A Palestinian family reacts after Israeli bulldozers demolished their home in the Arab East Jerusalem neighborhood of Beit Hanina, Feb. 5, 2013. (AHMAD GHARABLI/AFP/GETTY IMAGES)
Newly elected Israeli Knesset member Yair Lapid (l), leader of the Yesh Atid party, speaks to Naftali Bennett, head of the hard-line national religious party the Jewish Home, during a Feb. 5 reception in Jerusalem marking the opening of the 19th Knesset. (URIEL SINAI/GETTY IMAGES)
Richard Curtiss at work in his Washington Report office. (STAFF PHOTO D. HANLEY)
Then-Vice President Dick Cheney (l) and Likud chairman Benyamin Netanyahu, out of office at the time and serving as the official Israeli opposition leader, at a March 23, 2008 breakfast meeting at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem. (PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/GETTY IMAGES)
Philippine President Benigno Aquino III (r) shares candies with Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) chief Murad Ebrahim during a Feb. 11 visit to the rebels’ stronghold in Sultan Kudarat on the island of Mindanao. (KARLOS MANLUPIG/AFP/GETTY IMAGES)
Emad Burnat views his five broken cameras in his documentary of the same name. (PHOTO COURTESY KINO LORBER)
July/August 1995, pgs. 80-82
Other People’s Mail
Some letters by or to other people are as informative for our readers as anything we might write ourselves.
Is Congress an Israeli-Occupied Territory?
To Louisiana Representative William J. Jefferson, Washington, DC, June 13, 1995
I am grievously concerned over the position our government has taken and is taking with regard to the deplorable treatment which Arab Palestinians have received from the Israeli government. Witness the enclosure of a letter I sent to the Times Picayune, which after three weeks has seen no rebuttal from those favoring the United States' position of unconcern for the Palestinians. (See below.)
Also enclosed are clippings from the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs indicating that you have accepted $14,150 from pro-Israel political action committees and describing President Clinton's public endorsement of AIPAC by his presence at its 1995 convention, along with the presence of some 100 members of the Senate and of the House. Please do me the favor of indicating to me whether you were or were not present. I am beginning to agree with Pat Buchanan that "Congress is an Israeli-occupied territory."
Hoping that you, as a minority member, will have the courage to defend the Palestinian cause, I remain,
A doubtful voter, (Msgr.) Elmo L. Romagosa, Church of the Infant Jesus, Harvey, LA
U.S. Veto on Land Grab
To the New Orleans Times Picayune, May 28, 1995 (as published).
What has happened to our nation's sense of justice? Why did the United States veto the U.N. Security Council's resolution denouncing the state of Israel's confiscation of 131 acres of Arab lands within the city of Jerusalem?
It is sad that our government, obviously under foreign pressure, did not rise to uphold the Security Council's challenge to Israel's illegal confiscation of lands to which Arabs have held title for hundreds of years in Jerusalem.
The declared basis for the confiscation was to provide apartments for Jewish residents, thus depriving Arab residents of the possiblity of building homes for themselves in Jerusalem.
Despite Israel's claim to be a democratic nation, guaranteeing equal rights for all its citizens, the 131-acre confiscation stands as irrefutable evidence of the falseness of this claim.
It is regrettable, but true, that America's U.N. Security Council veto undeniably associates our government in this falseness.
(Msgr.) Elmo L. Romagosa, Harvey, LA
A U.S. Veto Without Virtue
To the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, May 30, 1995 (as published).
On May 17 we heard the sad news of our country having cast its first veto in five years in the United Nations Security Council. It was to kill a resolution condemning Israel for expropriating 140 acres of Palestinian land around Jerusalem to build a new Jewish settlement there. This news is sad not only because it is unjust to the Palestinians, but it is an action that would open a new era in international relations, which we may eventually come to regret.
Since the demise of the Soviet Union, it has been our policy, along with that of our allies in Europe, not to use a veto but to work in concert on a coalition for compromise and cooperation.
This was supposed to be the New World Order conducive to peace and harmony. We now have shattered it. We have opened the door for Russian and Chinese vetoes on any resolution that may be brought in the Security Council—for example, on the Bosnian question, on the sale of nuclear reactors, on human rights, on trade embargoes, etc. We have fired the first shot in a new Cold War.
