Monday,18 December, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1179, (9 - 15 January 2014)
Monday,18 December, 2017
Issue 1179, (9 - 15 January 2014)

Ahram Weekly

Israel’s blood diamonds

The sale of diamonds processed in Israel helps fund war crimes and suspected crimes against humanity, writes Sean Clinton

Al-Ahram Weekly

Last November, members of the Kimberley Process (KP) meeting in plenary session in South Africa squandered what was probably their last good opportunity to ban the sale of all “blood diamonds”, including cut and polished blood diamonds which are an important source of funding for the nuclear armed regime in Israel that stands accused of the crime of apartheid, war crimes and crimes against humanity.
The governments with a vested interest in the diamond industry that set up and control the KP failed to amend the definition of a “conflict diamond,” which is restricted to “rough diamonds used by rebel movements or their allies to finance conflict aimed at undermining legitimate governments.” All other diamonds associated with human rights violations, including so-called “blood diamonds,” evade the KP regulations.
The failure was well flagged in advance as key stakeholders, including South Africa which chaired the KP in 2013, had voiced their opposition to reforms that would broaden the remit of the KP to embargo diamonds associated with human rights violations by government forces.
Some jewellers now refuse to sell diamonds sourced in the Marange area of Zimbabwe where government forces are reported to have killed 200 miners. However, most if not all of the world’s leading jewellers still sell diamonds processed in Israel where the industry generates about $1 billion annually for the Israeli military which is guilty of grievous human rights violations in Palestine.
The KP chair passes to China for 2014, and Angola is in line for 2015. No one believes that they will implement the changes necessary to ban the trade in all blood diamonds.

CORPORATE POSTURING: Corporate social responsibility statements — the moral beacons of wannabe ethically progressive companies — amount to little more than window-dressing unless they are supported by rigorous enforcement. No amount of charitable support for a company’s favourite worthy causes can mitigate, directly or indirectly, the provision of a revenue stream for rogue regimes guilty of gross human rights violations.
Anglo American PLC owns 85 per cent of De Beers, making it one of the world’s leading diamond companies with interests at all stages of the supply chain from mining to retail. De Beers also promotes its own “Forevermark” diamonds, many of which are crafted in Israel. The promotional literature claims “Forevermark is committed to upholding the highest business, social and environmental standards and practices across its and its partners’ businesses.”
Anglo American’s sustainable development policy stipulates that suppliers are expected to uphold “fundamental human rights and fair labour practices, in line with internationally recognised standards”. Suppliers must also “oppose corruption, bribery, and fraud… and must not tolerate any form of money laundering or participate in other illegal incentives in business.”
Despite this, De Beers continues to sell diamonds crafted in Israel even though the Israeli diamond industry is notorious for discrimination in the workplace against non-Jews — a fact confirmed by data from the Israeli Bureau of Statistics and a recent government-funded initiative to encourage ultra-Orthodox Jews to take up employment in the diamond industry without a similar initiative for non-Jews.  Furthermore, although the authorities uncovered the “world’s largest illegal bank” involving fraudulent trading worth billions of shekels in the Israeli Diamond Exchange in 2012, Anglo American continues trading with Israeli diamond companies.
Anglo American’s failure to abide by its own standards exposes its hypocrisy — a double-standard that permeates the jewellery industry when it comes to blood diamonds from Israel.
The Steinmetz Diamond Group, one of the jewellery company Tiffany’s biggest suppliers and a “unique partner” of Sotheby’s Diamonds, an international diamond group, funds and supports a unit of the Givati Brigade of the Israeli military through the Steinmetz Foundation. This Brigade has been guilty of the massacre of at least 21 members of the Samouni family in Gaza — a war crime documented by the UNHRC and other human rights organisations.
Other world-leading jewellers including Harry Winston, Cartier, Ritani, Blue Nile, Zales, Brilliant Earth, Graff Diamonds, Chow Tai Fook, Chopard and many others also sell diamonds from Israel that are tarnished with Palestinian blood — one of the most recent victims being a 15-year-old child, Wajih Wajdi Al-Ramahi, shot in the back and killed by the Givati Brigade on 7 December.  
The imperative for all businesses to respect human rights and ensure that their business relationships are not contributing to adverse human rights impacts is a well established tenet affirmed in the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, the UN Global Compact, and the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises. The fact that the diamond industry, which accounted for 31.2 per cent of Israel’s manufacturing exports in 2011, is a very significant source of revenue for the country means that jewellers that sell diamonds processed in Israel help fund war crimes and suspected crimes against humanity.
Shareholders of companies that sell diamonds linked to atrocities and bloodshed are exposed to financial and legal hazard. The fraudulent misrepresentation of such diamonds as conflict-free leaves jewellers open to challenge by customers angered by the fact that diamonds they have purchased in good faith are in fact de facto blood diamonds. Companies complicit in human rights violations may be liable for reparations, which, in the case of the victims of Israeli violence in Palestine, could amount to billions of dollars.
Despite Israel’s record as a serial human rights offender and its nuclear weapons stockpile that it refuses to submit to international regulation, the leaders of the global diamond industry continue to give Israel refuge in the KP tent.

CONSUMER POWER: If consumers are to have confidence in the ethical credentials of diamonds, civil society needs to regain the initiative. This can be done by putting the jewellery industry under the spotlight and demanding that jewellers guarantee that the diamonds they sell are not a source of funding for, or in any way associated with, serious human rights violations — in other words that they are not blood diamonds.
As cut and polished blood diamonds from Israel legally enter the diamond market in vast quantities (50 per cent of the US market alone), diamond buyers should demand to know where a diamond was sourced, cut and polished if they want to avoid buying a blood diamond.
Diamond buyers should not allow jewellers to fob them off with assurances about “conflict diamonds” — the sacrificial offering which only encompasses rough diamonds that fund rebel violence against legitimate governments. This distracts from, and blinds consumers to, the extensive trade in cut and polished blood diamonds which continues unchecked and is largely unreported by the media.
“Ethically sourced” is one of the buzz words hammered into the minds of diamond buyers. Rough diamonds at source represent but a small fraction of the value of the cut and polished diamonds sold by jewellers. Ethically sourced diamonds can still be blood diamonds if the revenue they generate after sourcing is used to fund human rights violations. The “ethically sourced” pitch is a scam — it offers zero protection from blood diamonds.
Another example of the duplicity of the jewellery industry is the widespread abuse of the term conflict-free. This is part of a bogus System of Warranties introduced by the World Diamond Council that allows sellers to self-certify diamonds as conflict-free based on the fact that they are in compliance with the discredited Kimberley Process which gives legal cover to blood diamonds that fund government forces.


The writer is a human rights activist interested in the role diamonds play in funding the Zionist project in Palestine.

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