Israeli Blood Diamonds and Censorship

In April 2011 Seán Clinton, chair of the Limerick branch of the Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign had comments he posted regarding an article in Retail Jeweller magazing about the anomalies in the Kimberly Process whereby Israeli blood diamonds are classified as “conflict-free” as they are cut and polished and not rough diamonds posted as ‘letter of the month’.  The response was virulent and came from people of importance in the diamond industry. Letters here:

I write in reply to Sean Clinton’s “letter of the month” in April’s edition of Retail Jeweller – “Why should Israel dodge blood diamond rule”. I am concerned that you considered it worthy of such credibility. The Comparison between Zimbabwe and Israel is a totally false analogy. Zimbabwe, under Robert Mugabe’s iron rule for nearly 30 years, does not grant freedom of speech, press movement or assembly, and maintains invidious assault on the media, political opposition, civil society activists and human rights defenders. Israel, on the other hand, is a multi-parliamentary democracy. The country has a vigorous and diverse free press, a very well developed and active civil society and a highly respected judicial system that protects both human dignity and liberty of all its citizens.

The accusations against Israel relating to war crimes, made by the UN Human Rights Council, have been widely rejected as biased. What more would one expect from a UN body whose members include Libya, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia?  Indeed, its report into Israel’s military operation in Gaza was described by our own government as flawed. Israel launched Operation Cast Lead against militant groups in Gaza at the end of 2008 as a legitimate act of self-defence after more that 7,000 rockets and mortar shells were fired indiscriminately against its citizens during a three-year period.

Furthermore Israel has played an honourable and leading role in the fight against blood diamonds. Israel helped to establish the Kimberley process, it was the first country to issue a Kimberley Process certificate in 2003, and then chaired the Kimberley Process in 2010. Precisely because Israel is the international hub of the diamond industry, those whose sole intention is to delegitimise or isolate Israel through boycotts target the diamond industry. In the process they abuse the name of the Kimberley Process to serve their own political agenda to demonise the State of Israel. This only serves to distract attention from the real human rights violations of the barbaric warlords who profit from conflict diamonds. The situations in Sierra Leone, Angola and the Republic of Congo – like Zimbabwe – are wholly incomparable to Israel. Only the most ideologically blinkered observer could think otherwise.

Mark Adlestone, managing director, Beaverbrooks. 

I am writing to protest about the publication of an extremely offensive, political letter in the most recent issue. The letter, written by a representative of a fringe political organisation, delegitimises the Israeli diamond industry, the Kimberley Process and the global diamond sector it represents. The letter itself has no place in a trade magazine.

For your information, Israel was one of the founders of the Kimberley Process and the first country to issue a Kimberley certificate. Israel has consistently been commended for strict adherence to the process. Most recently, until the end of 2010, Israel chaired the Kimberley Process and was instrumental in seeking a solution for the Zimbabwe issue that would satisfy all parties, including the recognised human rights NGOs, which are included in the all Kimberley negotiations.

Eli Avidar, managing director, Israel Diamond Institute Group of Companies

We were appalled to tread the letter of the month that appeared in the April edition of Retail Jeweller. The letter was a political diatribe against the Israeli diamond industry and the Kimberley Process. The letter was written by a member of an extremist organisation, which is dedicated o the delegitimisation of Israel.

We understand that the letter, which was originally published on your website as a reader comment to your article on ethical jewellery, was published in your magazine at the initiative of your editorial staff.  We are highly disappointed that a respectable publication such as your own chose to be hijacked for political purposes by publishing this letter, especially in such a prominent position.

Avi Paz, president of the World Federation of Diamond Bourses and the Israeli Diamond Exchange, Moti Ganz, president of the International Diamond Manufacturers Association and president of the Isreli Diamond Manufacturers Association,  Dr. Gaetano Cavalieri, President of the World Jewellery Confederation (CIBJO), and Eli Izhakoff, president of the World Diamond Council.

In response to these diatribes Seán Clinton contacted the editor of Retail Jeweller and asked for right to reply but he was told that a letter from him would not be published in the interests of not keeping the saga going. Censorship? Here’s a draft of the letter, it is unfinished.

