Israel's blood diamonds: Why the free pass from regulators and civil society?

| May 30, 2012
Solidarity activists outside diamond industry offices in London, UK. (Photo:

As members of the international diamond-regulatory system known as the Kimberley Process (KP) prepare for a meeting in Washington, D.C. on June 4, the chances of them agreeing to end the trade in all blood diamonds looks bleaker than ever before.

Last November, Partnership Africa Canada (PAC), a member of the Kimberley Process Civil Society Coalition (KPCSC), issued a communiqué stating, "We are making our full engagement with the KP dependent on the adoption of substantial and sufficient reforms such as those listed herein."

Polishing the image of a dirty industry

One of the reforms listed was the inclusion of the diamond cutting and polishing industry which presently evades the human rights standards applied to rough diamonds: "The exclusion of the cutting and polishing industry from the Kimberley Process (KP) system creates a vacuum between the production and trading system and retailers and consumers. Until the cutting and polishing industry is included in KPCS oversight, the Civil Society Coalition will work to inform retailers and consumers that there can be no confidence in the KP certification system. "

Evidence given to the Russell Tribunal on Palestine in 2010 indicated that the Israeli diamond industry generates over $1 billion per year in funding for the Israeli military/security industry. Despite the fact that revenue from the diamond industry in Israel is a major source of funding for a nuclear-armed regime that stands accused of "serious war crimes and breaches of humanitarian law, which may amount to crimes against humanity" by the UN Human Rights Council, cut and polished blood diamonds are allowed to evade the human rights standards which the Kimberley Process imposes on rough diamonds.

Human rights activists, consumers and jewellers want a ban on all blood diamonds but vested interests in the diamond industry, who control the Kimberley Process, are refusing to broaden the definition of a "conflict diamond" to include cut and polished blood diamonds.

Partnership Africa Canada now appears to have abandoned the principled position they outlined last November and have endorsed a proposal from the U.S. Chair of the KP, Gillian Milovanovic, which will ensure the KP does not impact the highly lucrative, cut and polished diamond end of the supply pipe and remains restricted to rough diamonds only. The endorsement from PAC will perpetuate the KP charade which facilitates the trade in cut and polished blood diamonds that are sold worldwide labelled conflict-free.

In an address to the World Diamond Council annual meeting in Vicenza, Italy, Alan Martin of PAC made a number of comments which are completely at variance with his endorsement of the U.S. proposal that will allow the trade in cut and polished blood diamonds to continue unhindered: "For industry this should be a no-brainer, there can be no upside to looking the other way to violence anywhere in the diamond supply chain."

Despite this, PAC has turned a blind eye and remained silent about the funding of war crimes by revenue from the diamond industry in Israel.

The glaring hypocrisy of PAC's position appears not to have registered with Mr. Martin, who, when referring to the U.S. proposal, stated, "Such language, it is important to note, limits its scope only to abuses that are committed within a diamond zone, and does not seek to use the Kimberley Process as a platform to comment or sanction a country over concerns about its wider human rights record."

Double standards on blood diamonds

This clearly indicates that PAC and other members of the KP Civil Society Coalition, whose silence to-date must be taken as an endorsement of PACs positions, are willing to ignore diamond-funded human rights violations by KP member states as long as they are funded by cut and polished diamonds or committed outside of some arbitrary "diamond zone."

The failure of the Civil Society Coalition to stand up and put respect for human rights ahead of the concerns of those who profit from the trade in cut and polished blood diamonds is damaging and dangerous, not just for the diamond brand image and the jewellery industry that depends on consumers' willingness to pay exorbitant prices for pieces of polished carbon, but especially for the victims of diamond-funded violence in the occupied Palestinian territories.

The KPCSC should withdraw from the Kimberley Process if the reasonable reforms they set out last November are not substantially agreed to at the KP intersessional meeting in Washington on June 4.

The exclusion of cut and polished blood diamonds from the scheme makes a mockery of the Kimberley Process. KPCSC's support for the scheme will continue to be used by the diamond industry to promote the impression that the trade in blood diamonds represents but a tiny fraction of the overall market - a totally false and grossly misleading assertion given that 50 per cent of the diamonds sold in the United States come from Israel.


Sean Clinton is a member of the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign. 

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