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Israel’s diamond exports crash as BDS and war crimes impact

By Sean Clinton | MEMO | November 7, 2018

Fig.1 – Graph of diamond exports and trends from main exporting hubs

Israel’s gross diamond exports have crashed by a staggering 45 per cent since the 2014 massacre in Gaza that resulted in the death of over 2,200 people, mainly civilians including over 550 children.

The net value of Israel’s diamond exports has fallen even further, by 60 per cent from $11.25 billion to $4.4 billion over the period. This is about the same as the value of Israel’s total arms exports.

The Israeli diamond exchange initially blamed the decline on weak global demand and more recently on globalisation but the sudden steep decline shows that’s plainly not the case.

De Beers annual insight reports on the state of the global diamond market show demand increased slightly over the past five years.

No other diamond exporting country has suffered such a steep fall.

The Belgian diamond industry, which is a major hub for both the rough and polished diamond trade to and from Israel, has also been impacted by the steep decline in Israel’s exports.

Meanwhile India has gained market share and in 2016, for the first time ever, exported more diamonds to the USA than Israel which has traditionally supplied up to 50 per cent of the US market in value terms.

There can be no doubt that one of the most important and the most vulnerable sector of the Israeli economy is feeling the impact of Israel’s blood-drenched brand image.

Fig. 2 – Israeli manufacturing exports declined sharply after 2014 led by a 45% fall in diamond exports. The 2012 fall in diamond exports was due to the discovery of major fraud in the Diamond Exchange.

The global campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) has highlighted jewellery industry links to Israeli human rights violations which are funded to a significant degree by revenue from the diamond industry. Both appear to be impacting the Israeli diamond industry particularly hard with exports down a further 6 percent in H1 2018.

The situation has become so serious that Israel is now offering to pay air fares as well as provide free hotel accommodation to attract buyers to Tel Aviv. Although the jewellery industry and NGOs have remained silent about Israel’s leading role in the diamond supply chain human rights activists have campaigned to expose it.

In 2012 activists first revealed the linkage between the Steinmetz Diamond Group (SDG) and the Givati Brigade of the Israeli military which was responsible for the 2009 massacre of the Samouni family in Gaza, a suspected war crime documented by the UN Human Rights Council and others including Israeli human rights group B’Tselem.

This set in motion a series of actions that continue to reverberate through the upper echelons of the diamond industry. When the Anglo American owned De Beers Group put a Forevermark Steinmetz diamond on display in the Tower of London in honour of the Queen of England’s Diamond Jubilee the Inminds human rights group staged regular protests outside the Tower.

A member of the Samouni family in Gaza recorded a video appealing for the blood diamond to be removed. The diamond was removed a few months later without any of the fanfare and publicity that accompanied it’s unveiling. It hasn’t been seen or heard of in public since.

Sotheby’s Diamonds is a 50:50 partnership between Sotheby’s, the famous auction house, and Diacore, the now rebranded Steinmetz Diamond Group.

Since 2012, Inminds has staged a number of protests outside Sotheby’s premises in Bond Street, London, highlighting the link to Israeli war crimes.

In January 2013, Sotheby’s CEO and board were sent a registered letter alerting them to the damage to their reputation and the risks to their brand posed by their partnership with the Steinmetz Group. Months later in Geneva, in a blaze of global publicity, Sotheby’s auctioned the Steinmetz Pink, a specimen diamond. It was bought by a syndicate of investors lead by Isaac Wolf for a world record US$83 million. The pre-auction publicity and spin gave no indication that the diamond was tarnished by association with Israeli war crimes in Gaza and was, therefore, a blood diamond. Four months after the auction it was revealed that the investors defaulted and Sotheby’s were forced to take the diamond into inventory costing them millions.

In April 2017, in a much quieter event, the blood diamond was auctioned in Hong Kong and bought by Chow Tai Fook for $71 million.

The Isaac Wolf syndicate wasn’t sued.

Diamond buyers and sellers attend the International Diamond Week (IDW) in the Israeli city of Ramat Gan, east of Tel Aviv on February 14, 2017. (JACK GUEZ/AFP/Getty Images)

Sotheby’s continues to partner with Diacore despite the fact that the Steinmetz Foundation “adopted” the Givati Brigade which stands accused of war crimes.

As news of the default became public it was also disclosed that Beny Steinmetz sold his interest in SDG to his brother Daniel and the company was rebranded as Diacore. Some observers believe this was an exercise designed to distance leading diamond brands including Tiffany’s, De Beers, Sotheby’s and Forevermark from the tarnished Steinmetz brand which is indelibly linked to the Samouni massacre. Evidence supporting this was leaked in the Panama Papers which showed that in 2015, Beny Steinmetz was still involved and asked Mossack Fonseca to backdate the transfer of his power of attorney to his brother to 2013.

Further indications that jewellers are shunning diamonds linked to Israeli human rights violations emerged earlier this year when it came to light, via a Tiffany & Co Form 10-K submission to the US Securities and Exchange Commission, that the iconic diamond brand had terminated a supply agreement with a Steinmetz owned mine in Sierra Leone. Tiffany’s loaned Steinmetz $50 million to develop the mine and was one of their leading buyers.

Tiffany’s divestment came following pressure from human rights activists who exposed the fact that Tiffany’s sourced diamonds from a miner that donated to and supported suspected Israeli war criminals.

Although Tiffany & Co divested from a Steinmetz mine they continue to conceal the identity of the companies they buy 25-35 per cent of their polished diamonds from. Tiffany’s customers cannot, therefore, know where their jewellery comes from as alluded to by their new CEO Alessandro Bogliono in Tiffany’s Sustainability Report 2017.

