Saudis Will Let Jewish American Attend Auction
WASHINGTON (AP) _ A Saudi company picked by the Pentagon to sell excess military stocks rejected participation by a U.S. contractor’s employee because he is Jewish, documents show. But the Saudi Embassy said the man would be allowed to enter the country and take part in the auction.
The decision was conveyed by Saudi officials to the employee a day after the Anti-Defamation League wrote a letter to Defense Secretary Dick Cheney to protest the Saudi company’s rejected John Schwartz, an employee of a Long Beach Calif., firm.
The Jewish group urged that the United States pull out of Operation Desert Auction until ″such discriminatory policies against Jewish Americans are eradicated.″
But Saudi authorities on Tuesday told the employee he would get an entry visa to Saudi Arabia, the company and the Saudi Embassy said.
″The kingdom does not have a discriminatory attitude in issuing visas to American citizens. Nor does it differentiate between American citizens,″ said a Saudi diplomat.
Rita Lowy, owner of Lowy Enterprises, a scrap metal business, said Schwartz took the initial Saudi refusal to the Simon Weisenthal Center in Los Angeles, which in turn contacted lawmakers and officials in Washington.
″In light of the service of 500,000 American men and women, including Jewish Americans, to protect the freedom of Saudi Arabia, the company’s action is even more objectionable,″ wrote ADL’s national director, Abraham Foxman, on June 15.
The multistage auction is being conducted by Marhoon Nasser Auctioneers to sell U.S. trucks, scrap metals, tents and heavy equipment.
On June 2, Lowy Enterprises sent an application to the Saudi auctioneer asking to take part in the auction.
In the application, a copy of which was provided by the Jewish group to Cheney, she named the employee as John Schwartz, listing his date of birth and other details. In a box marked religion, she put down Jewish. Saudi Arabia asks the religion of all visa applicants.
In a June 3 response, also provided to Cheney, the Saudi firm welcomed the U.S. bid but rejected Schwartz’s participation.
″Since it is difficult to get a visa for a person who is Jewish, we suggest you send the particulars of someone else who is other than Jewish,″ the firm said. The response was signed by Marhoon Nasser, general manager.
Saudi Arabia for years balked at providing entry visas to Jews, and turned down all but a few. But in recent years, the Saudis have eased their restrictions, begun a dialogue with the American Jewish community, and earlier this year took part in international peace talks with Israel.