The U.S.-based Anti-Defamation League (ADL) smeared the government of Switzerland as a “financier of terrorism” in early April on the basis of that country’s recent agreement to import natural gas from Iran.
Swiss Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey traveled to Iran for the signing of the agreement between the Swiss energy trading company EGL and the state-owned National Iranian Gas Export Company (NIGEC). Calmy-Rey met with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on March 17.
The ADL lashed out againstSwitzerland,arguably the world’s oldestfederal republic,inpaid advertisements placed inThe New York Times, The International Herald Tribune, The Wall Street Journal, and major Swissnewspaperson April 8.
“As the Swiss government pursues its own narrow economic interests, it is bankrolling the world's leading sponsor of terrorism,” declared the ADL’s full page ad.
“The reproaches in this advertisement do not fit the facts,”replied theSwiss foreign ministry spokesperson Lars Knuchel.
“The gas contract signed between the Swiss and Iranian companies does not violate international sanctions taken by the United Nations and the US. Numerous countries which are much bigger than Switzerland maintain trade relations with Iran,” said Knuchel.
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The European Union, China, Japan, and others maintain trade relations with Iran. Switzerland is not among the top ten countries receiving Iranian exports of commercial goods or raw materials.
The US and Iran broke off diplomatic relations in 1980. Switzerland represents US interests in Iran and Iranian interests in Washington. When he was asked whether the deal might influence Switzerland’s mediation role, Knuchel pointed out that a State Department spokesman had said there was no change in US policy.
So why is the ADL so upset with Switzerland?
The ADL once sought and gained wide recognition as a civil right monitoring organization but today is recognized as an ethnic and political special interest group with a documented history of espionage activity. The ADL, under a permanent injunction issued by then-California U.S. District Court Judge Richard Paez in September 1999, is enjoined from engaging in illegal spying against Arab-American and other civil rights groups. Judge Paez was nominated to serve on the U.S. Ninth District Court of Appeals in 1996 and confirmed by the Senate in 2000.
The injunction was part of the settlement of litigation following the ADL spy scandal of 1993, which revealed that the ADL had become a clearinghouse for illegally obtained and retained information and a conduit for the transmission of sensitive U.S. domestic political intelligence to Israeli intelligence organizations through its in-house “fact-finding” operatives and its “official friends” including government officials, investigators, and intelligence officers. Until an FBI counter-intelligence investigation and the resulting news coverage and scandal curbed ADL spying, officials from all levels of government, municipal, county, state, and federal, were among those favored by the ADL with expense-paid trips to Israel where they were wined, dined, and debriefed by friendly officers of Israel’s security and espionage agencies.
The ADL’s false charge against the government of Switzerland came less than two weeks after the UNHRC appointed a new Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967. The new special investigator, Professor Richard Falk, is a world-renowned Jewish-American professor of international law.
Falk has been the Albert G. Milbank Professor of International Law and Practice at Princeton University since 1965, and is currently Visiting Distinguished Professor in Global and International Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Falkwrote in lateJune 2007 that “to associate the treatment of Palestinians with th[e] criminalized Nazi record of collective atrocity” was not an “irresponsible overstatement.”
Falk's appointment as the UNHRC's special investigator on Israeli actions in Palestine has enraged Israeli politicians and the leaders of the pro-Israel lobby and Zionist organizations in the USA.More worrying to the leaders of Zionist organizations, no doubt, is that Falk is but one of a growing number of American Jews, many of them accomplished and influential public figures, who are daring to publicly question and criticize Israeli policies they see as insupportable.
The pro-Israel lobby's popularity and political influence in the USAare diminishing as Americans from all cultural backgrounds question and find fault with the politics behind failed socially and economically destabilizing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and a run-amokglobal war on terrorism. Popular support for President Bush has plummeted as his administration’s policies have led to charges that the U.S. government has engaged in kidnapping, torture, and extra-judicial executions.
According to Global Policy Forum data, since 1973 the U.S. has used its veto to block U.N. Security Council draft resolutions critical of Israel 40 times, not to mention the many instances when political pressure or other inducements made the use of the veto unnecessary. This, while Israel has steadfastly refused to come into compliance with U.N. Security Council Resolution 242, unanimously adopted on November 22, 1967. UNSCR 242, which has the force of international law, calls for “the establishment of a just and lasting peace in the Middle East” based on “withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict” and “termination of all claims or states of belligerency.”
