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Israel’s dirty trade in Africa: Diamonds, weapons and settlements

August 2, 2017 at 4:58 pm

Israel is considered one of the most important countries that import rough diamonds, and the most prominent countries that export polished diamonds. Most of these diamonds come from African countries such as South Africa, Liberia, Congo, Ivory Coast amongst others. These countries are directly linked to groups committing massacres against civilians in order to obtain diamonds, and trade with these diamonds leads to the death of tens of thousands of people annually in the countries of origin. The sale and export of these diamonds are linked to major arms deals, the creation of civil wars and financing the fighting groups. This has caused the diamond trade in Africa to be called the dirty trade, the jewels are called “blood diamonds” because the blood of thousands of Africans is shed in order to extract and market them.

The Jews were among the pioneers of the diamond industry, starting from the Middle Ages. In the European countries, they were banned from working in many fields, but the trade of gold and diamonds were exempt from the ban. Therefore, the majority of Jews worked in that field, and this trade expanded considerably after the first Zionist conference held in Basel, Switzerland, in 1897 aiming to provide a financial source that would help the Zionist movement carry out its plans therefore, the Jewish billionaire, Edmond Rothschild established the first diamond factory in the Petah Tikva settlement in Palestine in 1937, i.e. before the establishment of Israel. Jewish diamond experts who came from Belgium and the Netherlands to settle in Palestine worked in this factory.

After the increase in the number of Jewish immigrants to Palestine, other diamond factories were established in Tel Aviv, and these factories were united into the Israel Diamond Manufacturers Association. The association’s work flourished after Nazi Germany occupied a number of European cities that were considered centres for the manufacture and trade of diamonds.

A large number of diamonds and its trade went to the association, and after Israel was established, the industry flourished and thrived. The systems and mechanisms used in this industry improved and developed, allowing the association to become the centre of diamonds in Israel. The position of president of the World Federation of Diamond Bourses was even filled by several Israeli individuals.

Read: Israel’s unscathed diamond trade contributes to Palestinian oppression

Diamonds come to Israel from several sources, the most important of which are some African countries, Russia, Canada, as well as from some other areas by illegal means by providing some countries in the African continent with arms and military equipment in exchange for rough diamonds.

Israel has a diamond exchange in Ramat Gan near Tel Aviv and it occupied an important position in the manufacture and polishing of diamonds, as well as other precious stones. This is because the Israeli diamond industry uses very advanced equipment and new techniques. The diamonds are cut with lasers and they are polished by machines. There are also officials representing major international companies in the diamond business.

Therefore, the diamond industry and its export is one of the most important Israeli industries. The revenues of this trade reached 30 per cent of the gross national income in 2011, while in 2014, the trade of rough and polished diamonds in Israel amounted to $9.2 billion. This industry contributes $1 billion annually to the Israeli Defence Ministry’s budget. Starting from 2012, Israel has begun carrying out geological tests in order to extract diamonds from areas near the city of Haifa, where, according to the World Federation of Diamonds, Israel exports nearly $50 billion in diamonds a year.

Part of the diamonds imported by Israel go to the military institution for military industrialisation, while the other part is re-exported after being cut and polished in centres specialising in the trade of the most important stones in the world.

Israel’s distinction in this trade is due to several factors, most importantly its relationship with the apartheid government in South Africa and the fact that this industry is old and has been passed down to the Jewish community in Africa. Another reason for this is Israel’s disregard for international laws regarding arms trade and export, which is something it has done with several racist and fascist countries in Africa that were ravaged by civil and ethnic conflicts and wars.

The accusation is clear and it indicates that Israel steals African diamonds in return for supplying Africans with weapons and military equipment in order to fuel the internal, ethnic, race and regional wars on the continent, despite the condemnations issued by a number of international bodies and organisations. These are usually directed to major Israeli traders, but none of these “blood dealers” – as dubbed by these international organisations – have been put on trial.

