Dr. Joyce F. Brown
New York, NY
The Museum at FIT
New York, NY
November 21, 2011
Dear Dr. Brown and Ms. Steele,
As groups committed to human rights in the Middle East we were concerned to read reports and find confirmation on your website that the Fashion Institute of Technology recently accepted a grant from the LVD Foundation, which is headed by businessman Lev Leviev. Evidently, Leviev’s funding is being used to finance an exhibition of British designer Daphne Guinness’ clothing at the Museum at FIT.
We expect that you were not aware that Lev Leviev’s companies have become notorious for their involvement in Israeli settlement construction in violation of international law in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, and for human rights violations and questionable business practices in the diamond industry in southern Africa. Because of this many respected organizations - including Oxfam America, CARE and UNICEF; governments - including Norway and the United Kingdom; major investment firms and Hollywood stars have all sought distance from Leviev’s companies.
Leviev’s companies have long histories of building Israeli settlements on occupied Palestinian land. Though a year ago Leviev’s company Africa Israel announced that it had no plans to build Israeli settlements, presumably in response to pressure, today Leviev’s company Leader Management and Development continues to build hundreds of housing units in the settlement of Zufim on the land of the West Bank Palestinian village of Jayyous. Leviev’s settlement construction is separating Palestinian families from their farmland, and impoverishing this once thriving agricultural community.
Leviev’s companies have a history of involvement in human rights abuses in the diamond industry in Angola. Leviev works in close partnership with that country’s repressive and corrupt government. The Angolan government also fails to respect the Kimberley Process which was put in place to stop the worldwide trade in conflict diamonds. In the diamond industry in Namibia, Leviev’s company fired around 200 striking, low-wage factory workers in 2008, and this year his employees in Namibia have been accused of trading in illicit diamonds.
We expect that FIT’s mission of providing its students with “a global perspective” includes encouraging respect for global human rights. Therefore, like the other organizations and governments that sought distance from Leviev, we feel confident that you do not wish to tarnish the good name and the good works of the Fashion Institute of Technology by associating yourself with Lev Leviev’s companies’ human rights violations and questionable business practices. We call on FIT to return all funds received from the LVD Foundation and sever any ties to the Foundation and Lev Leviev.
Attached is more detailed information on the role of Leviev’s companies in Israeli settlement construction, and in human rights violations and questionable business practices in the diamond industry. We would be happy to meet with you to discuss this information further.
Patrick Connors and Alexis Stern
Adalah-NY: The New York Campaign for the Boycott of Israel (US)
Rae Abileah and Nancy Kricorian
CODEPINK Women for Peace (US)
Jewish Voice for Peace (US)
1Middle East Media, Leviev Announces Charitable Initiative, September 16, 2011
3Hollywood Pinups Statement, Oxfam America, November 2008
4CARE Trustee Takes Leave Over Israeli Settlements, Chronicle of Philanthropy, September 2010
5UNICEF Cuts Ties to Israeli Billionaire Leviev, Reuters, June 2008
6Three Companies Excluded from Government Pension Fund Global, Norwegian Government Ministry of Finance, August 2010
7UK Embassy Cancels Move in Tel Aviv, The Jerusalem Post, March 2009
8Stars Photos Removed from Leviev Website as Celebs Seek Distance from Rights Abuser, Adalah-NY, December 2008
9Israeli Holding Company Africa Israel Claims It Will Not Build in Settlements, Coalition of Women for Peace, November 2010
10May 2011 photo of Zufim construction taken by Jayyous resident
11Meet the Mogul: The Putin Pal who just bought the old New York Times building, New York Magazine, Ben Smith, May 7, 2007; Ben Smith's article refers to a report posted by the UK-based Business and Human Rights Resource Centre about the Angolan diamond industry, including Leviev, by Angolan human rights activists Rafael Marques, and Leviev's formal response to that report. The Business and Human Rights Resource Centre also outlined the process for soliciting diamond industry responses
122009 Diamond Industry Annual Review, Partnership Africa Canada
13MUN Blamed for Diamond Impasse, The Namibian, Denver Isaacs, July 14, 2008
14LLD Gems Probe Widens, Denver Kisting, The Namibian, August 17, 2011; Dispute in Leviev Group Over Alleged Namibian Gem Swap, Ha’aretz Daily, November 17, 2011