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South African organisations call for Israel to be excluded from diamond processing

February 8, 2014 at 2:33 pm

Human rights groups, trade unions and several other major civil society organisations have called for the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme to exclude Israel. The international diamond regulatory body is meeting in South Africa and is chaired currently by Pretoria’s former ambassador to Washington, Mr Welile Nhlapo.

Organisations including South Africa’s National Union of Mineworkers (NUM); the country’s largest trade union federation, COSATU; the SACP; YCL; South African Students Congress (SASCO); Congress of South African Students (COSAS), the Coalition for a Free Palestine and BDS South Africa are behind the call.

A statement issued at a press conference held at COSATU’s Head Office in Johannesburg pointed out that the KPCS presents an opportunity for South African officials to show “moral vision and political leadership” by excluding Israel. “The billions of dollars’ worth of diamonds exported via Israel are,” said the coalition, “a major source of revenue for the Israeli military, which stands accused of war crimes.” Such a move would have local benefits too, it added, by “bringing home” many lucrative diamond processing jobs to South Africa. Income from diamond processing carried out in Israel also, alleges the coalition, helps to develop military hardware such as pilotless drones.

Speaking to Business Day newspaper, Southern Africa Resource Watch director Claude Kabemba commented that most diamond-linked conflicts had been resolved, and the Kimberley Process now had to expand its mandate and monitor the entire diamond chain: “The Kimberley Process has played an important role over the past decade in resolving conflicts linked to the diamond trade but there is no doubt that it has to be reformed… [by] expanding the definition of conflict to include human rights abuses linked to diamond extraction perpetrated by governments and companies; and expanding downstream monitoring so that the process covers not just the rough diamond trade but also the international movement and polishing of diamonds.”

The statement from South Africa’s civil society groups called on the Kimberley Process to:

  1. Exclude Israel from the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS) due to Israel’s human rights abuses against the indigenous Palestinians;
  2. Expand the Kimberley Process to include cut and polished diamonds in addition to rough diamonds; and
  3. End all exports of rough diamonds to Israel immediately.

A member of South Africa’s Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign said that a boycott of Israeli “blood diamonds”, and specifically the banning of diamond-polishing in the country, is a win-win solution for all. “Consumers will have a clear conscience that their diamonds are not funding, assisting or in any way involved with the illegal Israeli occupation of Palestine,” insisted Mbuyiseni Ndlozi, “and more jobs will be created locally for our people by bringing this diamond processing back home instead of it being done in Israel.” While opponents of the Israel boycott often try to claim that the boycott will harm South Africans, added Ndlozi, this is a case where it only benefits them.

The Kimberley Process was launched 10 years ago to address the trade in conflict diamonds and to ensure that diamond purchases were not financing violence by rebel movements seeking to undermine legitimate governments. It has 54 participants, representing 90 countries, and its members account for about 99.8 per cent of the global production of rough diamonds. The KPCS is coming under increasing pressure to exclude Israel due to the Israeli government’s involvement in human rights abuses against the Palestinians.