Here at Hyperallergic we have been covering the on-going controversy surrounding the show of fashion icon Daphne Guinness at the museum at FIT. Back in November we reported that one of the sponsors of the exhibition, diamond and settlement mogul Leviev Extraordinary Diamonds, was facing accusations of dirty dealings in both the diamond trade and the Israeli-Palestine conflict. After continued silence from the museum, 25 activists protested in front of FIT on December 17, while several human rights organizations such as Adalah-NY, CODEPINK: Women for Peace and Jewish Voice for Peace have also spoke out against Leviev.
In a letter released today, the Land Defense Committee from the West Bank village of Jayyous asked FIT, as well as the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, which Leviev also donates to, to distance themselves from the controversial diamond magnate and illegal settlement developer.
The letter indicts Leviev for sponsoring the construction of the Zufim settlement, which has destroyed much of the Jayyous farmland that is home to some of the most fertile agricultural lands in Palestine. The land was originally confiscated by the Israeli army in 1991 to be used as a military camp, but Zufim was built instead and expansion has continued ever since.
From the letter:
Billionaire Lev Leviev has financially sponsored the construction of the Zufim settlement, whose area has reached 600 dunams (approx. 148 acres) so far, and which continues to expand and encroach on agricultural lands. Therefore, he deprives many Palestinian families in Jayyous from earning their living, as well as depriving them of their water. Thus, unemployment amidst agricultural workers has increased to more than 75%. Settlement construction, Israel’s annexation wall, and settlement expansion, have all created unemployment, poverty and misery for the families affected by them.
Nonprofit organizations in the US like the Fashion Institute of Technology and the Breast Cancer Research Foundation and individuals who care about human rights like Daphne Guinness have an obligation to support people’s right to live in dignity, and to support Jayyous’ families’ efforts to remain on their lands, instead of cooperating with Lev Leviev who steals our lands, and food in order to build illegal settlements. For the sake of our community, families and children, please do not help Lev Leviev to whitewash his illegal settlements on Jayyous’ farmland.
While FIT told Women’s Wear Daily in December that they were “pursuing the matter very actively,” both the museum still seems to be waiting out the storm until the end of the exhibition, which conveniently closes tomorrow. Yet we expect that this controversy will most likely continue to follow Leviev, especially as they move into future sponsorships.
Hyperallergic has contacted the museum on numerous occasions but the institution has not responded to our requests for comment.