“Our customers place great value on sustainability. They want to know where their jewellery comes from, how it is made and how the jewellery-making process impacts the planet as well as its people and communities. Tiffany & Co. holds this kind of transparency dear and, through this creation of shared value, we have a unique opportunity to build meaningful, lasting relationships with our customers. We are committed to sharing more with them — and all of our stakeholders — about what, exactly, Tiffany is doing to achieve sustainability for our business and for the planet as we very broadly define that goal: enriching the people and places we reach through our business; minimising our environmental impact; improving industry-wide practices; and channelling the power of the Tiffany brand as a force for positive change in the world.”

Given Israel’s leading role in the industry and the absence of a statement from Tiffany’s stating, as they have done with Zimbabwe and Angola, they do not buy diamonds from the apartheid state, it is likely Tiffany’s are sourcing diamonds from companies in Israel.

Fig. 3 – On June 1st, Rajan al-Najjar, a 21 year old paramedic, was shot dead by an Israeli sniper as she treated wounded civilians in Gaza.

Diamond companies in Israel employ people who have served in and are members of the Israeli army, have openly funded and supported attacks on the defenceless residents of Gaza, have been widely implicated in serious fraud and who discriminate against non-Jews who make up 20 per cent of the population.

Furthermore, Tiffany’s haven’t paid reparations to the Samouni family or any of the victims of the Steinmetz supported Givati Brigade. Mitigation for damage caused is a key component of “responsible sourcing” as outlined in the OECD Due Diligence Guidelines to which Tiffany and Co, a member of the UN Global Compact, claims it is committed.

Although revenue from the diamond industry is a significant source of funding for an apartheid regime that has killed over 210 Palestinians including women, children, medics and journalists and injured and maimed thousands more with live ammunition in besieged Gaza in the past six months alone, jewellers fraudulently claim diamonds processed in Israel are responsibly sourced and conflict-free.

This blood diamond cover-up and fraud is perpetuated by public companies and governments who collaborate to shield rogue regimes in Israel, Zimbabwe and Angola that they depend on to keep their coffers full, bolster dividends for shareholders and provide fat pension pots for c-suite executives.

The Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KP), the blueprint of which was drafted by the World Diamond Council, is the primary vehicle facilitating the ongoing blood diamond trade.

Although the remit of the KP is deliberately restricted to banning rough diamonds that fund rebel violence, jewellers use it to claim other blood diamonds are conflict free even when they fund war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Shamefully, Amnesty International, Global Witness, Human Rights Watch and Impact (Partnership Africa Canada), that the public rely on to expose the blood diamond trade and speak up for the victims, have said and done nothing to hold the diamond jewellery industry to account for funding Israeli war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Fig.4 –The diamond industry has created a matrix of bogus schemes, warranties, standards and codes of practices to con consumers and facilitate the trade in blood diamonds that fund rogue regimes

The silence of NGO’s on Israel’s blood diamond trade means the Kimberley Process charade continues to con most people and can keep mainstream media focused on the mining sector in Africa. Meanwhile, high street jewellers launder cut and polished blood diamonds labelled responsibly sourced and conflict free to unsuspecting customers.

Hilde Hardeman is the EU chair of the Kimberley Process in 2018. Indications to date suggest that she, like others before her in South Africa and Australia, will ignore the latest call from human rights activists for Israel to be suspended from the KP until those responsible for massacres in Gaza are brought to justice and held to account.

Some voices in the jewellery industry are speaking out. The most recent example being the Ethical Jewelry Exposé: Lies, Damn Lies, and Conflict Free Diamonds, from Marc Choyt and his team at Reflective Jewellery. The exposé peels back the layers of bogus schemes “through the metaphor of Russian nesting dolls, with eight layers of babble obscuring the nefarious truth hidden at the core”.

The exposé leaves readers in no doubt as to the magnitude of the fraud being perpetrated by the key stakeholders in the diamond industry, particularly the Responsible Jewellery Council which is now chaired by Signet Jewellers Vice President of corporate affairs, David Bouffard. Signet Jewellers source many of their diamonds from companies in Israel.

The successive withdrawal of human rights organisations from the KP, including Global Witness, Impact Transform, International Alert, Fatal Transactions and Ian Smillie – a key architect of the Kimberly Process scheme – has removed the fig leaf and left its exponents exposed with their bloody diamonds in full view.

Scrambling to conceal the blood diamond trade, the industry’s most recent and emerging addition to the matrix of deception, is the use of blockchain technology to digitally log all transactions a diamond undertakes from mine to market. While the technology has the potential to give consumers the information needed to make an informed decision about the ethical provenance of a diamond, the detailed information will only be available to “authorised users” as “privacy controls” will prevent consumers from accessing “sensitive data”.

Diacore, of the Steinmetz Group, was one of the first companies in a trial conducted by De Beers Group of their blockchain system, Tracr, earlier this year. It is clear, therefore, that blockchain will provide another layer of cover for the blood diamond trade while consumers are kept in the dark.

As the EU chairs a Kimberley Process plenary meeting in Brussels from November 12-16 it will be interesting to observe the corseted language emanating from the spin doctors. No doubt they will inform the public that the major reforms aimed at strengthening the KP and giving added assurance to consumers have been agreed. But one thing is for sure, any reforms that are agreed will not extend to banning blood diamonds that fund rogue regimes guilty of gross human rights violations in Israel, Zimbabwe or Angola.

Read:

Why Israel sees BDS as a ‘strategic threat’

EU urged to end trade in Israel diamonds

Israel’s $72m war chest to fight BDS comes to Brussels

November 7, 2018 Posted by | Deception, Economics, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Solidarity and Activism, War Crimes | , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

‘Blood Diamonds’ and Israel’s Diamond Export Industry

By Sean Clinton | Palestine Chronicle | December 28, 2013

In November, members of the Kimberley Process (KP), meeting in plenary in South Africa, squandered what was probably their last good opportunity to ban the sale of all blood diamonds, including cut and polished blood diamonds which are an important source of funding for the nuclear armed regime in Israel which stands accused of the crime of apartheid, war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The governments with a vested interest in the diamond industry, that set up and control the KP, failed to amend the definition of a “conflict diamond” which is restricted to “rough diamonds used by rebel movements or their allies to finance conflict aimed at undermining legitimate governments”. All other diamonds associated with human rights violations evade the KP regulations.

