Just about everyone knows about Abe Foxman’s one track mind. Well, maybe two tracks. One track is anti-Semitism and the other is his conservative pro-Israel politics. In a JTA essay, Abe has tried to branch out into new territory with disastrous results. The result should embarrass Abe as well as JTA, though I doubt it will. I call it JTA enabling Foxman’s fictions and follies.
In his piece, Foxman attempts to cast aspersion on Switzerland’s recent energy deal with Iran. He claims that the former has broken with the international community in its effort to isolate the Persian supposed nuclear state-in-the-making.
The only problem with Foxman’s argument is that Israel too has energy dealings with Iran, albeit ones it tries to disguise as best it can. Writing in the Swiss newspaper Sonntag, Shraga Elam reveals (in German) that Israel purchases large amounts of Iranian oil through European third parties. With Shraga’s cooperation I reported his story at Comment is Free last week. In European ports like Rotterdam, the oil’s paperwork is changed so that it can be imported into Israel without any markings indicating its real origin.
This oil trade takes place through a joint Iranian-Israeli company established during the Shah’s reign and now controlled by Israel. Iran has demanded the return of the firm’s assets and claimed they were worth $5-billion as of 1998. You can imagine how much more the firm is worth ten years later. This sum is an indication of the size of Israel’s oil trade with Iran.
So come off it, Abe. What are you and Israel complaining about? What’s good for the goose is good for the gander. And may I ask Abe to explain this statement by Israeli energy minister Binyamin Ben Eliezer defending the oil trade (followed by Elam’s summary of the foreign ministry’s attitude toward the dealings):
“Every attempt for contact with an enemy state that serves Israeli business and economic interests, strengthens the stability of the region.” And from the Israeli foreign ministry one could hear that it is not their business to inquire where the oil comes from.
Ben Eliezer has no problem buying Iranian oil. The foreign ministry casts a blind eye. But Abe Foxman is in high moral dudgeon over it. Where does Abe get off being holier than the Pope on this?
Such Iran-Israel trade is technically legal since Iran is not defined under Israel law as an enemy country. However, it smacks of the utmost hypocrisy for Israel and the Israel lobby to be complaining about the Swiss when Israel itself can’t get rid of its sweet tooth for high-quality Iranian crude. I should add that Iran itself displays equal hypocrisy because it has imposed its own boycott of Israeli trade which it is violating.
Next, Foxman really goes to town on the Swiss for their extraordinary temerity in advocating for Israeli-Palestinian peace. The Geneva Accords are the focus of Abe’s wrath:
[Swiss foreign minister] Calmy-Rey has also tried to undercut Israel’s diplomacy. Brazenly disregarding Israel’s sovereignty and democratically elected government, Switzerland sponsored negotiations between private Israeli and Palestinian individuals, known as the Geneva Accord.
Unlike the Oslo negotiations, which were backed by the Israeli government after the first couple of private meetings, the Swiss project was officially rejected by Israel and the Swiss ambassador summoned to receive a protest.
Regardless of the content of the resulting document, the Swiss action represented an inexcusable intrusion by a foreign government in the peace process and an end run around the “road map” that reflected the will of the international community and demanded an end to Palestinian terrorism as a condition of further Israeli steps.
Foxman is really off the deep end here. Instead of welcoming any nation’s sincere efforts at advancing the cause of Israeli-Palestinian peace, Foxman sees Geneva and the Swiss involvement in it as intended to harm Israel’s interests. It doesn’t matter that former Israeli and Palestinian government ministers participated in the talks. They were still, to Foxman’s mind, hostile to Israel. This is beyond far-fetched.
You knew that Abe couldn’t leave this subject without his other bete-noire, anti-Semitism, rearing its ugly head. Because Switzerland trades with the Iran and hosted the Geneva Accords this means they are somehow continuing their tacit historic support for Nazism and anti-Semitism:
In the battles against the Nazi regime during World War II and communism during the Cold War, Switzerland pursued its narrow self-interest by professing neutrality.
Today the Swiss appear to be taking the same approach in the current global war against the radical Islamist threat, spearheaded by Iran, which menaces Israel’s existence and the security of the West.
But let’s get to Foxman’s fictions. Anyone who follows the Israeli press accounts of the incident in question will immediately smell a rat:
In one egregious example, Israel’s raid on a Jericho prison in 2006 was denounced for “violat[ing] the principle of proportionality.” In that incident, Israeli soldiers had surrounded the prison, which five armed terrorists, including the assassins of an Israeli government minister, had taken over.
One prisoner and one prison guard were killed in an exchange of fire…
Here’s what really happened: several Palestinian militants associated with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine were imprisoned for their involvement in the assassination of Israeli minister Rehevam Zeevi. They were guarded by British and U.S. personnel. When those nations decided their security guards were not receiving the protection they expected they withdrew them. The PA (then controlled by Hamas) made noises about releasing the prisoners, though it did not do so. Ehud Olmert, then in the thick of an election campaign, decided to take advantage of the situation by orchestrating what I called a “jailbreak in reverse.” He sent massive amounts of firepower to Jericho, bulldozed the jail, arrested (“kidnapped” might be a better word for it) the PFLP prisoners, spirited them back to Israel. The Palestinian prisoners were paraded in their skivvies before a world audience to their utter humiliation. Israelis loved the spectable and Olmert promptly watched as his poll numbers skyrocketed.
Contrary to Foxman, Haaretz reports that three PA security guards were killed. By the way, these guards were supervising the prisoners. At no time were the latter either armed or in control of the prison as Foxman claims. No prisoners were reported killed as Foxman claims.
You can see that Foxman’s description is nothing like what actually happened. But he relies on his readers’ implict trust that what he purveys is truth when it is at best slanted and at worst lies. Which leads one to question his credibility in general. I’ve written extensively here about JTA errors involved in its Israel reporting. The last time I wrote about one, JTA even issued a correction (but only after another journalist picked up on my post). In this case, the error is only secondarily that of JTA since it merely enabled Foxman’s falsehoods by publishing them without properly vetting them. But it’s still a shoddy piece of journalism whatever way you look at it.
Thanks to Sol Salbe for his usual eagle eye in spotting this story.