If ever an issue begged for the intervention of a Jewish organization of international stature, it was the Mohamed al Dura affair. This notorious blood libel accused Israeli soldiers of shooting to death an Arab boy in Gaza on September 30, 2000. Though the event was actually a staged hoax, it was broadcast the same day 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.
For seven years a few of us worked to expose that hoax; I was sued for my efforts.
The American Jewish Committee is one of the world's most active Jewish institutions. It would have been entirely consistent with its mission to have stepped forward to aid me in my efforts to counter a libel that dishonored every Jew.
But under its current executive director, David Harris, only silence and obstruction were forthcoming.
Harris is renowned for his diplomatic skills, his warm friendship with French President Nicolas Sarkozy, and his contacts at the highest levels of other European governments. Apparently people have complained to him that his representative in France, Valerie Hoffenberg, never objected to France 2's hoax or supported efforts to expose it. In fact, Hoffenberg was waging a behind-the scenes counter-offensive to cover-up the al Dura lie by blocking access to French officials, lobbying Jewish leaders against exposing the truth , and claiming that the phony news report was authentic. Harris' response was always polite and reassuring: "I will look into it," he promised.
Yet nothing ever changed. It finally became clear that Hoffenberg was not acting on her own initiative, but faithfully adhering to AJC policy. Because of Hoffenberg's activities, AJC France was actually the truth's most destructive adversary.
Nonetheless, in May of last year a French court ruled in my favor.
Sadly, David Harris's aversion to exposing the al Dura hoax has been entirely consistent with the advice his organization gave to the Obama administration (as well as other foreign governments), encouraging them to participate in the planning of the racist conference purportedly against racism known as Durban II - in direct contradiction to the wishes of the State of Israel. Now he is viciously attacking three of Israel's best defenders - Caroline Glick, Melanie Phillips and Anne Bayefsky - for advocating an immediate and unequivocal refusal for the United States to attend it.
Harris's claims that he deserves the credit for the current US disengagement from Durban II or improvements in its draft declaration - after repeatedly undermining efforts for the US not to attend - are more examples of the same practice that was shown in the al Dura context, and which looked suspiciously like an attempt by AJC to play a double game.
When the French Court of Appeals ruled that the the footage shown by Framce 2 was fraudulent, the AJC immediately issued a statement in praise of French justice. But apparently that statement was only for its US audience. When asked to comment in French, AJC 's representative in France refused, perhaps concerned that it might appear as a criticism of the French government which owns and controls the French public TV station that broadcast the al Dura hoax.
On December 2006, the AJC published an excellent report called "Progressive Jewish Thought and the New Anti-Semitism" by Alvin Rosenfeld. AJC received requests that it be translated into German.
Harris wrote to his Berlin bureau chief, Deidre Berger: "I believe there would be a mini-firestorm in Germany if this [the Rosenfeld report] appeared and, therefore, do far more damage than good to our image and reputation in a key country."
In other words Germany is a "key country;" Harris had important relationships to protect.
Regrettably, I do not seem to be alone in my concerns about Harris' s European involvement.
The following is an unsolicited note from a prominent German Jew that came to me in November 2008:
"While you experienced problems with AJC Paris, AJC Berlin has been making problems in Germany. This is no coincidence. The explanation is that this AJC policy is supported by David Harris. AJC wants to sit in the first row among the Jewish organizations when it comes to contacts with European governments. For this reason they try to get along well with the establishments in the various countries...
"It is thus working against, and even sabotaging, other Jewish and non-Jewish NGOs that are more serious about combating anti-Semitism and supporting Israel. In short, 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."
Worldwide, Jew-hatred is skyrocketing; Israel's enemies have never been as united as they are now. The UN's Durban II is a forum intended to confer official legitimacy on this unity of hatred - no less than the fiction of Mohamed al Dura, the UN's poster child for Israeli atrocities. Not surprisingly, the painful but phony image of the "dead" Al Dura boy adorned the walls of the places that hosted Durban I.
AJC attracts donors by claiming to protect Jewish interests, but unfortunately, at least under its current leadership, its actions have merely been providing cover for their enemies.
The writer is a French media critic.