Here’s the backstory on UNICEF not accepting Lev Leviev’s money anymore. Chris de Bono, the media contact for UNICEF, walked the Fundermentalist through the organization’s decision to divest from Leviev.
Leviev donated some items, such as jewelry, to the French fashion magazine Gala for an auction that Gala held at the Cannes Film Festival in 2007. Gala, which is a partner of UNICEF, gave the proceeds to another UNICEF partner, which then gave the proceeds to UNICEF.
Leviev publicized that he had made a donation to help UNICEF. Adalah-NY (which, coincidentally, calls on its Web site for a right of return for Palestinian refugees to Israel, an end of U.S. aid to Israel and “an end to all policies of apartheid and ethnic cleansing” by Israel) notified UNICEF that Leviev had given to the organization and that he was involved in construction in the West Bank.
At that point, UNICEF conducted due diligence and found that Leviev was a “not suitable to partner with” because of those construction projects, which UNICEF considers in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention, and because Leviev has ties to gambling.
UNICEF did not return Leviev’s money because that would have been too difficult. Instead UNICEF decided it would not take donations from Leviev in the future.
A little disingenuous?
Not so, De Bono said. “The due diligence was done this year. We are not asking Mr. Leviev to cease and desist. We are grateful for his donation. We are saying we are not prepared to accept any in the future.”
De Bono said that UNICEF gets proposals to partner with 400-500 corporations and individuals per year and usually rejects more than 20 per year on moral grounds.
Though he would not name them, he characterized some of them as follows:
A bottling company.
An online casino.
A large vehicle and airplane manufacturer with ties to armament.
A food and beverage company with ties to alcohol.
Yes, the Fundermentalist asked de Bono if he was referring to Seagram and the Bronfman dynasty.
“These are not companies I would assume are Jewish,” he answered. “We have turned down large sums of money form individuals with investments in Sudan who are neither Jewish nor Palestinian nor Israeli. It is not something we do terribly often.”
The Fundermentalist also asked if UNICEF had turned down donations from Caterpillar, which is on virtually every Israel divestment list because Caterpillar tractors are used in razing Palestinian houses.
“I know why you are asking that,” he said. “UNICEF does not engage in boycott.”