Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, February 20, 1984, Page 4
The U.S. bombardments which followed President Reagan's announcement of plans to withdraw the marines in Lebanon set off angry protests by Arab American groups and gave new life to the campaign to get U.S. forces out of Lebanon.
At a press conference called by the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), executive director James Zogby denounced what he called President Reagan's "racist bombing" of Lebanon's Shuf mountains, saying it was carried out in support of a "militant minority faction"—a reference to President Gemayel's party. Mr. Zogby called on Congress to cut off funding as a means of effecting the withdrawal of U.S. troops. Mr. Reagan's policy, he added, had "destroyed" chances for the U.S. to play a negotiating role in Lebanon and "virtually closed the door" on American influence with moderate Arab governments.
For its part, the National Association of Arab Americans (NAAA) stopped short of an explicit call for the withdrawal of U.S. forces, but hinted that such a step should be taken because, it said, Lebanon needs "neutral peacekeepers and impartial mediators." U.S. credibility, according to an NAAA statement, had been "deeply compromised."
Both ADC and NAAA sent memorandums to their members across the country urging them to protest the bombings by writing letters to newspaper editors, participating in radio call-in programs and in other public forums. In Washington, the two groups lent their support to activities coordinated by the American Druze Public Affairs Committee—an organization formed last fall to protest American military actions then taking place against Lebanese Druze. The committee organized protests at the State Department and the White House, and helped set up visits between its supporters and congressional staff members.
On the election trail, the "Jesse Jackson for President Committee" recently announced that Mr. Zogby had been chosen as an advisor on Arab American affairs.
The Reagan Administration's policy in Lebanon, coming under heavy fire lately from both Republican and Democratic members of Congress, has received some much needed support from the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).
Before President Reagan announced he was removing U.S. marines from Lebanon, AIPAC successfully lobbied House Democrats to revise a withdrawal resolution they had drafted by removing passages that were critical of the Administration. At the same time, the Democrats—led by Congressman Stephen Solarz (D-N.Y.)—also agreed to insert language which cast some of the blame for Lebanon's problems on Iran, Syria, and the Soviet Union. Since Mr. Reagan made known his plans to move the marines offshore, the resolution has been put on the shelf.
However, AIPAC is continuing to urge Congress to get behind the President in support of the Lebanese government. "If the Gemayel government falls," AIPAC said in a recent issue of its newsletter, "it will be a severe setback to the United States, to Lebanon, and to all who seek Middle East peace."
Meanwhile, AIPAC has also been on Capitol Hill promoting a "free trade" agreement between Israel and the U.S. Negotiations on an agreement—which would allow each country to export its products to the other duty-free—were opened last month as part of the U.S.'s new "strategic cooperation" with Israel. At a hearing on the issue before the Senate Finance Committee, AIPAC executive director Thomas Dine argued that a free trade agreement would lead to an increase in Israel's exports and to a decrease in its trade deficit with the U.S., which in each of the last two years came to more than $500 million. He argued that this would, over time, be of benefit to the U.S., too, because it would help lessen Israel's financial dependency on it.
Currently, the U.S. has no free trade arrangements with any country. However, Israel already exports 90 percent of its goods to the U.S. duty-free under existing mechanisms. Only 55 percent of U.S. exports to Israel last year enjoyed a similar status.