Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich is scheduled to address the Israel Bonds conference in Washington, DC, the week after next (the conference is scheduled for March 12-14). JTA reported on Thursday that Biden administration officials will not meet with the visiting minister because he called for wiping out the village of Huwara.
Smotrich retracted his statement eventually, but to my understanding, his was not a call for ethnic cleansing, God forbid, as outrageously hostile media represented it, but pointed out that Jews who are forced to drive through Huwara’s main street are often prey to gunfire from both sides. Huwara’s main street is a kill zone for Jews.
Add that statement to a long list of things Smotrich should not have said or done, regardless of how true they may be. His choir is already familiar with those messages, the other side simply isn’t interested, and those things just get added to Smotrich’s Wiki page under “controversies.”
I inquired with Smotrich’s spokesperson regarding the JTA report on the administration’s refusal to meet with the minister during his US visit, and he was taken aback, saying Smotrich never asked for such a meeting.
So JTA misrepresented this part, which was a big faux pas, considering the Ron Kampeas report was titled, “White House says it will not meet with Israel’s Bezalel Smotrich when he visits the US.”
OK, nobody asked for a meeting, so nobody canceled it. What about letting Israel’s Finance Minister into the country? Is he on some sort of a no-fly list?
State Dept. Spokesperson Ned Price was asked on Thursday: “Smotrich is reportedly planning to be in the US for an investment conference of some sort. Would the US, based on his sort of recent comments, consider revoking his visa, which is something that some groups here have been urging?”
One of the groups the reporter was referring to was American Peace Now, which launched a petition drive titled, “Ask President Biden to Deny US Entry to Bezalel Smotrich.”
Ned Price responded to the question: “First, on potential travel here, we don’t speak to individual visa records, nor as a general matter to a particular individual’s eligibility for a US visa. Nevertheless, we’ll continue to make clear that we reject the comments from the minister, just as we did yesterday, and we appreciate the condemnations that we’ve heard from our Israeli partners.”
Finally, on Friday, the Haaretz editorial demanded that Smotrich be turned condemned as a war criminal: “The US, which was shocked by his words, should ban his entry through its borders, and all the governments that support international law should boycott him. This is what is done to a war crime suspect until he is brought to The Hague.”
They cleverly paraphrased the line attributed to Haman in the Megillah, “This is done to the man whom the king desires to honor (Esther 6:11).” See? You can hate Jews and still be familiar with the Jewish Bible.
I prefer Isaiah 49:17: “Those who ravaged and ruined you shall leave you,” which can also be read to mean: “Those who ravaged and ruined come from within you.”