Donors to the American Jewish Committee might find it curious that the organization recently issued a press release describing an incident that, a mere fourteen months earlier, it had vehemently denied. Last year, AJC Executive Director David Harris angrily rebuked donors responding to an article I published in Front Page Magazine on June 20, 2008, which he dismissed as a scurrilous lie. The article highlighted a clear conflict of interest resulting from AJC/France director Valerie Hoffenberg’s stewardship of a French government project in the Palestinian Authority. Her diplomatic efforts consisted of, in part, pressuring Israel to remove security checkpoints — checkpoints that save Jewish lives from terrorist attacks — in order to make way for a planned “Franco-Palestinian” industrial park in Bethlehem.
Specifically, I questioned AJC’s role in wresting potentially damaging concessions from Israel for the economic and political benefit of France and the Palestinian Authority. The industrial zone is intended to be a huge financial boon to the Palestinian Authority, which explicitly states in its national charter, articles 15 and 22, that its raison d’être is the elimination of the State of Israel. Expansion of its economic base will unequivocally result in the expansion of its terrorist base.
Fourteen months later, I still question the advisability, if not the morality, of AJC’s support of economic, political, and diplomatic initiatives on the part of entities that are hostile to the Jewish state. AJC’s donors overwhelmingly believe the organization exists to defend beleaguered world Jewry and the State of Israel. They do not contribute to the AJC for the economic benefit of an increasingly hostile French government nor that of the Palestinian Authority, whose determination to destroy Israel and to murder Jews is brazenly enunciated for domestic consumption by its police, military, media, educational, political, diplomatic, and religious institutions.
This month Hoffenberg resigned from AJC/France to join Sarkozy’s Middle East diplomatic team. She has been named France’s Special Representative for the Economic, Cultural, Commercial, Educational, and Environmental Dimensions of the Middle East Peace Process.
Hoffenberg’s new position accords her a wide-ranging portfolio. But Hoffenberg will not be creating French policy in the Middle East, she will be implementing it. And, as will be discussed, French policy toward Israel is even more unfriendly under Sarkozy than it was under Chirac. To make matters worse, Hoffenberg will join hands with the hostile European Union and the even more hostile Obama administration in determining Israel’s future. She is already referring to Tony Blair and George Mitchell as her colleagues.
It is self-evident that Hoffenberg’s U.S. and European Union “partners” are biased in favor of Arab Palestinian claims and are more than willing to turn a blind eye to the terrorism and relentless Arab hatred directed against Israel. Neither the European Union nor the Obama administration harbors any reservations about financial support for Hamas and the Palestinian Authority, despite knowledge that “humanitarian and other aid” is diverted to Jew-hatred, incitement, and terrorism against Israel. The brainwashing that their “humanitarian aid” guarantees is spawning suicide bombers for generations to come. With “partners” like these, Hoffenberg will be in an ideal position to wrest as many concessions from Israel as Sarkozy demands.
In her new post as an arm of the French diplomatic corps, Hoffenberg will harness her multitude of contacts, domestic and international — many of which were gleaned from her years with the AJC — to further French imperatives and to undermine those of the State of Israel. What could be more effective than choosing a supposed Jewish advocate to demand concessions that will weaken the Jewish state and strengthen her enemies? History provides a name for such individuals. Valerie Hoffenberg is a “court Jew.” Good for France, bad for Israel.
However, the ugly truth is that Hoffenberg’s role as a French diplomat preceded her appointment — her stewardship of the Bethlehem industrial park is proof. The appointment merely formalized what AJC, until recently, had sought to conceal.
But, the real question is, how does David Harris intend to handle a situation so potentially awkward, so fraught with conflict, and so hazardous for French Jews, world Jewry, and the State of Israel once his American donors find out what has been going on?