The failure was well flagged in advance as key stakeholders, including South Africa which chaired the KP in 2013, had voiced opposition to reforms that would broaden the remit of the KP to embargo diamonds associated with human rights violations by government forces.

Some jewelers refuse to sell diamonds sourced in the Marange area of Zimbabwe where government forces are reported to have killed 200 miners. However, most if not all, of the worlds leading jewelers sell diamonds processed in Israel where the industry generates about $1 billion annually for the Israeli military which is guilty of grievous human rights violations in Palestine .

With the KP chair passed to China for 2014, and Angola in line for 2015, no one believes they will implement the changes necessary to ban the trade in all blood diamonds.

'Boycott Israeli blood diamond.' (Photo: supplied)

Corporate Posturing

Corporate social responsibility statements – the moral beacons of wannabe ethically progressive companies – amount to little more than window-dressing unless they are supported by rigorous enforcement. No amount of charitable support for a company’s favorite worthy causes can mitigate, directly or indirectly, providing a revenue stream for rogue regimes guilty of gross human rights violations.

Anglo American plc owns 85% of De Beers making it one of the worlds leading diamond companies with interests at all stages of the supply pipe from mining to retail. De Beers promote their own “Forevermark” diamonds many of which are crafted in Israel .  Their promotional literature claims “Forevermark is committed to upholding the highest business, social and environmental standards and practices across its and its partners businesses”.

Anglo American’s Sustainable Development Policy  stipulates that suppliers are expected to uphold “fundamental human rights and fair labour practices, in line with internationally recognized standards”. Suppliers must also “oppose corruption, bribery, fraud…. and must not tolerate any form of money laundering or participate in other illegal incentives in business”.

Despite this, De Beers continues to sell diamonds crafted in Israel even though the Israeli diamond industry is notorious for discrimination in the workplace against non-Jews – a fact confirmed by data from the Israeli Bureau of Statistics and a recent government-funded initiative to encourage ultra-Orthodox Jews to take up employment in the diamond industry without a similar initiative for non-Jews.  Furthermore, although authorities uncovered the “world’s largest illegal bank”, involving fraudulent trading worth billions of shekels, in the Israeli Diamond Exchange in 2012, Anglo American continues trading with Israeli diamond companies.

Anglo American’s failure to abide by their own standards exposes their hypocrisy – a double-standard that permeates the jewellery industry when it comes to blood diamonds from Israel .

The Steinmetz Diamond Group, one of Tiffany’s biggest suppliers and a “unique partner” of Sotheby’s Diamonds, through the Steinmetz Foundation, funds and supports a Unit of the Givati Brigade of the Israeli military. The Givati Brigade is guilty of the massacre of at least 21 members of the Samouni family in Gaza – a war crime documented by the UNHRC and other human rights organizations.

Other world-leading jewelers including Harry Winston, Cartier, Ritani, Blue Nile, Zales, Brilliant Earth, Graff Diamonds, Chow Tai Fook, Chopard and many more, sell diamonds from Israel which are tarnished with Palestinian blood – one of the most recent victim being a 15 year old child, Wajih Wajdi al-Ramahi, shot in the back and killed by the Givati Brigade on 7th December.  He was the 26th Palestinian to be killed by the Israeli military this year.

The imperative for all businesses to respect human rights and ensure their business relationships are not contributing to adverse human rights impacts is a well established tenet affirmed in the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, the UN Global Compact, and the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises.  The fact that the diamond industry, which accounted for 31.2% of Israel ’s manufacturing exports in 2011, is a very significant source of revenue for the regime in Israel means jewelers that sell diamonds processed in Israel help fund the commission of war crimes and suspected crimes against humanity.

Shareholders of companies that sell diamonds linked to atrocities and bloodshed are exposed to financial and legal hazard.  The fraudulent misrepresentation of such diamonds as conflict-free leaves jewelers open to challenge by patrons angered by the fact that diamonds they purchased in good faith are de-facto blood diamonds. Companies complicit in human rights violations may be liable for reparations, which, in the case of victims of Israeli violence in Palestine , could amount to billions of dollars.

Despite Israel ’s record as a serial human rights offender and it’s nuclear weapons stockpile which it refuses to submit to international regulation, the leaders of the global diamond industry continue to give Israel refuge in the KP tent.

Consumer Power

If consumers are to have confidence in the ethical credentials of diamonds civil society needs to regain the initiative. This can be done by putting the jewellery industry under the spotlight and demanding that jewelers guarantee the diamonds they sell are not a source of funding for, or in any way associated with, serious human rights violations – i.e. they are not blood diamonds.

As cut and polished blood diamonds from Israel legally enter the diamond market in vast quantities (50% of the US market), diamond buyers should demand to know where a diamond was sourced, cut and polished if they want to avoid buying a blood diamond.

Diamond buyers should not allow jewelers to fob them off with assurances about “conflict diamonds” – the sacrificial offering which only encompasses rough diamonds that fund rebel violence against legitimate governments. This distracts from, and blinds consumers to, the extensive trade in cut and polished blood diamonds which continues unchecked and largely unreported by media.

“Ethically sourced” are some of the buzz words hammered into the conscience of diamond buyers.  Rough diamonds at source represent but a small fraction of the value of the cut and polished diamonds sold by jewelers. Ethically sourced diamonds can still be blood diamonds if revenue they generate after sourcing is used to fund human rights violations. “The “ethically sourced” pitch is a scam – it offers zero protection from blood diamonds.

