An artist’s collage juxtaposes the real-life conditions Palestinian workers face in the occupied West Bank with Scarlett Johansson’s role as SodaStream spokesmodel. (Courtesy Electronic Intifada)
Outside the U.S. Embassy in Amman, Jordan, activists demonstrate against U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and his peace proposal, Jan. 29, 2014. (Khalil Mazraawi/AFP/Getty Images)
A Jewish settler (unseen at left) places the Israeli flag on a road sign as Israeli troops encircle Palestinian villagers protesting the army’s cutting branches off olive trees on a road leading to the illegal Jewish settlement of Tekoa, south of Bethlehe
Dr. Eyad El Serraj at a 1993 press conference in East Jerusalem denouncing Israel’s use of torture. (Ruben Bittermann/Photofile)
U.N. and Arab League envoy for Syria Lakhdar Brahimi (l) and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon at the Jan. 22 press conference closing the Geneva II peace talks on Syria. (Philippe Desmazes/AFP/Getty Images)
Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, June 1992, Page 82, 83, 84
Other People's Mail
Some letters by or to other people are as informative for our readers as anything we might write ourselves.
U.S. Is Right on Loan Guarantees
To The New York Times, Feb. 12, 1992
In "It's Israel's Choice" (Op-Ed, Feb. 11), Sen. Patrick Leahy would severely weaken the administration's conditions for providing loan guarantees to Israel. He argues that Israel will never accept a freeze on new housing in the occupied territories because "Israel deeply holds the position that Israelis have the right to settle anywhere in the territories."
Israel is deeply split on this issue. The Likud government, which believes in unrestricted settlement, controls only a minority in the Parliament. Elections will be held in June. Polls show a majority of the Israeli public inclined toward land for peace. Most American Jews, hesitant to criticize Israeli governments, also oppose the Likud settlements position.
The bottom line of Senator Leahy's proposal is that the United States would deliver the goods to Likud without requiring the settlement freeze, on which progress toward peace depends. The pro-settlement and anti-peace minority in Israel would smile all the way to the bank. Likud would to to elections with most of the American money and all of the new settlements that Ariel Sharon, the housing minister, wants to build.
By contrast, the administration's proposal would give Israelis a realistic choice: they can continue to create "facts on the ground" for a territorial Greater Israel, or they can absorb a new wave of immigrants with American financial backing, but not both.
With Israeli elections coming up and peace talks in process, the financial resources of the United States should be deployed carefully. The administration's proposal does so, while Senator Leahy's proposal falls short.
-Joshua S. Goldstein, Assoc. Prof. of International Relations, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA
Learn The Truth About Israel
To the Vero Beach Press Journal, March 9, 1992
Since 1949, according to the Congressional Research Service, Israel has received $53 billion in U.S. aid, much of it in the form of loans, which Congress later quietly forgave. Israel does not repay its government loans. The U.S. taxpayer pays.
Pro-Israel forces in Congress boast Israel has never defaulted on a loan, but how could it? The U.S. Congress always rescues Israel at the expense of the American taxpayer. Israel has never repaid its debts to the United States because Congress conveniently converts most of them into "grants" and pays off the rest with more U.S. foreign aid.
Israel receives more aid from the U.S. than any other country in the world. Last year alone, the U.S. handed more than $5.6 billion to Israel. Why?
Since 1982, pro-Israel political action committees have invested $21.4 million in U.S. House and Senate campaigns, more than any other single lobby on Capitol Hill. Large amounts go to many who are on the powerful appropriations and foreign affairs committees.
It's no wonder Congress has enacted 43 laws solely for the benefit of Israel. Israel has special privileges with U.S. taxpayer money that our own states, municipalities and citizens do not have. Some researchers feel that if Americans knew the truth about atrocities and methods used to break the spirit of the Palestinians and confiscate their land, many people would stop calling Israel a democracy and wish to divorce themselves completely from that country.
Much of what I've written is based on articles I have read in the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs and from the Council for the National Interest.
-Carl Greeley, Barefoot Bay, FL
"Arguing Israel's Case"
To Mr. Mortimer Zuckerman, U.S. News and World Report, Feb. 29, 1992
I appreciate your acknowledgement of my letter of Jan. 30 in which I criticized. . . your Feb. 3 editorial. . . "Arguing Israel's Case." I commented that Prime Minister Shamir couldn't have done a better job if he had been editor of U.S. News.
I was amazed that you did not dispute either my thesis, nor the facts I quoted indicating that Prime Minister Shamir's policies are contrary to both the ideals upon which the United States was founded, and the best interests of the United States today.
On the contrary, you wrote: "When I write editorials. . . they reflect my own analysis and views, and are not intended to be objective."
