Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Lev Leviev's Financial Follies

This week news broke that Russian-Israeli tycoon Lev Leviev's Africa-Israel Company is unable to repay billions of dollars of debt. While Leviev's loss is primarily pinned on falling real estate prices in the United States, there are some indications that that Africa-Israel's difficulty finding additional capitol is due to the boycott & divestment (BDS) campaign that has been targeting Leviev for two years. Leviev made his fortune in diamonds and real estate, and both of these endeavors have been boycott and divestment targets. Leviev's diamond enterprises have been criticized for human rights abuses in Angola. Leviev's real estate ventures include gentrification in Brooklyn, NY and Jewish-only settlements such as Ma'ale Adumim, Har Homa, Adam, Matityahu East, and Modi'in Ilit in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Ma'ale Adumim is a huge settlement block that makes travel between the Northern and Southern portions of the Palestinian West Bank nearly impossible for Palestinians (it's quite easy if you're allowed to drive on Israeli-only bypass roads). Modi'in and Matityahu East are the settlements that prompted Israel to build a wall confiscating 60% of the village of Bi'lin's land. It is these settlement projects that pushed BlackRock, a British investment bank, to divest of holdings in Africa-Israel. A week after the BlackRock news broke, Leviev announced that Africa-Israel could not raise the capitol to repay its debts. While Africa-Israel isn't the only company taking a beating due to speculation in the American real estate market, it is the only one that's been targeted for by a BDS campaign, which can make a big difference when seeking new investors. It seems that being the center of controversy over human rights violations makes it difficult to get additional loans - or even to keep current investors. The following Democracy Now! clip features an interview with two proponents of the Leviev boycott. This blog post has been edited slightly to add clarity that was lacking in the original version.