According to the Jewish Chronicle, concerns raised by Jewish and Israeli jewellers over the contents of a letter published in the April edition of Retail Jeweller magazine resulted in the magazine being withdrawn from a major international jewellery fair in Basle, Switzerland.

Laura McCreddie, editor of the magazine, published my comments on an article she had written about ethical jewellery in February as the letter of the month in April.  However, following the reaction by Israeli jewellers, she published apologies on the magazine’s web site and in its May edition.  She sought to distance Retail Jeweller from the comments and claimed the magazine had inadvertently been used to further a political agenda.

Further to this, the magazine allowed vested interests in the Israeli diamond industry to castigate and denounce me and the magazine’s editorial policy in a synchronised assault via the letters page in the May edition. When titans of the Israeli diamond industry join forces in order to quash efforts to shine a light onto the darker aspects of their industry, it is certainly not motivated by public interest, rather by self-interest.  . For all their grandstanding,  it is telling that none of them addressed or refuted the basic point in the letter – that the Kimberley Process facilitates the sale of diamonds from Israel that are funding human rights violations, including war crimes.
Mark Aldestone of Beaverbrooks Jewellers, a man one would expect to represent the best interests of the jewellery-buying public, wrote a polemic more in keeping with the propaganda which usually emanantes from within the Israeli government  than from a manager of a leading jewellery chain-store.  It might be considered telling that he was more concerned with defending the apartheid regime in Israel than addressing the concerns of consumers who are being conned into buying de facto blood diamonds that fund  Israeli war crimes and crimes against humanity in Gaza and the occupied Palestinian territories.

Mr. Aldestone deconstructs a comparison between Israel and Zimbabwe when no such comparison was even implied in my letter. Furthermore, he praises the apartheid Israeli state and its discredited judicial system, a system that recently convicted a Palestinian man of rape for telling a Jewish Israeli woman he was Jewish before having consensual sex with her. He ignores what are the troublesome facts for Beaverbrooks and other jewellers; that diamonds from Israel and Zimbabwe which fund human rights violations are contaminating the global diamond supply.

Eli Avidar, managing director of the Israel Diamond Institute Group of Companies bizarrely thought the letter, which points out the gaping hole in the Kimberley Process, should not have been published in the trade magazine. The logic of his argument appears to be that because Israel had an influential role in the development of the Kimberley Process, the flaws in the Process, which conveniently allow Israel’s cut and polished diamonds to avoid the same human rights standards applied to rough diamonds used by rebels, should not be highlighted or rectified.

The towering figures of the global diamond industry, Avi Paz, Moti Ganz , Dr. Gaetano Cavalieri and Eli Izhakoff send a shot over the bow of Retail Jeweller magazine and any others who might dare to question the provenance of so-called conflict free Israeli diamonds. Their pointed comments leave no one in any doubt about their displeasure that Retail Jeweller “chose to be hijacked for political purposes”.

All three letters employ diversion tactics similar to those used by the global diamond industry to hoodwink the public into believing that the trade in diamonds that fund human rights violations has ended. The industry wants the public to focus exclusively on the human rights violations funded by rough diamonds and not on those funded by the far more lucrative trade in cut and polished diamonds which Israel dominates. Instead of addressing the substantive issue, the writers parrot the same message about the so-called delegitimisation of Israel and dismiss the letter as “political”.

While the diamond industry is keen to take credit for medical, educational and other social benefits it confers on developing countries,  it denies any liability when revenue from the diamond industry funds war crimes and crimes against humanity. The public make no such distinction and will not accept the double standard at the heart of the Kimberley Process which results in diamonds that fund war crimes in Africa being classed as conflict or blood diamonds while diamonds that fund war crimes in Gaza are sold to them as conflict free diamonds.

Rather than this writer delegitimising Israel, it is the actions of the Israeli government itself that delegitimise that state. The vested interests in the diamond industry would be better directing their criticism at the government of Israel as it benefits more than any other government from diamond worldwide purchases and whose actions are placing the entire diamond industry in jeopardy, than criticising Retail Jeweller magazine for providing a platform for the legitimate concerns of its readership.

Sign the petition against Israeli Blood Diamonds.

Israeli Blood Diamonds the facts.

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