No one ever accused you of being a dummy. Nor have I ever heard of anyone calling you dishonest. However, you know what the facts are, and your "non-objective" editorials reflect views contrary to the facts.
You know, for example, that the whites in South Africa never terrorized, brutalized, killed, and injured as many people as has Prime Minister Shamir's government. You railed against apartheid in South Africa, and rightly so. But you completely ignore worse conditions of apartheid and brutality in Israel.
In your Feb. 24 article, "Ariel Sharon's Housing Crusade," you state that 15,000 of the houses already built in the occupied territories are vacant, and that this will increase to 25,000 by next year as more houses are completed. In addition, 27,000 mobile homes already delivered are mostly vacant, or still in storage.
Yet, because Shamir wants it, you "editorialize" that the U.S. should guarantee the $10 billion housing loan, even though you know as well as I do that Israel will be unable to repay these loans because vacant houses can't pay the mortgage. The result? Uncle Sam will have to pay the bill!
What position does that put you in? You tell me you are not objective, but objectivity is the basis upon which U.S. News has built its readership. Does that mean you are deceiving all those readers who believe that its editor, of all people, would give his honest opinion based on facts, not fantasy?
-John S. O'Connor, Seattle, WA
At Last, Coverage
To the Minneapolis Star & Tribune, March 15, 1992
Thank you for publishing Frank Wright's articles and Stormi Greener's photos about Palestinians under Israeli occupation. Years ago I toured the West Bank as a student. I witnessed the squalid conditions of two refugee camps, and a young Israeli soldier's cruelty to a lone elderly Palestinian. When I returned to Minnesota later that year, 1979, I expected to hear about this abuse in our media-but there was nothing!
I also greatly appreciated Eric Black's recent series about the history of this region. But no amount of history can justify the subjugation of a group of people. Articles like these can bring into perspective years of tangled history and separate realities. Thank you, although it was late.
-Michael Salovich, St. Paul, MN
Loan Guarantees and Racism
To the International Herald Tribune, Feb. 27, 1992
The U.S. administration has now made clear that, if Israel will simply agree to halt construction of Jewish settlements in the West Bank and Gaza Strip (i.e., temporarily suspend some, but by no means all, of its illegal activities in some, but not all, of the Arab lands it conquered in 1967), it will receive a $10 billion reward. Israel's Justice Minister, Dan Meridor, has called this offer "racist" (IHT, Feb. 27). Since the United Nations, under heavy American pressure, revoked its determination that Zionism is a form of racism, both semanticists and moralists had wondered what on earth would qualify as "racist." Now we know.
-John V. Whitbeck, Paris, France
Dirty Work, Alright
To The Vancouver Sun, March 24, 1992
A. M. Rosenthal may not like it, but the deterioration in relations between the U.S. and Israel was inevitable. The economic security of the industrialized world requires stability in the Middle East, which will never be achieved as long as Israel's illegal and brutal occupation of Arab land continues.
Recent accusations that Israel may have supplied Patriot missile technology to China and cluster bombs to the former Marxist government of Ethiopia are nothing new, as Mr. Rosenthal well knows. An appeals court has just upheld a life sentence for Jonathan Pollard, who provided Israel with a huge quantity of the most sensitive intelligence ever purloined from the U.S., which was allegedly passed on to the Soviet Union during the Cold War. In 1979 President Carter's security advisers discovered that Israel and South Africa had conducted a joint nuclear explosion, and in 1989 it was learned they were cooperating in a missile program. These acts by Israel not only violated sanctions against South Africa, but along with its own arsenal of nuclear warheads, also contravene the Symington Amendments to the International Security Assistance Act of 1977, which explicitly require a cessation of U.S. economic and military assistance to any country that manufactures, transfers, receives or detonates a nuclear device. One wonders if the Bush administration will enforce the amendments.
-G. Keenan, Vancouver, B.C., Canada
Closing Up the Checkbook
To Newsweek, April 20, 1992
Newsweek notes possible new U.S. loan guarantees to Israel of $5 billion to $10 billion and no intentions of withholding the annual $3 billion that Israel normally receives. Now there's a bashing any cash-hungry enterprise could love. With our own economy in disarray and deficits building, it's tough to stomach Yitzhak Shamir & Co.'s belligerence about the terms of U.S. aid. Our reluctance to guarantee new unconditional loans provokes charges of anti-Semitism. But this is not an ethnic issue; it is a matter of U.S. taxpayers looking to their leadership to deploy tax dollars in the best interest of Americans. Although I may be missing some international subtleties, I don't see that there would be much of a downside to wishing Israel well and closing the checkbook.
