Genocide in Gaza funded by the diamond industry

by Mar 28, 2024Article, International, Middle East

The diamond industry is a critical component of the Israeli economy, which is the primary source of funding that sustains the criminal Zionist project in Palestine. Diamond exports added over $100 billion net to Israel’s economy between 2010 and 2022.

The international trade in diamonds, worth $87 billion in 2021, conceals the fact that the industry is a significant source of funding for the genocidal apartheid regime in Israel. 

Israel’s genocide in Gaza, now in its sixth month, has killed at least 32,000 people, mainly children and women. It has turned to rubble over 70% of homes and destroyed Gaza’s critical civilian infrastructure, including schools, universities, hospitals, mosques, churches, roads, commercial centres, electricity and water supplies. And it has desecrated cemeteries, bulldozing graves and exhuming and scattering corpses. 

Despite Israel’s wanton genocide, there hasn’t been a single word of condemnation from any of the leaders in the diamond industry, even though Israel is arguably its biggest net beneficiary.   

The industry is a critical component of the Israeli economy, which is the primary source of funding that sustains the criminal Zionist project in Palestine. Diamond exports added over $100 billion net to Israel’s economy between 2010 and 2022. 

The diamond industry is entirely dependent on selling shiny pieces of polished carbon to consumers, programmed by decades of advertising to regard diamonds as objects of desire, love and romance. To understand why such an industry would tolerate a blood-plastered genocidal apartheid regime sheltering under its roof, one needs to be aware of how Israel’s interests are protected by a myriad of vested interests within the architecture of the industry. 

The global diamond industry

A small number of organisations control the levers of power within the global diamond industry.

  • The World Jewellery Confederation (Confédération International de la Bijouterie, Joaillerie, Orfèvrerie des Diamants, Perles et Pierres CIBJO)) represents a wide spectrum of interests across the breadth and depth of the jewellery industry, from mining, processing and manufacturing to the retail sector. Its members include national and international trade organisations from more than 45 countries, as well as many of the leading corporations in the jewellery industry. 
  • The International Diamond Manufacturers Association (IDMA) represents 14 national associations, including from China, India, Belgium, Holland, USA and Israel. 
  • The World Federation of Diamond Bourses (WFDB) represents 27 different diamond exchanges around the world. 

These organisations collaborate to mould rules and regulations that govern the industry. According to the CIBJO website, it received “official consultative status with the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) of the United Nations.” It acts as a technical expert, adviser and consultant to governments and the UN secretariat. And it is also a member of the UN Global Compact.

This access affords the diamond industry significant influence with governments and international organisations when developing standards for the industry. This is a role it has exploited to ensure polished diamonds at the consumer end of the supply pipe evade the strictures applied to rough diamonds at the mining end.  

Blood diamonds

Over twenty years ago the industry came under pressure from NGOs to end the trade in blood diamonds linked to grave human rights violations in certain African countries. The IDMA and WFDB established the World Diamond Council to represent the industry in negotiations that led to the establishment of the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KP) which regulates trade in rough diamonds. 

The KP introduced the term “conflict diamond”, which it narrowly defines as rough diamonds that fund violence by rebel groups against legitimate governments. While “conflict diamonds” are banned, other blood diamonds, that fund war crimes or genocide by government forces, evade sanction and are laundered through the legitimate market labelled “conflict free”. 

Aware of this gaping KP loophole that allows polished diamonds to evade regulation, the WDC introduced a bogus “System of Warranties” (SOW) that the industry claims strengthens the KP and extends assurance for consumers of cut and polished diamonds at the retail end of the supply chain. 

The SOW consists of nothing more than a statement on each invoice saying the seller believes the diamonds are from legitimate sources and are conflict free. 

In a further effort to bolster public confidence, the industry set up its own accreditation body called the Responsible Jewellery Council. The RJC developed Codes of Practice by which jewellery firms would be accredited if they complied with a range of workers’ rights, anti-corruption measures and if their diamond supply chain was KP certified and declared conflict free in accordance with the bogus SOW. 

“Conflict-free” gaslighting

For over twenty years since the introduction of the Kimberley Process the diamond industry has engaged in widescale gaslighting, fraudulently telling consumers and the public that diamonds which are KP certified are conflict free.  This cover-up of the trade in blood diamonds continues today with the president of the CIBJO cynically lecturing students about sustainability, Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), Environmental, social, and governance (ESG) & responsible sourcing, as a diamond-funded genocide was unfolding in Gaza. 

