Mining the Apocalypse
Over the past 50 years, top Israeli and Belgian diamond dealers have perpetrated
conflict and injustice in Africa, fueled by and for diamonds. According
to a report by the American Jewish Committee: after 1980 “Mossad agents,
military emissaries, and a small group of private businessmen…replaced
diplomats as Israel’s main interlocutors with African leaders and political
(mainly opposition) groups.” The report cites rising involvement of private
defense and security interests, especially in Angola, the Democratic Republic
of Congo (DRC), and Central Africa Republic, since 1992.
Retired Israeli Defense Forces Colonel Yiar Klein reportedly organized
arms for diamonds networks in Sierra Leone and Liberia after President
Charles Taylor was deposed. President in 1997, Taylor was imprisoned in
Massachusetts in 1984 for embezzlement in Liberia, but escaped mysteriously.
He was close with President Blaise Compaoré of Burkina Faso, which is Israel’s
base of operations in Africa and a conduit for illegal stones. Yar Klein
violated the UN embargo by trading arms for diamonds from the Revolutionary
United Front (RUF), the rebels who chopped people’s hands off. In 1999
Klein was arrested in Sierra Leone on charges of smuggling arms to the
RUF; transactions went through Ibrahim Bah, a Senegalese soldier of fortune
and purported Al Qaeda businessperson.
Lebanese diamond middlepeople in both Sierra Leone and DRC are linked to
the Hezbollah. The UN documented collaborations between Sierra Leone rebels,
diamond baron Maurice Tempelsman, and Lazare Kaplan agent Damian Gagnon.
The Congo’s state diamond mining company, Societe Miniere De Bakwanga (MIBA),
has been cited for shooting “illegal” diamond workers on its concessions
in Mbuju Mayi, the diamond capital. “Every day, hundreds of unemployed
Congolese take similar risks in the diamond fields of Mbuji-Mayi,” wrote
Amnesty International in 2002. “And every day, dozens of gunshots ring
out as guards employed by MIBA seek to deter illegal miners.” The BBC in
August 2006 reported that MIBA security guards were sniping unemployed
diamond miners. MIBA security is run by one of the many DRC interests of
Belgian billionaire tycoon Philippe de Moerloose. A member of the Kinshasa
elite, De Moerloose supplies jets and other presidential toys to Joseph
Kabila, president of the DRC. Western corporations De Beers and BHP- Billiton
both have partnered with MIBA.
In 2003, as the diamond-regulating Kimberley Process crystallized, MIBA
signed an exclusive contract with Canadian Emaxon, a subsidiary of Dan
Gertler Israel (DGI) Group. But the expansion of Gertler companies in Congo
began in 2000 when former Congolese president Laurent Kabila offered Gertler’s
International Diamond Industries (IDI) a monopoly on Congolese diamonds
and 88 percent of the proceeds, in exchange for Israeli military assistance
to his new government. The DRC government expelled IDI’s competitors from
Congo and smuggling and fraud proliferated as thousands of poor miners
suffered increasing coercion, violence, and exclusion.
Gertler pledged military assistance through retired General Yosi Ben-Hanan,
Avigdor Lieberman (Deputy prime minister of Israel since November 2006
and leader of Israel’s far-right nationalist party Yisrael Beytenu), and
Yossi Kamisa, a former Israeli police officer in the Anti-Terrorism Unit
and advisor to the Ministry of National Infrastructures director general.
Though the deal was revoked in April 2001—President Laurent Kabila was
assassinated that January—Gertler formed DGI and partnered with other top
Israeli military officials and moved ahead.
Claiming he was cut out of the deal to train the Congolese army, former
Israeli anti-terrorist police officer Yossi Kamisa filed a multi-million
dollar lawsuit against Gertler, Foreign Defense Assistance and Defense
Export Organization (SIBAT), and SIBAT’s director-general Gen. (ret.) Yosi
Ben-Hanan. Kamisa’s assistance was conditional on Gertler obtaining a diamond
mining franchise in Congo: an agreement was indeed signed granting Gertler
a franchise worth about $1 billion.