-Art Talpt, Tallahassee, FL
The Column and the Cartoon
To the Washington Times, March 14, 1992
Rather than having to endure Wesley Pruden's Feb. 26 column ranting about an "Arabist cabal" at the State Department and Bill Garner's ugly cartoon of Feb. 27 depicting Secretary of State James Baker and Arabs using Israel as a doormat, President Bush and this administration should be commended for their courageous stand on the $10 billion in loan guarantees requested by Israel.
The loan guarantees are sought for humanitarian purposes. But one good humanitarian deed deserves another-and the antagonistic policies of Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, Ariel Sharon and the Likud party that are depriving a people of basic human rights and self-determination have long needed reversal. It is wrong to offer additional assistance to one group when it will be used to the further detriment of the rights of another by directly or indirectly financing rapidly expanding obstacles to peace.
We have asked the Israeli government to cease or drastically reduce settlements in the occupied territories while the peace process unfolds. It is a simple and fair request. If we cannot get an affirmative response, we have no business offering loan guarantees. There are plenty of other worthwhile causes and groups in need of assistance in the world and at home under the circumstances.
-A. Douglas Reeves, Alexandria, VA
U.S. Should Be 'Bashed'
To the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Jan. 31, 1992
The editorial of Jan. 10, "Israel-Bashing Again," was a bit of reverse bashing by the Times-Dispatch. The attack on the Bush administration for condemning Israel's deportation of 12 so-called terrorist-agitators was apparently influenced by William Safire, an Israel supporter.
Opposing the legal position taken by the United States and the United Nations only gives comfort and encouragement to the Shamir government to continue its brutal, inhumane treatment of those Palestinians confined to the camps in the occupied territories.
The dream of a greater Israel can only come about by expulsion, imprisonment or the demise of the unwanted Palestinians. Making room, however, for more Russian and Ethiopian Jews only results in more land and water confiscation and deprivation of the essential needs of the Arabs.
It's time our own government and some U.S. Jews were bashed, for both are guilty of collecting and sending billions of tax-free dollars to Israel. These funds are used to continue the subjugation of the non-Jews and to pervert the rights of those seeking justice.
-Robert A. Hay, Richmond, VA
A Courageous Stand
To the Dallas Morning News, March 14, 1992
The historic turn of events in the Middle East underscores how vital it is to achieve peace with justice in this region of the world.
The voice of the American people finally reached the White House. President George Bush courageously stood up to Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir and his government, effectively stalling any action on the $10 billion loan guarantee request. In return, Shamir sent a loud and clear message to "the Gentiles of the world," saying of the loan request and settlement freeze, "No force in the world will stop this construction."
Consistent with that position, Shamir won his government's approval to build 5,500 new housing units in the occupied territories. This is in addition to the 25,150 he already has under construction. Under these circumstances, the United States-sponsored peace conferences become less meaninful by the day.
In the Oct. 18, 1991 issue of the Jerusalem Hadashot, settler leader Aharon Dom succinctly defines the Shamir government's agenda: "In the end, what we are talking about is playing for time. We need another three years to place another 200,000 people in the West Bank and Gaza. And then, they can have all the conferences they want. No power in the world will evacuate that many people." We must put an end to American taxpayer support of an arrogant, expansionist Israeli government that violates international law and morality, and expects the U.S. taxpayers to pick up the tab.
-A.G. Thomas, Longview, TX
Begin's Real Legacy
To the Austin American Statesman, March 11, 1992
Your March 11 editorial states Menachem Begin leaves a "legacy of pride and valiance" and "hope for peace." As Irgun commander, Begin attacked the defenseless, as in Deir-Yassin in 1948, when Irgun and Yitzhak Shamir's LEHI slaughtered 250 innocent people as a warning to others to vacate their land. This is not valiance but cowardice.
As prime minister, Begin accelerated confiscation of West Bank lands, intensified the violence used to control inhabitants and deprived them of basic rights. His actions defied norms of international behavior, the Geneva Convention, U.N. resolutions and U.S. policy, bringing Israel world opprobrium. His policies brought catastrophe and grief to the millions of people who happened to be in his way. These are not reasons for pride.
Camp David brought peace to Egypt and Israel, but others paid. Begin repudiated the accord to freeze settlements. With Egypt neutralized, he struck elsewhere and, in the 1982 invasion of Lebanon, rained death and destruction on the defenseless inhabitants of Beirut. In an echo of Deir-Yassin, Begin's generals ordered Phalangists into Sabra and Shatila camps, sealed exits and provided flares for the ensuing massacre of innocents.
If peace comes to Israel, it will be despite, not because of, his legacy.