The “conflict free” charade was exposed in 2008 when government forces in Zimbabwe killed 200 miners, as the government sought to take control of alluvial diamond deposits in the Marange area. Although NGOs considered Marange diamonds to be blood diamonds (see Amandla! 79) , they weren’t “conflict diamonds” and couldn’t be banned by the KP. They were embargoed for a period for “administrative” reasons, before being KP certified and allowed on to the international market.  As a result, Global Witness withdrew from the KP saying “most consumers still cannot be sure where their diamonds come from, nor whether they are financing armed violence or abusive regimes”. 

How Israel escapes action

In 2011 Retail Jeweller magazine published a comment of mine querying why Israel is allowed to dodge blood diamond rules. The letter touched a nerve for Israeli supporters in the diamond industry, who rounded on the magazine, forcing it to be withdrawn from stands at the Baselworld Jewellery Fair in Switzerland. The following month the editor issued an apology and published scathing letters from the presidents of the WFDB, CIBJO, IDMA, WDC and the Israeli Diamond Institute. 

In 2015 the WDC proposed changes to the KP definition of a “conflict diamond” that would encompass diamonds that fund human rights violations by security forces downstream of the mining sector. That move was blocked by the president of the Israeli diamond exchange, Shmuel Schnitzer, as it would be “disastrous” for Israel

The Russian invasion of Ukraine has once again exposed the duplicitous nature of RJC accreditation and KP certification. The industry now finds itself impaled on a hook of its own making, unable to ban Russian blood diamonds which don’t fit the KP definition of a “conflict diamond”. The industry had to rely on governments to impose sanctions on Russian diamonds. This caused turmoil in the RJC,  leading to the resignation of a number of members and the executive director Iris Van der Veken.

Hypocrisy

The glaring hypocrisy of those who impose sanctions on Russian diamonds while Israeli diamonds are branded “conflict free” is starkly illustrated by the figures: the net value of Russia’s diamond exports in 2022 was $4.47 billion and Russia’s military expenditure in 2022 was $73 billion. The net value of Israel’s diamond exports in 2022 was $4.96 billion and Israel’s military expenditure in 2022 was $23.3 billion. The case for having diamonds from Israel labelled blood diamonds and banned is far more pressing considering the relative importance of diamonds to both economies and military spending, and the raw savagery of the US-supported Israeli genocide in Gaza. 

The diamond industry has been able to get away with manipulating public opinion and conning diamond buyers. This is largely because organisations such as Amnesty International (AI), Human Rights Watch (HRW) and Global Witness, which the public rely upon to expose human rights violations linked to the diamond industry, have turned a blind eye to Israel’s diamond-funded grave violations of Palestinian human rights. 

This is puzzling, especially considering that HRW and AI have documented Israeli war 

crimes and apartheid, and both have reported on human rights violations linked to the diamond industry in other countries but not in Israel, its biggest net beneficiary. 

Similarly, there is reluctance amounting to resistance in some organisations which claim to work to enhance the ethical credential of jewellery supply chains. The annual Chicago Responsible Jewellery Conference brings together a variety of interests, from governments, NGOs, industry and impacted communities, to discuss responsible jewellery supply chains. 

When activists for Palestinian civil rights raised questions about Israeli diamonds, their concerns were given cursory consideration, without any commitment to address this most glaring example of blood diamonds being allowed to flood the market unchallenged. 

The Kimberley Process Civil Society Coalition (KPCSC) is one of the three legs of the tripartite KP structure, which includes member states with voting rights and representatives from industry and civil society with observer status. 

I have previously outlined the limitations of the KPCSC. It is funded by the KP members to ensure their participation, which provides a fig leaf of accountability. It has had plenty to say about the importance of consumer confidence in the ethical credentials of diamonds. But, despite being prompted to do so, the KPCSC has never raised the issue of Israeli blood diamonds. 

De Beers and PIC support Israel diamond industry

Civil society must give credit to the South African government for taking a case against Israel in the International Court of Justice. The carefully documented evidence of Israeli war crimes amounts to a plausible case of genocide according to the ICJ. This should have been enough evidence for international corporations with Israeli supply chains to immediately withdraw from Israel, just as they have from Russia. 

In response to a question I raised about De Beers and Forevermark at the 2019 Anglo American AGM, the chairman indicated that they would need to take the judgment of the international community into account. Despite the overwhelming evidence of genocide in Gaza, De Beers Group continues to underpin the Israeli economy through its business links to Israeli diamond industry. 

One of Anglo American’s biggest shareholders is South Africa’s Public Investment Corporation (PIC). During the 2019 AGM, questions were raised by shareholder-activists. The PIC has responsibility for the investment of South African workers’ pensions. Yet it continues investing in a company supporting the apartheid regime in Israel. Its continued investment in Anglo American is at variance with the South African government’s action to hold Israel to account for genocide in Gaza. 

Sean Clinton is a human rights activist from Ireland. He has written numerous articles critical of the double standards in the global jewellery industry. 

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