Objects of Desire

Israeli diamonds are forever … on your conscience.

In recent years the romantic image of diamonds as objects of desire has been tarnished by bloody conflicts in central Africa that are often funded by the trade of locally mined gems. Human rights organizations have begun a campaign against “conflict diamonds,” or “blood diamonds,” and the ensuing global attention has forced the diamond industry to take action against the trade. The Kimberley Process, introduced in a 2003 UN resolution, is a certification scheme designed to prevent rough diamonds used to fund conflict from entering the market. But the process operates with a very narrow definition of conflict diamonds. Cut and polished diamonds, regardless of what bloody conflicts they may fund, do not qualify for regulation under the Kimberley Process. Israel’s blood diamonds, therefore, are kosher.

Israel is the world’s largest producer of cut and polished diamonds. In 2006 diamond exports worth $16.7 billion accounted for a significant portion of the country’s total manufacturing exports. (The importance of the diamond industry to the Israeli economy can best be appreciated when one considers that the budget of the Israeli Ministry of Defense in 2008 was $13 billion.) Because cut and polished diamonds are not regulated by the Kimberley Process, jewelers continue to sell Israeli diamonds to consumers who are, for the most part, completely unaware that the gems were crafted in Israel – where taxes from the diamond industry are used to fund the illegal occupation of Palestinian land and the brutal subjugation of the Palestinian people.

Despite the fact that Israeli diamonds are feeding Israel’s war machine, the Kimberley Process has yet to broaden its definition of conflict diamonds. Furthermore, the international campaign Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions for Palestine (BDS) has failed to speak out against this major revenue source. Efforts have been made in Ireland to raise public awareness through the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign (IPSC), which has called on the Kimberley Process to expand its definition of conflict diamonds. The IPSC has lobbied the diamond industry to laser-inscribe all gems with their country of origin, which will allow consumers to choose diamonds from countries that respect human rights.

Because the international community – Western governments in particular – has long failed to protect innocent Palestinian civilians from constant attacks by the Israeli military, it’s imperative that the concerned citizens of the world take action in defense of Palestinians’ human rights. Rejecting Israeli blood diamonds is the most effective means of sanction available to civil society. Diamond exports significantly outperform all other Israeli export commodities, making the gleaming rock Israel’s Achilles heel. The country’s overdependence on a single luxury commodity leaves its economy vulnerable to trends and public taste. And unlike other Israeli exports – technology, software and armaments – diamonds are purchased by individual consumers, not companies or governments. When buying a diamond, each individual consumer has the power to withhold the money that powers the Israeli war machine. By choosing a stone that is truly conflict free, consumers will diminish funding for Israeli crimes against humanity – in Palestine and beyond. Israeli diamonds are forever … on your conscience.

–Sean Clinton