Kamisa, in January 2001, said SIBAT rejected his application to set up
and train the Congo Army on the grounds that it violated Israel’s defense
export policy. Meanwhile, Mossad Chief Meir Dagan and Gen. (ret.) Yanush
Avigdor Ben-Gal applied to train the Congo Army in Israel and in Congo,
in cooperation with Gertler. By 2002 Gertler’s company was the leading
exporter of Congolese gems. Top Congolese military officials apparently
flew to Israel in 2000 to negotiate the deal and Gertler reportedly bribed
Congolese officials and Angola Army generals who commanded Angola Army
troops protecting the Congo capital Kinshasa. Note that Angola sent troops
to Congo in July 2006 to quell any possible rebellion by a Congolese public
angered by Western interests’ engineering of Congo’s “historic national
Gertler and partner Beny Steinmetz control DGI, Gertler Brothers, Beny
Steinmetz Global Resources, and Nikanor and Global Enterprises Corporate
(GEC) companies with massive diamond, and copper/cobalt concessions in
Katanga, some in partnership with John Bredenkamp and Billy Rautenbach.
The Gertler Brothers are Israeli property tycoons. The privatized Congolese
mining parastatal GECAMINES is minority partner, and J.P. Morgan Chase
is involved. George Forrest’s Kinross-Forrest Group also joined the fray.
Forrest companies made the UN hit list of Congo’s looters. He has munitions
factories in East Africa and his OM-Group is in Ohio. A pillar of exploitation
in Congo since 1922, Forrest bankrolled Kabila’s election “victory.” Dan
Kurtzer—former U.S. ambassador to Israel—is on Nikanor’s board.
Tempelsman was for decades the unofficial ambassador to Congo/Zaire; Gertler
has usurped that role. In 2000 Gertler was named Honorary Consul to the
Congo. Africa Confidential called President Kabila’s 2003 visit to the
Bush White House a “coup” for Gertler and Steinmetz, who may be the biggest
De Beers “sightholder.” Gertler’s best friend is Brooklyn-born Chaim Leibowitz,
a personal friend of Condoleeza Rice. In 2003 Rice introduced Gertler and
Leibowitz to Jendayi Frasier, a former NSC agent focused on Africa and
a Harvard Kennedy School affiliate. Frasier was one of seven special G.
W. Bush delegates sent to Kinshasa for the inauguration of President Joseph
Kabila on December 6, 2006.
Tempelsman and Steinmetz bought diamonds from both sides during Angola’s
30-year war. Israeli diamond tycoons Gertler and Leviev are reportedly
jockeying for power with Isabel Dos Santos, the high-rolling diamond-studded
daughter of the president of Angola. Given U.S. support for Rwanda and
Uganda, and the U.S. alliance with Israel, Gertler’s backing the Congolese
army to fight rebel groups backed by Rwanda and Uganda amounts to the U.S.
and Israel backing both sides in Congo’s holocaust.
Gertler’s grandfather, Moshe Schnitzer, is known in Israel as “Mr. Diamond.”
In his youth he joined the Irgun, an Israeli military cell responsible
for terrorism. He later founded the Israel Diamond Exchange in Tel Aviv,
which today brings Israel $13 billion annually in commerce and is the country’s
second-largest industry. Israel buys some 50 percent of the world’s rough
diamonds, and the U.S. buys two-thirds of these. Schnitzer’s son and Dan
Gertler’s uncle is Shmuel Schnitzer, vice-chair of the Belgian-based World
Diamond Council—the entity that promotes the false image of “clean” or
“The Congo is producing $1 billion a year in diamonds,” Victor Kasongo,
chief executive officer of DRC’s Centre d’Evaluation, d’Expertise Et de
Certification, told Reuters at a rough diamond conference in Tel Aviv in
2004. The World Diamond Council lists Congolese businessperson Victor Kasongo
as a member. DRC mines minister Simon Tuma-Waku is “special adviser” to
one Gertler/Steinmetz project in DRC.
Gertler’s forays into the bloody world of diamonds involve Israeli arms
dealer Yair Klein—the retired Israeli Defense Forces Colonel mentioned
above—who is reportedly wanted by the U.S. for training Medellin drug-cartel
militias in Colombia. Klein was convicted by Israel (1991) for his involvement
with Columbian groups that targeted and assassinated Colombian politicians,
journalists, and police. He was a field representative for Gertler in war-torn
Sierra Leone and Liberia and was jailed in 1999 in Sierra Leone. Gertler
also mingles with the Russian Military Brotherhood, a group of “retired
Russian generals whom Gertler describes as good friends.” Another partner
in the Israeli-American networks of the Gertler and Steinmetz brothers
is Israeli-born Nir Lavnat, managing director of Johannesburg-based Ascot
Diamonds, a member of the Steinmetz Group of Diamond Companies: Livnat
is connected to a string of Israeli-Americans running companies from Florida
to New York, Toronto to Tel Aviv.