The “land-for-peace” formula, based on UNSCR 242 and subsequent resolutions, was the official policy of seven successive U.S. presidents who have acquiesced to, tacitly approved, or actively supported Israel’s non-compliance with U.N. resolutions and the Geneva Conventions, while the U.S. Congress has provided Israel with billions of dollars in direct aid year after year, roughly one-fifth of America’s entire foreign aid budget, as well as arms and materiel. Seasoned observers say this has had the effect of handing Israel a license to steal and kill at will and the weapons with which to carry out the crimes, and growing numbers of Americans are increasingly sceptical of and disenchanted with what they see as inordinate and malign Israeli influence over U.S. Middle East foreign policy. The ADL’s hyperbolic rhetoric is viewed by many observers as evidence of desperation as popular support in the USA for Israel, and willingness to overlook Israeli crimes and excesses, turns to vocal opposition.
The ADL’s inflammatory charges against Switzerland have come as something of a surprise to the international community of nations as well as the Swiss themselves. Switzerland is most widely known for its long-standing policy of neutrality, which was established in 1674 and internationally recognized by the Congress of Vienna in 1815.
During WWII, the policy of armed neutrality and non-alignment discouraged Adolph Hitler’s Nazi regime from invading Switzerland (population 4 million), while the Swiss, the only nation in continental Europe to successfully resist the onslaught of fascist militarism during the 1930s and 1940s, provided sanctuary for more war refugees per capita than the United States. In 1863, the small country in the heart of Europe gave the world the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the world's most widely-recognized and respected independent, neutral organization ensuring humanitarian protection and assistance for victims of war and armed violence. Switzerland is known, too, for the Geneva Conventions, also established in 1863, which first set recognized standards for international law regarding humanitarian concerns.
Switzerland is home to the United Nations Office at Geneva (UNOG), the largest UN duty station outside of UN headquarters in New York. With some 1,600 staff, UNOG is a focal point for multilateral diplomacy and one of the world’s busiest intergovernmental conference centers. The regional office of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) is located in Geneva. Since it was established in 1949 to provide relief for victims of the world’s largest refugee crisis, a direct result of Israel’s armed expulsion of Arab citizens from what had been British Mandate Palestine, UNRWA has provided services for four generations of Palestinians refugees.
Today, many of the 4.5 million registered Palestinian refugees in the 58 camps in UNRWA’s area of operations (Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, the West Bank, and Gaza) live in appalling conditions. On March 6, a coalition of eight British-based aid agencies and human rights groups reported that Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip has created the worst humanitarian crisis there since the Israeli occupation began in 1967. John Ging, director of UNRWA in Gaza, told Reuters news agency, “The whole infrastructure is in a state of collapse, whether it’s water, sanitation, or just the medical services.” The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), which supports the UNHRC, is also located in Geneva.
Israel actively opposed UNHRC’s appointment of Falk as Special Rapporteur for human rights in Palestine. According to a March 26 UNHRC press release, Ambassador Itzhak Levanon of the Permanent Mission of Israel to the United Nations Office and Specialized Institutions in Geneva said members of the Council were missing an opportunity to show the world that UNHRC genuinely sought improvement, the chance to make a difference, and the prospect of laying the groundwork for better cooperation with Israel.
Warren Tichenor, U. S. Ambassador to the United Nations and other International Organizations in Geneva, said the United States respected the integrity of the procedure to elect candidates but expressed its concern on the mandate holder selected for the task of assessing the human rights situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Tichenor noted that this had long been a particularly sensitive mandate and said the United States hoped that it would not be conducted with bias and partiality. Speaking for Palestine, Mohammad Abu-Koash, Ambassador of the Mission of Palestine, said it was ironic that Israel, which claimed to be representing Jews everywhere, was campaigning against a Jewish professor who had been nominated for the post of Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.
Abu-Koash noted that Falk is the author of 54 books on international law and wondered if those who had campaigned against Falk’s appointment had read that many books. Abu-Koash called Falk’s nomination a victory for good sense and human rights, said he was a highly qualified rapporteur, and added that if Israel was concerned about human rights it would have ended its prolonged occupation long ago.
The United Nations General Assembly established its Human Rights Council on March 15, 2006. The move to create the UNHRC was opposed only by the United States, the Marshall Islands and Palau, which are bound to the United States through Compacts of Free Association, and Israel.
The inescapable conclusion seems to be that the policies, positions, and actions of the United States and Israel with regard to human rights, especially in the illegally occupied territories of Palestine, run contrary to those of the larger international community and to international law, which is why ADL leaders are so loudly smearing the Swiss, who host an important seat of multilateral human rights diplomacy.
Militant Zionist leaders, bereft of rational moral arguments as a result of own their insistence on exclusivist, expansionist policies backed by coercive armed force, are now confronted by growing numbers around the world and across the political spectrum who are refusing to acquiesce any longer to Israel’s well-documented crimes and excesses. Will militant Zionists persist in blaming their victims and casting aspersions on any and all who attempt to assist them? When the principles, ideals, and values that under gird human civilization and inform international law go long ignored by the world’s most powerful and influential states, human suffering multiplies, and popular opposition to illegitimate power grows.
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