South African Officials Must Reject Israeli Blood Diamonds and Secure Jobs in Diamond Beneficiation
Civil society organisations and leading human rights activists in South Africa this morning issued a statement calling for Israel to be excluded from the international diamond regulatory body – the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS), which South Africa chairs in 2013. (READ THE FULL STATEMENT HERE)
The call comes just 24 hours before the international body charged with ending the trade in diamonds that fund human rights violations begins a four day meeting in the city of Kimberley where the KPSC was established ten years ago.
The statement highlights the role of the diamond industry in Israel in funding the Israeli military which stands accused of war crimes by the UN Human Rights Council, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and Israeli human rights organisation Bt’Selem.
Tahir Sema, Convenor for the Coalition for a Free Palestine (CfP), speaking on behalf of the signatories said “Diamonds that fund an apartheid regime accused of war crimes are not conflict-free – they are blood diamonds. The Kimberley Process must ban the trade in all diamonds that fund human rights violations and not just rough diamonds that fund rebel violence against legitimate governments.”
The statement calls for the remit of the KPCS, which is presently restricted to rough diamonds, to be expanded to include cut and polished diamonds; for a ban on all diamond exports from South Africa to Israel and for an expansion of the diamond cutting and polishing industry in South Africa so South Africans enjoy the fullest benefits from their country’s natural resources.
The statement quotes Israeli political economist Shir Hever, who, in evidence given to the Russell Tribunal on Palestine, said “Every time somebody buys a diamond that was exported from Israel some of that money ends up in the Israeli military, so the financial connection is quite clear. Overall the Israeli diamond industry contributes about $1 billion annually to the Israeli military and security industries.”
Sema continued: “South African diamonds should be cut and polished in South African and not in Israel. Diamonds exported from South Africa generate thousands of jobs in Israel and fund the occupation and brutal subjugation of Palestinians. If South African diamonds were cut and polished in South Africa it would create thousands of badly needed, high-skilled jobs and add about $20 billion to the economy of South Africa.
*The Coalition for a Free Palestine is the largest South African Palestine solidarity umbrella body, which includes youth groups, trade unions, human rights organizations, faith based groups, artists collectives, student organizations and political parties. Some member organizations include the South African Council of Churches, Congress of South African Trade Unions, African National Congress, South African Communist Party, Muslim Judicial Council, Union of Muslim Students’ Association, Palestine Solidarity Alliance, Palestine Solidarity Committee, Palestine Solidarity Group, Media Review Network, Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions in SA, StopTheJNF South Africa, Open Shuhadah Street and the student society.
1. – Text of Statement by civil society organisations and human rights activists from South Africa calling for a rejection of Israeli blood diamonds –http://bit.ly/15uF31L
2. – UN Human Rights Council Report of the Fact-Finding Mission of the Gaza Conflict – “The Mission finds that the conduct of the Israeli armed forces constitutes grave breaches of the Fourth Geneva Convention in respect of wilful killings and wilfully causing great suffering to protected persons and, as such, give rise to individual criminal responsibility. It also finds that the direct targeting and arbitrary killing of Palestinian civilians is a violation of the right to life.” http://www2.ohchr.org/english/
3. Amnesty International – “Impunity continued for war crimes committed by Israeli forces during Operation “Cast Lead” in 2008-2009, and there were no indications that independent investigations would be conducted into violations committed during the November 2012 Gaza-Israel conflict.” http://www.amnesty.org/en/
4. – Human Rights Watch – “Official statements that reflect the military having adopted an unlawful basis for attacks are evidence of war crimes because they show intent.” http://www.hrw.org/news/2012/
5. – Bt’Selem report into human rights violations during Operation Pillar Of Defense 14-21 November 2012 http://www.btselem.org/
6. – Israeli political economist, Shir Hever evidence to the Russell Tribunal On Palestine, November 2010 https://www.youtube.com/watch?
7. – Kimberley Process Regulations – Cut and polished diamonds that generate revenue used to fund war crimes evade the Kimberley Process Regulations which ban “conflict diamonds” described as: “rough diamonds used by rebel movements or their allies to finance conflict aimed at undermining legitimate governments” http://bit.ly/11rzZre
8. – Israel is one of the world’s leading diamond exporters, with exports valued at $22 billion in 2011 accounting for 30% of Israel’s exports. http://www.israelidiamond.co.
9. – Diamond exports added $11 billion NET to the Israeli economy in 2011. Israel’s Ministry of Defence budget in 2011 was $14 billion. http://aje.me/AbxToz
10. – Kimberley Process Civil Society Coalition, Brussels Communiqué calling of the inclusion of the cutting and polishing industry in the Kimberley Process http://www.pacweb.org/
11. – Global Witness leaves Kimberley Process, calls for diamond trade to be held accountable – “Most consumers still cannot be sure where their diamonds come from, nor whether they are financing armed violence or abusive regimes.” http://www.globalwitness.org/
12. – Amnesty International – “Israeli forces killed hundreds of unarmed Palestinian civilians and destroyed thousands of homes in Gaza in attacks which breached the laws of war, Amnesty International concluded” – http://www.amnesty.org/en/