As the Gaza death toll breaks the 1,000 mark and a full one tenth of the population find themselves homeless Fionka Gallivanti take a look at how the Israeli military benefits from the diamond trade.
Your Facebook feed – like mine – is probably overflowing with shared and re-shared images of unimaginable horror: sobbing mothers, blackened bodies, cratered streets and the blank, wide-eyed stares of shell-shocked children. Maybe you join in and click ‘share’ as well. It’s not much, but what else can we do?
The civilian population in Gaza are trapped in a cage: a tiny, impoverished strip of land feeling the might of a world-class military force that has bombed homes, schools, hospitals, and even UN shelters. Meanwhile any discussion of war crimes is deftly obfuscated by the media, as if this conflict were so uniquely complex that the murder of more than 200 children may not be quite as wrong as we think it is.
With the unfailing support of America, Israel seems immune to criticism and laughs at ‘strong condemnation’ from the international community but their massive military spending (around $17bn a year – 6% of GDP) means they are not immune to financial pressures. Information about the boycott of Israeli goods can be found here should you wish to vote with your wallet.
Of these, diamonds are by far the most important. The trade in cut and polished diamonds has been estimated to provide about $1bn a year towards the Israeli military – but this fact is hardly known. When you buy a diamond and – like a good ethical consumer – enquire about its source, you will be assured that diamonds from Israel are conflict-free. Even though they are funding the school-bombings and mounting civilian casualties that are currently flooding our media.
This is because the Kimberly Process very precisely defines conflict diamonds only as “rough diamonds used by rebel movements of their allies to finance conflict aimed at undermining legitimate governments.”
Israeli diamonds neatly dodge this definition and thus can be sold as “conflict-free” by jewellers in Ireland and worldwide. Many jewellers will confidently declare that the rough diamonds they sell were not sourced in conflict zones, but have no idea where those same diamonds were cut and polished on their journey into your engagement ring.
Most of us already know that diamonds aren’t good for the world: their value is inflated, they fund war crimes, and allegations of bribery and loopholes like the one that applies to Israel have dogged the efforts of the Kimberley Process. Given all of that – and knowing that the artificial versions are indistinguishable to the naked eye – why splash out on such a morally dubious little bit of sparkle? But, if you must, demand to know exactly where it came from.