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Reform Jewish Leaders Respond to the Passage of the Clean Diamond Trade Act (H.R. 2722)

"Passage of the Clean Diamond Trade Act is just the beginning. The strong vote by Congress sends a signal to the Administration that conflict diamonds are of great concern, but work on this issue is far from done."

Contact:Alexis Rice or Erin Glazer (202) 387-2800

WASHINGTON, November 30, 2001-- In an overwhelming vote of 408 to 6, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a compromise bill on conflict diamonds this week. Wednesday's vote on the Clean Diamond Trade Act (H.R. 2722) reflects the fact that this bill is a compromise - a first step that is supported by House leaders, the Bush Administration, the diamond and jewelry industries, and many non-governmental organizations. While the bill lacks several provisions that would have increased its effectiveness, Judge David Davidson, Chair of the Commission on Social Action and Rabbi David Saperstein, Director of the Religious Action Center issued a statement today calling it a positive first step. The full text of this statement is as follows:

The overwhelming passage of the Clean Diamond Trade Act in the House this week shows that the elected officials in Congress are responding to the will of the American people. American consumers are not interested in purchasing diamonds that are directly linked to violence and terror.

Our religious traditions teach that our moral values must govern our business practices, as much as they do our personal lives. The rabbis taught that a man whose wine is mixed with water may sell it in a shop, provided that he inform the buyer that the wine was watered. But the man could not, under any circumstance, sell his watered wine to a wholesale merchant, who might out of greed or indifference, sell it to those who deceive his customers. Just as every customer has the right to know that there is no water in the wine, every customer has the right to know that there is no blood on the diamonds offered for sale, and that their beauty is untarnished by the suffering of innocent victims. This week the U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation that is a positive first step in regulating the diamond trade and ensuring that the diamonds in American stores are not mired with conflict.

However, passage of the Clean Diamond Trade Act is just the beginning. The strong vote by Congress sends a signal to the Administration that conflict diamonds are of great concern, but work on this issue is far from done. Implementation of this legislation and decisive action by the Administration are the next steps necessary to end the trade in conflict diamonds and significantly reduce the ability of rebel groups to continue their reigns of terror and destruction. Fancy language empty of meaning, or grand gestures that are not fully implemented, will not stop the role diamonds play in financing some of the cruelest insurgencies in the world.

We applaud the members of the House for beginning the process of regulating the diamond trade into the United States, and urge the Senate to pass the companion legislation, including provisions such as the inclusion of jewelry and polished diamonds in the main part of the legislation that explains the regimen, rather than a separate section; endorsement of a "closed system" approach to the diamond trade, such as the Kimberly Process; and the requirement that reports be made by the Administration not only on rough diamond imports to the U.S., but also on the importation of jewelry and polished diamonds.

The Clean Diamonds Trade Act also includes a large degree of presidential discretion. It is our hope and expectation that the Congress's interest in stopping the flow of blood diamonds to the U.S. will be matched by the Bush Administration. With the passage of H.R. 2722, and the eventual passage of the companion legislation in the Senate, the Bush Administration will have the tools in hand to take strong action at home and to support a strong international regimen to end the trade in conflict diamonds.

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The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism is the Washington office of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations (UAHC), whose 900 congregations across North America encompass 1.5 million Reform Jews,and the Central Conference of American Rabbis(CCAR) whose membership includes over 1700 Reform rabbis.



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