The vast majority of these Jewish merchants are generals in the Israeli army and former Mossad agents who are arms dealers financing the construction of dozens of Israeli settlements in the Palestinian territories. These traders are the main source of arms for many African countries, as well as for many armed African groups.

These countries and groups usually prefer Israeli weapons because of their efficiency, as well as Israel’s flexibility in its financial dealings with the buyers. Israel does not require money for weapons, but rather accepts the concept of bartering anything for weapons. Israeli companies are usually granted rights to drill and explore underground resources and raw materials in these African countries.

Due to the fact that the weapons obtained by African countries in exchange for stealing diamonds are used in civil wars that claim the lives of tens of thousands of people, especially in Sierra Leone, the Congo and Angola, the United Nations has dubbed the Israeli diamond trade as the “bloody diamond trade”. In 2009, the UN, via a panel of experts, formally accused Israel of being involved in the illegal import of diamonds from Africa.

The report accused Israeli traders of having a direct relationship with the bloody diamond trade, particularly in the Ivory Coast and Sierra Leone. Although the UN Security Council passed several resolutions in the late 1990s banning and restricting the import of rough diamonds from conflict zones in Africa in order to prevent the use of financial revenues to prolong conflicts, Israel continues its theft.

Nothing is more indicative of the severity of the situation than the period between 1997 and 2003, as it witnessed a dangerous escalation in the civil war index in the African continent. The wars aimed to control the diamond mines. These wars were characterised by the use of child soldiers in the conflicts. This wouldn’t have happened if it weren’t for the complicity of Israeli arms dealers who supply the warring parities with weapons and various equipment throughout the years. These wars have witnessed the involvement of several African leaders, such as former Liberian President Charles Taylor who was convicted by an international court of trading blood diamonds in 2004.

Read: How the global jewellery industry is funding Israeli crimes

As a result of the aforementioned facts, Israel has become a major centre for diamond trade. Israel’s Foreign Ministry website announced that Israel’s total diamond exports reached $13 billion in 2006, as the US ranked first in the list of importing countries, making up 63 per cent of the Israeli exports. This was followed by Hong Kong, which made up 14 per cent and Switzerland with 11 per cent. Israel now produces most of the polished diamonds in the world, reaching 40 per cent, and it is still seeking to seize more from African countries. It signed an agreement with Liberia in 2007 stipulating that Israel sends experts to help Liberia search for diamonds.

What is most interesting in this is the relationship between the trade of dirty diamonds and the Israeli arms companies on one hand and the funding of settlement projects in Jerusalem and the rest of the occupied Palestinian territories, on the other. This thorny relationship also involves officers from the Israeli Mossad. The most prominent example of this is the Israeli billionaire Lev Leviev , a Jew of Russian origin who was an officer in the Israeli army working in Africa. He is currently one of the most important leaders in the diamond industry and trade in the world and a major funder of Israeli settlements and head of the Israel Land Fund, a Jewish organisation run by extremist Jews who aim to steal Palestinian land by violent means.

According to the data of the Diamond, Gemstone and Jewellery Administration in Israel’s Ministry of Economy and Industry for 2016, the rough diamond exports reached 23.1 per cent and the imports reached 16.7 per cent. The exports this year amounted to $2.702 billion, compared to $2.195 billion in 2016; a 23.1 per cent increase.

The volume of exports of polished diamonds during the year 2016 reached $4.675 billion compared to $4.993 billion during the year 2015, i.e. a 6.4 per cent decreased, while the import of rough diamonds in 2016 reached $3.246 billion from $2.781 billion in 2015, i.e. an increase of 16.7 per cent.

The volume of imports of polished diamonds during the year 2016 reached $3.282 billion compared to about $3.482 billion during the year 2015, which was a decrease by 5.7 per cent.

Since parts of Israel’s profits from the diamond trade go to the military institution in order to support it with “about $1 billion a year” and part of it goes to the settlements to strengthen them, Israel is continuing to dominate this dirty trade in Africa for its huge profits.

This article first appeared in Arabic on Noon Post and was published on 1 August 2017.

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