"On 4 January 2009, at the start of the ground phase of operation Cast Lead, about 100 members of the extended a-Samuni family were huddled inside one house in the a-Zeitun neighborhood of Gaza City. The next morning, an Israeli airstrike killed 21 people inside the house, including 9 children and 10 women, and injured dozens of other family members. During the next two days, the army refused access to medical teams, in spite of being informed of the terrible outcome by family members who managed to escape the bombed home and human rights and humanitarian organizations, including B'Tselem. When medics managed to get to site, they found four small children next to their dead mothers in one of the houses, and evacuated several wounded people. The army refused permission to evacuate the bodies and they remained in the rubble for a further two weeks."
(The findings of UN Human Rights Council investigation into this incident are detailed at pp.159 -- 166 of the UN report.)
In the wake of the publicity generated by the protests in London, the Steinmetz Foundation removed the reference to funding the Givati Brigade and Operation Cast Lead from its website. It now reads: "The Foundation donate to the IDF".
In the weeks since I wrote to Sotheby's C.E.O., Mr. Ruprecht, all references to funding the Israeli military and the Steinmetz Foundation have been removed from the Steinmetz Diamond website. Now, under the heading "Commitment to Customers", there is a lengthy script extolling the ethical provenance of the Steinmetz Group. In what is clearly a grossly misleading statement given the preceding facts, it states:
"The Steinmetz Group is opposed to and does not engage in the condoning, facilitating and supporting of illegal activities and/or money laundering."Among other crimes committed by the Israeli military, the killing of children is not legal, and yet, the Steinmetz Group funds and supports the Israeli military and now appears to be deliberately trying to conceal these facts.
The statement continues:
"... the Group itself does not engage in illicit activities such as money laundering, terrorism financing, bribery, corruption, facilitation payments, smuggling, embezzlement, fraud, racketeering, transfer pricing and tax evasion."
Were the massacre of the Samouni family and the many other suspected war crimes committed by the Israeli military not acts of terror?
"... can rest assured that having guaranteed the ethical provenance of our stones throughout the supply chain, we also disclose all material facts and information about our diamonds, at all times whether or not specifically requested and regardless of the impact on the value of the diamond."
Far from disclosing "all material facts", Steinmetz Diamonds has moved to conceal critical information in relation to their funding of the Givati Brigade and support for the Israeli military.
In November 2012 the Israeli military launched another deadly assault on Gaza, murdering, maiming, and terrorising in an eight-day pre-election orgy of destruction that gave rise to further examples of suspected Israeli war crimes, here and here.
Owing to a cavernous loophole in the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme, cut-and-polished diamonds that generate revenue used to fund human-rights violations evade the human-rights criteria that are applied to rough diamonds used by rebels to fund violence against legitimate governments.
This allows cut-and-polished blood diamonds to legally contaminate the global market. They are sold by most, if not all, of the world's most prestigious jewellers, who deceitfully claim they are conflict-free based on little more than the fact that they are not banned by the discredited Kimberley Process.
The censorship of the Steinmetz' websites is clearly an attempt to conceal uncomfortable facts from Sotheby's patrons, who would rightly feel cheated to learn that diamonds they purchased in good faith are associated with bloodshed and violence.
Notice for protest outside Sotheby's by human rights activists in London by Innovative Minds
Patrons of Sotheby's have certain expectations and rights. They don't expect that a Sotheby's diamond, for which they may have paid millions of dollars, could be in any way tarnished by association with gross human-rights violations. They have a right to know and a right to be informed of the full provenance of the diamonds.
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