While Valentine’s Day weekend is usually a time to buy jewelry or beauty products for your spouse, Palestine solidarity activists in New York used the occasion as an impetus to further the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement targeting Israel.
Dozens of activists gathered outside billionaire Lev Leviev’s high-end jewelry store in Manhattan February 13, calling for a boycott of the store because Leviev’s companies construct illegal Jewish-only settlements in occupied Palestine.
And CODEPINK’s Stolen Beauty campaign—which targets beauty products made by Ahava because the company’s products exploit Palestinian natural resources and are built in an illegal settlement in the West Bank—urged activists to contact Ricky’s NYC to call on the beauty store to cease carrying products made by Ahava.
The Stolen Beauty campaign’s suggested letter to the owner of Ricky’s NYC reads in part:
It’s almost Valentine’s Day. Please have a heart! Stop carrying AHAVA Cosmetics at Ricky’s NYC.
Ahava promises “Beauty Secrets from the Dead Sea.” But wait until you hear those secrets! Because Ahava is hiding the ugly truth—its products come from stolen Palestinian natural resources in the Occupied West Bank, and are produced in the illegal settlement of Mitzpe Shalem. Don’t let the “Made in Israel” sticker fool you—when you buy Ahava you help finance the destruction of hope for a peaceful and just future for both Israelis and Palestinians.
Outside of the Leviev jewelry store at 700 Madison Ave., members of Adalah-NY: The Coalition for Justice in the Middle East, held up anti-occupation signs and chanted, “How fancy, how pretty, Leviev out of New York City!” and “Buy from Lev for Valentine, you’ll help erase more Palestine.” Humorous renderings of popular songs were turned into anti-occupation anthems: Beyonce’s “Single Ladies” became “Single BDS Ladies” complete with dancing and a chorus that sang, “it’s apartheid so you shouldn’t put a ring on it,” and “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend” became “Diamond’s Are a Crime’s Best Friend." Here’s a video of three activists doing their rendition of Beyonce’s hit:
“One of the things that we do is make sure that we are outside of his store on big shopping days so that we can send a message to all of the people passing by that they shouldn’t buy from his store,” said Ryvka Zohar, a member of Adalah-NY. “The power of the BDS movement is growing and growing, especially in the past few years. One of the things that is important for us in New York is trying to figure out in what ways New Yorkers and New York institutions are implicated in this crime, and Leviev is one of the prime examples.”
The BDS campaigners passed out fliers to pedestrians and showered the store’s patrons with “boos” when they walked into the jewelry store.
It was Adalah-NY’s third annual Valentine’s Day protest against Leviev, the chairman of the investment company Africa-Israel. Leviev’s companies have constructed numerous Jewish-only settlements in the West Bank, including Mattityahu East on the village of Bil’in’s land, a place where the illegal Israeli separation wall has cut into, and the Zufim settlement, built on the village of Jayyous’ land. Leviev is also a "leader" in the Bukhara Community Trust, which is funding the construction of police headquarters in the E-1 area, which runs from East Jerusalem to the settlement of Maale Adumim, according to Yedioth Ahronoth. "[I]f Israel is able to expand the settlement of Maale Adumim to the west, the Palestinians will be unable to have territorial contiguity between the northern West Bank and southern parts of the West Bank: the future Palestinian state will remain carved and free movement of Palestinians will be possible, if at all, only through the Jordan Valley," says Yedioth.
A recent victory for the global BDS movement came when Danske Bank divested from Africa-Israel and Elbit Systems, which has provided surveillance systems for the Israeli separation wall. Adalah-NY and its allies around the world have also successfully pressured other companies and institutions to divest or renounce relationships with Leviev’s Africa-Israel. (Check out Adalah’s list of victories on their website.)
Andrew Kadi, a spokesperson for Adalah-NY, noted that Leviev was also implicated in human rights abuses in Angola related to diamond mining.
“The main point [of the action] is to let them [consumers] know that with every diamond that they get, they’re supporting Leviev’s policies of apartheid, his human rights abuses in Angola, that they’re in fact supporting someone who has been embedded with blood diamonds for at least 15 years now.”
For more information and photographs, visit adalahny.org.