Dubai, jewel in Israel’s sales crown

With the exception of Egypt, all Arab states officially boycott Israel, blacklist Israeli companies and ban imports of Israeli products. The same countries frequently lead the voices calling for sanctions against Israel. But sometimes life gets in the way.

Just a few weeks after the world financial crisis broke, a super-luxury hotel, the Atlantis, opened its doors in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. The French chatter website LePost.fr of 21 November 2008 trumpeted the headline: “2000 stars at the inauguration of Dubai’s Atlantis Hotel”. It wrote:

“Dubai, Dubai, Dubai! Arab princes, flying carpets, oil, dollars… and the Atlantis Hotel! An extraordinary palace, which cost more than $1.9bn to create, celebrated its opening yesterday in high style.

“This little junket cost a trifling $38m! That’s what it took to tell the entire world about the arrival of a luxury hotel which sees itself as the planet’s most incredible palace, with its giant in-house aquarium…

“The Atlantis is at the heart of Dubai’s Palm Island, an artificial island built in the shape of a palm tree. The world’s greatest architects and designers worked on the Pharaonic project.”

Like the hotel itself, the event bore all the hallmarks of mad money climaxing a spendthrift era. You need only to walk down its vast corridors, as I did earlier this month, to realise just how foolish an exercise this is, what bad taste it represents, and of course that it’s very empty. The expected tourists vanished with the crisis.

The corridors bulge with luxury boutiques, the sort of shops which sell priceless clothes and diamond jewels. One of them is called Levant. Its display cases promote Leviev diamonds.

But just who is Leviev? Abe Hayeem, who is from Bombay, of Iraqi Jewish origin, knows. He wrote an article headlined “Boycott this Israeli settlement builder” in The Guardian of 28 April 2009. Hayeem points out that the British Foreign Office decided to cancel its rental contract for the British Embassy in Tel Aviv because the building was owned by Leviev.

Far from only selling diamonds, Leviev is busy inside the occupied territories, principally constructing a road which links the illegal settler colony of Zufim, which he owns, to Israel – part of the ongoing process of confiscating Palestinian land. His company is also active in Bil’in where, on 17 April, the Israeli army killed a peaceful protestor, Bassem Abu Rahmeh, 29. This same company now has two boutique outlets in Dubai.

Their presence in the UAE has raised eyebrows. On 30 April 2008 an article by Abbas al-Lawati in Gulf News, the English-language daily, headed “Israeli jeweller has no trade licence to open shop in Dubai”, quoted a top official denying that the UAE had ever granted Leviev a licence and saying that if an application came it would be rejected.

Gulf News followed up the story on several occasions, including one report of demos against Leviev, “Call to boycott Israeli jeweller” on 14 December 2008, also by al-Lawati.

During the Dubai Arab Media Forum meeting I attended in May I raised the issue with journalists from various Arabic-language dailies. They told me they were not allowed to reply to such questions.

At a time when Israel violates with impunity all the UN Security Council resolutions, a growing movement calls for sanctions, boycotts and disinvestment (withdrawing overseas investment from Israel and the occupied territories). It’s similar to the French campaign against Alstom and Veolia for their role in a tram project in occupied Jerusalem “Tramway à Jérusalem, mensonge à Paris”, 24 October 2007. It’s astounding, in the circumstances, that Arab countries collaborate with the very same companies which operate in the occupied territories.

France’s trade minister Christine Lagarde visited Saudi Arabia in mid-May principally to promote the bid by Alstom and the SNCF for a TGV-type fast rail link between Mecca and Media. One must hope that the Saudi authorities make it a condition of any agreement that Alstom backs out of the Jerusalem tram project.

Ref: Le MOnde

Is Dubai helping ethnic cleansing in Palestine?

The government of Dubai recently allowed a major bankroller of Jewish settlement expansion in the West Bank to open at least two Jewelry stores in the Gulf emirate.
According to reliable sources in the United Arab Emirates, of which Dubai is a key member-state, Israeli billionaire and diamond magnate Lev Leviev is preparing to open two large jewelry stores in Dubai, a world’s hub of Jewelry trading.

The first store will be opened soon at the Burj Dubai Mall (Dubai Mall Tower) while a second store is slated to be opened later this year in the new Atlantis Hotel on the Jumeirah Palm Island.
Leviev has already opened one store in Dubai in March, 2008, in the lobby of al-Qasr Hotel on Madinat Jumeirah.
The Dubai authorities were initially reluctant to grant the Israeli billionaire a license to do business in the oil-rich emirate. However, Leviev reportedly successfully lobbied “North American and European connections” to convince Dubai officials to reconsider their objections.

