Friday, January 02, 2009

Hollywood stars dissociate themselves from diamond store connected to Israeli settlements

One reason I make an effort to kufiyaspot celebrities is that I don't think that stars are inevitably and necessarily idiots. We simply can't assume that when a celebrity like Cameron Diaz puts on a kufiya, it is "just" a matter of fashion, and could not be in any way political. (And in fact I have argued that on at least one occasion when Cameron was kufiyaspotted, there might well have been a kind of political gesture.)

This report would seem to bear out my claim. It also provides a bit of New Years cheer, a bit of relief from the Gaza onslaught which I can't seem to pull myself away from. I found this out courtesy of the invaluable Kabobfest, who got it from al-Arabiya. I reproduce the al-Arabiya article in full below. More comments follow.

Actresses refuse to be linked to 'unethical' business
Hollywood stars shun pro-Israeli diamond store

Tuesday, 30 December 2008

Hollywood stars have called for their pictures to be removed from the website of a diamond company that is associated with settlement expansion in Israel and human rights violations in Africa.

The diamond stores owned by Jewish-American billionaire Lev Leviev had to remove pictures of several actresses after they complained of being linked to a company that funds settlements in the Palestinian occupied territories, a statement issued by the pro-Palestinian human rights group Adalah- New York said.

The actresses include Salma Hayek, Sharon Stone, Whitney Houston, Halle Berry, Drew Barrymore, Brooke Shields, Andie Macdowell, and Lucy Liu. The celebrities were contacted by the rights group Adalah and the New York based 'Jews Against the Occupation' and asked them to distance themselves from a corporation that supports the Zionist project.

The organizations sent letters to the actresses and held negotiations with their representatives to inform them of the human rights violations Leviev is involved in in Palestine and South Africa. As a result the actresses demanded that pictures of them wearing his diamonds were removed from the company's website.

In October, the ambassador of Oxfam International aid agency Kristin Davis demanded that the Leviev's company remove her pictures from its website.

In June, UNICEF announced its refusal to receive any future donations from Leviev for his involvement in building settlements in the West Bank.

UNICEF justified its decision by stating that it does not receive donations from any parties in conflicts.

"We are gratified that these stars have joined UNICEF, Oxfam and a growing list of others who have distanced themselves from Leviev over his companies’ settlement construction in violation of international law in Palestine, and rights abuses in Angola and Namibia," Ethan Heitner from Adalah-NY said.

"Some immediately expressed concern when we explained that Leviev was using their photos to whitewash his unethical business practices," he said, adding "their actions show that Leviev’s wealth and diamonds can’t buy impunity."

(Translated from Arabic by Sonia Farid.)

Go here for Adalah-NY's press release on its successful campaign. Arabiyah does not quite get the story right. According to Adalah, it contacted the artists listed above, and representatives of four of them (the identity of the four is not given) contacted Leviev asking to have their photos removed from the celebrity section of the Leviev website ( Following the complaints, Leviev's staff removed the entire celebrity section. (Adalah had not yet contacted the following stars whose photos were also up on the site: HRH Princess Michael of Kent, Ginnifer Goodwin, Katharine McPhee, Teri Hatcher, Lauren Graham, Estelle Lefebure, Zara and Dita Von Teese.)
I wish I knew which four! I'm guessing "yes" on Salma Hayek (whose father is of Lebanese descent, and who was simply terrific in the Mexican film version of Midaq Alley, based on Naguib Mahfouz's celebrated novel) and "no" on Sharon Stone, who not so long ago visited Israel and was fawning all over Shimon Peres.

But who knows? The point is, pro-Palestinian groups contacted celebrities and persuaded them to make a positive political gesture.

(And if the motivation had more to do with Leviev's nefarious Africa activities than with his involvement in settlements, so what?)

Bravo, Adalah-NY and Jews Against the Occupation.

Go here for Adalah-NY's very thorough report on Leviev and his extensive involvement in illegal settlement activity.

1 comment:

reema said...

I found the episode of Sex and the City where Sarah Jessica Parker wears a kuffiya-style halter top. You and I discussed this after your presentation at MESA. I found it by accident when I popped in Season 4 last week. It's episode 16 of Season 4 (episode 65, "A Vogue Idea"), interestingly enough, the episode where Carrie starts to work in the fashion industry.

So apparently they did not smudge out the kuffiya top or cut its appearance once the show got to dvd. (Though I only heard through rumor that the shirt/scene was removed in the first place.)

--reema hijazi, nyu