How Dare Israel Put Its Interests Ahead of US Foreign Policy!

by Kevin Jon Heller

Ah, hypocrisy — thy name is the United States. First up, US anger at Israel for not supporting a lawsuit concerning allegations that the Bank of China laundered money for Hamas and Islamic Jihad:

Israeli Ambassador to the US Michael Oren was called back to Israel to take part in an emergency meeting convened this weekend by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu so that Oren could pass on  messages sent by the US administration and Congress in the wake of tensions between the two countries.

The tensions and lightening visit stem from the US’s outrage at Israel’s decision to back out of their commitment to a terror prosecution involving the allegedly laundering monies for Hamas so that Netanyahu and his family could embark on their State visit to the country last May.

This weekend Nahum Barnea and Shimon Shiffer from Yedioth Ahronoth broke the story and revealed that the Chinese government threatened to cancel Netanyahu’s visit if Israel refused to promise that senior Israeli defense officials would refrain from testifying against the Bank of China in a federal court trial currently underway in New York.

According to the report, China conditioned Netanyahu’s visit on the demand the officials retract their promise to testify in the trial being led by the family of terror victim.


The story has invoked the rage of the White House, a number of US congressmen and Jewish organizations active in the US who were flabbergasted by the decision to back out of a legal battle against the funding of international terror only in an attempt to prevent harm from coming to Netanyahu’s visit.

How dare Israel be so soft on terrorism! How could they think it’s okay not to support “a legal battle against the funding of international terror”?

Oh, wait:

It is a dark day for the rule of law. Federal and state authorities have chosen not to indict HSBC, the London-based bank, on charges of vast and prolonged money laundering, for fear that criminal prosecution would topple the bank and, in the process, endanger the financial system. They also have not charged any top HSBC banker in the case, though it boggles the mind that a bank could launder money as HSBC did without anyone in a position of authority making culpable decisions.


There is no doubt that the wrongdoing at HSBC was serious and pervasive. Several foreign banks have been fined in recent years for flouting United States sanctions against transferring money through American subsidiaries on behalf of clients in countries like Iran, Sudan and Cuba. HSBC’s actions were even more egregious. According to several law enforcement officials with knowledge of the inquiry, prosecutors found that, for years, HSBC had also moved tainted money from Mexican drug cartels and Saudi banks with ties to terrorist groups.

Those findings echo those of a Congressional report, issued in July, which said that between 2001 and 2010, HSBC exposed the American “financial system to money laundering and terrorist financing risks.” Prosecutors and Congressional investigators were also alarmed by indications that senior HSBC officials might have been complicit in the illegal activity and that the bank did not tighten its lax controls against money laundering even after repeated urgings from federal officials.

Apparently, only the United States has the right to put its economic interests ahead of the war on terror. Other countries just have to suck it up and do the right thing.

PS. Let’s also not lose sight of the double-standard at work regarding UK/US and Chinese banks. Next time you get angry that China doesn’t meekly accept direction from the State Department — cough, Edward Snowden, cough — you might want to keep that double standard in mind.

2 Responses

  1. US citizens often make the mistake that because the United States largely enables the existence of Israel with cash and protection that Israel somehow owes the US political support on any given issue.  But time and again Israel disproves this.  Israel is an ally, no more, no less.
    The flip side is when Israel spies on the US / resells tech transfers to China / steals US IP that those actions shouldn’t just be ignored but should have real foreign policy consequences.  In this relationship one side (Israel) is acting rationally and the other side (the US) is not.

  2. For an additional twist, a recent report has it that a NY law firm has launched a lawsuit against US groups for ‘material support’ of settler violence. The twist is of course that pro-Israel groups have thus far used US courts to file cases against Palestinians, including the PLO, under the same legislation.
    Let us see whether the definition of terrorism is subdued by US subjectivism and political discretion to exclude Jewish Israeli settlers from its application. Under the relevant international law, where it is part of the framework for combatting organised transnational crime, the definition of terrorism (for example, in Art 2 of the 1999 Convention for the Financing of Terrorism) is broad enough not to require any particular level of organisation or engagement in violence. Of note is the fact that the 1999 Convention places the burden on the state (of its 106 state parties) to obtain information and ensure that entities under its jurisdiction do not provide support, financial or otherwise, to acts intended to cause any kind of bodily injury or damage to property, that also have an intention to affect the political decisions of a government. The hope is that the courts will follow suit on the US country report on terrorism which discusses settler violence in some detail. 
    Here’s an excerpt from the news report linked below:
    “On 17 May, the New York-based commercial law firm Melito and Adolfsen filed a complaint against five US organizations alleging that they had violated the material support statute, which prohibits individuals from “knowingly providing material support or resources to a foreign terrorist organization.”
    The organizations are alleged to have supported terrorist activities by funding settlers who have firebombed, thrown stones and shot at Palestinians, burned Palestinian land and trees, and vandalized Palestinian houses of prayer in the West Bank.
    The case is filed on behalf of 15 plaintiffs: 13 Palestinian individuals, one mosque and one Greek Orthodox monastery. All of the plaintiffs have experienced a physical attack or, what is commonly referred to as “price tag” assault, by settlers from nearby Jewish colonies that are given financial support by the defendants of the lawsuit.
    The five organizations cited in the lawsuit are The Hebron Fund, Central Fund of Israel, One Israel Fund, Christian Friends of Israel and American Friends of Ateret Cohanim, all based in New York.
    The complaint argues that without the monetary support of these American organizations, Israeli settlements would not be able to exist.”

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