Blood Diamonds

TRADE  Sign petition


The Israeli diamond industry provides approximately $1billion annually in
revenue used to fund the Israeli military/security sector. The Israeli
military stands accused of war crimes. Every time someone buys a diamond
processed in Israel some of that money ends up supporting the Israeli
military and funding war crimes. Israeli diamonds are not conflict-free,
they are blood diamonds.

The global diamond industry and jewellers are deceiving the public when they
say their diamonds are Conflict Free. Diamonds crafted in Israel fund
apartheid, war crimes and genocide yet jewellers claim Israeli diamonds are
Conflict Free. End the trade in Israeli blood diamonds – not a girl’s best

This Valentine’s Day don’t let dazzling diamonds blind you to the plight of
those whose misery and suffering is funded by revenue from the Israeli
diamond industry. The flashing stones are the currency of broken bones and
bombed out homes in Gaza. The burning glow of the white phosphorous that
rained down on Gaza doesn’t come cheap but the $1 billion the Israeli
military derives in revenue from the Israeli diamond industry each year
helps to fill the coffers of the criminal military regime.

The Kimberley Process is supposed to prevent the trade in blood diamonds but
in fact it facilitates the trade in Israeli blood diamonds. According to the
KP, diamonds that fund war crimes in Sierra Leone are blood diamonds but
diamonds that fund war crimes in Gaza are “conflict free”. Jewellers sell
Israeli blood diamond to unsuspecting consumers telling them they are
conflict free.

Although the world’s largest online diamond retailer Blue Nile
claims to have a zero-tolerance for conflict
diamonds, they refuses to say if any of their so-called conflict free
diamonds are crafted in Israel where revenue form the diamond industry funds
war crimes. Blue Nile had repeatedly refused to confirm or deny that they
are selling diamonds crafted in Israel and has censored all who post a
question about this on their wall.

Israel is the world’s No.1 exporter of diamonds. Between 2005 and 2009
diamonds accounted for between 24% and 37.5% of Israel’s exports. Revenue
from the Israeli diamond industry provides about $1 billion annually in
funding for the Israeli military /security industry. Diamonds crafted in
Israel are not Conflict Free – they are Blood diamonds.

Israel’s blood diamonds

by Seán Clinton, The Electronic Intifada, 29 March 2010

Every year, consumers the world over unwittingly spend billions of dollars on diamonds crafted in Israel, thereby helping to fund one of the world’s most protracted and contentious conflicts. Most people are unaware that Israel is one of the world’s leading producers of cut and polished diamonds. As diamonds are normally not hallmarked, consumers cannot distinguish an Israeli diamond from one crafted in India, Belgium, South Africa or elsewhere. The global diamond industry and aligned governments, including the EU, have hoodwinked consumers into believing the diamond trade has been cleansed of diamonds that fund human rights abuses, but the facts are startlingly different.

Israel — which stands accused of war crimes, crimes against humanity, ethnic cleansing, genocide, the crime of apartheid, extrajudicial executions within and outside the territory it controls and persistent serious breaches of the Geneva Conventions — is the world’s leading exporter of diamonds (see Figure 1 below). Israeli companies import rough diamonds for cutting and polishing, adding significantly to their value, and export them globally via distribution hubs in Antwerp, London, Hong Kong, New York and Mumbai.

In July 2000, the global diamond industry set up the World Diamond Council (WDC). The WDC was established as a response to public outrage about the use of diamonds to fund bloody conflicts in western African countries and it includes representatives from the World Federation of Diamond Bourses and the International Diamond Manufacturers Association. The council’s 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.” Significantly, the WDC limits its concern about human rights violations to those funded by rough diamonds only.

