On the day before Motherâs Day, 40 New York human rights advocates gathered at the Leviev jewelry store on Madison Avenue and called on throngs of weekend Madison Avenue shoppers to boycott Israeli diamond mogul Lev Leviev over his companiesâ construction settlements on Palestinian land in West Bank villages including Bilâin and Jayyus. Motherâs Day is one of the biggest jewelry shopping periods in the US annually. The New York protest came as controversy is growing in Norway over Norwegian government investments in Levievâs company Africa-Israel. The New York protesters also commemorated Basem Abu Rahma from Bilâin who was killed last month at a protest against the Wall, which is isolating land from the village for the Leviev-financed Mattityahu East settlement.
Gathered in front of Leviev’s New York store, protesters chanted, âYour mama didnât raise you that way, donât buy from Leviev on Motherâs Day!â They passed out hundreds of copies of the cartoon flyer, Who Is Lev Leviev?, and carried signs saying, “Embrace moms, don’t displace moms.” Customers sitting outside at an upscale restaurant near Levievâs store listened as protesters sang, âMamas donât let your babies grow up to build settlements.â
Riham Barghouti of Adalah-NY explained, âThousands of New Yorkers heard our message today that Leviev should not be allowed to exploit this holiday honouring mothers while his companies are ruining the lives of Palestinian mothers by stealing their land for Israeli settlements.â Alexis Stern from Adalah-NY added, âThe government of the United Kingdom, UNICEF and Oxfam are all now boycotting Leviev. Weâre calling on New Yorkers, and the government of Norway to join them.â
The Norwegian government is under increasing pressure to divest from its pension holdings in Levievâs Africa-Israel. An April 28 article in the UKâs Guardian by Abe Hayeem of Architects and Planners for Justice in Palestine urged Norway to follow the UKâs example and sever its relationship with Leviev’s companies. The villages of Bilâin and Jayyus then wrote to Norwegian officials asking them to divest from Levievâs companies, citing the devastating impacts of settlement construction on their villagesâ agricultural land. This was followed by a May 5th letter from Adalah-NY and ten national and international organizations and networks calling on Norway to comply with its ethical guidelines for investment and divest.
During the New York Motherâs Day protest, the terrible impacts of Levievâs settlement construction were brought home in a commemoration of Basem Abu Rahma from Bilâin. Video from April 17th shows that Abu Rahma was participating in a protest in Bilâin against the settlement and the Wall when he was suddenly shot directly in the chest with a teargas canister. One New York activist read aloud a tribute to Basem written by his friend and colleague from Bilâin Mohammed Khatib. Two Jewish-Americans who have protested in Bilâin with Basem then spoke of the courage of Basem, of the people of Bilâin and of the millions of Palestinians confronting Israeli repression daily, and urged people in New York and around the world to stand with them.