September 7, New York, NY – A member of the board of directors of the leading international humanitarian aid organization CARE USA has taken a voluntary leave of absence from CARE’s board due to the involvement of his employer, Africa Israel, in Israeli settlement activities. The move last week came after a July 12 letter to the Atlanta-based non-profit by the rights group Adalah-NY: The New York Campaign for the Boycott of Israel that outlined Africa Israel’s settlement ties, followed by letters from Jews Say No, Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) and CODEPINK, and meetings and discussions between representatives from CARE and Adalah-NY and JVP.
Riham Barghouti from Adalah-NY explained, “We thank CARE USA for acting swiftly to appropriately address this issue once it was brought to their attention. Representatives from CARE USA told us that they have approved the Board member’s request for an indefinite leave of absence while he remains in any way affiliated with Africa Israel. While on leave, we have been assured that the member in question will not attend or vote at Board meetings, receive Board information, or play any other role on the CARE USA Board.”
Previously, CARE, one of the largest humanitarian aid organizations in the world, had joined other major humanitarian groups in opposing Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories as violations of international law, including in the 2008 report, “The Middle East Quartet: A Progress Report.” Africa Israel and other companies of the Israeli billionaire Lev Leviev have been the subject of a growing international boycott due to their settlement activities. The Norwegian government announced on August 23rd that it was divesting from Africa Israel Investments and its subsidiary Danya Cebus. UNICEF and Oxfam renounced donations from Leviev, the British government severed business ties with Leviev, celebrities have distanced themselves from him, and other major firms have divested from Africa Israel.
Aaron Levitt from Adalah-NY said, “CARE’s response upheld the organization’s reputation for integrity, and was consistent with its more than 60 years of principled service to individuals and families in many of the poorest communities in Palestine and worldwide. It is our understanding that the Board member in question had no knowledge of Africa Israel’s involvement with settlement construction prior to Adalah-NY’s letter. The board member was already serving on the CARE USA Board when he established his connection with Africa Israel. We accept CARE USA’s assurance that the organization would never knowingly appoint a person associated with Israeli settlements to the CARE board.”
From 2000 -2008, Danya Cebus, the construction subsidiary of Africa Israel, built homes in the settlements of Har Homa, Maale Adumim (two different projects), Adam, and Mattityahu East on the land of the West Bank village of Bil’in. According to Who Profits, a project of Israel’s Coalition of Women for Peace, Africa Israel owns a percentage of the Alon Group, which has facilities and supermarkets in a number of Israeli settlements through the company Blue Square. In late December, 2009, Africa Israel sold Anglo-Saxon Real Estate, a company that sold settlement homes. Another Leviev-owned company, Leader Management and Development, owns and operates the expanding settlement of Zufim, built on the land of the West Bank village of Jayyous. Leviev has also been a donor to the Israeli groups the Land Redemption Fund and the Bukharan Community Trust, both of which have been involved in expanding Israeli settlements.
Modeled on the worldwide campaign against apartheid-era South Africa, the movement for Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel called in response to Israel’s many violations of Palestinian rights has grown and achieved significant successes, particularly following Israel’s assault on the Gaza Strip in 2009, which killed over 1400 Palestinians.