If we had done this for an obviously moral and just cause, there would at least have been the sympathy of the world for our action, but we have done this in the interest of Israeli aggrandizement. We have gone against the declared policy of all previous American administrations that Jewish settlements on Palestinian lands are illegal and that East Jerusalem is "occupied territory" which Israel has unilaterally and illegally annexed. By adding our arrogance at the U.N. to the Israeli arrogance in the holy land, we have destroyed our position as "an honest broker" or a "full partner" in the Mideast peace process.
When will we have an independent Middle Eastern foreign policy that is not dictated by Israel? Do we even care for the opinions of other Arab countries that are our friends, such as Egypt, Jordan, Morocco or Oman? Or do we care for one and only one country in the region, Israel, to whose unjust interest we require every other country to submit? If there is any reaction to our discrimination, we will cry "Islamic fundamentalism!"
Abbas Hamdani, Professor of Middle Eastern History, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
To Mr. Ralph Earle II, Deputy Director, U.S. Arms Control, May 13, 1995
We saw you on the MacNeil/Lehrer TV program discussing your great triumph in having many nations sign the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. One exception is Israel. Your comments didn't have the honesty to state that Israel, without doubt, has 200 to 400 nuclear weapons.
Mordechai Vanunu, the Israeli who blew the whistle on how Israel deceived the U.S. for years in building the bombs, is now in an Israeli jail.
How can Americans deceive themselves and the world by not honestly stating that Israel has the bombs and should sign the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty?
Why does the U.S.A. believe Pakistan, North Korea, Iran and Iraq should not have the bomb, but that Israel can?
With the rich oil resources in the Middle East, the bombs will be built. It is only a matter of time until our double standards will come back to haunt us.
John L. Hughes, Milwaukee, WI
The Foreign Aid Tool
To the Orlando Sentinel, June 14, 1995 (as published).
I fully agree with your three valuable editorials on "Foreign Aid" and how it's a vital tool to enhance American and universal economic development, freedom and human dignity.
I also agree when you argue that it should be used wisely and that there's "nothing wrong with attaching conditions to foreign aid. For example, in the case of human rights violations, the U.S. shouldn't hesitate to cut off aid."
That's why many fair-minded Americans and Arab Americans believe that the U.S. must cut off all aid to Israel until it stops its human rights violations against the Palestinians and ends its forced military occupation.
In your first editorial you discussed foreign aid to the Middle East. Now, what countries get most of it? Not the Palestinians who have no economy, no jobs, no roads, no infrastructure and no hope. Not even the Lebanese who are struggling to stand on their feet after a vicious civil war. It's tiny, rich Israel, which endlessly practices "human rights violations," that gets most of it, and huge poor Egypt that gets much of the rest, largely for keeping the peace with Israel.
That is not right or wise. Poverty-stricken Gaza and the West Bank must get the huge and wrongly-earmarked aid for Israel, so that the still enslaved Palestinians, like everybody else, can begin practicing the normal God-given basic human rights of "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."
Nuha Marchi, Orlando, FL
"More Bang for the Buck"
To Newsweek, June 1, 1995 (as submitted).
The article entitled "More Bang for the Buck" by Carroll Bogert in the World Affairs section of Newsweek dated May 29, 1995, mentions that "Egypt, which receives 29.5 percent of all American foreign aid, has grown lazy and dependent on the U.S. dole." I could not agree more with this statement. However, the writer has very conveniently omitted to mention that Israel is, by far, the largest recipient of U.S. aid and loans—over $6 billion annually—which is three times more than Egypt. Moreover, not a single dollar of the loans to Israel has ever been repaid by Israel.
One of the documents published by Sen. Jesse Helms mentioned that the Camp David Agreement has cost the U.S. taxpayers so far from $80 billion to $100 billion. He initially called for a review of all U.S. aid but has suddenly changed his mind and stated that the aid to Israel—over $17 million per day, seven days a week, 52 weeks a year—would not be affected.
At a time when the lawmakers are desperately trying to cut spending from domestic programs such as Medicare and eliminating departments like Commerce, Education, U.S. Geological Survey, etc., one wonders why the U.S. aid to Israel (about $6.321 billion) and Egypt ($2.1 billion) is being left untouched. We, the U.S. taxpayers, should not continue supporting other countries when we have such a huge budget deficit and millions of Americans are living under the poverty limit.
