Jewish leaders are demanding the ouster of U.N. General Assembly President Miguel d’Escoto after the Nicaraguan revolutionary priest called for boycotts and sanctions against Israel in reprisal for the Jewish state’s “crucifying our Palestinian brothers and sisters.”
The Sandinista diplomat likened Israel’s policies in the Palestinian territories to South Africa’s treatment of blacks under apartheid.
The former Sandinista foreign minister and current foreign policy adviser to the government of Daniel Ortega called for “boycott, sanctions and divestment” of Israel.
Aggravating D’Escoto’s rocky relations with Israel was Israel’s expulsion of a U.N. human rights envoy in Tel Aviv. D’Escoto decried Israeli authorities’ treatment of the envoy and blamed Israeli diplomats for inciting online death threats against him that were fueled by “malicious” media reports that alleged the Nicaraguan priest tried blocking Israel’s U.N. Ambassador Gabriela Shalev from speaking at the U.N. General Assembly, according to a U.N. statement.
The Nov. 24 statements, made in a speech on the U.N. International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, immediately drew fire from the Jewish community abroad, even prompting the Argentine branch of the SimonWiesenthalCenter to call for d’Escoto’s removal.
“D’Escoto Brockmann’s statements, promoting antiSemitism and the destruction of a MemberState of the United Nations, are an abuse of the honorable position that he holds,” WiesenthalCenter officials wrote in a letter to the U.N. Latin American bloc.
The letter encouraged the bloc, which selected d’Escoto as their candidate for U.N. General Assembly president, to “censure and remove support” for d’Escoto for his antiIsraeli statements.
World Jewish Congress President Ronald Lauder said in a statement that d’Escoto’s accusations are “false” and decried a rise in “Israel bashing” at U.N. venues.
In the 1980s, d’Escoto was one of four Catholic priests who served as high level officials in the Sandinista government as part of the leftist Marxist movement’s attempt to establish a churchstate alliance to reconcile the wartorn country.
Before the 1979 Sandinista revolution that toppled U.S.backed dictator Anastasio Somoza – a staunch supporter of Israel – Sandinista rebels had trained and on several occasions fought alongside Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) guerrillas in clashes with Israeli troops.
Several Nicaraguans also participated in a failed 1970 PLOled airline hijacking, resulting in one Sandinista killed by Israeli security agents, according to former New York Times journalist Stephen Kinzer’s “Blood of Brothers.”
D’Escoto served as the Sandinista government’s foreign minister during a time when Nicaragua cut ties with Israel and warmed up to the Soviet Union and Arab countries.
Much of Nicaragua’s small Jewish community fled during the 1980s, though some returned after the Sandinistas were defeated in the 1990 election. Upon Sandinista President Daniel Ortega’s 2006 election, the Nicaraguan government has been reviving ties with Russia and Iran, which have both promised multimilliondollar aid and infrastructure projects here.
Jewish leaders have particularly scrutinized Managua’s deepening ties with Iran. Israel’s Ambassador to the U.N. Gabriela Shalev called d’Escoto an “Israelhater” when the Nicaraguan priest hugged Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad after the Iranian leader’s September speech at the U.N. General Assembly.
Ahmadinejad has drawn fierce fire from Jewish leaders for calling the Holocaust a “myth” and suggesting Israel be relocated.
The Maryknoll priest, who still holds the rank of minister in the current Ortega government, told The Jerusalem Post he “loves” Israel but disagrees with its policies.
During his Nov. 24 speech, the Sandinista priest said it has been 61 years since the U.N. General Assembly adopted the resolution to create a parallel Jewish and Arab state, but lamented that no such Palestinian state has been created. He likened Israel’s policies in Palestinian territories to South Africa’s treatment of blacks under apartheid.
Simon Wiesenthal Center Associate Dean Rabbi Abraham Cooper said d’Escoto’s allegations of Israeliimposed apartheid “tarnishes the image of the United Nations and Holocaust a myth and called for Israel to be located to western countries.”
The Marxist liberation theologian, who during the heat of the 1980s Contra war claimed to have uncovered a CIA plot to poison him and accused the Reagan government of a “systematic policy of murder and terror,” has also used his U.N. seat to decry the pitfalls of modern capitalism and U.S. hegemony.
Thirtythree Latin American and Caribbean nations selected the Nicaraguan priest as their candidate for U.N. General Assembly presidency, a oneyear post which he is set to serve until September 2009.