Are they so naïve as to think that Hoffenberg’s new role as a French diplomat, which she achieved only because of her coveted position with AJC/France, can actually work in favor of Israel and world Jewry? Anti-Semites, particularly in France, believe that Jews are the power behind world governments, and to them, Hoffenberg’s ascendancy is merely another instance of Jewish power-grabbing.
In a comment to an article in the French daily, Le Figaro, one Frenchman said of Hoffenberg’s appointment:
The Zionists seized a new post … She will advance Zionist interests first, revealing the principle objective of AJC/France, Zionist headquarters, working for the account of a foreign government.
In fact, AJC is the handmaiden of French interests and not the other way around. And what would you expect? AJC is proud of its prestige, influence, and access on the international scene. Serving the French government is a fail-safe guarantee that its access, influence, and prestige will only grow.
Furthermore, the phenomenon repeats itself elsewhere. A German Jew complained that:
The AJC is practicing appeasement toward the European governments and elites. That establishment, for its part, appreciates AJC giving them the kosher stamp of approval. AJC is thus working against Jewish interests in Europe.
But, what about French Jews? How do they view Hoffenberg’s rising star? It is wise to remember that the Fifth Republic retains certain vestiges of France’s monarchical past. Just as Louis XIV had his so called mignons — favorites that no one dared cross — so does Sarkozy. And Hoffenberg is one of his favorites. Neither the leadership of France’s Jewish institutions, nor Jews who enjoy power, wealth, and influence in France, are willing to exacerbate their mounting insecurity in the face of constant anti-Zionist public rhetoric by challenging Hoffenberg in her role as their supposed defender.
Yes, that is what she has become, their supposed defender. In fact, because of the advantageous position she enjoyed as both Director of AJC/France and Sarkozy mignon, she actually undermined and neutralized France’s Jewish institutions. She was the gatekeeper who limited their access to the French political establishment. She became the person whom Sarkozy consults on Jewish issues. France’s traditional Jewish leadership has become politically irrelevant, thanks to Hoffenberg.
Her malfeasance is well-known. But, she is AJC’s gift to the Jews of France, a gift that no thinking French Jew could want but one that Sarkozy has chosen to do his dirty work for him. AJC has no complaints. Its access, influence, and prestige are only enhanced. Meanwhile, Sarkozy has pursued the anti-Israel policies of Jacques Chirac, but with even greater belligerence and determination than his predecessor while falsely professing to be Israel’s friend.
IRIS (Institut de Relations Internationales et Stratégiques) think tank Director Pascal Boniface — well-known for his anti-Israel advocacy — approvingly says as much in an article: “Sarkozy retrouve les rails de Chirac” (Sarkozy Rediscovers the Path of Chirac). In 2002, Boniface declared that Israel should be placed in the “Axis of Evil.” He has made no objection to Hoffenberg’s appointment. A telling omission. Need I say more?
The resurgence of virulent Jew-hatred in France was spawned during Chirac’s reign on September 30, 2000, when the government-controlled media propagated the Mohamed al-Dura blood libel — the false story that Israeli soldiers deliberately murdered an Arab child in the Gaza strip:
Though the incident was staged, “it was broadcast on French public television station, France 2. Mohamed al-Dura became an icon for all Muslim Children. The story triggered rioting, terrorism, and mayhem throughout the Muslim world; unleashed the Second Intifada; was the pretext for Daniel Pearl’s beheading, and was referenced in Osama bin Laden’s recruitment tapes prior to 9/11.”
Chirac, in refusing to denounce the hoax and correct the record, is directly responsible for the bloody consequences that ensued. Enraged Muslims targeted Jewish communities throughout the world, including France.
The lot of the French Jew has not improved under Sarkozy. The al-Dura hoax persists despite a court victory against France 2, the government-controlled station that sued French citizen Philippe Karsenty for his role in exposing it. And now, Sarkozy has accorded new credibility to the lie by bestowing upon its author — journalist Charles Enderlin, otherwise known as France’s “voice of the Middle East” — the coveted Legion of Honor award.