Another example of the duplicity of the jewellery industry is the widespread abuse of the term conflict-free. This is part of a bogus System of Warranties introduced by the World Diamond Council which allows sellers to self-certify diamonds as conflict-free based on the fact that they are in compliance with the discredited Kimberley Process which gives legal cover to blood diamonds that fund government forces.

December 28, 2013 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Illegal Occupation, Racism, Solidarity and Activism, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes, Zionism | , , | 1 Comment

You destroy the soldier himself

By Melanie Ward · December 11, 2013

“You destroy the soldier himself”

That was the response of Munir, a Palestinian who is faced with Israeli soldiers at the checkpoint opposite his shop in Hebron every day, when I asked him how he thought being in Hebron must affect the soldiers.

I have had so many encounters with Israeli soldiers during my time in Hebron – it is impossible not to, due to the intensity of the military occupation.

I have passed the time of day and talked with some of them about what we are each doing here. Some have told me of their boredom, that they would much rather be on the beach. One helped keep a stray dog away from Palestinian school children who were frightened and I thanked him. Another told the police to leave me alone when they were harassing me about where in the street I was standing during the school run, and I thanked him too.

They have also spat at me, shouted at me, threatened to arrest me and called me stupid in Hebrew and a “sharmoota” (“whore” in Arabic). I have refused to follow their orders to move or stop taking photos. I have watched heavily armed soldiers throw stun grenades, and tasted the tear gas they shoot at Palestinian children on their way to school in response to small stones being thrown at their checkpoint. I have seen them harass and detain Palestinians trying to go about their lives, push kids for “facing the wrong direction” as Israeli settlers walk past, and arrest children. I have watched them laughing and joking many times in situations that are far from funny – most recently in the aftermath of an extremely serious attack by Israeli settlers against a Palestinian family.

An Israeli soldier fires tear gas at Palestinian children on their way to school after small stones were thrown at a fence near checkpoint 29 in Hebron

An Israeli soldier fires tear gas at Palestinian children on their way to school after small stones were thrown at a fence near checkpoint 29 in Hebron

I have come to know some of the Givati Brigade of the Israeli army, currently serving in Hebron, by sight and a few by name. You can often tell how many schoolbags will be searched or Palestinians detained for ID checks by who is on duty. Almost without fail, the local Palestinians say that their treatment on a given day depends on the mood of the soldiers. I have often wondered what must be going through their minds and wished that I could talk to them properly about what they think. Amidst the tension and violence of Hebron, this is normally impossible.

One Friday night settlers blockaded a Palestinian family’s gateway and stopped them from leaving their home at Tel Rumeida in Hebron. I asked the nine watching Israeli soldiers to please help. They wouldn’t. One of them, whose name is Kawalski*, said “everything is fine.” 34 Israeli settlers were stopping a Palestinian family from walking down the street and thus from entering or leaving their home. Many of the settler children were shouting abuse, hitting our cameras and spitting at us.

An Israeli settler child hits my camera during the incident when settlers blockaded Palestinians in their home, and went on to attack us. Soldiers stand stand by in the background

An Israeli settler child hits my camera during the incident when settlers blockaded Palestinians in their home, and went on to attack us. Soldiers stand stand by in the background

They went on to throw two buckets of water at us, followed by a bucket of bleach. It was an awful scene and I cannot see how he could have thought it was fine.

Most of the soldiers in Hebron are young, ranging from 19-22 years old, and are conscripted into military service for three years. This is compulsory with a few exceptions, so most of them have not made a positive choice to be in the army. Yet in Israeli society there is real kudos attached to being a combat soldier like those in Hebron – just take a look at the Israel Defense Forces Facebook page. Only a tiny minority ever refuse to serve and spend time in prison as a result. Kawalski, the soldier on that Friday night, must be no more than 22 years old. After the incident, I wondered a lot about his “everything is fine” comment and thought maybe it was actually his internal reasoning – him trying to persuade himself it was all OK and he was in control (he most definitely was not).

An Israeli soldier gives first aid to our journalist colleague after refusing to intervene in a situation which culminated in the settlers throwing bleach in her eyes

An Israeli soldier gives first aid to our journalist colleague after refusing to intervene in a situation which culminated in the settlers throwing bleach in her eyes

Later, when he called an ambulance for my colleague after the attack on us that he had failed to prevent, he must have been forced to acknowledge that everything had not been fine.

Israeli soldiers tell a young Palestinian boy he is not allowed to ride his bike in H2 in Hebron. Israelis can drive on this street but Palestinian are not allowed to

Israeli soldiers tell a young Palestinian boy he is not allowed to ride his bike in H2 in Hebron. Israelis can drive on this street but Palestinian are not allowed to

Thousands of settlers and their supporters came to Hebron recently for Shabbat Chayei Sarah, which commemorates Sarah of biblical times, who is buried in Hebron. It was a difficult weekend, with heightened tensions and violence. Movement restrictions were even tighter than usual – the Ibrahimi Mosque and nearby Palestinian shops were forcibly closed. Most of Shuhada Street, which Palestinians are never allowed to walk down, was closed to my colleagues and I as well – “Jews only” as the enforcing soldier told me. Extra soldiers drafted into H2 checked the ID of Palestinian men every 50 metres.

Me intervening to stop Israeli soldiers harassing young Palestinians who were sitting on a wall chatting as Israeli settlers walked past on Shabbat Chayei Sarah

Me intervening to stop Israeli soldiers harassing young Palestinians who were sitting on a wall chatting as Israeli settlers walked past on Shabbat Chayei Sarah

I was patrolling with a colleague and we went to an area with a few Palestinian homes and many settlers nearby. I felt nervous because large groups of settlers, some armed and some drunk, are not normally a great thing to encounter. A Palestinian family was harvesting olives on a hill where many settlers were hanging around. We checked if the family was OK and sat down under a tree, hoping to deter the settlers from coming to bother them, throw things at them etc (there was a fence between us and the Palestinians so we couldn’t help with the olives). A couple of Israeli soldiers were standing nearby.

