Anti-Israel campaigners are some of the most cynical and exploitative activists out there. It doesn’t matter what the issue is; they will find a way of making it about them.
In 2003 when many British people opposed the planned Iraq war, they hijacked the anti-War sentiment by adding “Freedom for Palestine” to the slogan of the main demonstration. When there’s a campaign about the environment, they use it to attack Israeli environmental organisations like the JNF. If it’s international women’s day they’ll talk about Palestinian women. They hijacked the UN’s World Conference Against Racism in Durban in 2001 to try and make it all about Israel. Anti-Israel campaigners even protested at World Pride in Trafalgar Square in 2012, claiming that Israel’s record on gay rights was too good, and that this distracted from the Palestinian cause!
So it’s no surprise that anti-Israel activists have also tried to jump on the campaign against conflict diamonds, or “blood diamonds”. The most recent protest was last week. A small number of activists from Iran-linked Innovative Minds — few people but with huge, glossy banners — protested outside Tiffany’s in London against “Israel’s blood diamonds”
Blood diamonds are diamonds which are mined and sold to finance an insurgency or support a warlord. In countries like Angola, Sierra Leone and the Ivory Coast. Diamond mining funded the Angolan Civil War and forced child labour mined diamonds in Liberia that were used to pay off President Charles Taylor. These diamonds used to enter the international diamond market freely, but now the Kimberly Process tries to certify diamonds as coming from ‘conflict-free’ mines in countries like South Africa.
Israel doesn’t have any diamond mines. A geologist friend tells me that diamonds can’t have diamond mines because it’s the wrong sort of rock. Israel doesn’t mine diamonds and Israeli warlords don’t steal them or sell them because there aren’t any mines and aren’t any warlords
Israel does have a diamond industry. Legal, Kimberly-certified diamonds are cut and polished in Israel by private companies and individual jewellers – not by the Israeli government.
That tenuous link is enough for the anti-Israel campaigners to try to claim that there are “Israeli blood diamonds” and to demand that shops don’t stock them. But as usual, campaigns like this undermine and confuse the very real issue of the fight against conflict diamonds.
The world is full of conflict and tragedy. From the Syrian refugee crisis to the scourge of slavery; famines, natural disasters and wars. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict isn’t always the most urgent or noteworthy of these.
Of course, anti-Israel campaigners can still choose to focus on the issue they care about. But hijacking other campaigns for their own purposes is immoral and wrong.