In 2003, the WDC introduced a system of self-regulation called the Kimberly Process Certification Scheme to stem the flow of “conflict” or “blood diamonds.” In keeping with the limited concerns of the WDC the UN-mandated Kimberly Process adopted a very narrow definition of what constitutes a conflict or blood diamond: “rough diamonds used by rebel movements or their allies to finance conflict aimed at undermining legitimate governments.” As a result of this tight ring-fencing, the much more lucrative trade in cut and polished diamonds avoids the human rights strictures applying to rough diamonds, provided the industry uses only Kimberly Process-compliant rough diamonds. Regardless of the human rights violations and atrocities funded by revenue from the Israeli diamond industry, governments and other vested interests party to the Kimberly Process facilitate the unrestricted access of diamonds crafted in Israel to the multi-billion dollar global diamond market.

The WDC created a web site called to promote the virtues of the industry. It lists 24 facts extolling the benefits of the diamond industry — primarily to India and countries in Africa. Some of the benefits include that an estimated 5 million people have access to appropriate healthcare globally thanks to revenues from diamonds; diamond revenues enable every child in Botswana to receive free education up to the age of 13; the revenue from diamonds is instrumental in the fight against the HIV/AIDS pandemic.

While these facts are laudable the list makes no mention of other less savory facts, including the fact that revenue from the diamond industry in Israel helps fund atrocities and human rights abuses such as the killing, maiming and terrorizing of thousands of innocent men, women and children in Palestine and Lebanon — the sort of atrocities the Kimberly Process is supposed to prevent being funded by revenue from diamonds.

The list of “Diamond Facts” paints a one-sided, positive image of the industry. It implies that the greatest benefits are being felt in some of the poorest nations of the world. But Israel, one of the wealthiest nations, towers over all other countries in terms of the net benefit derived from the diamond industry. The added value to the Israeli economy from the export of diamonds was nearly $10 billion in 2008 (see Figure 2 below).

The WDC website is equally selective when it comes to providing information about which countries are most dependent on diamonds. It explains that Namibia, one of the minor diamond exporting countries in monetary terms, derives 40 percent (<$1 billion) of its annual export earnings from diamonds and that 33 percent ($3 billion) of the GDP of Botswana, another minor player, is derived from diamond exports. The WDC fails to mention that the much more lucrative, high-value end of the diamond industry is the main artery of the Israeli economy, accounting for more than 30 percent of Israel’s total manufacturing exports worth nearly $20 billion in 2008 (“Trade Performance HS: Exports of Israel” accessed 25 March 2010) (See Figures 3 and 4). By comparison, the budget for Israel’s Ministry of Defense was $16 billion in 2008.

Revenue from the diamond industry helps fund Israel’s illegal occupation of the Palestinian territories, its brutal subjugation of the Palestinian people and its international network of saboteurs, spies and assassins. None of this is alluded to in the WDC’s “Diamond Facts.”

Contrary to claims by the diamond industry and jewelers that all diamonds are now conflict free, they are not. 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. The Kimberly Process Certification Scheme strictures only apply to rough diamonds, thus allowing diamonds crafted in Israel to freely enter the market regardless of the criminal actions of the Israeli government and armed forces. The Kimberly Process is seriously flawed and is being used by the diamond industry and jewelers to pull the wool over consumers’ eyes by telling them that all diamonds are now “conflict free” without explaining the limitations and exactly what that means.

All this is hardly surprising given Israel’s dominant position in the diamond industry. Israel currently chairs the Kimberly Process. 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. It is impossible for the public to have confidence in the diamond industry’s attempt to self-regulate as long as it facilitates the trade in diamonds crafted in Israel, which, if the Kimberly Process applied the same standards to all diamonds, would rightly be classified as blood diamonds and treated accordingly.

Given the failure of Western governments to hold Israel to account for numerous breaches of international law including international humanitarian law, breaches of the UN Charter, its failure to abide by more than 30 binding UN Security Council Resolutions, breaches of EU Agreements and disregard for the 2004 advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice, they are unlikely to insist that the diamond industry broaden the definition of a conflict diamond to include cut and polished diamonds that fund human rights abuses.

Consumers should have the right to know where a diamond was crafted and consequently the right to choose an Israel-free diamond. These rights are not available to consumers today.