De Beers holds 12 diamond concessions in DRC’s blood-drenched Kasai provinces;
Emaxon also holds concessions in the Kasais. One of DRC’s largest diamond
concessions, Kasai Shield, involves Australia’s Gravity Diamonds with BHP-Billiton,
Mwana Africa, and MIBA, and through these BHP-B links to AngloGold, Barrick
Gold, and Moto Gold (Kansteiner) in Ituri. BHP-B directors include: Paul
Andersen, U.S. President’s Advisory Council for Science and Technology,
and David Jenkins, Halliburton Corp. Halliburton subsidiary Brown and Root
backed the Rwandan Patriotic Front coups in Rwanda (1994) and Zaire (1996)
where millions of innocent people were slaughtered. The numbers of dead
from Congo’s wars—which began with the U.S.-backed invasion of 1996 and
continue to today—likely exceed ten million.
Diamonds Are Uganda’s Best Friend
While plundering DRC, Uganda’s diamond exports to Belgium tripled and their
weapons imports rose. Uganda denied everything and the Western media reported
nothing. Uganda’s backers kept the “development aid” flowing. Friendly
with Israel for years, Uganda bought MI-17 transport helicopters and armaments
from Silver Shadow, an Israeli PMC registered with SIBAT, and one of many
PMC’s reportedly in DRC. In 1999 Uganda purchased seven MiG jet fighters
from Belarus, and four were modified in Israel to increase their firepower.
The Uganda governments’ terrorism in Congo was matched by decades of internal
state terrorism in Northern Uganda. As of April 25 some 2,300 Ugandan troops
were involved in the U.S. deconstruction of Somalia; Uganda is also involved
in the Sudan.
With their constant military presence in eastern DRC since 1996, establishing
informal networks to plunder, extort, and terrorize, top Rwandan officials
and cronies shipped Congo’s stones from Kigali to Belgium on Sabena—the
Belgian National Airline that carried Congolese nationalist Patrice Lumumba
to his own murder in 1961. Kagame’s elite network funds their killing machine
with illicit diamonds, coltan and timber, and extortion through commercial
levies in Congo. According to the UN Panel of Experts on Illegal Exploitation
of DRC, they set up a “Congo desk” run by Lebanese diamond merchant Aziz
Nassour, purportedly linked to Al Qaeda. Nassour was displaced by Israeli
diamond dealer Philippe Surowicz, remembered for his “reign of terror”
in collusion with the Rwanda Patriotic Army (RPA).
Another force in the African diamond plunder is Pat Robertson, evangelist
minister with the Christian Coalition. A Mobutu confidant, Robertson’s
African Development Corp. used the “humanitarian” cover of “Operation Blessing”
to plunder diamonds during Congo’s bloodbath. He worked closely with Charles
Taylor. Robertson’s Freedom Gold is today bleeding Liberia.
The resource thefts from DRC occurred amid slavery, crimes against humanity,
and genocide committed under the direct oversight of Presidents Paul Kagame
and Yoweri Museveni, their generals James Kabarebe, James Kazini, Charles
Kayonga, and Museveni’s half-brother Salim Saleh. Israel’s Verona Commodities
reportedly brokered arms shipments to Rwanda, but weapons are routed to
the killing fields of Darfur, Congo, Uganda, Ethiopia, and Somalia through
a vast array of companies and countries, including Israel, the U.S., Canada,
and the UK.
As everywhere, weapons destabilize and depopulate: landmines and unexploded
ordinance remain heavily concentrated in Congo, maiming innocent people.
While the system has seen various facelifts, little has changed. Diamonds
out of DRC today continue to fuel warfare beyond the DRC’s borders, while
Congolese artisans suffer an average life expectancy of about 42 years.
The companies of Tony Buckingham and partner Antonio Teixeira operate through
subsidiaries and joint ventures. One, DiamondWorks, counts Beny Steinmetz
as a 50 percent shareholder. Through subsidiary Branch Energy, DiamondWorks
has perpetuated war in 11 African countries, places like Equatorial Guinea
where the bloodbath is whitewashed by U.S.-based Cassidy and Associates
PR campaigns at some $120,000 a month.
Sandline International is the follow-on to Executive Outcomes—the Soldiers-of-Fortune
firm portrayed in Blood Diamond. Mercenaries Tony Buckingham and Tim Spicer
were partners in Executive Outcomes, and their Sandline has backed insurgencies
in Africa. A Buckingham interest, Heritage Oil & Gas, is reportedly tied
to the Carlyle Group and part of a major thrust to control oil and natural
gas from the Red Sea, through Darfur, to the Great Lakes of Africa. Heritage
is pumping on the Uganda-DRC border, in Angola, Sierra Leone, and Congo-Brazzaville.
