Antwerp’s diamond business had long been controlled by its orthodox, largely Hasidic Jewish community.
In the popular European imagination, diamonds remain inextricably linked with the Jews. When I’d told a group of Julio’s colleagues in Brussels my plans for a story on the Indian community’s role in the trade, they’d expressed surprise. Diamonds? Wasn’t that a Jewish fiefdom?
Once upon a time, it had been. But today it is the Mehtas and the Shahs rather than the Epsteins and Finkelszteins who rule Hoveniersstraat. Indians have come to control almost three-quarters of Antwerp’s diamond industry, a figure that had been associated with the Jews only a few decades ago.
The first wave of Indians began to wash up on Antwerp’s shores in the 1960s. They started at the bottom of the business with low quality roughs, which offered very small margins of profit, and were of little interest to the established Jewish diamantaire houses. These stones were sent to family members back in India for cutting and polishing, where labour costs were a fraction that of Antwerp’s.
The cost of polishing and cutting diamonds in factories in Surat, the main diamond-processing centre in India, is as little as a tenth of the equivalent price in Europe. The inexorable logic of costs and demographics has meant that over the years the cutting and polishing business has almost disappeared into oblivion in European cities like Antwerp and relocated to Asia, in particular India.
Antwerp’s Indian diamantaires are almost without exception Jains
“The Jews just couldn’t withstand our competitiveness,“ he said with a matter-of-fact shrug of the shoulders. “We are married to our businesses. We will work at night. We will work on the weekends. We will do whatever it takes to get a client. And we are willing to work this hard even for small margins.”
“You can go to a cocktail party if it’s necessary for business. But that doesn’t mean you should drink yourself. Never be ashamed of who you are.” Jains are forbidden from alcohol by religious strictures.
Well done Jains! Don’t stop until the Jews are completely run out!
This case concretely illustrates my longstanding economic thesis (which annoys our enemies to no end precisely because they cannot refute it) that whereas globalization without cosmopolitanism doubtless strengthens Jewish power, cosmopolitanism can more than offset globalization to ultimately weaken Jewish power. Imagine if Belgium had prohibited immigration. Labour costs in India would still be lower, so the Jewish diamond traders in Antwerp would sooner or later have been the ones outsourcing diamond processing to labourers in Gujarat, and hence making greater profits by saving money on labour. In contrast, with immigration permitted, it is the Gujarati themselves who get to profit from their own labour by gaining the mobility required to participate in the buying and selling components of the business as well as the processing component, as they perfectly deserve to.
“For us, sending rough diamonds to India for processing isn’t outsourcing as much as “homesourcing,” Santosh Kedia, owner of the jewelry company Indigems, quipped over lunch.
The optimal scenario for Jewish profiteering would be a world of closed borders for people but open borders for products, which allows themselves to function as trading intermediaries while exploiting local labour to the maximum possible extent. This was almost what they had back in the colonial era when the colonized populations could not emigrate freely, but Jews could take the colonized populations’ labour products (in exchange for a pittance at best) and trade across entire colonial empires or even between different colonial empires. But open the borders for people too, and Jews will be replaced by those whom they exploited.