Amb. Stephen Mull reveals he never heard of the BDS movement during congressional testimony.
WASHINGTON – The man the Obama administration picked to implement its nuclear deal with Iran has displayed a shocking ignorance of Middle East politics.
The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions, or BDS, movement is widely known as a tool used to wage economic warfare against Israel. It is well known by everyone involved in the region, with the apparent exception of Ambassador Stephen D. Mull, who was given the title of lead coordinator for Iran nuclear implementation in September 2015.
That was the stunning discovery made by a flabbergasted Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., during Wednesday’s hearing by the House Foreign Affairs Committee on implementation of the Iran nuclear deal and its consequences.
Toward the end of aggressive but routine questioning of the witnesses, Meadows asked Mull if the State Department would advise all 50 states not to join the BDS attack “against our ally, Israel?”
“I’m sorry Sir, what? BDS movement? I’m not sure what that is,” replied a visibly confused Mull.
“Boycott … divestment …” spat out Meadows.
“Um … Sir … our relations with …” a stumbling Mull tried to explain.
But, Meadows cut him off, interjecting, “It’s troubling, Sir, you wouldn’t know what that is.”
The congressman’s time for questioning then expired.
A confused expression creased Mull’s face as he shrugged his shoulders in response.
See the full video of Meadow’s questioning of witnesses:
Meadows was also floored by what he described as a “pro-Iranian marketing letter” sent by Mull to all 50 state governors asking them to do more business with the terrorist-sponsoring nation of Iran.
The congressman produced a copy of an April 8 letter (see the letter in full, below) from Mull to Governor Pat McCrory, R-N.C., requesting that the State of North Carolina “revisit and lift laws and policies that divest state funds from Iran and block state and local governments from denying contracts to businesses with ties to Iran.”
According to the governor’s website, “Last year, McCrory signed the bipartisan Iran Divestment Act of 2015, which prohibited the N.C. Retirement System, state agencies and local governments from using funds to invest in Iran or contracting with businesses that have investment ties to Iran.” It also says, “According to Bloomberg News, more than two dozen states have state divestment laws targeting Iran.”
“I’ve got a letter here,” Meadows told Mull, while waving a copy, “that went to Gov. Pat McCrory, from you, which, by many descriptions, is pro-Iranian marketing material suggesting we ought to do more business with Iran.”
The letter asked the governor to review how his state could do more business with Iran while staying in compliance with sanctions, but McCrory said he didn’t have that expertise, so he asked Meadows to look at it.
“Why would you send a pro-Iranian marketing letter to my governor?” wondered Meadows.
When a bewildered-looking Mull haltingly tried to respond, Meadows added, “Who instructed you to do that?”
The ambassaddor managed to reply, “With respect, I disagree that it’s a pro-Iranian marketing letter.”
“Well, some have described it that way,” Meadows countered, adding, “You can disagree. So, we’ll disagree on that. But who asked you to do that?”
“In the agreement, the United States government committed to inform states and local authorities about changes in the nuclear situation in Iran…” began the ambassador.
Meadows, incredulous, cut him off, asking, “So, you sent a letter like this to all 50 states?”
“That’s right,” replied Mull, “because the United States government committed to do that.”
Meadows remarked that, in doing that, Mull went to great lengths to try to sell the governor on doing business with Iran rather than “just saying you need to look at changing your laws” on existing sanctions against doing business with the terrorism-sponsoring regime.
“Why was it [written] in such a pro-Iranian manner?” demanded the congressman.
Mull disagreed with that, again, prompting Meadows to respond he would give the letter to the press and let them decide whether it was pro-Iranian.
The congressman asked the ambassador if he had released it to the press, and he said he had not.
Even while tacitly encouraging states to do business with Islamic Republic, the letter admits that the United States “continues to have significant concerns with Iran’s other activities that harm our interests, such as its support for terrorism, its human rights abuses, its destabilizing activities in the region, and its activities related to ballistic missiles.”
Before Mull was appointed to his current post, Politico reported some observers were disappointed with his selection, believing the enormously complex task of making sure Iran complied with the nuclear deal required a well-known “heavy-hitter.”
Meadow’s incredulity at Mull’s lack of familiarity with the BDS movement stems from the fact it is so widespread in Europe and so ubiquitous on college campuses across America, where it seeks to persuade students to view Israel as an enemy and oppressor.
According to the Anti-Defamation League, or ADL, the number of students actively working to promote the BDS campaign against Israel increased last year. Nineteen campuses held votes on BDS resolutions or referenda in the 2014-15 academic year.
Programs like “Israeli Apartheid Week” and “Palestine Awareness Week” grew less popular over the past year, but there was a significant increase in anti-Israel events overall.
The ADL reported, “520 explicitly anti-Israel events and programs took place nationwide on college campuses, representing a 30% increase from the previous academic year. Well over 50% of these events focused various aspects of the BDS movement.”
In a landmark court decision this week, a Spanish constitutional tribunal ruled that a local government motion calling for a boycott against Israel violated anti-discrimination provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights.
Israeli analyst Judith Bergman believes that could even trigger the doom of the entire BDS movement on the continent because the European Convention on Human Rights “is largely held in higher esteem than the Bible.”
The municipality of Gijon had declared itself “a space free of Israeli apartheid” in a motion passed in January, which said the city would not pay for services of firms implicated in “human rights violations” in Palestinian territories, and that the city supported the BDS movement.
But the judges on the panel of a Spanish administrative court said the objectives of Gijon’s boycott would “jeopardize the fundamental right to equality without discrimination on the bases of appearance, ethnicity and religion.”
The Spanish government is opposed to BDS, as is Britain’s ruling party. France outlawed BDS as discriminatory. But anti-Israeli sentiment could be gaining momentum with the recent, rapid infusion of an ever-increasing Muslim population into Europe.
Bergman says the Spanish ruling opens an avenue to stop BDS once and for all.
“What is needed is a final judicial ruling on the utter illegality and incompatibility with human rights legislation from the highest authority on this issue in Europe, namely the European Court of Human Rights,” she wrote.
Bergman noted that individuals can take cases alleging violations of the civil and political rights directly to the court, based in Strasbourg, and that its rulings are binding.
In the scenario she evoked, the right attorney bringing the right case could result in “literally outlawing the movement across the European continent in one sweep with an authoritative ruling that would render the BDS movement’s purpose and actions in contravention of the European Convention of Human Rights.”
Bergman concluded, “It is a venue that must be explored as a means to shutting the BDS down and officially exposing it, on European soil, as the racist and illegal movement that it is, and the very antithesis of everything for which the European Convention on Human Rights stands.”
Read the full copy of the April 8, 2015 letter from Mull to Gov. Pat McCrory, R-N.C. requesting that the State of North Carolina revisit and lift laws and policies that divest state funds from Iran and block state and local governments from denying contracts to businesses with ties to Iran: