Mother's Day Boycott of Israeli Settlement-builder Leviev
Days after the Dubai government pledged to prevent Israeli billionaire Lev Leviev's planned opening of two flagship jewelry boutiques in the Emirate, Leviev has picked another fight he may lose -- this time with a group of angry mothers on the eve of Mother's Day. As Leviev placed his second quarter-page ad for his diamonds in a week on The New York Times op-ed page, this time headlined "Happy Mother's Day," over 300 women, many of them Arab and Jewish, signed a petition calling for a Mother's Day boycott of Leviev's jewelry store over his companies' human rights abuses, with some women picketing outside his exclusive Madison Avenue store.
The boycott is one front in the battle against the largely successful effort by corporations to obscure Mother's Day's roots. Mother's Day in the US originated in an 1870 call by abolitionist and activist Julia Ward Howe to unite women against war, but the holiday is being turned into yet another apolitical, consumerist orgy. Though Mother's Day is now the nation's third most important jewelry shopping period, Julia Ward Howe's post-Civil War Mother's Day Proclamation began, "Arise, then, women of this day!" and called on women to reject men's weapons, violence and war.
Leviev's high-priced advertisements in the US' most prestigious newspaper encourage readers to buy their mothers "Spectacular earrings with D Flawless pear-shaped diamond drops" from a business empire that profits from horrendous human rights abuses. Leviev's companies are important participants in the larger Israeli project to displace Palestinians from their homes and agricultural lands, often at the barrel of an Israeli army rifle, in order to build settlements in violation of international law. In Angola, where his companies mine diamonds in partnership with the corrupt and repressive Dos Santos regime, Angolan security companies in Leviev's hire have been accused of "humiliation, whipping, torture, sexual abuse, and, in some cases, assassinations." The districts of Angola where Leviev reaps tens of millions of dollars in annual profits remain among the poorest in the country, often without schools, health services, roads and potable water.
The call for a Mother's Day boycott of Leviev was developed by Adalah-NY, together with a group of concerned New York mothers, and in coordination with Palestinian mothers in the West Bank villages of Bil'in and Jayyous, two villages where Leviev's companies have built settlements. The boycott call has been supported by numerous groups, including the US-based Jewish Voice for Peace, and signed by the Vice President of the European Parliament Luisa Morgantini, among others.
The boycott call includes statements from Palestinian mothers reminiscent of Julia Ward Howe's: "M'azuza Abu Rahmeh, a mother from Bil'in, explains, 'I hope that on this important day for mothers that no women in the world will have to live through this type of experience and that instead they will live with their families and homes, in security and peace.' Halima Husain, a mother from Jayyous, adds, 'I hope that free people around the world will boycott Israel's occupation and will not support businesses of wealthy Israelis like Leviev who is building the settlement of Zufim, and that they will stand with us to lift this shadow and darkness that hangs over the Palestinian people.'
"With our governments failing to act, the only way to end the suffering of Palestinian mothers and their families is to boycott Israeli companies like Leviev's that profit from the illegal activities of land confiscation and settlement construction. No diamond is worth the destruction of people's lives. This Mother's Day support mothers like Halima Husain, and M'azuza Abu Rahmeh from Bil'in, along with their children. Boycott Leviev."
The boycott call details the devastation that Israeli settlement construction is visiting upon Halima Husain and M'azuza Abu Rahmeh, their children and their communities. For example, the once prosperous "farming village of Jayyous is impoverished because families can't access their land. 70 percent of Jayyous' families are now in great need of food aid."
Last Saturday, a few days after Leviev's first Mother's Day ad in the Times, New York City women distributed the boycott call in front of Leviev's store. This time it came in the form of a colorful Mother's Day card with a front-page entitled, "A Special Mother's Day Greeting about the Lev Leviev Group of Companies." Below that heading is a picture of women from Jayyous and a female international activist protesting together against the seizure of Jayyous' land for construction of Leviev's Zufim settlement. This Saturday, women from diverse backgrounds will again flyer with their Mother's Day card in front of Leviev's Madison Avenue store. Their initiative is one part of the larger activist effort to denounce violence, promote human rights and reclaim Mother's Day's in the US from exploitative corporations.