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Israel's unscathed diamond trade contributes to Palestinian oppression

January 23, 2014 at 4:49 am

Reports concerning conflict diamonds have largely dealt with labour exploitation and subsequent use of profits falling into the hands of rebel groups in Africa unleashing massacres on various communities – notoriously personified by Liberia’s Charles Taylor. The UN’s Kimberly Process Certification Scheme, described on its website as ‘unique and effective’, has been vociferously criticised for the various loopholes which make it impossible to decipher whether the diamonds sold are conflict free. UN legitimacy and recognition once again play a major part, this time by supporting the sale of polished and crafted diamonds from Israel.

Israel’s import of diamonds from South Africa and later sales worldwide has so far managed to evade the norms which prevent trading in conflict diamonds. A conflict diamond is described as ‘rough diamonds used by rebel movements or their allies to fund violence aimed at undermining legitimate governments’. In 2010, Israeli economist Shir Hever stated that revenue from diamond sales amounts to over US$1 billion annually, with a percentage going towards violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law.

The immediate and essential discrepancy regarding Israel’s diamond trade and profits concerns the legitimacy of Israel in the eyes of the UN. The Kimberly Process Certification Scheme limits itself to diamonds being used to topple legitimate governments, and also indicates the country of origin as responsible for the sale of conflict diamonds. While emphasising certification and transparency, the scheme does not consider Israel’s diamond trade as a source of conflict diamonds, despite profits contributing to the intentional oppression and massacre of Palestinians. The exclusion of cut and polished diamonds sold by an oppressor state does not seem to be of concern to the UN, whose recognition of the State of Israel paved the way for an acceptance of colonialism and apartheid, despite the adamant prohibition found in international law and Security Council resolutions.

The Israeli Diamond Exchange (IDE) markets its venture as ‘a paradise for diamond buyers’, apart from describing the venture as profitable for thousands of employed Israelis. Behind this illusion of a paradise brimming with unnecessary luxury lurks revenue which renders buyers participants in Israel’s terror network in the name of security. Accountability in the conflict diamond trade is ludicrous, given that the process to regulate diamond trade is inherently flawed and fails to address various forms of violations. Despite knowledge of these violations partly funded by the sale of diamonds which are polished and cut in Israel, the emblematic and devious defenders of human rights – international governments and the UN – are comfortably oblivious to the necessity of redefining conflict diamonds to include Israel’s significant trade and oppression.

It is difficult to envisage a situation where international governments and the UN hold Israel accountable for its role in fuelling the sale of conflict diamonds. Israel has broken countless resolutions and its acquired legitimacy is based upon the recognition garnered from a body which has a reputation of selectiveness when it comes to the actual protection human rights. In the case of Israel, the UN has supported an illegal state, colonialism, apartheid, Israel’s right to ‘self-defence’ in the form of massacres, forced displacement, settlement expansion and land appropriation simply by expressing ‘concern’ or pursuing silence in order to evade responsibility and accountability. The UN fails to operate from beyond a framework of illegality – it endorses illegality by shifting the blame upon the oppressed.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.