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Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, December 1988, Page 39

Issues in the News

UN Report Charges Continuing Iranian Human Rights Violations:

The United Nations Human Rights Commission, in its fifth annual report on human rights abuses in Iran, drew attention to "waves of executions" carried out in Iran during the summer of 1988. Reynaldo Galindo Pohl of El Salvador, the author of the report, said his findings "justify international concern" that the Khomeini regime is in violation of its obligations under UN human rights covenants. The UN document cited reports first released to the US press by the People's Mujaheddin, a major Iranian opposition group that sided with Iraq during the gulf war, that 200 of its supporters had been killed in Evin Prison in Tehran on July 28 and that the bodies of 860 more "executed political prisoners," believed to include many persons who had completed prison terms but had not been released, were shipped from the prison to Tehran's Behesht Zahra cemetery from August 14 to 16. The UN report expressed concern at widespread reports of beatings, torture, and trials at which the accused were not allowed to offer a defense. It also cited reports that all family visits to Evin Prison and other Iranian detention centers have been suspended since August.

Journalist Predicts "Real Fireworks" in US-Israeli Relationship:

Jerusalem Post Washington correspondent Wolf Blitzer reports in the Washington Jewish Week of November 10 that in Israel there is "deep concern, shared by Israel's most active political supporters in Washington, that there could be some rough moments in the American-Israeli relationship if the Palestinian leadership, backed by the Arab states, should Come forward in the coming months with a serious credible challenge for peace. The festering differences between the US and Israel on how far Israel should go in making political and territorial concessions will quickly come to the forefront of the relationship. This will be the case if there is another Labor Likud coalition partnership, but it will be even more acutely underlined if there is a narrow Likud-led coalition. There could be some real fireworks," the Israeli journalist wrote.

Libya and Chad Patching Things Up:

Libya and Chad have exchanged ambassadors as the first step in ending a six-year estrangement punctuated by several rounds of fighting. The core dispute, ownership of the mineralrich Aozou Strip along the border between the two countries, remains unsettled. French forces supporting the Chadians may be reduced and Libya has returned 280 men it said were Chadian prisoners of war, some of whom apparently were drawn from 20,000 Chadian expatriates working in Libya. Chadian President Hissen Habre made no promises to return 1,300 Libyan prisoners of war, 480 of whom are said to have defected to the opposition National Front for the Salvation of Libya, before the Aozou Strip question is settled. The editor of the Chadian government's weekly Al Watan said, however, that he had been instructed to refer to his country's northern neighbors as "Libyan brothers," and stop calling them "circus clowns."

NAAA Hails Richard Bryen's Departure from Pentagon:

The National Association of Arab Americans said the September 30 resignation of Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Stephen Bryen vindicates "NAAA's long campaign to expose Bryen as a national security risk." NAAA President George Moses expressed concern, however, over Bryen's plans to open Delta Tech, financed by Lauder Investments, a branch of the Estee Lauder cosmetics company, to invest in new technologies. "We consider this venture a thinly veiled conduit for US technology data to Israel," Moses said. Bryen resigned from the staff of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in 1978, after former NAAA Executive Director Michael Saba reported to the FBI he had overheard Bryen in a Washington, DC, coffee shop offering classified information to Israeli military officials. While the FBI investigated the charges, Bryen headed the Jewish Institute for National Strategic Affairs (JINSA), a Washington organization with ties to the Israeli arms industry. When no charges were filed, Bryen assumed his Pentagon post, charged with reviewing the sales of American technology overseas. His wife, Shoshanna Bryen, replaced him at JINSA. At the Pentagon, Bryen reported to former Assistant Secretary of Defense Richard Purl, then a key figure in Washington's pro-Israel establishment. Bryen's secretary at the Pentagon was Barbara Ledeen. She is the wife of Michael Ledeen, a former consultant to the Israeli government who, as a White House consultant in 1985, was the go-between who brought from then-Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres to former Reagan National Security Adviser Robert (Bud) MacFarlane the proposal for an Israeli-brokered "opening to Iranian moderates" that evolved into the US-arms-for-hostages scandal. (Michael Saba's book The Armageddon Network, detailing his original encounter with Bryen and the subsequent FBI investigation, is available from the AET Book Club.)

Yankees Go Home:

With the departure of many settlers originally attracted by heavily subsidized housing, 75 percent of the remaining inhabitants of Jewish settlements in the Israeli-occupied territories are said to be dual-national American emigrants to Israel.

Kuwait Normalizes Relations with Iran:

Kuwait has reopened its embassy in Tehran in a move toward normalizing relations after the Iran-Iraq war. Iran fired missiles into Kuwaiti territory and attacked Kuwaiti ships after earlier terrorist attacks against oil installations and foreign embassies in Kuwait failed to deter the tiny oil-producing Arab state's support for neighboring Iraq during the war. "We want to forget the past," the Kuwaiti minister of state for foreign affairs explained.

Who Is a Jew?:

Passage of a controversial draft law by the Israeli Knesset has become the price for religious party participation in any Israeli government resulting from the 1988 elections. The law provides that, from the time of its enactment, only persons born of a Jewish mother or converted to Judaism by an Orthodox rabbi may claim Israeli nationality under Israel's law of return. The law in effect relegates non-Orthodox Judaism to second class status. This has upset Israel's supporters in the United States, virtually all of whom identify with Reformed or Conservative Judaism. Only 7 percent of Jews living in the United States are Orthodox. In Israel, where the overwhelming majority of Jewish citizens are not religious, few idenfify with Reformed or Conservative tradition. There are an estimated 400,000 religiously observant Orthodox Jews in Israel, comprising about 10 percent of Israel's total population.