In 2005, Palestinian civil society called for an international campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel similar to that which helped bring an end to the apartheid regime in South Africa. The international BDS campaign has to date focused much of its boycott activities on the most easily targeted Israeli products including fruit, vegetable, cosmetics and some plastic products. Targeting these products helps to increase public awareness of Israeli crimes and to some extent satisfies the public’s desire to register disapproval of Israel’s actions. However, these products account for only a small fraction of Israel’s total manufacturing exports. Even if the boycott of these products was totally successful it would not make a significant difference to the Israeli economy or to Israel’s ability to further its expansionist goals.

The diamond industry is a major pillar of the Israeli economy (see Figure 5 above). No other developed country is so heavily dependent on a single luxury commodity and the goodwill of individual consumers globally. Anything that threatens the carefully-nurtured image of diamonds as objects of desire, romance and purity could have serious consequences for the Israel diamond industry and the country’s ability to continue funding its illegal occupation of the Palestinian territories, the construction of illegal colonies and other associated criminal activities that render it the pariah of the modern age.

The international BDS campaign needs to focus global attention on the diamond trade that facilitates Israel’s ongoing crimes against the Palestinian people and its neighbors in the region.

Seán Clinton is the chairperson of the Limerick branch of the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign and a former Boycott Officer on the National Committee of the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign.

The following article was sent to all Irish newspapers by Sean Clinton from the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign on 11 February 2011:

Blue Nile, an IDA supported, Nasdaq listed company with its European headquarters in Dublin has blocked everyone in Ireland from accessing its Facebook page .

Blue Nile is one of the world’s leading online diamond retailers. The company promotes itself as a supplier of “ethically sourced” diamonds and claims to have a zero-tolerance policy towards conflict diamonds. According to the company “All Blue Nile diamonds are warranted to be conflict free”. The company promotes itself on Facebook where it has over 90,000 very active subscribers.

Despite all this, for the past four months the company has been resorting to censorship on its Facebook page in an effort to block subscribers who have questioned the provenance of Blue Nile’s so-called conflict free diamonds. Subscribers asked if any of Blue Nile’s diamonds are cut and polished in Israel where the military stands accused of war crimes and other serious human rights violations. According to Israeli economist and author, Shir Hever, revenue from the Israeli diamond industry provides about $1 billion annually in funding for the Israeli military/security industry.

Some Blue Nile’s Facebook subscribers asked whether or not they are selling diamonds crafted in Israel as conflict free diamonds and how this can be justified given the facts outlined above. The company deleted all such queries without answering the question and blocked scores of people from viewing their page. However, as more and more people, many of them from Ireland, continued to post questions on their Wall the company blocked everyone with an Irish internet address from accessing their page.

Last week more people outside Ireland posted questions on the company’s Facebook page and once again Blue Nile deleted the questions and blocked them, but this time they also blocked all of their 90,000 subscribers from posting new threads or pictures on their wall. This is a very significant move in this a peak sales period in the run up to Valentine’s Day. It demonstrates how sensitive the company is to revealing where its diamonds are cut and polished.

The failure of the company to state whether or not is selling diamonds crafted in Israel and the fact that it has employed censorship measures normally only associated with regimes such as the Mubarak dictatorship in Egypt, strongly suggests the company has something to hide.

If Blue Nile is selling what are de facto Israeli blood diamonds, future IDA support for the company should be conditional on a guarantee that it no longer sells diamonds crafted in Israel where revenue from the diamond industry is funding the illegal occupation of Palestinian territory and gross human rights violations.

The information below shows the importance of the diamond industry to the Israeli economy.

The Israeli Diamond Industry – A Leading Center of the Diamond World

The Hub of the Diamond World

Israel is one of the diamond world’s leading centers – a hub for both the trade and manufacture of polished diamonds. Processing a great amount of the world’s gem-quality rough in dollar terms, Israeli diamond companies supply the stones that garnish a vast amount of the diamond jewelry sold worldwide.

