Tiffany’s Supplier Funds a Unit of the Israeli Military Accused of War Crimes - Jewellery Industry Awash with Blood Diamonds
by Sean Clinton
Sat 28th Nov 2015
The hypocrisy and double standard that permeates the jewellery industry when it comes to blood diamonds is laid bare when one examines the ethical credential of Tiffany’s diamonds – one of the world’s most prestigious jewellers.
Given Tiffany’s extensive Corporate Social Responsibility endeavours, complete with reassuring soft-focus video, few would question the ethical provenance of their diamonds. However, even cursory due diligence exposes the fact that one of Tiffany’s main diamond suppliers, Beny Steinmetz Group Resources, through the Steinmetz Foundation, has “adopted” a Unit of the notorious Givati Brigade of the Israeli military.
The Givati Brigade was responsible for the Samouni family massacre in Gaza in January 2009. One hundred members of the extended family were corralled at gunpoint into a house and bombed by the Israeli military killing at least 21 men, women and children. The massacre was described as a war crime by the UNHRC.
The Steinmetz Foundation funded and supported the Givati Brigade during the 2008/9 Israeli assault – Operation Cast Lead - which killed one thousand three hundred and eighty-seven Palestinians. Those killed were mainly civilians; over three hundred of them were children.
Tiffany’s Sustainability Report 2014 outlines the measure the company has in place to ensure the ethical integrity of their diamonds. But lurking behind the clouds of information lies the reality that the Steinmetz company funds and supports a Brigade guilty of gross human rights violations in Palestine.
Furthermore, the report reveals that Tiffany’s source 25-35% (by value) of their polished diamonds from third-party suppliers that comply with the World Diamond Councils’ System of Warranties (SOW). The SOW is a bogus scheme introduced to create the illusion that regulations governing the trade in rough diamonds extends to the cut and polished trade. They don’t. There are no laws or regulations banning the trade in cut and polished diamonds that fund regimes guilty of human rights violations.
While Tiffany’s has voiced support for those protecting human rights linked to the diamond industry in Zimbabwe and Angola, their collaboration with and funding of a miner that funds and supports suspected Israeli war criminals undermines their credibility and the claim that “Tiffany’s has been aggressive about ensuring respect for human rights in it’s supply chain”
It was, therefore, ironically appropriate that members of the international diamond regulatory body - the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme – gathered last week in plenary session in Angola. The hypocrisy could hardly be more glaring. The body ostensibly set up to end the trade in blood diamonds is chaired in 2015 by Angola, where government forces are accused of grievous human rights violations linked to the diamond industry.
Earlier this year the Angolan government prosecuted the award-winning journalist and author, Rafael Marques de Mores, for writing a book, Blood Diamonds: Corruption and Torture in Angola, which exposes numerous examples of murder, rape, mutilation, torture and corruption associated with the diamond mining sector.
According to data published by the Kimberley Process (KP), Angola exported $1.3 billion of rough diamonds in 2014 making it the world’s sixth largest producer of diamonds.
Despite being linked to bloodshed and violence, diamonds from Angola are fully compliant with KP regulations which ban “conflict diamonds” – diamonds that fund violence by rebel groups.
Bizarrely, there are no regulations banning blood diamonds that fund rogue regimes guilty of human rights violations.
The much lauded, but woefully defective, Kimberley Process provides the perfect cover for the blood diamond trade. As a result, blood diamonds worth billions of dollars are legally laundered through the jewellery industry each year and sold to unsuspecting consumers as conflict-free stones.
In 2011, the refusal of the KP to broaden the definition of a “conflict diamond”, to include blood diamonds that fund human rights violations by government forces, resulted in diamonds from the Marange area of Zimbabwe, where the military is reported to have killed 200 diamond miners, being allowed on to the international market. The NGO, Global Witness, immediately withdrew from the KP.
The diamond industry consistently and loudly trumpets the benefits of the Kimberley Process. But no one should be fooled by this diversionary tactic which blinds consumers and journalists to the ongoing trade in blood diamonds.
Blood diamonds from Africa are mostly uncut rough diamonds but their bloody history doesn’t end there. As they move along the supply pipe, through grading and polishing centres, to the high value retail end, many of them are processed in Israel where they generate revenue for another rogue regime, one which ranks among the world’s worst human rights offenders.
African blood diamonds go on to fund a second wave of bloodshed and violence in Palestine. But the jewellery industry and NGOs turn a blind eye to these super blood diamonds.
Although Israel has no diamond mines it is a leading trading/polishing centre with exports worth $19.4bn gross, $10bn net, in 2013. The value of Israel’s net diamond exports is almost ten times that of Angola’s gross diamond exports and multiples of that for Zimbabwe and Central African Republic (CAR) where revenue from diamonds also funds bloodshed and violence.
Blood diamonds from Israel account for approximately 30% of the global market share in value terms.
In October, it was reported that a proposal from the World Diamond Council to broaden the KP definition of a “conflict diamond” to ban diamonds from countries guilty of human rights violations, not just in the mining sector but in trading/polishing centres as well, was vetoed by Israel as “it could be disastrous to trading centers, and especially to Israel.”
Amnesty International recently issued a report detailing how blood diamonds from CAR are entering the legitimate market. The World Diamond Council and Kimberley Process dismissed the report and invited Amnesty to join their cosy cartel.
Amnesty has documented numerous examples of the slaying of innocent Palestinians by trigger-happy Israeli forces. In the past two months over 100 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli occupation forces and illegal settlers.
During the recent Kimberley Process meeting in Angola the Civil Society Coalition (CSC) in the KP, lead by Partnership Africa Canada, announced it would boycott the KP in 2016 when the United Arab Emirates will occupy the rotating KP chair. The CSC boycott arises from concerns over lax controls in Dubai which facilitates the smuggling of blood diamonds from CAR and transfer pricing (undervaluing of diamonds from African countries to evade export taxes).
While the CAR report from Amnesty and the boycott of the KP by the CSC are welcome developments, their silence, and that of the jewellery industry, about the trade in blood diamonds from Israel is a grave disservice to society and betrayal of Palestinians under the cosh of a brutal, diamond-funded apartheid regime that murders, maims and terrorises with impunity.