Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, November 1986, Page 15
Lobbies and Activists
Focus on Arabs and Islam
By Anthony B. Toth
American Muslims are expanding their efforts to place their concerns on the agendas of major national religious organizations. For example, Muhammad T. Mehdi, Secretary-General of the New York-based National Council on Islamic Affairs, has asked the National Conference on Christians and Jews to "broaden its base" by including Muslims.
On behalf of the National Council on Islamic Affairs, Mehdi requested membership in the conference, which he suggested could then change its name to the National Conference on Christians, Jews, and Muslims, Mehdi praised the conference for opposing religious bigotry and acting as a "creative force" in America, but he noted that there are also "some eight million American Muslims in the United States."
Mehdi stated that the National Council on Islamic Affairs is already in contact with the Catholic and Lutheran churches, the National Council of Churches and other religious institutions.
Some 60 sitting and former numbers of Congress joined retired US diplomats at the first luncheon meeting of the American Educational Trust's Foreign Policy Committee Sept. 17. Assistant Secretary of State for the Near East and South Asia Richard Murphy, who had returned the previous day from the Middle East, briefed the group on the Taba agreement, Syria, Mideast peace prospects and the Iran-Iraq war. Former California Congressman Paul N. (Pete) McCloskey introduced the speaker and other participants who included Former Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Charles Percy, Former Illinois Congressman Paul Findley, and West Virginia Congressman Nick Rahall. The Committee's next foreign affairs briefing will be in November.
A tragic event that galvanized American Muslims and Arab Americans was the murderous attack on the Ismail al-Faruqi family last May. Dr. Ismail Raji al-Faruqi was a prominent Islamic scholar at Temple University. On May 27 a knife-wielding man broke into the Faruqi home in Cheltenham, Pennsylvania, and viciously attacked al-Faruqi, his wife, Lois, and their daughter, Anmar al-Zein. Al-Faruqi and his wife died from their wounds and the daughter survived, but required 200 stitches to close her wounds. Prominent religious figures and politicians paid tribute to the Faruqis at a memorial service held in Washington in late September. The event was organized by the al-Faruqi Memorial Committee, which is made up of the Council of Presidents of Arab-American Organizations, the Islamic Society of North America, the National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA and the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC).
At about the same time, ADC published an eight-page "Special Report" on the murders, including a detailed account of the crime, its victims, and the current status of the investigation. Although nothing was missing from the house, some investigators working on the case believe the murders resulted from a bungled burglary attempt; however, the police lieutenant in charge of the investigation described the incident as an assassination, saying that "someone took it upon themselves" to kill al-Faruqi. In view of the rise of violent anti-Arab and anti-Muslim incidents in recent years, the report suggests that the murders could very well have been politically motivated. In addition, the report mentions al-Faruqi's status as a visible pro-Palestinian spokesman, notes the strength of the Philadelphia chapter of the Jewish Defense League (JDL), and cites an article about al-Faruqi's anti-Zionist positions in the Near East Report(the weekly newsletter of the America Israel Public Affairs Committee) as evidence that the professor was in the "zone of danger" described by the FBI earlier this year. The FBI, however, has not become directly involved in the case because it sees no evidence of a federal offense.
ADC is continuing its protest, begun in August, of the appointment of Major General Amos Yaron as military attache to Israel's Embassy in Washington. ADC held a 'Send Yaron Home' rally in front of the White House on September 15, coinciding with the fourth anniversary of the massacres at Sabra and Shatila refugee camps in Beirut. Yaron was Israel's military commander in Beirut during the 1982 invasion and occupation of Lebanon. The Kahan Commission, which investigated the massacre of Palestinian and Lebanese civilians by Lebanese Phalange forces, found that Yaron was culpable for not intervening to stop the atrocities. Rallies and vigils were also held by ADC activists in Houston, Detroit, and San Francisco. Neither the State Department nor the Israeli government have responded to ADC's protests. ADC also plans to place a full-page advertisement protesting Yaron's appointment inThe Nation. The ad will be signed by politicians, religious leaders, scholars, and entertainers.
The Arab American Institute (AAI) has begun its own campaign for the 1986 elections: it's called GOTV, for "Get Out The Vote". According to the fall issue of AAI's newsletter, seven areas with high concentrations of Arab Americans are targeted: Brooklyn, N.Y.; Chicago; Detroit; New Castle, Pa.; Yonkers, N.Y.; Youngstown, Ohio; and the state of Rhode Island. AAI leaders are organizing this grassroots effort with an eye to the future: "The GOTV drive will provide our community with the political experience and the self-confidence it needs to meet the challenges of the 1988 election," says AAI Deputy Director Helen Samhan. Impetus for the effort came from a successful showing by Arab-American organizers in San Jose, California, for last June's primary elections. Under a plan developed by former Congressman Paul N. 'Pete' McCloskey, Jr., about 150 workers were able to bring nearly 3,000 extra voters to the polls. Their efforts involved voter registration, distribution of absentee ballots, canvassing homes and workingat polling sites on election day. AAI hopes to repeat the successful formula in the seven target areas in November—and then again in 1988. Says McCloskey, "Political power in America goes to the people who care enough to participate."
