Report by Steven Fung
Last Saturday, I and a group of other concerned citizens from all over Britain and Ireland went to Hatton Garden, the centre of London’s diamond industry, to protest about its complicity in the blood diamond trade. Specifically, we wanted to highlight the fact that the diamond industry relies on the flawed Kimberley Process, which only monitors where diamonds are mined, but is crucially silent on where these diamonds are cut and polished.
This means that the Kimberley Process can and does label diamonds processed in states with highly dubious human rights records such as Israel, as “conflict free”. We believe that this practice is dishonest and deceptive and provides cover for countries like Israel to persist in their human rights violations with impunity. It lulls ethical shoppers into a false sense of security with regard to their jewellery purchases.
Whilst the general public may well be aware that Israel’s leading exports are agricultural produce such as avocados, various citrus fruits and herbs and is famed for its IT industry, not many people are aware that its biggest export is actually diamonds. In fact, Israel is the world’s leading diamond exporter, accounting for nearly half of all diamonds imported into the United States.
These are most often mined from various African countries who themselves have abysmal human rights records. Israel imports these rough diamonds, paying those African countries a pittance. The diamonds are then cut and polished in Israel, and exported to European and North American markets at a far higher price. Therefore, Israel earns most of the profits. Worst of all, the profits from these blood diamonds go directly to funding its multi-billion dollar arms industry and its ongoing oppression of the Palestinian people.
We have seen how destructive Israel’s mighty military can be, when as recently as December 2008, under cover of the Christmas holidays, missiles and banned weapons such as white phosphorous bombs were unleashed on Palestinian civilians. Most of the 1,600 people killed by these bombs directly funded by blood diamonds were children and women (“terrorists” in the eyes of the Israeli media).
So, in time for Valentine’s Day, when people often buy gems for loved ones, we wanted to expose this deeply unethical trade to shoppers at Hatton Garden. The response to our leafleting and protest was generally very positive, with many passersby coming forward wanting to know more about the UK diamond retailers’ complicity in blood diamonds.
There was, however, one notable exception. An employee from Alexander Craig Jewellers, who clearly was not pleased with our campaigning stood outside and harangued us. He was unable to engage us in a rational and civilised discussion, so instead he resorted to a racist slur. This is what he had to say to Seán Clinton, of the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign:
“I can see you’re Irish…(smirks)…so there’s not much point in arguing, is it?”
When Seán asked him what he meant by that, he continued with his racist slur:
“You’re potatoes aren’t you?…a stupid comment for stupid people!”
So there you have it, as we have seen with the Ahava campaign, Israel’s supporters and bedfellows these days are the English Defence League (EDL) and now racist shopkeepers from Hatton Garden.
You have to wonder why these shopkeepers are so defensive about diamonds from Israel that they are prepared to make such incautious remarks. Clearly, if the industry has nothing to hide they would have no problem clarifying to members of the public exactly how these diamonds are “conflict free”.
The fact that they are unable to – and have to resort to racial insults – instead speaks volumes.
For further information:Electronic Intifada articles by Seán Clinton: