President Sarkozy will arrive in Israel on Sunday. According to a June 13, 2008 article (translation provided below) in the Arab media, based on French sources, the American Jewish Committee's Paris representative, Valerie Hoffenberg, visited Bethlehem on June 12, 2008, in order to do advance work for Sarkozy's stay during which he will lay the cornerstone on a planned industrial park in Bethlehem. Concurrently, he is expected to make serious demands of Israel that will further the economic, diplomatic and strategic interests of France and the Palestinian Authority.
But, who owns the AJC/France? Does the organization serve the interests of French Jews? Is it the handmaiden of the French government? Or is it a friend and mentor to the Palestinian Authority? If the answer to one or more of these questions is "yes", do these divided loyalties spell conflict of interest?
The question is a reasonable one. Philippe Karsenty has accused the AJC/France of thwarting his efforts to expose the al Dura hoax to the light of day in two widely circulated letters to which the organization has publically responded. An article detailing the dispute was published in the Jerusalem Post. Karsenty accused the AJC's Paris representative, Valerie Hoffenberg, of maneuvering behind-the-scenes to block his access to government officials, and of arguing that his contentions concerning al Dura had no merit.
Karsenty was sued for defamation by France's largest publically owned and controlled television station and its acclaimed journalist, Charles Enderlin, for his accusation that their report of the shooting death of an Arab boy in Gaza, on September 30, 2000, by Israeli soldiers was a staged hoax. He was found innocent on appeal on May 21, 2008.
AJC President, David Harris, dismissed Karsenty's charges, responding, "You might as well accuse us of passing nuclear secrets to the Iranians." France's Jewish community was ill-served by Harris's cynical rejoinder, meant to undermine Karsenty's credibility, and to deflect attention from the substance of his concerns, namely: whom does American Jewish Committee represent? Jews? The French government? Or the Arabs? Silence and inaction on the al Dura hoax protects French diplomacy, costs Jewish lives, and gives aid and comfort to Arab lies.
Concerning Valerie Hoffenberg's visit to Bethlehem on June 12, 2008, the same question must be asked. Was she on a mission for the French government, the Palestinian Authority or the American Jewish Committee? The purpose of the visit was to facilitate the creation of a French industrial zone in Bethlehem for the benefit of Arabs living in Judea and Samaria. Obviously, French and Arab diplomatic, strategic as well as economic interests are at stake. On the Arab side, vested foreign economic interests in a future Palestinian state function to make it a fait accompli irrespective of the success or failure of negotiations with Israel. French and other foreign economic investment and commitment to such a state, in advance of negotiations and agreement with Israel, will increasingly box Israel into a corner from which no exit is possible and further constrain her ability to act in her own strategic and diplomatic interests. Is Valerie Hoffenberg's involvement in this process suitable to her role as representative of AJC/France?
The project has run into difficulty due to Israeli policies. Valerie Hoffenberg met with the mayor and prefect of Bethlehem, as well as the Council General of France, to strategize over wresting concessions from the Israeli government in order to make the project a reality.
The land for the industrial zone has not yet been identified due to difficulties created by the "Israeli occupation".
The project's success depends on Israel. The French delegation in which Valerie Hoffenberg participated was concerned specifically with persuading (read pressuring) the Israeli government to remove checkpoints erected to thwart terrorist attacks against Jews. Furthermore, Israel is expected to supply land, water and power for the industrial zone.
On whose behalf is Valerie Hoffenberg negotiating? If her goal is to benefit the Palestinian Authority, can it be affirmed that she is functioning in her capacity as representative of the AJC/France?
Perhaps French Jews would be more comforted if Hoffenberg were negotiating to forestall as many concessions as possible rather than endeavoring to pressure Israel to grant as many as possible.
Roadblocks save lives. Their removal spells death to future, but inevitable, Jewish victims of Arab terrorists who will henceforth be unhindered by the inconvenience of a stop and search.
Not all AJC donors and supporters would be pleased to know that, in addition to being an obstacle to the truth in the al Dura case, its Paris representative went to Bethlehem last week in preparation for Sarkozy's forthcoming visit to Israel. It is reasonable to wonder whether her role in easing Sarkozy's bargaining position on behalf of French and Arab economic, strategic and diplomatic aspirations constitutes a conflict of interest with her role in AJC/France. Though David Harris may not be dealing nukes to Iran, his agent in France is certainly dealing death to Israelis in furthering the ambitions of their murderous peace partner. By all means, let's not inconvenience the terrorists! Down with checkpoints!
Below is the article translated from the Arabic detailing plans for France's industrial zone in Bethlehem.
Sarkozy will lay the cornerstone during this month [i.e break ground] France will build an industrial zone in Bethlehem
Osama Al-Issa from Bethlehem
French and local sources revealed today that President Nicholas Sarkozy will lay down the cornerstone for an industrial zone that will be built by France in Bethlehem at a later time of this month. And thus the project of establishing an industrial zone in the Palestinian city that is surrounded by walls and settlements goes into the execution phase, despite the fact that it has till now not been announced where the zone will be constructed. And the [selection of a site] for the industrial zone has transformed into a conundrum in the past months, because of the Israeli invasion's control over most of the lands of Bethlehem that lies beside Jerusalem.
And Valerie Hoffenberg, the French president's envoy for the followup of the Industrial Zone project, visited Bethlehem today and met with the [Head of the district... not sure what official title this translates to] Salaah Al-Ta'mari, and the vice mayor of Bethlehem George Sa'aada, and the head of the Commercial Chamber in Bethlehem Dr. Sameer Hazboun, and searched for methods with them to make the industrial zone project succeed and which is supposed to be established and in which a celebration of the laying of the cornerstone with the presence of President Sarkozy will happen on the 24th of the current month.
And the French President's envoy was accompanied to Bethlehem by Allan Rame the French Consul in Jerusalem, and Sebastian Farafe the Academic Attache in the French Consulate, and Corin Evanesse, the president of the company in charge of the feasibility study of the industrial zone, and during the meeting several matters were discussed regarding work in the industrial zone and ways to make it succeed so as to begin constructing it so as to serve the Palestinian people.
And in the beginning of the meeting the [district head] Al-Ta'mari informed the French delegation of the political and economic picture in the district where he offered an explanation of the current economic reality in Bethlehem, in which he valued the French effort and vision that supported the Palestinian people.
And Al-Ta'mari referred to Israel's control over Palestinian lands and the difficulties that Palestinians face in finding a suitable piece of land for the building of the Industrial Zone, pointing out to the choking of areas A due to the siege that has reached the borders of the city and of which nothing remains and as for Area B is controlled by the invasion and the Israelis are trying to prevent any Palestinian effort on it, and the Israelis forbid construction in the C areas that are [totally under Israeli control].
And Al-Ta'mari stressed the Palestinian need for developmental projects that help the Palestinian in the building of a strong and advanced economy despite the circumstances instead of offering aid and assistance, especially in the agricultural, industrial, and tourism fields.
And the French president's envoy said that the purpose of President Sarkozy's coming visit to Bethlehem, and the laying down of the corner stone for the establishment of the industrial zone, is "to establish an industrial zone able to offer assistance to the Palestinian economy and that be employed in all the fields of Palestinian industry, therefore creating more employment opportunities for the Palestinian youth and give them hope", pointing out that the idea is based on helping the Palestinians through partnership with them at work.
And the French envoy stressed that France will do all it can to help the Palestinian people and improve the circumstances of their daily lives, clarifying that France, by the building of this industrial zone, wants to send a signal to the entire world that the Palestinian people can develop and construct, and that this French Palestinian project will be a message for success so as to be a model adhered to by all the countries of the world so as to help in the construction of a large Palestinian economy.
And the French envoy said that she will present several issues with the Israeli side concerned with the commencement of the execution of the Industrial zone such as easing movement in Bethlehem and the subject of providing the Industrial zone with sufficient electricity and water, in the hope that the Israelis will fulfill the promises they gave to facilitate and help the Palestinian economy.
And George Sa'adeh the vice mayor of Bethlehem valued the French efforts in support of Bethlehem and Palestine, expressing his hope that other countries will follow this example and offer assistance with Bethlehem through assistance in developing its industry and economy.
And Dr. Sameer Hazboun the president of the Commercial Chamber said that this was the first time an industrial zone's execution is commencing, despite that the fact that Palestinians had heard many times of promises to establish industrial zones that have yet to be executed, and he expressed his belief that its execution will be a lively initiative that will show the French and international commitment to the Palestinian people.
And Hazboun valued the French vision and plan for the establishment of this zone, pointing out that the industrial zone will need to establish a large and permanent expo for the Palestinian industries that will contribute in the promotion of these industries on one hand and work on assisting Bethlehem economically by organizing days of cooperation with the nations that are interested in visiting this permanent expo.
And Hazboun called upon the French delegation to work on the necessity of having a French commitment to assist in marketing the Palestinian products and easing their movements through France's relationships with the Israeli side which will help a lot in the Palestinian economy and its development and growth.