Leviev’s companies, including Africa-Israel and Leader Management & Development as well as several other subsidiaries, have been quite active in displacing Palestinian villagers from their homes and land in several parts of the West Bank.

The two firms have built hundreds of settler units in at least five Jewish settlements constructed on land illegally seized from its Arab proprietors.
In recent years, a company called Leader belonging to Leviev built the settlement of Zufim on private Arab land seized from the village of Jayyous. Danya Cebus, a subsidiary of the Leviev-owned company Africa-Israel has built hundreds of settler units on land stolen from the village of Bilin. Numerous additional settler units were built in the two large settlements of Ma’ali Adomim, a few kilometers east of Jerusalem, and Har Homa, near the predominantly Christian Arab town of Beit Sahur.

Israel hopes that these settlements will cut off East Jerusalem from the rest of the West Bank, thus making the Palestinian dream of making the city the future capital of a prospective Palestinian state utterly unrealistic and outright impossible.
In addition to his intensive involvement in Jewish settlement expansion, including colonies defined by the inherently unjust Israeli justice system as “manifestly illegal,” Leviev has donated undisclosed but reportedly large sums of money to the Land Redemption Fund, a land-grabbing organization affiliated with Gush Emunim, the ideological group behind Jewish settlement activities in the West Bank.

According to the Israeli newspaper, Yediot Aharonot, the Land Redemption Fund uses fraud and strong-arm tactics to seize land from Palestinians for settlement expansion.

Last year the Israeli group, Peace Now, and other settlement-watch groups, discovered that hundreds of settler units built in the settlement of Matityahu in the Salfit region, in the central West Bank, were actually built on private Palestinian land seized at gun point from its legal and rightful Palestinian owners.
However, despite the discovery, the Israeli government refused to dismantle the illegal settler units, with one Israeli official saying that “this problem will be discussed with the Palestinian Authority in the context of final-status talks.”

Leviev’s companies are actually destroying the lives of thousands of Palestinians by narrowing their horizons and dispossessing them of their livelihoods.

Abdullah Abu Rahma from the village of Bilin and Sharif Omar from Jayyous told representative of the human rights group Adalah-NY (www.adalahny.org ), which monitors Israeli theft Palestinian land, that “Leviev’s companies are destroying the olive groves and farms that have sustained our villages for centuries.”

“We call on people of conscience all over the world to impose broad boycotts and implement divestment initiatives against Israel similar to those applied against apartheid South Africa.”

The mayor of Jayyous, which suffered incalculable losses due to Leviev’s destructive rampage in the northern West Bank, told this reporter that “Leveiv is indulging in ethnic cleansing against our community and our farmers.”

“He is building settlements at our expense; he is destroying our land, our farms, and our orchards, and at the same time he is opening business in Dubai in order to finance his crimes against our people. Shame on Dubai and its government.”

Some Jewish organizations opposed to the Israeli policy of ethnic cleansing and apartheid have also called on the countries of the world to boycott Israeli businesses and firms involved in dispossessing Palestinians of their land.
“We call on the government and people of the United Arab Emirates to join the growing international campaign to boycott Lev Leviev’s companies due to their construction of Israeli colonial settlements,” declared Daniel Lang-Levitsky of Jews Against the Occupation-NYC.

“A major Israeli violator of Palestinian rights and international law should not be opening jewelry stores in Dubai,” said Issa Ayoub, a spokesperson for the Adalah-NY group. Adalah-NY organized eight boycott protests outside Leviev’s new Madison Avenue Jewelry store in New York City over the last five months.

The Palestinian Authority has refused to comment on the Dubai government decision to allow the settler bankroller Leviev to open business ventures in the oil-rich emirate.

One Palestinian official contacted by telephone said “I don’t know anything about this affair and I have not heard of Leviev.”

A Hamas official in the Gaza Strip said “the Palestinian people were feeling embittered and betrayed by this scandalous behavior on the part of the Dubai government.”

“We were hoping that Dubai would stand with us against the genocidal Israeli regime and its unrelenting efforts to ethnically cleanse our people from their ancestral homeland. We had never imagined that a day would come when we had to appeal to an Arab country to refrain from harming us and undermining our cause.”

Ref: From Khalid Amayreh in occupied Jerusalem