BRUSSELS/NEW YORK---Two Jewish groups have asked a United Nations agency providing assistance to children in developing countries to reconsider its decision to reject donations from Jewish philanthropist Lev Leviev.
"The move smacks of selective political discrimination," the New York-based Anti-Defamation League (ADL) said in a statement.
The United Nations World Children’s Fund (UNICEF) announced last week that it will no longer accept donations from Leviev because of allegations that one of his companies was involved in financing construction of West Bank settlements.
UNICEF officials stressed that the organization has a policy of only accepting funds from “non-confrontational” partners. "UNICEF's policy is to have partners who are as non-controversial as possible," said Chris de Bono, a senior advisor to the UNICEF executive director.
Israeli entrepreneur and philanthropist Lev Leviev was born in the then Soviet city of Tashkent, Uzbekistan in 1956.
His father, Rabbi Avner and his mother Chana Leviev were prominent members of the Bukharian Jewish community. At the age of fifteen in 1971 his family emigrated to Israel.
Shortly after, Lev began to work as an apprentice in a diamond polishing plant, and following his military service, he established his own diamond polishing plant.
Lev Leviev has investments in the diamond industry, real estate and,chemicals.
He is a major supporter of Jewish philanthropic causes and president of the Federation of Jewish Communities of the CIS (FJC), an umbrella body representing Jewish communities across the former Soviet Union.
He is the founder of the Ohr Avner Foundation (named for Leviev's father).
The agency’s decision came in response to a request from Adalah-New York, a coalition of groups focused on justice and human rights in the Middle East.
Lev Leviev, a real estate and diamond businessman, has supported UNICEF with direct contributions.
"This decision only gives legitimacy to those who would seek to promote a boycott of the State of Israel and its supporters," Abraham H.Foxman, ADL’s national director, declared.
In a letter to Ann M. Veneman, Executive Director of UNICEF, the ADL questioned the decision and its timing, noting that "the fund has a history of accepting aid from other questionable partners, including the International Islamic Relief Organization, which was designated as a terrorist organization by the US because of its links to Al Qaeda."
In Brussels, the Rabbinical Center of Europe (RCE), which represents around 600 communal rabbis across Europe, deplored that "certain organizations are prepared to sacrifice starving children for their own parochial and political interests."
"Although most of these children would have no idea about Adallah’s political interests, they are the ones who will bear the consequences of this decision," the RCE said in a letter sent to UNICEF.
The RCE added:“As seen from the famous philanthropy of Jewish entrepreneurs around the world, the Jews as a people believe in giving and assisting the needy from all nations.”
"At a time when children around the world are in desperate need of food, medical care, education and other aid, it is a sad day when UNICEF has to create unnecessary, arbitrary and discriminatory guidelines in a bid to satisfy the demands of an outside group with little vested concern in improving the lives of children,” Abraham H. Foxman declared.