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Oct. 2003

By Janine Roberts, Disinformation Press, New York, $22.95

Just in time for Yom Kippur comes this book, a catalog of De Beers’ sins of over the years. Written by Janine Roberts, a long-time critic of the diamond industry, it should be read by the epilogue first. The epilogue details how the author wrote the book and some of the problems she ran into. She clearly has an axe to grind against De Beers and the BBC, with which she collaborated on the anti-De Beers documentary “The Diamond Empire” in the early 90s. She was eventually pushed out of the documentary — by force, according to her — and the BBC was eventually sued for libel and as a result the documentary is no longer distributed in certain countries.

Most of the book involves the standard charges against De Beers and Maurice Tempelsman, from De Beers’ behavior during World War II to Tempelsman’s dealings with Zaire’s dictator Mobuto Sese Soko. There is also material on asbestos in the mines, the debate over “conflict diamonds” and the Kimberley Process and the alleged use of child labor in India. These charges have been debated and answered over the years, and we don’t want to rehash them here. The book ends on a positive note, when she says she hopes that diamonds “will become a symbol of nature’s richness, an emblem of freedom rather than avarice — and to be of much greater benefit to the African diamond-rich nations.” We agree. Still while Roberts is a gifted journalist, we wish she’d been more evenhanded in her approach.

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