Meanwhile, on al-Dura, Valerie Hoffenberg and David Harris have been silent — in France — where their voice would have had a significant impact. They have never spoken one word of encouragement to French Jewry to fight for the truth. They have never demanded an apology, a retraction, or an investigation from the government or France 2. In fact, they have never even criticized Charles Enderlin.
If AJC/France is not willing to rouse itself for the sake of Israel’s good name in France, who will do it? Not only did AJC/France not intervene when the French government perpetrated the hoax, or at any time thereafter — despite its celebrated access, influence, and prestige, it actively worked against the person who did. Only one man, Philippe Karsenty, stepped forward to fight this battle alone. Behind the scenes, in government circles, and with Jewish leaders, AJC/France’s Valerie Hoffenberg tried to discredit Karsenty and insisted that Charles Enderlin’s al-Dura narrative was true. Needless to say, neither Hoffenberg nor Harris objected to Enderlin’s Legion of Honor award. The Zionist Organization of America, on the other hand, immediately condemned it, as all Jewish organizations should have done.
Naiveté and wishful thinking compels Jews to conclude that Sarkozy is a refreshing counterpoint to Chirac. But, recall that it was Sarkozy who invited Hezbollah terrorists to Paris only two months after his election, something that even Chirac never dared to do. Libya’s General Ghaddafi was honored with Sarkozy’s hospitality after the release of Bulgarian nurses that the dictator had been holding hostage. Syrian “Axis of Evil” dictator Bashir Assad also benefited from an invitation to Paris, without even a quid pro quo. In 2008, Sarkozy humiliated former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert by seating Assad in the first row and Olmert three tiers behind at the annual Bastille Day celebration.
Today, Sarkozy harshly condemns Israel for activities that are normal in the life of every sovereign nation. He denies the legality of the Israeli justice system to settle disputes concerning the building, zoning, and dwelling rights of its own citizens. He refers to so-called “East” Jerusalem as a colony, although it was the Arabs who massacred and drove out the area’s Jewish residents in 1948 — desecrating or destroying Jewish holy sites, synagogues, and schools, and barring entry to all Jews until Israel liberated the area in 1967.
He refused to boycott Durban II in March of 2009. Thus, he lent legitimacy to a phony “anti-racism” conference whose only purpose was to condemn Israel. The conference was opened by Iran’s President Ahmadinejad, who regularly calls for Israel’s annihilation and the death of every Jew. Unfortunately, AJC played a role in this debacle. It was instrumental in discouraging a French and American boycott. AJC changed its tune only when Obama decided to keep the United States away at the very last minute.
But Sarkozy has remained silent while a known anti-Semite, Egyptian Minister of Culture Farouk Hosni, is being considered for the directorship of UNESCO, whose headquarters are located in Paris. In 2008, in response to a question raised in Parliament by a member of the terrorist organization, the Muslim Brotherhood, concerning the introduction of Israeli books into the Alexandria library, Hosni famously proclaimed:
Burn these books if they are found, I will burn them myself in front of you!
On September 4, 2009, Sarkozy — with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas at his side — condemned Israeli settlements as the great obstacle to peace in the Middle East and demanded an immediate settlement freeze. A settlement freeze should be the result of negotiation, rather than a precondition for it. Israel rejected the demand in defense of its national interests. However, Sarkozy publicly supported Abbas when he declared that talks with Israel will not occur until Israel adopts concrete measures supporting a freeze in advance of any meeting. Now, Sarkozy is looking to Obama — as if Obama needed encouragement — to issue harsh statements at the next session of the UN’s General Assembly in order to whip Israel into compliance. The take-home message for Abbas is that good faith negotiations on his part are not required because Israel’s “friend” Sarkozy, with the help of Obama and the UN, will force the Jewish state to make one-sided concessions after they sufficiently demonize her in the world community.