Waheed Khalid, Ouro Preto, MG, Brazil
P.S. I am a U.S. citizen from New Jersey and am temporarily resident in Brazil.
Astounding Dole-Gingrich Law
To Senator Robert Dole, May 19, 1995
The recent news that both you and Congressman Gingrich have initiated legislation calling for the United States to break ground early in 1996 for a new U.S. Embassy building in Jerusalem astounds me.
You must be aware than the U.S.A. is a signatory to the United Nations resolutions declaring Jerusalem an occupied territory subject to disposition by negotiation of a lasting peace in the Middle East, and yet you sponsor legislation which undermines our stated foreign policy of 25 years.
How can you possibly take it upon yourselves to urge our government to ignore its obligations to the U.N., to our own people and to the whole civilized world by initiating an obvious act of pre-judgment affecting the peace negotiations in which our government is supposed to be neutral?
You may not realize it, but your support of this ill-advised piece of legislation speaks volumes about your apparent lack of ethics, your obvious pandering to the Jewish vote, and your lack of consideration for the vast majority of American voters who are not Jewish and who expect you both, as leaders of our elected Congress, to represent them with dignity and honor.
Very truly yours, George E. Brown, Palm Beach Gardens, FL
An Apparent About-Face
To Senator Bob Dole, May 24, 1995
The keystone of character and statesmanship is fair play. I was your strong supporter because of my belief in your integrity until you recently announced that you were co-sponsoring legislation to have the American Embassy moved to (West) Jerusalem, and if the State Department did not cooperate there would be severe financial penalties.
This is a reversal of the stand you took some time earlier in which you indicated that this move should be deferred until the peace negotiations had addressed the question of Jerusalem.
As you no doubt are well aware, the Palestinian land was deliberately colonized and then usurped by the Zionist Jews with the support first of Great Britain and later the U.S. and, reluctantly, the U.N. Since the partition, the Israeli boundaries have been extended by wars of conquest and governmental confiscation contrary to international laws and U.N. policy. For the U.S. to promote Jerusalem as the capital of Israel is a further indication of our unfairness in the matter and of the political clout of AIPAC and the partisan American Jews.
For you to demonstrate a lack of understanding of the principles involved is repulsive to me, and I for one am no longer your supporter. I cannot imagine the president of the U.S. kowtowing to international Zionism.
Re-examine your position.
Sincerely, James V. Rogers, Jr., M.D., Stone Mountain, GA
Cut Aid to Israel in Half
To the Dallas Morning News, May 30, 1995 (as published).
Congratulations on your May 8 editorial "Israel and Egypt—To balance federal budget, cut U.S. aid." For years, I have been writing senators and congressmen on this subject. I recently wrote Sen. Jesse Helms and he replied that since Israel is the only true democracy in the Middle East we will not cut aid to Egypt and Israel.
President Carter gave away the store at Camp David and the U.S. continues to do so. In addition to the $3 billion we give Israel, we also give it loan guarantees in exchange for not building on the West Bank. Israel takes the loan money and continues expanding its settlements.
I am not anti-Jewish, but I consider Israel as a foreign country; we don't give our own states that kind of money. It just shows how powerful the Israeli lobby is with Washington. Don't make just a 10 percent cut, as you suggest; it should be cut at least 50 percent.
W.D. Falkenstein, Frisco, TX
A Kudo and Three Corrections
To the National Geographic, June 15, 1995 (as submitted).
Congratulations to Mr. and Ms. Belt on "Israel's Galilee" in your June issue, and to you and the Society for the magazine's more realistic political and economic coverage of this and other areas.
This article is one of the few to mention the fact that Israeli Arabs have less than full rights as citizens, and for that reason alone you will surely receive complaints from some Americans.
I have three specific criticisms, however, and even if you choose not to print any part of this letter, I hope you will forward it to the author and photographer team.
- "When a Muslim army led by Saladin slaughtered thousands of Christian soldiers." True, many times. That's what the Crusades were about: Christians vs. Muslims. In war, soldiers "slaughter" soldiers. It is also true that when the Crusaders captured Jerusalem they slaughtered not only Muslim soldiers but also the Muslim, Jewish and indigenous Christian inhabitants.