Know-How and Expert Craftsmanship

Israel’s diamond polishing factories – considered the most advanced in the world – are equipped with sophisticated diamond processing technologies – many of which were developed locally. Israeli technological advances such as lasers for diamond cutting, brutting machines, automatic polishing machines and computer aided design systems are used today throughout the global diamond industry.

Israel’s experienced diamond polishers rely on a rich tradition of know-how and expert craftsmanship. Their experience is invaluable in polishing larger and more expensive stones. That’s why diamond manufacturing facilities in Israel specialize in polishing large and medium sized diamonds, of all shapes and cuts. In the past decade Israeli diamantaires have used their talent and ingenuity to introduce many new cuts  into the market.

Israel has also expanded its manufacturing capabilities to various offshore locations – in India, China, Africa and elsewhere. The majority of  diamonds processed abroad are smaller stones. They are imported back into Israel for grading and sorting, and are eventually exported by Israeli companies to markets in North America, Asia, Europe and elsewhere.

“All Under One Roof”

The Israel Diamond Exchange (IDE), one of the largest and most sophisticated diamond centers in the world, was established in 1937 and counts approximately 3,000 members engaged in manufacturing, import and export and marketing of rough and polished diamonds. IDE creates a business framework for its members, enabling both members and visitors to conduct their business in maximum convenience and security, both in the trading hall and within the confines of their private offices.

The Israel Diamond Exchange operates under the unique concept of “all under one roof”. It consists of four interconnected high-rise buildings that form a virtually impenetrable fortress. Connected internally by pedestrian bridges, it is protected by an advanced security system. In addition to the largest diamond trading floor in the world, IDE houses more than 1,200 private offices, covering an expanse of approximately 90,000 sq. meters, with about 15,000 people each day passing through the complex.

In this setting members and visitors have access to a complete range of services within the complex –from essential business services such as shipping agents, commercial banks, insurance companies, the government diamond controller’s office, customs office, post office, gemological labs – to conveniences such as restaurants, shops, lounge, intensive care room, synagogue and more — and have no need to leave the secured complex.

IDE’s huge diamond trading floor consists of two trading halls (for rough and polished stones) spanning an area of approximately 2,500 sq. meters. Hundreds of diamantaires operate daily in the vibrant trading halls together with numerous foreign buyers who come from all corners of the globe to purchase their diamonds in Israel.

The IDE trading halls are furnished with state of the art equipment – sophisticated communication systems, computers and internet networks and official diamond weighing services. Also located in the trade halls is an advanced technology area boasting sophisticated equipment for diamond checking, including instruments for analyzing rough diamonds and laser branding, a diamond photocopier, tools for color filtering, microscopes, etc.

The Israel Diamond Exchange operates for the benefits of its members. It sets policy with regard to trade rules and conduct befitting its members. One of its central functions is operating a system of arbitration for its members, which is a legal system accepted by Israel’s courts. This institution constitutes an integral and essential part in the commercial life of its members and acts for their benefit.

A Paradise for Diamond Buyers

A visit to the Israel Diamond Exchange is like a trip to a huge supermarket. Every type of diamond in every size, shape and quality can be purchased in Israel: small, medium-sized and large stones, rounds and fancy-cuts, special cuts innovated by Israeli and other diamantaires, white diamonds of every grade and natural colored diamonds in every shade. Its ability to guarantee a steady supply of any type of goods makes Israel a most attractive supplier to the jewelry trade.

Mazal U’Bracha

All over the world diamond deals are clinched with a handshake and with the two Hebrew words “mazal u’bracha” (may the deal be with luck & blessings).  This is the accepted code among diamond dealers whether in Israel, the U.S., China, India and even Arab countries.

Home to Leading International Companies

Representatives of the leading diamond mining companies as well as the foremost international companies in rough diamond trading are stationed in the IDE complex.

In addition, the complex houses leading international companies manufacturing and trading in polished diamonds and jewelry, and offering associated services to the international jewelry trade.

For many diamond companies the Israel Diamond Exchange presents a strategic commercial center for their head office, from where they conduct their global operations.

