Israel is No More Mr. Nice Guy

(Originally published on Israel Hayom)

Israel always plays nice. For decades, we have been allowing those who demonize and delegitimize Israel to cross our borders and do their dirty work against us on our own soil.

The Palestinian village of Bil’in has become one very real symbol of this kind of “activist tourism,” where anti-Israel foreign activists gather to provoke fights with the Israel Defense Forces in order to gain propaganda footage for the international media.

The reasoning behind Israel’s welcoming policy is that we are a democracy, and we will allow even those who wish us nothing but harm to benefit from our democratic policies. But the real reason is more likely a fear of the international backlash that denying entry to Israel-haters would elicit. Whatever the case may be, the policy has always been a big mistake. As a sovereign nation, Israel should be free to turn anyone it wishes away at the border.

However, the policy finally appears to have been put to rest, at least as far as the boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement is concerned. On Sunday, Israel’s Interior and Public Security ministers declared that they planned to establish a taskforce aimed at expelling BDS supporters and preventing their entry into Israel. According to the press release, dozens of organizations inside Israel are actively collecting information to promote boycotts and international isolation. The new taskforce will be responsible for identifying such efforts and combating them.

Much like the NGO law, which is compelling NGOs to divulge any foreign funding, this effort is likely to outrage the usual suspects in the international media and NGO community. Israel’s answer to this should be a polite “mind your own business.” Israel owes no one any explanations for defending itself against those who wish to destroy it. As Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan said: “We must not allow boycott activists to enter Israel. This is a necessary step given the maliciousness of these delegitimizing activists who work to spread lies and to distort the reality of our region.”

This is a logical and natural move, and it should have been implemented as soon as the BDS movement surfaced. We have bent over backward so far to accommodate the so-called international community and its “concerns” that frankly our backs are about to break.

We should also expect an outcry from the European Union and several of its individual member states. Many of the organizations that promote BDS are sponsored to a lesser or greater degree by the EU, one or more of its member states (particularly Germany and the Scandinavian countries), or both, bringing into serious question whether these organizations are truly non-governmental in the first place.

It will doubtless be embarrassing for the EU to see its activists expelled and returned home. And rest assured: Those who will scream the loudest will be those who wished most fervently for the destruction of Israel. Thus, the new policy is likely to have the welcome side effect of outing those European nations that have truly been working against us by funding organizations that are deeply hostile toward Israel.

The presence of foreign, hostile activists operating on Israeli soil collecting information to use against us in the international arena is not only unique to Israel (show me one other country where such operations are systematically put into place with substantial financial backing from foreign governments), but also an embarrassing disgrace for these foreign, mainly European, governments, that are betraying their obligations under international law to engage with Israel only through diplomatic and legal channels.

Israel must demand a clear answer as to why these supposedly friendly nations support anti-Israel efforts. Is it customary for countries that cooperate and enjoy full diplomatic relations to engage in hostile activities against each other behind each other’s backs? The question is simple and has an even simpler answer.

Two Jewish Activists Try to Stop Trafficking of Blood Diamonds

Roughly speaking , there are two types of diamonds: those that are produced ethically and those that are not, the latter termed blood diamonds. Blood diamonds are those diamonds mined in areas of conflict or dictatorships, the revenues used to mine armies, insurgents, dictators or warlords, most commonly in Angola, the Ivory Coast, Sierra Leone, Zimbabwe and the Central African Republic.  Ethically produced diamonds are those diamonds produced in mines in Canada, Namibia, Batswana, South Africa and precious stones like sapphire in Australia and Malawi.2

The problem that exists, therefore, is stopping the flow of blood diamonds and although the world has adopted the Kimberly Process Certification Scheme (2000) in order to block sales of blood diamonds, also known as conflict diamonds, the actual ability to know the point of origin of a diamond, and whether it was ethically produced or not, is a bit difficult. Further, the Kimberly Certification has recently allowed for the purchase of blood diamonds from countries such as Zimbabwe, even though it is clear that these diamonds are not ethically produced. Economic and political pressures have won the day.

The problem is further exasperated. Once Antwerp had been the major cutting and polishing center for diamonds, and would not have imported Zimbabwe’s diamonds no matter the hypocrisy of the Kimberly Certification (the United States and some other countries ban Zimbabwe diamonds despite the Kimberly Certification). Other countries like India do not ban the export of Zimbabwe diamonds. Interestingly, the diamond business of Antwerp, almost an exclusively Orthodox Jewish establishment, has been largely taken over in recent years by non-Jewish immigrants from India.

As such, the Indians today control much of the diamond industry, being strategically situated in Antwerp and Surat, with open trade routes to New York, Hong Kong and Dubai, the largest centers of diamond commerce in the world.

Surat, India, has become the largest diamond cutting and polishing center in the world. The city is regulation free, full of cheap child labor, and takes no responsibility for the illness known as “diamond lung” or other respiratory illnesses stemming from the inhalation of very small diamond particles. It is estimated that over 500,000 thousand people in Surat work in the diamond cutting and polishing stages of the diamond preparation process. Worse, once these diamonds have been strategically cut and polished, it is almost impossible to know their point of origin; as such, it is entirely possible that blood diamonds make their way to the American market in great numbers.  As the Brilliant Earth website explains, Surat has become the place “where blood diamonds go to forget their past”.

Enter two Stanford University graduates, Beth Gerstein and Eric Grossberg. In 2004 they established Brilliant Earth, a company that designs and produces jewelry made from diamonds that are only ethically produced. In addition, they recycle gold and platinum for their use in their jewelry. Some of the Brilliant Earth diamonds are processed in Israel as well. According to industry sources, Brilliant Earth has shaped the diamond purchase landscape in important ways, leading as well to a greater level of consumer sensitivity to the issue of conflict versus ethically produced diamonds. JCK magazine, a leading diamond industry publication, named Eric Grossberg as one of the young and influential industry entrepreneurs.

Furthermore, the company actually donates five percent of its profits to aid those impoverished by decades of cruelty, war and slavery in the very areas where blood diamonds are produced.

Further, as the diamond industry is a multi-billion dollar business, it is highly probably that blood diamonds are regularly traded with the disguised blessings of the industry. Brilliant Earth painstakingly goes against the grain to assure that its diamonds or precious stones are tainted in any way by the oppression of others.  Actually, they are most vociferous in their stance. One of their managers, Greg Krauss, has published an important and fascinating article about the realities of the diamond industry and how Brilliant Earth disassociates themselves from practices that may be legal, but are absolutely unethical.

Brilliant Earth has centers for land restoration and medical aid in Sierra Leone, community centers and activist groups for the prevention of child labor in the Congo, and has established avenues for human rights education in Angola. These are only a few of their projects. By empowering communities from the bottom up, they believe that they can make a difference.

As Gerstein says, her goal is to “transform the jewelry industry by demonstrating transparency, responsibility and compassion.” Quoting Margaret Mead, Gerstein adds, “Never doubt that a thoughtful, committed group of citizens could change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”