- 1948 was not the beginning of the Arab-Israeli armed conflict, but rather 1947 when the civil war began between Jewish Zionist forces and Muslim and Christian forces. About a third of the Palestinian refugees were caused to leave their homes before Israel declared itself a state in May 1948 and the neighboring Arab states entered the conflict. (This is a mistake or omission common in American writings on the conflict.)
- The Golan Heights. True that the Syrians shelled and sniped down from the Golan Heights. Omitted is the fact that the area they shelled was declared a disputed territory in the Israeli-Syrian armistice agreements of 1948. This territory below the Golan Heights was to the Syrians "no-man's-land," but to the Israelis a land to be tilled by Zionist settlers as a way of "creating new facts."
I do not ascribe any bias or prejudice to the authors or the editor. You have simply repeated oversimplifications which are common to English-language histories of the area.
C. Patrick Quinlan, Edina, MN
Academic Freedom and Iran Embargo
(Editor's note: Since this letter was written, the Treasury Department has modified the language of the executive order in response to the concerns expressed below.)
To: President Clinton, The White House, Washington, DC, June 2, 1995
We are writing as academic experts on Iran to express in public our alarm at the possible implications of your Executive Order of May 6. The Order's language seems to exceed banning "trade" with Iran. Its implementation may in practice result in an unprecedented attack on a principle we all cherish; academic freedom. Without due care, the pending Treasury Department implementation regulations may well threaten all kinds of academic activities, including sponsored research, international conferences, exchange of scholarly materials such as books, journals, and newspapers, and even personal travel and communications. Such restrictions will exceed even those applied to the Soviet Union during the darkest days of the Cold War.
The basis for our concern with such a potential threat stems in part from your Executive Order's prohibition of "the importation into the United States...of any goods and services of Iranian origin, other than Iranian-origin publications and materials imported for news publications or news broadcast dissemination." Our concern also stems in part from your letter to the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the President of the Senate which "Prohibits exportation from the United States to Iran...of goods...or services...and other dealing by United States persons in Iranian goods and services" (emphasis added).
Most astonishingly, the statement of the White House Press Secretary accompanying your Executive Order can be interpreted in such a way as to infringe upon free intellectual inquiry by scholars, whether of American or Iranian national origin. The White House Press Secretary states that "the prohibitions also permit the identification and listing by the Treasury Department of persons acting on behalf of or as agents of the Government of Iran, as 'Specially Designated Nationals of Iran'..." Hence, it is possible that a Treasury official may identify an academic expert's criticisms of U.S. policy toward Iran as "acting on behalf of the Government of Iran."
As individual scholars, we have many different views about the wisdom of U.S. and Iranian policies. However, we agree that freedoms of speech, association, and intellectual inquiry are part of the lifeblood of education in a free society such as ours. And in the words of Thomas Jefferson, "Nothing more than education advances the prosperity, the power, and the happiness of a nation." We therefore urge you, Mr. President, to ensure the protection of the freedoms of expression, movement, and communication between American and Iranian academic experts. To close this only window of impartial understanding between the United States and Iran may well jeopardize both the enlightened national interest of the United States and the principle of academic freedom.