The mining mafia of “friends of Bill Clinton”—criminal networks of offshore
subsidiaries and joint ventures—are run by international “financiers” like
Max and Jean-Raymond Boulle, Robert Friedland, and Michael McMurrough.
Their companies operate in all the wrong places—Burma, Angola, Sierra Leone,
and Congo. America Mineral Fields (AMF), renamed ADASTRA, partnered with
AngloAmerican in DRC, and was recently bought by First Quantum of Canada.
Jean-Raymond Boulle, Maurice Tempelsman, Walter Kansteiner, Ed Royce (R-CA),
and Corporate Council on Africa members like Halliburton, Boeing, Cargill
and Freeport McMoran—these are the architects of the Africa Growth and
Opportunity Act (AGOA), America’s NAFTA for Africa. AGOA destroys local
markets, erects discriminatory trade barriers, undermines local economies
to enrich elites and impoverish the masses—in the language of diamondthink,
the AGOA promotes free trade.
Canada’s Golden Goose
When MGM launched its pre-release advertising of Blood Diamond in the fall
of 2006, the diamond industry launched its pre-emptive strike. “CNN News”
and the New York Times began peddling Canada as an “alternative” source
for “clean” diamonds. “When Mr. Walker, a medical student went shopping,”
wrote the NYT on December 14, 2006, “he knew it would be a ‘conscience
issue’ for his fiancée, he said. He bought a Canadian diamond with a certificate.”
The same NYT article apologized for diamond polishing in India by promoting
a notion of workers freed from hunger and “because many Africans depend
on diamonds for their livelihood,” the NYT pontificated, “a boycott is
not the answer.” This is NYT columnist Nicholas Kristof’s happy, expedient
theme: “The only thing worse than exploitation—is no exploitation! Two
cheers for sweatshops!”
In South Africa De Beers diamonds are embedded in asbestos and hundreds
of thousands of miners have suffered miserably or died from cancer, leukemia
and silicosis over the decades of De Beers operations. In India, where
90 percent of all diamonds are finely cut for about 40 cents each, often
by child slaves, cutters suffer and die of silicosis caused by inhalation
of gem dust. Diamonds from South Africa and India are officially certified
clean and safe.
“The most effective means of helping communities is giving them a hand
up, not a handout,” says De Beers’s PR about the open pit mining spreading
through Canada’s First Nations. “This is a cornerstone of De Beers’s approach
to social sustainability. The idea is to build capacity, not dependency,
in the communities with which the company interacts.”
Alvin Fiddler, a leader of the Nishnawbe Aski Nation in Canada’s boreal
forest, rejects the spit-and-polish of De Beers PR for what it is: conflict
and strife. “The Nishnawbe Aski Nation communities are among the poorest
in the world, ranked 69th in the UN’s Human Development Index, with the
lowest life expectancy in Canada, the highest youth suicide rates in the
world, and an unemployment rate of more than 60 percent. With diamonds
on our lands our communities should be wealthy.”
De Beers’s program to clear-cut boreal forest and open pit mine the Nishnawbe
Aski Nation is not only ripping apart the land; court battles, corruption
and greed are tearing apart the people. De Beers has violated treaties
and trespassed, while helicopters and drill rigs destroyed the spring goose
hunt on which the community depends for winter food. De Beers pumps out
boreal swamps, resulting in salination and sludge spoiling the Attawapiskat
River fishing. Some 260,000 hectares of pristine Canadian wildernesses
will be devastated for diamonds. Moreover, Northern Canada is seeing an
explosion of diamond mining by unscrupulous firms and offshore companies
with government complicity: another page in the ongoing North American
“The diamond industry has failed to deliver on its promises to combat blood
diamonds,” says Corinna Gilfillan of Global Witness, a non-government member
of the Kimberley delegations, “and instead has launched a PR campaign to
undermine and convince the public that blood diamonds are no longer a problem.
Contrary to the industry’s misleading and disingenuous PR campaign, diamonds
are still fuelling conflict today.”
But Global Witness (GW) appears to be under the sway of De Beers and Tempelsman.
GW supports the Kimberley Process, approving the “legitimate government”
stamping of diamonds—and this only institutionalizes structural violence.
GW’s representatives attended the 2001 Kennedy School conference on conflict
diamonds and participated in the creation of the Kimberley Process, but
they would not respond to questions about Tempelsman’s relationship to
the Harvard Conference or the Kimberley Process. And Global Witness nowhere
mentions or challenges Maurice Tempelsman. On inspection it’s easy to see
why: they can’t.