The IDE in the International Arena

The Israel Diamond Exchange holds a prominent and central position in the international industry including key roles in all the branch international organizations – among them the World Federation of Diamond Bourses (uniting bourses from 5 continents), the International Diamond Manufacturers’ Association, the World Diamond Council and the Kimberley Process.

Since 2008 Mr. Avi Paz, the President of the Israel Diamond Exchange, has simultaneously held the position of President of the World Federation of Diamond Bourses.

Similarly, since 2008, Mr. Moti Ganz, the President of the Israel Diamond Manufacturers’ Association and Chairman of the Israel Diamond Institute Group of Companies has simultaneously held the position of President of the International Diamond Manufacturers’ Association.

The IDE has been one of the protagonists in consolidating and implementing the Kimberley Process, an international process for preventing trade in conflict diamonds, under the auspices of the UN, with more than 70 states participating as well as international human rights organizations.  Israel presently (2010) holds the Chair of the Kimberley Process.

Israel’s Outstanding Exporter

Since the State of Israel was established the Israeli Diamond Industry has contributed significantly to the development of its economy.

Polished diamonds are one of Israel’s leading export items. Today Israel is one of the world’s largest exporters of polished diamonds, and a major center for the trade in rough diamonds as well. About one third of global rough diamond production is imported to the Israel Diamond Exchange each year from where it finds its way to world markets.

Israel is the foremost polished diamond supplier to the US market, which is considered the largest diamond consumption market in the world.  Approximately 50% of diamonds purchased in the US in dollar terms come from Israel.

With the rapid growth of Asian markets – most notably Hong Kong, China and India — Israel is rapidly becoming a major factor in supplying these markets as well.

Contributing to Israel’s Economic Development

The Israeli Diamond Industry contributes approximately $800 million annually to Israel’s balance of payments. More than 20,000 families earn their livelihood directly through the Israeli Diamond Industry. Moreover, approximately 330,000 visitors and foreign buyers visit the complex annually.

In addition to the 20,000 employed directly, the Israeli Diamond Industry contributes indirectly to other branches of the economy such as tourism, banking, aviation, communications and security, and is responsible for creating many more employment opportunities.

The Israeli Diamond Industry has also been instrumental in the urban and economic development of Ramat-Gan. “Ramat-Gan City” one of the most important and vibrant business centers in Israel was built around the diamond complex.

The Israeli Diamond Industry works in close cooperation with the Ramat Gan municipality on a wide range of activities aimed at developing the city and promoting the welfare of its citizens.  Similarly, the industry has a long history of cooperation with Shenkar College of Engineering and Design for the advancement of industry, art, design and higher education in the city.

From Cottage Industry to Mega-Industry

The diamond industry has always been entwined with the history of the Jewish people in Europe.  In medieval times, legal prohibitions limited Jews to certain professions and this was an a branch free of trade and guild restrictions. Moreover, diamond trade routes corresponded with the links between Jewish centers in the Diaspora and thus the trade was particularly suited to Jewish enterprise. For this and other reasons, the diamond trade became a popular occupation among Jews and many acquired professionalism and extensive knowledge in the field.

Israel’s industry began in the 1930s by enterprising immigrants who brought a trade they had learned in Belgium. By 1940 a handful of factories were operating in Netanya and Tel Aviv and in 1937 the “Israel Diamond Exchange” was formed, under the name the “Palestine Diamond Club”. The diamond club met first in a room in a private house and later moved to a cafe in Tel Aviv.

During WW2, when the traditional European centers fell under German occupation, Israel became a major source for polished diamonds. With the establishment of the State of  Israel in 1948 came a new influx of immigrants who were enlisted to work in the newly established diamond industry. Locally-developed manufacturing techniques made it possible to train workers within months.

Over the years the industry continued to grow, as diamond workers established their own manufacturing and trading businesses. Exports grew to the United States, the Far East and Europe. Israel was responsible for introducing most of the technological advances to the industry, including the laser, automatic brutting and polishing, and computerized decision making systems, which today are found in diamond manufacturing factories around the world.