Israeli blood diamonds will be forever ….on your conscience.
As the Christmas season approaches the Israeli government can look forward to another bumber inflow of revenue to its exchequer funded by consumers the world over who unwittingly purchase Israeli blood diamonds. Few people are aware that Israel is the world’s largest producer of cut and polished diamonds.
With exports worth 16.7 billion US dollars in 2006 (1) , accounting for 35% of total manufacturing exports, diamonds are Israel”s best friends. In the same year Israeli arms sales were valued at 4.2 billion dollars (2) and total agricultural exports amounted to just over 1 billion dollars. The significance of the diamond industry to the Israeli economy can best be appreciated when one considers that the budget of the Israeli Ministry of Defence in 2008 was 13 billion dollars (3).
Israel is the world”s largest producer of cut and polished diamonds. Diamond exports significantly out-perform all other export commodities including electrical, machinery, pharmaceutical, agricultural or medical devices. Israel”s overdependence on a single luxury commodity leaves its economy vulnerable to fashion trends and public opinion. Unlike other Israeli exports; technology, software and armaments, diamonds are purchased by individual consumers, not by companies or governments. People buy diamonds for very personal reasons and anything that tarnishes their image could have a very significant impact on public attitudes to wearing diamonds, especially Israeli diamonds which help fund crimes against humanity and war crimes in Palestine. The fate of the once fashionable fur trade is a salutary example of how public opinion can quickly change a must-have product to pariah status in a relatively short time. The diamond industry is Israel”s Achilles heel.
In recent years the romantic image of diamonds as objects of desire was tarnished by bloody conflicts in central Africa that were being funded by locally mined diamonds. This trade in conflict or “blood diamonds” was highlighted by human rights organisations and eventually forced the diamond industry to take action to curtail the trade. The resulting UN based Kimberly process (4) now enforces a tracing system for uncut or rough diamonds. According to the Kimberly process “conflict diamonds, also known as “blood” diamonds, are rough diamonds used by rebel movements or their allies to finance armed conflict aimed at undermining legitimate governments.” The Kimberly process ring-fenced a narrow definition of blood diamonds that excludes cut and polished diamonds from conflict zones. Only rough diamonds traded by rebel movements or their allies are classified as blood diamonds. Cut and polished diamonds, regardless of the bloody conflicts they may fund, are not regarded as blood diamonds according to the Kimberly definition. Cut and polished diamonds that fund wars crimes and crimes against humanity in Palestine are completely ignored by the Kimberly process. Israel”s blood diamonds are kosher.
The World Diamond Council (WDC) (5) of which Israel is a leading member, claims “its ultimate mandate is the development, implementation and oversight of a tracking system for the export and import of rough diamonds to prevent the exploitation of diamonds for illicit purposes such as war and inhumane acts”. The WDC carefully limits its concerns to the trade in “rough diamonds” completely ignoring the genocide funded in part by revenue streams from the much more lucrative cut and polished diamond industry in Israel.
The Kimberly process has served the diamond industry well to-date. Public concerns about the ethics of the industry increased as news of diamond-sponsored conflicts made news headlines world wide peaking in 2007 with the release of the award wining film Blood Diamond.
A worldwide promotional campaign by the diamond industry reassured consumers that the trade in “blood diamonds” had been curtailed thus preventing a potentially devastating collapse in consumer confidence as happened to the once fashionable fur trade in the 80s. However, jewellers continue to sell Israeli diamonds to unsuspecting consumers, most of whom are completely unaware that the glittering rocks were crafted in Israel which uses taxes collected from the industry to fund the illegal occupation of Palestinian lands and the brutal subjugation of its people including the war crimes committed by Israeli forces in Gaza and elsewhere.
Despite all this, the international campaign of Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel has failed to highlight this major source of revenue feeding the Israeli war machine.
Some efforts were made in Ireland (6) to raise public awareness about the trade in Israeli diamonds. The Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign (IPSC) has called for the Kimberly definition of blood diamonds to be expanded to include cut and polished diamonds from conflict zones. The IPSC has also called for all diamonds to be hallmarked using laser inscription so consumers can identify where they were crafted allowing them to choose diamonds from countries that respect human rights (Some diamond manufacturers already laser inscribe their diamonds to promote their brand).
The failure of the international community, Western governments in particular, to protect innocent Palestinian civilians from constant attacks on their person and property by the belligerent Israeli state makes it imperative that civil society take action. Rejecting Israeli blood diamonds is the most effective means of sanction available to civil society.