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Genocide in Gaza: Luxury at what cost?

November 10, 2023 at 1:15 pm

From L to R: Duncan Wanblad Anglo American CEO , Bernard Arnault LVMH CEO, Gina Drosos Signet Jewellers CEO, Nick Hayek SWATCH CEO

With one decision these four people can significantly alter the financial ability of Israel to continue its genocidal campaign of ethnic cleansing in Palestine which has unleashed apocalyptic carnage and suffering on over two million people trapped in Gaza. The harrowing toll of death and destruction challenges everyone with influence to act immediately to prevent the massacre of even more innocent children, women and men.

According to data published by the International Trade Centre, diamond exports have added over $100 billion net to the Israeli economy since 2010. Without this inflow of foreign currency Israel, which had a goods trade deficit of  negative $34 billion in 2022, would not be able to financially sustain its illegal occupation and brutal subjugation of Palestinians.

Four luxury brands – Anglo American, LVMH, Signet Jewellers and Swatch – dominate the global diamond market. Anglo American owned De Beers Group claims to be the world’s largest diamond company, while LVMH owns the Tiffany, Bulgari, Chaumet, Fred and Repossi luxury brands. Signet is the world’s largest retailer of diamond jewellery. Swatch owns the iconic Harry Winston brand and is also a big buyer of special cut diamonds from Israel for its watches.

These companies all claim the diamonds they sell are responsibly sourced and conflict free even though many of them are sourced in Israel and generate revenue for a regime that stands accused of war crimes amounting to what some experts say is a “text-book case of genocide.”

The diamond industry in Israel has been described as a “cornerstone” of the economy. Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, said the economy generates 88 per cent of the vast security budget that funds the Israeli military. The diamond industry is estimated to generate $1billion annually of that budget. Some diamond companies in Israel also donate directly to the Israeli military and most, if not all, are likely to employ people who are now actively engaged in the assault on Gaza.

READ: The 21 century genocide: Would wrongdoings be compatible with democracy

Diamonds that fund grave human rights violations are regarded as blood diamonds. Diamonds that fund the massacre in Gaza are genocide gems.

Luxury isn’t luxurious if it comes at a cost of bloodshed and violence and that is clearly the case when diamonds are sourced from companies in Israel which generate revenue that funds a genocidal apartheid regime.

There can be no “business as usual” with a state that flagrantly violates the norms of civilised governance and the internationally agreed humanitarian laws developed in the wake of the holocaust perpetrated against Jewish people during the Second World War.

The world balances on the brink of a catastrophic escalation in Middle East violence while live-streaming a genocide of the Palestinian people. CEOs and boards of corporations with Israeli supply chains have a responsibility to ensure they are not complicit in enabling the genocide to continue a day longer. In particular, leaders in the diamond industry need to immediately cut ties with the Israeli diamond industry and show that corporate social responsibility is not mere tokenism to fill the glossy pages of their next annual sustainability report.

For consumers and for shareholders it can’t be luxury at any price.

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