A Prediction for Israel:

Syndicated columnist William Safire, writing in the New York Times, suggests the following scenario for formation of an Israeli government after the 1988 elections in which Yitzhak Shamir's Likud bloc garnered 40 Knesset seats and Shimon Peres' Labor Coalition won 39 seats. By the time Shamir has finished bargaining with the religious parties, which control 18 seats, Safire suggests, a whopping majority of Israelis will be highly alarmed about mandatory observance of the Sabbath and other religious intrusions into Israeli secular life. Meanwhile, American Jews who identify with Conservative or Reformed Judaism will be threatening to withhold their vital support from any Israeli government that includes the religious parties. At this point, Safire predicts, Shamir will propose a renewal of the Likud-Labor coalition government to save Israel from internal disunity and loss of American Jewish support. His terms will be that he remains prime minister, Yitzhak Rabin remains defense minister, and present Foreign Minister Shimon Peres is dumped as leader of the Labor Coalition. This would shift leadership of the Labor Coalition from Peres, who favors an international conference to make peace with the Arabs, to Rabin, who is identified with military repression of the Palestinians. The newly formed coalition government would then use its combined majority in the Knesset to reform the Israeli election law to shut out most of the fringe parties. The scenario augurs better for Israeli internal stability than it does for peace with Israel's Arab neighbors.

Libyans Increase Tunisia's Tourism Income:

Tunisia's income from tourism doubled to $890 million in the first nine months of 1988, helping to offset a trade deficit widened by higher food prices. About one-third of the three million tourists expected before the end of 1988 are Libyans, who now do much of their food and other shopping in adjacent Tunisia.

Turkey Enjoying Unprecedented Tourism Boom:

An estimated 3.8 million tourists are visiting Turkey this year and the 4.6 million foreign visitors expected next year will bring a much needed $2.7 billion in hard currency into the Turkish economy. Turkish tourism earned $2.2 billion in 1988 and $1.5 billion in 1987, according to government figures. The visitors were mainly from Germany, Britain, and other EEC countries.

US Peace Group Calls for West Bank and Gaza Elections:

The New York-based Anwar Sadat Peace Foundation marked the seventh anniversary this year of the Egyptian president's assassination by calling on Israel to hold direct peace talks with Palestinians, including the Palestine Liberation Organization. James George, president of the foundation, cited a letter signed by Sadat and former Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin in 1979 when their countries made peace providing for withdrawal of Israeli troops from the occupied territories and guaranteeing the holding of elections to provide a "self-governing authority" there. George pointed out that there have been no municipal elections in the occupied West Bank and Gaza for 12 years and accused Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir of violating the pledge made by Begin.

Women Increasing In Egyptian Workforce:

Despite the growth of Islamic fundamentalism in Egypt, women are entering the Egyptian workforce in increasing numbers, both in agricultural and urban areas. Economic necessity is the prime motivating factor behind the increase. Many urban middle class families find it almost impossible to balance household budgets without both partners being employed.

Worldwide Jewish Population Unchanged:

The 1988 American Jewish Yearbook reports that the total of Jewish inhabitants of the United States rose slightly to 5.94 million persons in 1987, representing 2.5 percent of the US population. Worldwide Jewish population showed "zero population growth," according to the American Jewish Committee publication. It estimated world Jewish population at just under 13 million, of whom 46 percent live in North America, 21 percent in Europe (including Asian territories of the Soviet Union and Turkey), and 28 percent in Asia, nearly all of whom are in Israel. Israel was said to have 3,562,500 Jewish residents at the end of 1986, an increase of 1.3 percent annually since 1984. All of these figures are rough estimates. For example, official Soviet figures put the USSR's Jewish population at 1.8 million. A study by Gregory Rozenstein, an emigrant from the Soviet Union to Israel, claims 3.5 million Jews live in the Soviet Union if those who are atheists but "still consider themselves Jews" are added to those who retain Jewish religious feelings.

Two Can Play:

Americans are familiar with accounts of daring Israeli spies who penetrated government circles in Egypt and Syria during the 1950s and 1960s. Now Egyptian television has dramatized the true story of the late Rifaat El Hagan, an Egyptian Arab who first penetrated the Jewish community in Alexandria as "Jack Beton," and then emigrated to Israel. After some successes in obtaining Israeli military plans during the 1960s, he left Israel in early 1973 carrying maps of all of the fortifications of Israel's Bar Lev line along the east bank of the Suez Canal. In the October 1973 war, Egyptian forces overran the line on the first day of fighting while sustaining few losses.

Diplomatic Recognition of Palestine:

In the first week after the Palestine National Council's declaration of Palestinian independence, 53 states accorded the new Palestinian state diplomatic recognition, according to the Palestine Affairs Center in Washington, DC. The 12 members of the European Economic Community, none of which had yet accorded full diplomatic recognition, issued a joint statement saying the PNC decisions "include positive steps toward the peaceful settlement of the Arab-Israeli conflict."