Switzerlands neutrality &mdash like its cheese &mdash is full of holes

Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and her urbane entourage of diplomats reportedly are stunned by neutral Switzerland’s hardly neutral multibillion-dollar gas deal with Iran. Wringing their hands in disbelief, Israel’s diplomats moaned that Switzerland had “sold its principles” for cold, hard cash.

But that’s a silly complaint. Switz-erland could no more have sold its principles than it could have sold its soul to the devil. For all its syrupy sanctimony, it has no principles — much less a soul. Switzerland is no rookie at playing footsie for profit with genocidal tyrants, especially the sort not overly enamored of Jews.

It has long aspired to match its Alpine chocolate-box prettiness with claims of lofty moral beauty. Neutrality is but one expression of its self-ascribed virtue. The Red Cross is another. Founded and based in Geneva, its stated mission is to alleviate suffering regardless of nationality, race, religion, class or politics. Its passivity — if not far worse — toward European Jewry’s bitter fate during the Holocaust is a matter of indisputable record.

Soon after WWI ended, goody-goody Switzerland experienced great angst about a dreaded Jewish influx, dubbed at the time “Überjudung,” or over-Judaization. The Swiss penchant for marking personal documents with a J or Stars of David was born then. It kicked into high-gear when German Jews began to desperately flee the increasingly ominous Third Reich. Compassionate Switzerland was so leery of admitting them that its vetting criteria meshed with Nazi racist designations.

Switzerland’s immigration policy studiously and shamelessly adhered to the letter of the Nuremberg Laws. Visas were required of “non-Aryans” and, to erase any possible lingering doubts, Bern persuaded Berlin to stamp the passports of all departing Jews (even if they possessed Swiss citizenship) with a glaring red J. The Swiss government itself publicly apologized for the stamps March 8, 1995.

After the Final Solution was officially inaugurated in 1942, Switzerland closed off its borders altogether. This, judged the Swiss-ordained Independent Commission of Experts (ICE) in its 2002 report, “made it more difficult for refugees to reach safety, and by handing over the refugees caught directly to their persecutors, the Swiss authorities were instrumental in helping the Nazi regime attain its goals.”

This means nothing less than collaboration in mass-murder. The Swiss turned away tens of thousands of Jews, sending them to certain and cruel death. Their blood indelibly stains Switzerland’s reputation.

Without even touching on the business of banking hanky-panky and greed-gratifying benefits reaped by Switzerland from the incomparable Jewish tragedy, the Swiss did well for themselves via exports of war materials to Hitler’s Germany, extending it credit, all manner of financial underpinning and loot-laundering services. All this time, Switzerland gloried in resplendent neutrality, which, in the oblique phrasing of the ICE report, was “inappropriately invoked to justify not only decisions made in all kinds of spheres, but also inaction on part of the state.”

Yesteryear’s Swiss weren’t excessively concerned even by the hypothetical risk of protracting the war. Their refrain back in the 1940s was almost identical to current Swiss Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey’s assertion that “Switzerland is an independent country that has its own strategic interests to defend.”

In other words, if there’s a bundle to be made, Switzerland will, without compunction, trade with pathological Jew-haters. It betrayed helpless asylum-seekers and buttressed Adolf Hitler’s economy despite his blaring threats to annihilate all Jews. Likewise, it helps fortify Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s economy despite his blaring threats to annihilate the Jewish state.

Calmy-Rey has never missed an opportunity to reproach Israel for “disproportionate” responses to any and all terrorist outrages. Concomitantly, she is exceedingly sparing in even the minutest display of sympathy for Israeli suffering. Her selective humanitarianism enables her to pooh-pooh Teheran’s nuclear buildup, terror sponsorship and human rights abuses.

In the hallowed name of neutrality she mounted a pilgrimage to Iran to “witness” the signing of that momentous 25-year gas-supply contract. Sporting a sheer white headscarf — so as not to offend Ahmadinejad’s famous sensibilities — she lent a higher profile, prestige and legitimacy to the occasion.

By Calmy-Rey’s reckoning, her personal stamp of approval alone suffices to justify and elevate any caprice to the moral high ground. She believes she is the ultimate arbitrator of righteousness.

Her combination of guile and smile has made her one of her country’s more popular politicos, to the extent that she was elected Swiss federal president for 2007. In that capacity she responded to Ahmadinejad’s Holocaust-denial conference by proposing in the tactless spirit of her “active neutrality” that Switzerland host no less than an international symposium on “the varying perspectives of the Holo-caust.” Ahmadinejad was to be invited to voice his version, while Calmy-Rey was presumably to hold court as the upright impartial moderator.

Thankfully, the Swiss government was embarrassed enough to nip her notion in the bud. A pseudo-academic deliberation on whether the Holocaust ever took place would have been too discomfiting for the country that capitalized so unstintingly on the enormous Jewish bloodletting.

But no such unease limits lucrative commercial ties with the Middle East’s Hitler wannabe. These remain as compelling as were the rewarding transactions with the original WWII-model führer. Hence, Israeli shock is as preposterous as Livni’s premise that other states share Israel’s goal to isolate rogue regimes. This is no Swiss surprise. Just more of the same.

Sarah Honig is a columnist for the Jerusalem Post, where this piece previously appeared.