After a bit, a group of male settlers tried to make their way towards us and I stood up, worried about what would happen next. But rather than standing back and letting them come over, the soldier stepped in the way and asked the settlers to leave. They did. I had never seen such a thing before and, when the settlers had moved away, I thanked the soldier. “Don’t worry” he said. Shortly after, a second group of settlers tried to come and the soldier and his colleague again turned them away. After this the soldiers came to ask if we were OK. I was slightly stunned that they were looking out for us and for the Palestinians. I thanked them both and said that we would move on soon. They told us there was no need for us to leave and not to worry, they would make sure everything was OK with the Palestinians. This was the opposite of what I am used to in Hebron, where the soldiers will often do whatever they can to get rid of us, and simply stand by as settlers harass and attack Palestinians. The first soldier told me that his name was Yossi* and he was not normally based in Hebron.

Later, when there were no settlers watching, I bumped into Yossi again. I asked him if he understood what I was doing there. “You want peace” he said, and told me that he wanted peace too. He told me that after my colleague and I had gone, the settlers had pushed him and thrown stones at him. He was astonished by this and couldn’t understand it. I asked what he knew about Hebron – not much. His orders that day had been to keep the Jewish and the Palestinians apart. I told him what it is like in Hebron – the settler violence, the soldiers refusing to help, the clashes, and showed him pictures. It was all news to him. “It’s good that you are telling me this, I will tell my commander”, he said. I really appreciated this but told him I didn’t think it would help – his commander was 24 years old and decisions about what happens in Hebron are made high up in military and political circles. None of those in charge will be unaware of what actually goes on in Hebron.

Yossi told me that he loved being in the army. He told me that he loved his gun. “Why do you love your gun?!” I asked him, “It’s for killing people.” “No!” he said, “I love target practice, I don’t want to kill anyone.” “But why do you think they give you a gun?!” I asked. I learned that Yossi was 19 years old. He seemed like a good, decent young man and I believed him when he said he wanted peace and didn’t want to kill anyone. But, as I have previously written about other discussions I’ve had with Israelis, I was surprised by his lack of understanding about the facts of the conflict he is part of. I asked him to keep being nice to the Palestinians and he told me to take care in Hebron.

My encounter with Yossi really made me think. That I was so surprised at his fair conduct says a lot about the norm for soldiers in Hebron.

An Israeli soldier detains Palestinian boys aged 8 and 10 years. Photo by Maria Schaffluetzel

An Israeli soldier detains Palestinian boys aged 8 and 10 years. Photo by Maria Schaffluetzel

I wonder how it comes to be that so many of the young soldiers behave in the morally unacceptable ways I have so often observed or seen evidence of: arresting children and beating them up; demolishing Palestinian houses with bulldozers and then preventing tents and emergency aid from being delivered; even deliberately shooting innocent people, as veterans’ organisation Breaking the Silence has documented. Sometimes they will be following their orders in doing these things, and sometimes not. Mohaned, a 13 year old from the town of Beit Ummar, told me how soldiers raided his house at 3am, blindfolded and arrested him wearing only his underwear. He was held for 10 days, in which he was slapped, hit with the butt of a rifle, beaten and then released.

An 11 year old Palestinian boy arrested by Israeli soldiers in Hebron

An 11 year old Palestinian boy arrested by Israeli soldiers in Hebron

Surely it is important to ask how young men, most of whom start off as normal, decent guys like Yossi, end up doing these things?

On a day off I visited the Golan Heights and got talking to some soldiers about their jobs. One of them said that they themselves had been discussing these issues, “Some of us were talking – we are children and they give us guns.” I met another soldier in Haifa, Israel. He was 23 years old and had previously served in the Golani Brigade in Hebron. He recalled an army education week when there had been a discussion about putting the heads of dead Palestinians on poles. He had been in the minority 20:1 to say that such things were wrong. Another former Golani soldier simply refused to speak about what he had done when he served in the army.

A Palestinian looks out of his window to find armed Israeli soldiers using the roof of his home in Al Arrub refugee camp near Hebron

A Palestinian looks out of his window to find armed Israeli soldiers using the roof of his home in Al Arrub refugee camp near Hebron

My friend Sam is Jewish, an Israeli of British origin who I got to know in our student days. After my blog about my some of my experiences in Israel, he emailed me saying, “I think another big reason why it’s hard to convince Israelis about what’s going on in the territories is that almost every Israeli knows somebody who serves in the territories… it’s hard for us to believe that they are monsters.”

His use of the word “monster” really stuck with me. I don’t believe the soldiers are monsters – perhaps with a few exceptions, as with all people. But sometimes they end up doing monstrous things on a regular basis. They are born into a system which takes apparently normal teenagers and seemingly trains them to behave in these ways.

One soldier who served in Hebron told Breaking the Silence, “In Hebron, I was disturbed and frightened most of all by the unregulated and uncontrolled power, and the things it made people do.” Another said, “Another thing that has stayed with me from Hebron? I think of myself as a little injured maybe, I don’t know. Not physically injured. More emotionally injured.”

Rather than monsters, I think it makes the young soldiers part of the tragedy of the conflict. I am pretty sure that it will damage them too, that they will suffer in the long run. Aside from the terrible harm that the military occupation does to the Palestinians, I am sure that Israel also hurts itself and its own young people in what it does. What kind of society, what kind of country, will Israel end up as?

Avraham Shalom is in a position to know. He led the Shin Bet, the Israeli intelligence service, between 1980-86 and in the film The Gatekeepers he says,

“We have become cruel. To ourselves as well, but mainly to the occupied population.” The Israeli army has become “a brutal occupation force.”

*Not his real name

December 11, 2013 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Solidarity and Activism, Subjugation - Torture, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Wherefore by Their Friends ye Shall Know Them: Zionists vs UNSW BDS

By Vacy Vlazna | Palestine Chronicle | May 7, 2013

boycott_logo_art

In Australia there are 30 Max Brenner shops providing funds for the Strauss Group that filter towards the maintenance of the illegal Israeli occupation of Palestine. Another Brenner outlet is ‘coming soon’ to the campus of The University of New South Wales (UNSW), the site of the present Boycott Divestment Sanctions (BDS) protest organised by Students for Justice in Palestine.

Spin-doctors against the BDS action, present the issue as an unjustified anti-Semitic attack against an innocuous chocolate shop, however the Max Brenner company and its supporters have direct and indirect vested interests in the Zionist enterprise that brutally, to this day, has destroyed the political and human rights of the indigenous people of Palestine.

Max Brenner is owned by the Strauss Group which, closely connected with the Israeli military and armament industry, provides care rations to the vicious Golani and Givati Brigades to ‘sweeten their special moments’. These units perpetrate, in their special moments, war crimes and crimes against humanity against Palestinians.

In the 1982 Lebanon War, Golani soldiers lit flares to assist the Phalangist death squads to massacre Palestinian men women and children in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps deemed an act of genocide by the UN. The Golani Brigade led a vicious offensive against the Jenin refugee camp in 2002 demolishing  hundreds of homes while burying some Palestinians alive and killing terrified residents.

In 2004 a Givati commander callously murdered 13 year old Iman Darweesh Al Hams by firing two bullets at her head from close range while she was lying wounded on the ground. To verify the kill, the commander emptied his entire magazine into her little body. He was charged, exonerated and promoted.

The Givati Brigade led the ground offensive against unarmed Gazan families  in the 2008-9  Operation Cast Lead for which the UN Goldstone Report accused Israel of war crimes.

Chairperson, Ofra Strauss also sits on the board of HESEG, which provides scholarships for ‘lone soldiers’, along with General (Res.) Yitzhak Eitan: Chief Commander of the Israeli military in Gaza and the West Bank, and Head (GOC) of the IDF Central Command during the years 2000-2003; Shabtai Shavit: Head of Mossad (the Israeli foreign intelligence) 1989-96 and the controversial Major General (Res.) Doron Almog who was Commander of the IDF’s Southern Command from 2000-2003. In 2005, he evaded a warrant issued in the UK for his arrest on suspicion of war crimes for ordering the demolition of 59 houses in Rafah, occupied Gaza; an act of illegal collective punishment under international law and on 22 July 2002, for ordering a one-ton bomb to be dropped on a home in Gaza to assassinate Salah Shehadeh killing 15 people, including 9 children.

Doron Almog is also Executive Chairman and Member of Investment Committee of Athlone Global Security Ltd. which he co-founded in 2007 providing specialised military and surveillance training equipment and services for the illegal Annexation wall and checkpoints. The Athlone team includes  Moshe Horev, who headed the Israel Ministry of Defense R&D Division, the Avionics and Armament Division and the Guided Weapon system program office of the Israeli Air force. He is a former CEO of Hewlett Packard and is currently the CEO of Oracle Systems Israel Ltd which has a longstanding strategic partnership with the IDF as one of the IDF’s main suppliers of computer solutions.

Ofra Stauss also sits on the executive of The Jewish Agency which was established by the World Zionist Organisation (WZO) in 1929 founded to take over the whole of Palestine. On behalf of the government, it assigns stolen lands to its 400,000 illegal Jewish colonists in Palestine. Chairperson of the JNF Board of Governors is American billionaire James S Tisch who is also president of the Jewish Communal Fund which channels donations to violent settler militias that oppose the return of land captured in 1967 and promote the “transfer” of all Palestinians to neighbouring countries.

Thus, associating Brenner chocolate with war crimes is a no-brainer, nevertheless  Australian apologists for Israeli war crimes roll over and go brain dead at the whiff of BDS. Politicians, journalists, commentators try to out-tourette each other’s idiotic assertions that BDS activists are anti-Semitic: Ex-PM-ex-FM-ex-rational Kevin Rudd pompously spluttered, ”As an individual citizen – that is me, K. Rudd – I am here because I object to the boycotting of Jewish businesses”; Gerard Henderson blurted,  “Then there are the historical parallels. In the mid-1930s, Sir Oswald Mosley’s British Union of Fascists used to go on rampages outside Jewish-owned shops in London’s East End – some were boycotted, others smashed up.”; Senator Stephen Conroy blabbered, “The Gillard Government remains concerned by any groups advocating a boycott of Israeli products or services or Jewish businesses and business people like Frank Lowy and Revlon’s chairman, Ronald Perlman, who is a trustee of the Simon Wiesenthal Centre,”

Ironically and gratefully, the sound bites of the anti-BDS spinners on mainstream media have boosted awareness of the BDS matter and given activists voice to justify their actions.

UNSW’s unconscionable support of the opening of the Max Brenner campus shop makes sense  considering chancellor David Gonski and vice-chancellor Fred Hilmer  have a tweedledum and tweedeldee  relationship: both are Jewish, both have sat on the boards of  Coca-Cola Amatil, Westfield Group, ( and John Fairfax Holdings). Consequently both have career long affiliations with Israel’s interests.

Coca-Cola Amatil is the Australian subsidiary of the Coca-Cola Company. In 2002, the parent company announced the proposed building of a plant on stolen Palestinian land at Kiryat Gat, in return for millions in incentives from the Israeli government. The land, Kiryat (Qiryat) Gat, has an industrial park built on the lands of the villages of al-Faluja and Iraq Al Manshiya. which were ethnically cleansed and demolished in 1949 in hasty contravention of an agreement between Egypt and Israel and of International Law. Coca-Cola Israel also directly owns dairy farms in the illegal Israeli settlements of Shadmot Mechola in the Jordan Valley and a plant in the industrial zone of Katzerin in the occupied Golan Heights. Coca-Cola Israel also supports the Jewish National Fund.