If peace is Sarkozy’s goal, his silence on the al-Dura hoax is nursing an enormous blind spot on his diplomatic horizon. Al-Dura has been a blessing to the blood libel industry which continues to flourish. Sarkozy would be well-advised to recall a basic historical truth: “that when people believe charges that cast the Jews as inhumanly evil, terrible things often follow.” French silence is as good as acquiescence — if not complicity. It is fair to say that al-Dura gave the greenlight to the recent Swedish blood libel, published in Sweden’s most popular newspaper. It accused Israeli soldiers of killing Palestinian Arabs in order to harvest and sell their internal organs. The Swedish government has refused to condemn it, citing principles of free speech, even though several years earlier “free speech” did not stop the government from shutting down a website displaying the Danish cartoons that ridiculed the Prophet Mohamed.
Sarkozy should understand that these modern accusations are “grotesque echoes of medieval blood libels, [and] are more than sloppy journalism. They are destructive for everyone in the region — Muslims, Christians, Jews. How can you make peace with people you believe commit such atrocities? Libel, even from bad journalism, helps kill chances for reconciliation. Every effort to fight it with truth contributes to peace.”
If Sarkozy cared about a just peace in the Middle East, he would put the al-Dura blood libel to bed once and for all with a stern admonition that France will not tolerate anti-Semitic slander in any form or from any quarter.
In short, France under Sarkozy has not ingratiated itself with Israel, is not a fresh alternative to Chirac, and has not eased the plight of French Jews. To the contrary, his policies have hurt Israel, incited anti-Semitism, and contributed to the Jew-hatred that all French Jews fear but must endure as part of normal life in France.
And, now, we have former AJC/France’s director, Valerie Hoffenberg, joining the diplomatic corps in order to further the interests of the French state. She will be advancing Sarkozy’s hostile and malignant policy toward Israel. You can expect her to strengthen Israel’s most intractable enemy, the Palestinian Authority, the “good” terrorist, the terrorist that strives to achieve by negotiation what it cannot achieve by force, yet resorts to terrorism against Jews on a daily basis even as the world clamors for Israel to divest itself of land and compromise the safety and security of its citizens.
AJC’s David Harris, like Charles Enderlin, is a recipient of France’s Legion of Honor award. Harris received his award during Chirac’s presidency. But Valerie Hoffenberg, like Enderlin, received her Legion of Honor from Sarkozy. It would be a remarkable display of good faith, courage and integrity, if Harris would repudiate his award rather than stand shoulder to shoulder with Hoffenberg and Enderlin.
But renouncing the Legion of Honor would only be the appetizer to the hearty meal of restitution that French Jewry — to say nothing of his American donors and the State of Israel and that Jews everywhere deserve from David Harris after so many years of his groveling, first under Chirac and now under Sarkozy. Perhaps Harr is would consider playing some hardball with Sarkozy — who plays only hardball with Israel.
I do suppose it is painful for Harris to bite his tongue while the Jewish people suffer injustice and humiliation at the hands of their silent, impotent, unworthy leaders, again and again, day after day, year after year. Especially in France. But does he ever sense his own humiliation?
Going forward, Harris should demand the truth from the French government about the al-Dura hoax, denounce Hoffenberg’s “diplomacy” in order to restore the leadership and integrity of French Jewish institutions, and decline to further lend his organization’s weight to serve the hostile interests of France and the Palestinian Authority. Only then can he begin to rectify the harm caused to the safety and security of France’s imperiled Jews and the State of Israel.
Perhaps one day Harris will learn that the sacrifice of access, influence, and prestige is a small price to pay for the ineffable glory to his immortal soul — the glory that accrues to every true and fearless defender of the Jewish people. Of course, the rewards are internal. There are no banquets, no plaques, no rousing encomiums. No medals. Recognition may never come. In short, the rewards are not necessarily of this world, as are the rewards of appeasement. But Israel is despised and only the noblest among us can stand up to the hatred and contempt that is universally heaped upon the Jew. No matter — David Harris, your destiny beckons. Will you heed the call?