I’ve been following Adalah’s energetic, months-long campaign against Russo-Israeli diamond baron Lev Leviev with great interest. Not so much because I agree with Adalah’s politics regarding the I-P conflict, but because I find Leviev’s political, commercial and religious interests to be so odious. Through an imaginative, tenacious campaign they have nipped at Leviev’s heels all over the globe where he maintains commercial interests. Most recently they persuaded Dubai to refuse to allow him to open a new jewelry outlet there.
But Adalah’s greatest coup thus far has been persuading UNICEF to refuse to accept future gifts from Leviev. An activist from the human rights group noticed that Leviev’s website boasts of his sponsorship of a Cannes gala whose proceeds went to the charity. That prompted a letter to UNICEF director and (ironically) former Bush cabinet officer Ann Veneman, and a long deliberation process which included a UNICEF delegation visiting the Palestinian villages, Jayous and Bilin, most damaged by Leviev’s settlement building activities. The final result was this letter (pdf) to Adalah:
UNICEF will not consider partnerships–direct or indirect–with Mr. Leviev of any of his corporate entities, and will not accept financial or other support that we know is from him or his corporate entities.
This in itself is a significant achievement as it puts Israeli companies which profit from building settlements on notice that they risk becoming pariahs in certain circles for their support of the Occupation. But just as important has been Adalah’s provocation of the that lumbering Jewish dinosaur, Abe Foxman, who has come to Leviev’s defense with a blistering, and error-filled attack on UNICEF. When you provoke Abe Foxman’s ire you know you’ve really poked the Israel lobby in the eye:
The ADL…urged…UNICEF to reconsider its decision to reject donations from a Jewish philanthropist…”The decision not to accept assistance from Mr. Leviev smacks of selective political discrimination,” said Abraham H. Foxman…”This decision only gives legitimacy to those who would seek to promote a boycott of the State of Israel and its supporters.”
Ah, the dreaded creature, The Boycott, rears its ugly head yet again. It seems to be the shibboleth of the moment for the Israel lobby. There’s only one problem. UNICEF has an Israel chapter and gladly accepts funds from Israeli donors. Hmm, Abe, you’ll have to do better next time.
Abe utilizes another tried and true Israel lobby tactic: the “double standard:”
…The [ADL]…not[ed] that the fund has a history of accepting aid from other questionable partners, including the International Islamic Relief Organization [IIRO], which was designated as a terrorist organization by the U.S. Treasury Department in 2006 because of its links to Al Qaeda.
Abe is sloppy regarding this charge as well. IIRO was NEVER designated a terrorist organization by the U.S. One Saudi official of the group and two of its affiliates (in Indonesia and Philippines) were so designated. Besides, if we keep in mind the Justice Department’s recent failed prosecution of the Holyland Foundation for being an alleged supporter of Islamic terror, the Bush Administration’s judgment of what is and what is not a legitimate Islamic charity is a tad suspect. In addition, IIRO doesn’t contribute to UNICEF. It is a UNICEF partner in delivering care to Saudi children.
Even the Bush Administration, hardly a supporter of Islamic terror, seems to understand the distinction as reported in the Jerusalem Post:
The U.S. government also noted the distinction between the head office and the international branches.
“We are monitoring the situation closely, but we also understand the difference between the IIRO main headquarters and its branches,” Carolyn Vadino, deputy spokeswoman for the U.S. mission to the U.N., wrote…
“It is the two branches in question that are designated and have ties to terrorists and at this time we have been assured that they are separate entities,” Vadino wrote.
Not surprisingly, Foxman has harvested a lot of these specious charges from right-wing pro-Israel sites like IMRA. This is yet another example of how the extremist wingnuts of Jewish life insinuate themselves into mainstream political discourse. Abe Foxman is the militant pro-Israel wingnuts’ best friend.
But this oblique slap in the face from Abe is what should have Adalah supporters smiling:
“At a time when children around the world are in desperate need of food, medical care, education and other aid, it is a sad day when UNICEF has to create unnecessary, arbitrary and discriminatory guidelines in a bid to satisfy the demands of an outside group with little vested concern in improving the lives of children,” said Mr. Foxman.
So what Abe would have UNICEF do is accept support from anyone who wishes to provide it: armaments manufacturers, cigarette companies, alcohol purveyors, and settlement builders. Undoubtedly, this is the path that the ADL follows in accepting contributions for its activities. Fortunately, UNICEF has determined that some donations are tainted with the stain of exploitation of children. The charity has ethical standards for which the ADL sees no need.
Interesting that Foxman describes Adalah as having “no concern for improving the lives of children.” Cleary, Adalah’s concern for the villagers of Bilin and Jayous confirms their dedication to the welfare of the children of these communities, many of whose families can no longer afford to send them to school because the new Separation Barrier has cut these farmers off from their fields and destroyed their livelihoods.
Perhaps what Foxman really means to say is that Adalah cares about Palestinian children, but they don’t count as legitimate objects of UNICEF’s concern.
For anyone wishing to see how the European glitterati flaunt their wealth, you can see a video of the Gala Magazine party which Leviev sponsored and which raised funds for UNICEF.
I haven’t written yet about this video which features a Leviev address to a large Chabad gathering. In it, he speaks of his wealth as God-given and a sign that the Lord approves both of him and his actions. In light of Leviev’s willingness to impoverish Palestinians in order to enrich himself, one has to question God’s judgment in pouring His favor on someone like Leviev.
Thanks to David Bloom for providing some of the research on which this post is based.