Gholam Afkhami, Director, Foundation for Iran Studies
Shahrough Akhavi, Professor of Government and International Studies, University of South Carolina
Charlotte Albright, Professor,University of Washington
Abbas Amanat, Professor of History, Yale University;Editor, Iranian Studies (Journal of the Society for Iranian Studies)
Hooshang Amirahmadi, Professor and Director of Middle Eastern Studies, Rutgers University
Lisa Anderson, Professor of Political Science, Columbia University
Said Arjomand, Professor of Sociology, State University of New York, Stony Brook
Ahmad Ashraf, Adjunct Professor of Sociology, University of Pennsylvania
Bahman Bakhtiari, Associate Professor of Political Science, University of Maine
Amin Banani, Emeritus Professor of History, University of California at Los Angeles
Ali Banuazizi, Professor of Social Psychology, Boston College
William Beeman, Professor of Anthropology, Brown University
James Bill, Professor of Government, Director of the Reeves Center for International Studies, College of William & Mary
Leonard Binder, Professor of Political Science, University of California, Los Angeles
Mehrzad Boroujerdi, Assistant Professor of Political Science, Syracuse University
Richard Bulliet, Professor of History and Director of the Middle East Institute, Columbia University
Charles Butterworth, Professor of Government, University of Maryland, College Park
Louis Cantori, Professor of Political Science, Georgetown University and University of Maryland, Baltimore
Jerome Clinton, Professor of Near East Studies, Princeton University
Juan Cole, University of Michigan
Richard Cottam, Emeritus Professor of Political Science, University of Pittsburgh
Martha Crenshaw, Professor of Government, Wesleyan University
Jill Crystal, Professor of Political Science, Auburn University
Adeed Dawisha, Professor of Government and Politics, George Mason University
Dale Eickelman, Lazarus Professor of Anthropology and Human Relations and co-chair of Asian Studies Program, Dartmouth College
Hermann Eilts, Emeritus Professor of International Relations, Boston University
Nader Entessar, Professor of Political Science, Spring Hill College
John Esposito, Loyola Professor of Middle East Studies, Georgetown University
Hafez Farmayan, Professor of History, University of Texas
John Foran, Associate Professor of Sociology, University of California at Santa Barbara
Robert 0. Freedman, Professor of History and Graduate Dean, Baltimore Hebrew University
Richard N. Frye, Emeritus Professor of Iranian Studies, Harvard University
Gene Garthwaite, Chair, Department of History, Dartmouth University
F. Gregory Gause, Associate Professor of Political Science, Columbia University
Robert F. Goheen, President Emeritus, Princeton University
William Graham, Professor and Director of Center for Middle East Studies, Harvard University
William Hanaway, Professor of Literature, University of Pennsylvania
W. Scott Harrop, Associate Director, Society for American-lranian Dialogue
Eric Hooglund, Society for American-lranian Dialogue
Michael Hudson, Saif Ghobash Professor of Arab Studies, Georgetown University
J. C. Hurewitz, Emeritus Professor, Columbia University
Mark Katz, Associate Professor of Government and Politics, George Mason University
Farhad Kazemi, Professor of Political Science, New York University
Firuz Kazemzadeh, Emeritus Professor of History, Yale University
Nikki Keddie, Professor of History, University of California at Los Angeles
George Lenczowski, Emeritus Professor of Political Science, University of California, Berkeley
Charles G. MacDonald, Professor of International Relations, Florida International University
Akbar Mahdi, Executive Director, Center for Iranian Research and Analysis
Lenore Martin, Professor of Political Science, Emmanuel College, Boston
Thomas R. Mattair, Policy Analyst, Middle East Policy Council
Farzaneh Milani, Associate Professor of Persian and Women's Studies, University of Virginia
Mohsen Milani, Associate Professor of Government and International Affairs, University of South Florida
Augustus R. Norton, Professor of International Relations, Boston University
Don Peretz, Emeritus Professor of Political Science, State University of New York, Binghamton
John R. Perry, Professor, Center for Middle East Studies, University of Chicago
Kamrouz Pirouz, Professor of Economics, Montclair State University
Lawrence Potter, Deputy Director, Gulf-2000 Project, Columbia University
William Quandt, Harry F. Byrd, Jr. Professor of Government and Foreign Affairs, University of Virginia
R. K. Ramazani, Edward R. Stettinius Professor of Government and Foreign Affairs, University of Virginia
G. Hossein Razi, Professor of Political Science, University of Houston
Thomas M. Ricks, Director of International Studies, Villanova University
Barnett R. Rubin, Professor of Political Science, Columbia University
Alvin Z. Rubinstein, Professor of Political Science, University of Pennsylvania
Sussan Siavoshi, Associate Professor of Political Science, Trinity University
Gary Sick, Adjunct Professor of Political Science and Executive Director, Gulf-2000 Project, Columbia University
Brian Spooner, Professor of Anthropology, University of Pennsylvania
Majid Tehranian, Senior Fellow, Harvard University, and Professor, University of Hawaii
John Waterbury, Professor of Politics and International Relations, Princeton University
Marvin G. Weinbaum, Professor and Director, Program in South and West Asian Studies, University of Illinois, Urbana
Andrew Whitley, Adjunct Professor of Journalism, Middle East Center, New York University
Ehsan Yarshater, Professor, Center for Iranian Studies, Columbia University
William Zartman, Professor of School of Advanced International Studies, The Johns Hopkins University
Marvin Zonis, Professor, Graduate School of Business, University of Chicago