In 2004, Coca-Cola merged with Neviot Water which takes its waters from the Ein Zahav springs in Kirat Shmona built on the village of al-Khalisa after its 1500 villagers were ethnically cleansed and from wells dug by Mekorot. Mekorot, the Israeli national water company has been  accused of crimes against humanity for its theft of Palestinian water and discriminatory water shortages for Palestinians while illegal Israeli settlements enjoy a constant supply of water.

In 2009 a Coca-Cola sponsored award went to Israel’s Lobby AIPAC for its successful lobbying of the Senate to reject of the UN call for “immediate ceasefire” and endorse the continuation of the Israel military assault on Gaza.

Gonski and Hilmer are ex directors of Westfield Holdings. Westfield owner, billionaire Frank Lowy, is a Czech Jew who served  as a commando in the Haganah and later in the Golani brigades during the Nakba; the ethnic-cleansing of Palestine. He spends 3 months of the year in Israel. Through tax evasion, Lowy cheated the Australian people of $68m. SMH reports that Lowy said ‘he had given the money to Israeli charities and insisted he had met all his tax obligations’. In 2003 he set up the Lowy Institute for International Affairs ‘which promotes Israel and US foreign policy’. In 2005, Lowy was implicated in the corruption charges against his longtime friend, Ehud Olmert in the Bank Leumi affair. Lowy also set up the Institute for National Security Studies, attached to the University of Tel Aviv. ‘ As its chairman, Lowy has gathered some of the most influential policymakers in Israel and wealthiest international benefactors to sit on its boards.’ (Koutsoukis SMH 2008)

Gonski is chairman of Investec Australia part of the Investec banking group, founded in South Africa, Gonski’s birthplace. Investec SA has strong Zionist affiliations. In February 2013, it hosted an event featuring avowed Zionist Chief Rabbi Warren Goldstein, a zealous public defender of Israel’s policies.

In 2004, due to the economic downturn, Investec divested its Israel operations of which Maj. Gen. (Res) Danny Rothchild was a director. In the 80’s, he was Commander of IDF Units in Southern Lebanon and later became Israeli Defense Force Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories and Deputy Director of Military Intelligence & Chief of Intelligence Research and Analysis  enforcing Israel’s illegal occupation. He now owns and runs an Israeli-based security company, Netacs (Security) Ltd.

Avron Kregel, legal advisor to Investec is Chairman of the South African Zionist Federation. He negotiated to bar Judge Goldstone  from attending his grandson’s  bar mitzvah. It was the UN Goldstone Report that accused Israel of war crimes in its 2008/9 war against unarmed Gazan families. Zionist pressure on Goldstone led to his unethical retraction, in 2011, of the claim that Israel intentionally targeted Palestinian civilians. His 3 co-authors rejected outright any nullification, “We consider that calls to reconsider or even retract the report, as well as attempts at misrepresenting its nature and purpose, disregard the right of victims, Palestinian and Israeli, to truth and justice.”

Investec CEO, Stephen Koseff, a recipient of Israel’s highest tribute- the Jubilee Award, is a trustee of the King David Schools Foundation. The schools’ Zionist vision states ‘We recognize that Aliya is the ultimate expression of Zionist and Jewish identity.  Our students are encouraged to develop a commitment to the centrality of Israel, an understanding of its history and present reality and identification with its future.’ Aliya is the right of Jews anywhere in the world to make their home in Israel while simultaneously Israel forbids all Palestinians their right of return under international law.

Gonski is a board member of Ingeus Ltd owned by Therese Rein, wife of the grand poobah of BDS opposition, Kevin Rudd. Ingeus also operates in Israel.

Gonski is also a recipient of the Richard Pratt Business Leadership Award. In the 90s, Fred Hilmer had a lucrative consultancy with Visy Industries, owned by the late Richard Pratt who paid a $38m fine for fixing prices. His Pratt Foundation (PF) still supports charitable programs in Israel some of which channel funds to the Jewish Agency. The PF funds The Park of the Australian Soldier in the Negev affiliated with the Jewish National Fund (JNF) notorious for its theft of ancestral lands of the impoverished Bedouins.

Hilmer, a rigid business automaton, apart from his directorships of  Coca-Cola Amatil and Westfield Holdings was made, in 1998, CEO of Fairfax media which is curious given his dismal record that “cost NSW taxpayers at least $48 million’ when he was chair of Pacific Power ‘when it entered into the series of flawed electricity supply contracts with a Victorian distributor Powercor.’ The 1997-98 financial report of Pacific Power, showed their profits dropped from $552 million in 1996/97 to $43.8 million in 1997/98. (Electricity Week,1999)

Hilmer’s tenure at Fairfax was similarly lacklustre particularly when he “decided not to invest in fledgling internet site  Seek.com.au. James Packer didn’t make the same mistake, turning a $33 million investment into a $400 profit (which much of that profit coming at the expense of Fairfax)… “With Fairfax sacking 2000 workers and radically reducing its commitment to journalism, the blame lies clearly at the feet of Fred Hilmer, David Kirk, Brian McCarthy, Ron Walker, Dean Wills, Roger Corbett and the slew of highly paid executives and directors who have mismanaged one of Australia’s great companies through not one, but a series of inexcusable blunders.’ (Schwab, Crikey 25-6-13)

Now, as vice-chancellor, Hilmer is hell bent on further corporatising UNSW by pushing for universities to set their own fees. According to Prof. Stuart Rees, ‘The characters setting the fees would presumably be the same invisible, unaccountable managerialists who have already contributed to the financial woes of Sydney University and UNSW, among others.’