-Mary Norton, Austin, TX
Father of the Revolution
To The New York Times, March 10, 1992
"The Courage to Make Peace" (editorial, March 10) states that Menachem Begin transformed Israel in two important ways-by leading Likud to power and by making peace with Egypt. True enough. But it's like analyzing George Washington's contribution to America by referring only to his presidential years.
Menachem Begin led the first Hebrew revolution in 2,000 years. On Feb. 1, 1944, as commander in chief of the Irgun Zvai Leumi, he issued a proclamation of revolt, promising a "war to the end" with the British mandatory regime in Palestine, "which hands our brothers over to Hitler." The proclamation demanded that the British immediately transfer power in Palestine to a provisional Hebrew government. "There will be no retreat. Freedom-or death."
The British shrugged it off. David Ben Gurion's Jewish Agency denounced it as "madness." But the revolt was on, and true to the proclamation, it did not end until the British were driven out of the country in 1948.
It was a classic street revolution. The Irgun, never more than 10,000 strong, blew up British installations, copped British arms, liberated British prisons, in retaliation flogged and hanged British soldiers. Vilified as "terrorists" in the world press, informed against, kidnapped and tortured for years by order of the Jewish Agency, the Irgun, with the tiny but lethal Stern Group, fought on.
From November 1945 to July 1946, the Hagannah, the official underground army, joined the fight, but on orders of the Jewish Agency, laid down its arms in favor of diplomacy. Irgun and Stern rejected this.
The day the British withdrew from Palestine, May 14, 1948, the British Colonial and Foreign Office published a termination of the mandate, explaining: "84,000 troops. . . had proved insufficient to maintain law and order in the face of a campaign of terrorism waged by highly organized Jewish forces."
Menachem Begin rests in peace, but there can be no peace between Israel and its Arab neighbors until one and all recall that Israel was made not in a U.N. backroom fix, but by the blood of its sons and daughters.
-Sidney Zion, New York, NY
End My Subscription
To The Christian Science Monitor, March 26, 1992
I have just begun a trial subscription to the Monitor after a couple of years' hiatus. I have had a lot of respect for your publication as a source of truth, where others bend facts to fit their own particular political views. I first found out about your credibility when I was a student at Oberlin College. A student in the audience asked a visiting speaker for his recommended source of reliable information. He named only The Christian Science Monitor. I later learned that my grandmother used to subscribe to it many years ago.
Everyone's biased, of course, and we know yours. You are Christian. So am I, and I can live with that. I'm not going to continue my subscription, though.
"The U.S. and Israel" (March 26) speaks to only one of the issues that are important to us, but it is an exceptionally important one in my view because of the way it throws a true light on people's values. For me, it is a touchstone. If someone says to me what you said in your editorial, I know that they are either ignorant or deluding themselves-or worse, attempting to delude me.
If I need the official Israeli "shared cultural and political traditions" line, I can get it in The New York Times or The Washington Post, or the Israel-boosting U.S. News and World Report.
Israel is a country of questionable legitimacy from a legal point of view, and clear illegitimacy from a moral point of view. There is no more reason to take Israel's cruelty to the native Palestinians with aplomb, as the tone of your editorial appears to suggest, than South Africa's cruelty to its blacks. Israel and its terrorist leaders are not as large as was Germany and the Nazi party, but there too is a parallel. If you don't see it you shouldn't be in the newspaper business. Israel has two hundred nuclear warheads and fully intends to blackmail the world with this weapon.
You note that "Israel's favorable rating in U.S. opinion surveys has been slipping." That's very much like noting that the hole in the ozone layer is getting larger. It has begun to dawn on people, through increased information in the media, that Israel is a ruthless, imperialist state whose leaders care naught for the principles of Judaism, let alone Christianity. Urging calm and reason, or decrying anti-Semitism, won't make the hole in our moral ozone layer go away. That will require an exercise of morality. Americans have begun to feel ashamed at their country's role in this oppression, and the more they learn of the facts, the greater their shame, and their anger, will be.
You say that "the criticisms coming from the administration should be constructive, not angry." You can picture how I gag at that advice if you will imagine yourself writing that same editorial about a U.S. reaction to Nazi Germany. Didn't you care what was happening to the Jews under Hitler? Don't you care what is happening to the Palestinians under Shamir? Be constructive, not angry? There is a time for anger, and it is long overdue.
-James R. Hanson, Columbus, OH
The Kashmir Situation
To The New York Times, March 23, 1992
"End Kashmir's Misery" (editorial, March 22) opens with the phrase "When Imperial Britain agreed to partition India and Pakistan." Imperial Britain did not agree to partition-Imperial Britain decided to partition, and that is the source of the problem. Fritz Blackwell, Director, Asia Program, Washington State University, Pullman, WA