The Palestine Human Rights Campaign (PHRC) held one of its "most successful" national conferences to date, according to Laila Diab, who works in the group's national headquarters in Chicago. The event took place September 19-20 in Chicago and attracted some 600 participants. Speakers included Former Attorney General Ramsey Clark, Dr. Eqbal Ahmad, Dr. Noam Chomsky, and Dr. Ibrahim Mattar, a Jerusalem-based economist and agronomist who analyzed Israel's colonization of the occupied West Bank. Other highlights included a display of traditional Palestinian dresses. Palestinian artist and poet Kamal Boullata presided over a screening of 'Stranger at Home, 'a film depicting Boullata himself.
Anthony B. Toth is a Virginia-based free-lance writer interested in Middle East issues.
Focus on Jews and Israel
By Andrea Barron
"Anti-Semitism" once meant an intense dislike of Jews and Judaism, Allan Brownfeld wrote last month in the Washington Jewish Week. But not anymore, he says. The term has now come to mean "anything that opposes the policies and interests of Israel." Brownfeld warns that the consequences of this change could be extremely serious, threatening to curtail free speech and trivialize the concept of anti-Semitism.
The culprit behind the campaign to redefine anti-Semitism appears to be Norman Podhoretz, editor of the American Jewish Committee's monthly magazine Commentary. Brownfeld argues that Podhoretz has tried to stifle debate on the Arab-Israeli conflict by accusing critics of Israel of being antiSemitic. Among Podhoretz's "new anti-Semites" are two well-known Jewish journalists: Anthony Lewis of The New York Times, and Richard Cohen of The Washington Post.Their "crime"—public opposition to the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon.
Brownfeld openly sympathizes with those whom he calls the "innocent victims" of the movement to redefine anti-Semitism. Two of these "victims" are former Republican Congressmen: Paul N. (Pete) McCloskey of California and Paul Findley of Illinois. Both men have met PLO Chairman Yasir Arafat, both have been branded anti-Semites by some leaders in the Jewish community, and—not unexpectedly—both were defeated in electoral races with the help of sizeable contributions from pro-Israel Political Action Committees (PACs).
Some regular readers, including myself, were surprised and pleased to see the Washington Jewish Week take the courageous step of publishing a piece by Brownfeld, who was later identified as a member of the American Council for Judaism, a small anti-Zionist organization founded many years ago by Rabbi Elmer Berger. According to Near East Report, the weekly newsletter of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), Jewish Week editor Renee Matalon said the paper published the two-part Brownfeld series because "it seemed interesting and provocative, not out of agreement with the premise."
In the spirit of good journalism, Matalon also printed a rebuttal to Brownfeld, written by Alvin Steinberg of the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith. Steinberg said Brownfeld had no right to claim that there is no open discussion on the Middle East in this country—witness the appearance of an article by a Jewish anti-Zionist on the front page of the Washington Jewish Week!
However, some readers of the Jewish weekly—at least those who got their letters published—apparently did not appreciate Matalon's effort to let them hear both sides of the story. One letter-writer, for instance, said that the newspaper had exercised "poor editorial judgement in publishing this opinion piece on the front page," while another was "taken aback" when the paper "gave front page coverage to an unwarranted attack against Norman Podhoretz."
Matalon, by the way, is leaving the paper. Her departure could be related to the uproar over the Brownfeld series—we may never know. In a "farewell" editorial, Matalon was praised for "always giving a fair hearing to every side of a controversy." But in deciding to print the Brownfeld piece, she may have carried "fairness" a bit too far for her publisher.
September, meanwhile, was also the month when two members of the Israeli Knesset—Mohammed Miari and Matti Peled—toured the United States to declare their support for Palestinian self-determination. Both Miari, a Palestinian with a law degree from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and Peled, a reserve General in the Israeli army, belong to the tiny Progressive List for Peace (PLP), which draws much of its support from Israeli Arabs and provides them with an alternative to the pro-Soviet Rakah party. The PLP has called for direct negotiations between the Government of Israel and the PLO.
Their tour, sponsored jointly by the America-Israel Council for Israeli-Palestinian Peace and the American Friends Service Committee, took them to major cities in the US (including Boston and Washington) and Canada. In Washington, Peled and Miari addressed the International Law section of the District of Columbia Bar Association, where they denounced a new Israeli law prohibiting Israeli citizens from making any contact with the PLO. And in Boston, according toThe Jewish Advocate, both men expressed hope that American Jews would play a role in influencing Israel to enter into peace talks with its Arab neighbors as well as the PLO.
The Advocate, Boston's major Jewish weekly, gave prominent coverage to the Peled-Miari tour, featuring a front-page article entitled "Hub Hears Plea for Palestinian Rights." Next to the article was a good-sized photograph of the two Knesset members. The Advocate, for sure, is exposing its readers to the full range of opinion emanating from Israel on a solution to the Palestinian question.
Andrea Barron, a Ph.D. candidate in International Relations at the American University in Washington, DC, writes frequently about the Middle East. She is active in Washington Area Jews for an Israeli-Palestinian Peace (WAJIP) and the New Jewish Agenda (NJA).