Key stakeholders of UNSW, its staff and students, should well take heed of Kerry Packer who “once said of Fred Hilmer, the McKinsey consultant who went on to head Fairfax Media Ltd: “I wouldn’t hire him as a fxxx sweeper. For Fairfax to be run by a management consultant I think is just an act of stupidity. I think it’s ridiculous … He came from McKinsey and he has never run a business in his life.” (Knox, The Monthly, June 2010)

The drama of the UNSW Max Brenner protest, like Star Wars, is the archetypal clash between the Dark Side and the Light: the DeathVaders of government, business and mainstream media aligned to ruthless power versus The Force championed by the Students for Justice in Palestine defending the political and human rights of the Palestinian people as set out in the UN Charter and the Geneva Conventions; legal obligations that the Empire has shamefully abrogated along with its humanity.

– Dr. Vacy Vlazna is Coordinator of Justice for Palestine Matters.

May 8, 2013 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Solidarity and Activism, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Israeli filmmaker: “But we gave back Lebanon”

Friends of Lebanon | September 27, 2012

“What do you imagine when you’re in a tank?” Israeli filmmaker Itamar Rose asks young Israeli kids. “I picture a dead Arab and that makes me happy,” responds one boy. (1:37; 1:54-1:57)

These words are quickly circulating amongst internet activists. Of course there is also a flurry of counter-finger-pointing, beginning with Rose’s own reference to a Palestinian society of “agitation and hate.” In this and other films, Rose seems to be saying that cyclical violence is a no-win situation.

As worrisome as the happy-to-kill mantra of the kids might be, equally disturbing are these political practicalities:

Q—Where do you want to do your army service? In the north? The occupied territories? Gaza? Judea and Samaria?

A—Lebanon. My first choice would be Lebanon. [. . . ]

Q—But we gave back Lebanon. We aren’t fighting in Lebanon.

A—That’s okay, we’ll be back.

Q—Do you hope that by the time you’re a soldier we’ll be at war with Lebanon again?

A—Yes.

(2:14—2:35. The original is in Hebrew. The English translation is provided in the original film posted by Itamar Rose, as is the French translation, which confirms the same precise meaning: “Mais on a déjà rendu le Liban, on n’est plus en guerre là-bas.” “ C’est pas grave, on les remettra de nouveau.”)

The boy, who I would guess to be about 11 years old, states that his father had served in the Israeli Givati Brigade. These are specialist forces for the Lebanon Border, Hebron and Gaza. The boy states he wants to do the same as his father. A normal sentiment—to follow in a father’s footsteps. But he doesn’t just want to be a soldier. He doesn’t say he wants to defend his country or his people. He says he wants to be part of the Israeli military that returns to Lebanon. He wants to wage war against Lebanon.

He might have said that he would stand ready in Israel in its defence. He might have said that he hoped there would be peaceful relations. But he echoed the aggression he had absorbed from his society: “We’ll be back.”

Was he just playing up to the camera? Caught up in the atmosphere of the Armored Corps Memorial they were visiting? Of course it is possible, but even in such a case he felt that this belligerent stance, even if not heartfelt, was appropriate to enact.

And then there is the filmmaker’s statement: “But we gave back Lebanon.” Itamar Rose uses satire in his films, so there is a remote possibility that this phrase was a tongue in cheek baiting of the interviewee. But given the fact that Rose was recently hosted for a London event by the Israel Connect program of the Zionist Federation of Great Britain and Ireland, that possibility looks remote indeed. The Zionist Federation just doesn’t promote voices opposed to Zionism. And the 22-year occupation of Lebanon was Zionist at the core.

To say “we gave back Lebanon” necessitates the presumption of custodial possession. You can’t “give back” something you don’t hold claim to. Therein lies the rub. Zionism, a political ideology, presumes this entitlement. Israeli officials have, of course, frequently denied designs of territorial conquest. But the historical facts argue otherwise and the pervasive sense of entitlement is revealed time and again.

“But we gave back Lebanon,” says the older generation.

“That’s okay, we’ll be back,” says the new generation.

No, say those of the world with an eye on justice and international law. No, Lebanon wasn’t yours to take. It wasn’t yours to give back. And should you try to return, you will learn this very simple fact.

September 28, 2012 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Militarism, Timeless or most popular, Video, War Crimes | , , , | Comments Off on Israeli filmmaker: “But we gave back Lebanon”

Gaza family urges UK Queen to remove ‘blood diamond’

Children of the Samuni family, who survived the Israeli army’s deadly attack on the Gaza Strip between December 2008 and January 2009
Children of the Samuni family, who survived the Israeli army’s deadly attack on the Gaza Strip
Press TV – June 12, 2012

A family, whose twenty-nine members were killed during the Israeli regime’s 22-day war on Gaza Strip, has issued an appeal to the British Queen to remove the Steinmetz Jubilee diamond from the Tower of London due to the company’s support and funding of the onslaught.

The Samuni family has called on the De-Beers company, which has put the diamond on display to mark the British Queen’s 60th years on the throne, to show respect for the surviving victims of the diamond funded Givati Brigade’s war in Gaza.

The family also said that diamonds that generate revenue used to fund the regime guilty of committing war crimes are de-facto “blood diamonds”.

“On behalf of the surviving members of the Sammoni family and the hundreds of other families in Gaza who have been killed by war crimes committed by the Givati Brigade of the Israeli Army, we are shocked and disappointed by the decision of De Beers to present the Queen of England with a diamond manufactured by the Steinmetz Diamond company – a company which supported the Givati Brigade during the Israeli war on Gaza late 2008 as they murdered 29 members of our family in cold blood,” said Helmi Samuni, speaking on behalf of the family, in an appeal posted to YouTube.

“We the Samuni family call on the Queen of England and the British people to decline this gift. We demand that De Beers be instructed to remove this offensive blood diamond display immediately.”

The 35.60-carat pink diamond, crafted by Steinmetz Diamonds, went up on display at the Tower of London from June 1st, 2012, marking Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee.

June 12, 2012 Posted by | War Crimes | , , , | 1 Comment