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NGOs condemn UK decision to rent embassy space from settlement builder

Sept. 12, 2008 10:53 A.M. (Updated: Sept. 12, 2008 10:53 A.M.)
Bethlehem - Ma'an - Architects & Planners for Justice in Palestine are leading a call to the British government to halt plans for the rental of a new building for the country's Tel Aviv embassy headquarters.

According to an article in the British daily paper The Guardian, the British Foreign Service is currently planning to rent real estate in Tel Aviv from the Africa Israel Investment Company.

The company is owned by Lev Leviev, and its subsidiaries build illegal settlement homes in the West Bank. Leviev, as primary shareholder in a 7 billion US dollar publically traded company, is also reported to be the prime donor in the Land Redemption Fund, an Israeli organization that is said to use highly illegal tactics to extort land from Palestinians for settlement building.

Leviev made his fortune selling diamonds from Apartheid-era South Africa.

As such, there are several organizations that joined with Architects & Planners for Justice in Palestine to issue a joint call to halt any official British association with the organization.

Abe Hayeem, a founding member of Architects & Planners for Justice in Palestine, read about the UK's decision in on 29 July in the Israeli financial journal Globes. He recently published a call for action in the British Guardian.

"When Britain's prime minister, Gordon Brown, visited Ramallah in mid-July, he told the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas: 'We want to see a freeze on settlements. Settlement expansion has made peace harder to achieve. It erodes trust, it heightens Palestinian suffering, it makes the compromises Israel needs to make for peace more difficult,'" said Hayeem's article.

"In that case," it continued "the decision by the British government to rent space for our new embassy in Tel Aviv from the Africa-Israel Investments Company chaired by businessman Lev Leviev sends precisely the wrong message."

Hayeem said the British decision to rent from Leviev's company "shows that Her Majesty's government is not serious about stopping Israeli settlements. Rather than mouthing admirable but empty platitudes about freezing settlements."

The joint call for a halt to the rental agreement was made by Architects & Planners for Justice in Palestine , the village of Bi'lin and Jayyus (whose lands were confiscated for Leveiv's settlement building projects), Palestine Solidarity Campaign , Palestinian Boycott National Committee, Adalah-NY , and Jews Against the Occupation.
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