Fecal Insults to Countries Are Objectionable—Unless the Country Is Israel

Jan. 18 2018

President Trump’s alleged vulgar remark last week about the homelands of certain immigrants to America has garnered much attention and generated much outrage. Very different, notes Tom Gross, were responses to the comment of the French ambassador to Britain in 2001 when he called Israel a “shy little country”:

When Ambassador Daniel Bernard told guests at a dinner hosted by the writer Barbara Amiel . . . that Israel was a “shy little country,” some journalists rushed to his defense or even praised him. For example, an article in the Independent by one of the paper’s most prominent columnists, Deborah Orr, described Israel as “shy” and “little” no fewer than four times. (At the time, the Independent was winning newspaper-of-the-year awards).

The French ambassador to London is not the American president, of course. But he is nonetheless the official representative of one of the world’s most important countries: a nuclear power, one of five permanent members of the UN Security Council, a G8 member, the land of égalité and fraternité and of a supposedly sophisticated ruling elite. And Bernard was not just any ambassador. He was one of then-French President Jacques Chirac’s closest confidantes, and had previously served as France’s UN ambassador. . . .

Yet when Bernard made his “shy” remark, the British and French press seemed to spend more time criticizing the messenger, Barbara Amiel, in whose home the remark was made, than the ambassador. Le Monde ran a front-page attack on Amiel for having had the temerity to reveal the ambassador’s comment. In the Guardian, Matt Wells denounced Amiel as “an arch-Zionist,” but had nothing but sympathy for Bernard who, he claimed “was struggling against a tide of anger from Israel.” In fact the Israeli government hadn’t made a single official comment on the matter at the time Wells’ article was published.

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More about: anti-Semiti, Donald Trump, France, Israel & Zionism, United Kingdom

How Israel Can Best Benefit from Its Newfound Friendship with Brazil

Jan. 21 2019

Earlier this month, Benjamin Netanyahu was in Brazil—the first Israeli prime minister to visit the country—for the inauguration of its controversial new president Jair Bolsonaro. Bolsonaro has made clear his eagerness to break with his predecessors’ hostility toward the Jewish state, and Netanyahu has responded positively. To Emanuele Ottolenghi, the improved relations offer an opportunity for joint cooperation against Hizballah, which gets much of its revenue through cooperation with Brazilian drug cartels. In this cooperative effort, Ottolenghi cautions against repeating mistakes made in an earlier outreach to Paraguay:

Hizballah relies heavily on the proceeds of transnational crime networks, especially in the Tri-Border Area [where] Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay [meet], but until recently, Brazilian officials were loath to acknowledge its presence in their country or its involvement in organized crime. [But] Bolsonaro’s top priority is fighting organized crime. Combating Hizballah’s terror finance is a vital Israeli interest. Making the case that Israel’s and Brazil’s interests dovetail perfectly should be easy. . . .

But Israel should be careful not to prioritize symbols over substance, a mistake already made once in Latin America. During 2013-2018, Netanyahu invested heavily in his relationship with Horacio Cartes, then president of Paraguay. Cartes, . . . too, had a genuine warmth for Israel, which culminated in his decision in May 2018 to move Paraguay’s embassy to Jerusalem. Most importantly, from Israel’s point of view, Paraguay began voting with Israel against the Arab bloc at the UN.

However, the Paraguayan side of the Tri-Border Area remained ground zero for Hizballah’s money laundering in Latin America. The Cartes administration hardly lifted a finger to act against the terror funding networks. . . . Worse—when critics raised Hizballah’s [local] terror-financing activities, Paraguayan ministers confronted their Israeli counterparts, threatening to change Paraguay’s friendly international posture toward Israel. [And] as soon as Cartes left office, his successor, Mario Abdo Benítez, moved Paraguay’s embassy back to Tel Aviv. . . . Israel’s five-year investment ultimately yielded no embassy move and no progress on combating Hizballah’s terror network. . . .

Israel should make the battle against Hizballah’s terror-finance networks in Latin America its top regional priority.

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More about: Benjamin Netanyahu, Brazil, Hizballah, Israel & Zionism, Israel diplomacy, Latin America