Sponsors of Global Witness include the National Endowment for Democracy,
Gleitsman Foundation, Open Society Institute (OSI), and the Tempelsman-friendly
USAID. George Soros’s OSI funds sprang out of currency speculation that
plundered Eastern European economies; Soros is an International Crises
Group (ICG) director, and an insider in Russian affairs. The Gleitsman
Foundation supports Harvard’s Kennedy School.
The National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and its partners facilitate
political intervention in foreign countries. NED’s affiliate, Center for
International Private Enterprise works, for example, with USAID in Afghanistan
and is linked to Bechtel (Nexant). The NED’s affiliate, the National Democratic
Institute, counts Maurice Tempelsman and Madeleine Albright as directors.
Richard Gephardt is on the boards of NDI and NED, both of which funded
Congo’s “historic national elections” from 2004 to 2006 and have been funding
the opposition MDC party in Zimbabwe for years.
All evidence suggests that the diamond industry has no intention of substantive
change. Indeed, in June 2002, as the Kimberley Process was unfolding in
earnest, Daniel Horowitz, CEO of IDH Diamonds, gave a speech at the 3rd
World Diamond Conference which reveals what the industry is trying so desperately
to hide. A diamond distributor for the powerful Rio Tinto mining group,
IDH works with Endiama, BHP-Billiton, De Beers, and others. The speech,
titled “Rough Diamonds in a Brave New World,” went as follows: “Ladies
and gentlemen, it would be irresponsible to circumvent the fact that it
is highly problematic, if not unfeasible, to work out a system in order
to control the flow of rough diamonds around the world. The reality is
that once diamonds are mined there is almost nothing one can do in order
to prevent them from reaching the market. No certification scheme can truly
be reliable, not only because war-torn areas are by definition disorganized,
but mainly because it is intrinsically impossible to distinguish between
good and bad diamonds. Misguiding traders and consumers with untrustworthy
guarantees would inevitably be demystified over time.
“As opposed to this, it is critical to publicize that the mainstream diamond
trade is legitimate. It needs to be said again and again that conflict
diamonds are an irrelevant portion of world production. And as far as humanitarian
issues are concerned, the added value the industry generates worldwide
particularly benefits the developing world.”
Horowitz mapped out the public relations strategy now in play. Instead
of addressing the structural factors that create and perpetuate misery
in those far off places, the industry chose to spend millions of its profits
to manage public perceptions. Because the origins of no diamond can be
traced or documented, as Horowitz confirmed, any diamond—from Liberia or
Congo or Botswana or First Nations—can be rubber-stamped with a falsified
certificate of origin: Canada.
The film Blood Diamond was no exposé on the glitter and greed of capitalism.
It was a necessary part of a massive PR campaign to manage public perceptions,
displace competitors edging in on the big diamond cartels, and make a lot
of money. Indeed, just as the blood diamond campaign was grinding into
high gear, the “rebel” diamond mafias were expediently linked to Al Qaeda.
The media fanned the frenzy, saturating consumers with baseless stories
about Islamic terrorists dealing in dirty diamonds. Big mining syndicates
were the winners.
Full-page New York Times ads cost some $75,000 for a single appearance,
$127,000 for a two-page spread. The reality is that more money is pumped
into advertising diamonds as “clean” and “conflict-free” than is spent
on development in Africa’s diamond zones. And there is not a single example
of De Beers legitimately “building capacity” anywhere in the world, no
matter what the New York Times tells us. “The Kimberley Process put in
place in 2003 has prevented diamonds from fueling conflicts and financing
terrorist networks,” announced the New York Times in their shameful cover
story of March 27, 2007. Headlined “Diamonds Move From Blood To Sweat
And Tears,” the front page story jumps to page eight—with six ads for Tiffany
and Cartier in between and a $75,000 Tiffany ad after—where it says: “Some
countries like Botswana have been able to make their [diamond] deposits
a source of wealth, through careful management and control.”
Even if the diamond industry did change—more than cosmetically—there are
still millions of blood diamonds locked in the vaults of the diamond bourses
to insure the monopoly-fixed prices of diamonds. Walk into a diamond retailer
and ask about blood diamonds and you will be told, with a nervous laugh,
and an audacious lie, “Well, that’s all been cleaned up.” Because Canadian
diamonds are conflict free, all diamonds are conflict-free. Look down at
your new diamond and think of your relationship, and love, just like someone
else did—when they found your diamond in Africa.
keith harmon snow is an independent journalist and human rights investigator
(www.allthingspass.com). Rick Hines is an artist, freelance writer, and
independent researcher for social justice.