Israel’s Blood Diamonds

26.06.2010 - Tel Aviv - Tony Henderson

*“Contrary to claims by the diamond industry and jewelers that all diamonds are now conflict free, they are not,”* writes Seán Clinton, chairperson of the Limerick branch of the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign in *The Electronic Intifada*, 29 March, 2010 .

*“Israel’s dominant position in the industry means that diamonds crafted in Israel are interspersed globally with diamonds crafted in other countries. Consumers who purchase diamonds that are not laser-inscribed to identify where they were crafted run a significant risk of purchasing a diamond crafted in Israel, thereby helping to fund gross human rights violations,”* he adds.

The Kimberly Process (KP) Certification Scheme apply to rough diamonds, allowing rough diamonds processed in Israel to freely enter the market regardless that revenue from the Israeli diamond industry funds that state’s war crimes and human rights abuses against the Palestinian people. The Kimberly Process is seriously flawed and is being used by the diamond industry and jewellers to misrepresent the industry to consumers by telling them that all diamonds are now *”conflict free”*.

The personal protest by fasting of Martin Rapaport, an American entrepreneur and founder of the Rapaport Diamond Report, caused big waves to crash around in the diamond industry by the end of the Tel-Aviv Kimberly Process three-day meeting that started 21 June, 2010.

Rapaport is a maverick within the diamond industry and is renown for his signature bow tie. He is a former member of the World Diamond Council (WDC), the board of Jewelers for Children, and an early proponent of the Kimberley Process.

In Tel Aviv sources said a marathon Kimberly discussion stretched through Wednesday night until 6am Thursday, then resumed at 1pm continuing until 5pm. Consensus continued to elude the organization. Observers said the credibility of the group as a global diamond monitor was on the line given human rights abuses and illegal exports of diamonds from Zimbabwe’s Marange mining operation as alleged by non-governmental organizations.

WDC President, Eli Izhakoff, called for changes in how the Kimberly Process reaches decisions. Serious challenges ahead for landmark certification scheme said spokespersons for NGOs.

The Marange diamond fields have been plagued with violence over recent years. A joint work plan was agreed last year between the Kimberley Process and the Zimbabwean government, which aimed at bringing Zimbabwe back into line with the scheme’s minimum requirements. Almost no progress has been made on key aspects of this plan, including smuggling and demilitarization of the diamond fields. Despite this, a number of governments supported a resumption of exports at this week’s meeting.

When the meeting opened Martin Rapaport began a three-day, water-only fast outside the meeting facility to emphasize his point of view: that the KP does nothing to address human rights violations and is a broken system. Rapaport did not link his protest to Israel’s dominant position in the diamond industry.

The diamond industry is a major economic pillar for Israel. The added value to the Israeli economy from the export of diamonds was nearly $10 billion in 2008 (Source, *The Electronic Intifada*, 29 March, 2010.)

*“Israel currently chairs the Kimberly Process,”* said Mr Seán Clinton. *“The notion of self-regulation by any industry that is intrinsically linked to the violations it purports to want to eliminate is something that neither governments nor the general public should tolerate.”*

Mr Rapaport was fasting in protest of what he claims is the issuing of KP certificates to blood diamonds and to draw attention to the fact that it is unethical for the trade to rely upon the KP to ensure diamonds are not involved in severe human rights violations.

*”The diamond trade and consumers cannot trust the Kimberley Process, its system of warranties, or those that promote the Kimberley Process as an assurance of the legitimate source of diamonds,”* Rapaport said in his press release. *”We must face the fact that the Kimberley Process is a politicized, government-controlled initiative that is incapable of eliminating human rights violations in the diamond sector. It’s time for the World Diamond Council and responsible non-governmental organizations to withdraw from the KP.”*

Mr Rapaport said the solution lies outside the KP and that the diamond industry must take full responsibility for how and where it buys diamonds, and stop *”hiding behind the KP.”*

The meeting itself opened with a speech by Eli Izhakoff, president of the WDC, the organization dedicated to stopping the flow of conflict diamonds. He called for the release of Farai Maguwu, a leading Zimbabwean human rights activists monitoring the situation in the Marange diamond fields who was arrested just after meeting with Abbey Chikane, the monitor appointed by the Kimberly Process for the Marange area.

*”This clearly was an uncalled-for and patently unjust attempt by the country’s government to suppress criticism. Such actions need to be condemned clearly and without equivocation,”* Izhakoff said, according to transcript of his speech. *”We call today for the immediate and unconditional release for Farai Maguwu.”*

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