to expand its production of potash and phosphate rock between 2008 and 2011 due to rising demand.
Israel Chemicals is a major producer and exporter of fertilizers and industrial products. In 2006, the company reported $1.45 billion (including ~$158 million in internal sales) revenue. ICL was privatized in 1994 (the government retains a 2% interest) and is part owned by the Israel Corporation (52%). ICL, which includes Dead Sea Works, operates primarily in the Dead Sea and Naqab (Negev) region.
The company finds its major markets in Western Europe (primarily England and Spain), Brazil, India and China. ICL also owns the transport company Mifalei Tovala, which it uses to operate low cost shipping to these countries. Additionally, it has potash and salt mining facilities in Spain and the UK.
ICL has been is involved in a number of harmful company practices. Its subsidiary, Dead Sea Works, harvests minerals from the Dead Sea using solar evaporation ponds. These ponds are responsible for 25-30% of the total evaporation of Dead Sea waters, an environmental disaster that has been getting worse for a number of years. The company also operates environmentally destructive machinery in the region and has been known to dump sewage and waste into the Dead Sea.
In the Naqab, ICL has a large operation in the Ramat Hovav industrial zone. This plant affects the nearby unrecognized Bedouin town of Wadi al-Ne’am. According to a 2004 Ministry of Health report cited in a recent Human Rights Watch report on Bedouin in the Naqab, rates of cancer and respiratory problems are abnormally high in the area, although the Israeli state has long denied the residents permission to relocate to a different, non-toxic location. The report states that the Israeli government refuses to allow the families of Wadi al-Ne’am, whose homes are under demolition threat, to move out of the toxic area of Ramat Hovav.
MILITARY AND ARMS TRADE NEWS
300+ Organizations call for cutting off military aid to Israel
The US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation delivered a letter signed by more than 300 US based organizations calling on the House Appropriations Subcommittee to cut off military aid to Israel on account of its repeated violations of the both the Foreign Assistance Act and the Arms Export Control Act. The signatories came from 25 national organization as well as local organizations from 40 states, the District of Columbia, and U.S. citizens living abroad and was delivered to the subcommittee one day prior to its hearing.
Bush’s FY2009 budget request includes $2.55 billion in military aid to Israel, a proposed 9% increase over actual spending in 2007. This is the proposed first installment of a ten-year Memorandum of Understanding to increase military aid to Israel by 25%, totaling $30 billion by FY2018.
Israeli Defence Contracts
According to Globes, Israel’s defense contracts, including deliveries to be spread over several years, reached $5.1 billion in 2007, up from $4.8 billion in 2006 and $3.4 billion in 2005. [MORE]
In a visit to Israel, the Czech defence minister stated that the Czech Republic is in favour of Israel joining NATO. The minister also stated that the Czech government may be interested in purchasing weapon systems from Israel. [MORE]
Elbit Systems Ltd.
Elbit Systems Ltd. unit Electro-Optics Elop Ltd. has won a multi-year contract from Lockheed Martin to supply technical equipment for the F-16 aircraft. Deliveries will begin immediately, with an initial $3.8 million order. Elbit Systems is a large Israeli company that specializes in defense electronics and is one of the firms responsible for the construction of the Wall in Palestine. Among other international deals with America and the UK, it has been contracted by the US Department of Homeland Security to help develop systems for the US’s Mexico Wall. [MORE]
US Army and Israeli firms
The United States Army has made two deals with Israeli firms. The first is Expand Networks, whose main development operations are based in Tel Aviv, and is expected to facilitate communications between soldiers on the ground and coordinators. The second, with Israeli firm Rabintex Industries, was for ambulances but has been delayed. Rabintex has recently entered into a four-year, $17 million contract with the IDF. [MORE]
FREE TRADE AND GOVERNMENT AGREEMENTS
Norwegian Government involvement with Israel Electric Company
Norwegian Peoples’ Aid and the Norwegian Minister of Finance, Kristin Halvorsen, have called on the Council of Ethics in the Government Pension Fund to reopen the divestment case against the Israel Electric Company (IEC) on account of the recent power cuts to the population of Gaza. The Government Pension Fund has around $20 million invested in the IEC. The IEC, which is 99.8% is owned by the Israeli state, is known for providing electricity for illegal West Bank settlements and has been responsible for cutting power to Gaza on several occasions.
It is not the first time the request for divestment from the IEC has been discussed in the council. Two years ago the Council of Churches reported the company to the council for divestment because the IEC was involved in providing electricity to illegal settlements in the West Bank. Even though the IEC violated the human rights standards of the ethics council, divestment was not carried out. The investigation done at the time was neither thorough nor professional and the conclusions that were published showed a shocking lack of understanding of the situation on the West Bank. For example, in the statement to the Norwegian Government, the council bizarrely stated that infrastructure constructed by the IEC for settlements would benefit both Palestinians and settlers.
Given the lack of competent information gathering displayed by the council, both the Norwegian Peoples Aid and Socialist Youth League in Norway have been involved in collecting data in Palestine as well as engaging in awareness raising in Norway to further the case for divestment. Furthermore, many Norwegian cities that have relations with cities in Gaza have sent letters to the Council of Ethics asking for divestment from the IEC.
Opposing Mercosur-Israel FTA
The fight against the Mercosur-Israel FTA continues in Brazil. Efforts are being made to incorporate more MPs into the Parliamentarian Front, which is a formal group of MPs that oppose the implementation of the FTA. The campaign has also received support from the Municipal Council of SÃ£o Bernardo, located in the industrial outskirts of SÃ£o Paulo.
Additionally, the FTA agreement will be debated next week in the SÃ£o Paulo Legislative Council. The debate, which will be broadcasted, will take place between 2 deputies, a pro-Israel spokesperson and a member of the campaign against the FTA. This legislative council is largest and most important council in the state of SÃ£o Paulo.
For more information on the anti-FTA campaign, see: here and here.
Israel-Italy civil aviation agreement
In the beginning of April, Italy and Israel agreed to increase the number of scheduled weekly flights between the two countries. Minister of Transport Shaul Mofaz is reported as stating that the agreement is aimed at liberalizing Israel’s aviation market. He also said that this summer should see a 20% increase in the number of flights to Israel.
Additionally, the Vatican has started offering a number of additional flights to Israel. Romana Opera, the official travel agency of the Vatican, is chartering planes from Mistral Air. According to YNET, the Israeli Tourism Ministry’s has made an effort to draw Catholic pilgrims to Israel, resulting in a 70% increase in tourism from Italy. [MORE] and [MORE]
Trade and economic cooperation with African states
From the 28th of April through the 1st of May, Israeli officials will meet with government leaders from Liberia, Rwanda, Burundi and Benin to sign documents aimed at promoting commercial and economic cooperation between the four states and Israel. The conference was organized by a number of Israeli ministries, including The Federation of Israeli Chambers of Commerce (ICC), the Manufacturers’ Association of Israel (MAI), and the Israel Export & International Cooperation Institute (IEICI). President Shimon Peres is expected to be present.
The business congress, which will be held in Jerusalem, will include around 500 international businessmen along with members from the International Christian Chamber of Commerce (ICCC). Private business is to be promoted between Israeli, African and other companies. Globes estimates that new business deals will total around $150 million dollars. [MORE]
India-Israel oil pipeline
Top Oil Ministry officials and senior executives of state-owned refiners who look after crude procurement and shipping operations for their companies held talks with representatives of Eilat-Ashkelon Pipeline Company.