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)
Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, May 2002, pages 32-34
Letters Show Depth of Anti-Palestinian Sentiment in Congress
By Shirl McArthur
More than half the members of both the House and the Senate signed letters to President George W. Bush during March that show that most members of Congress hold the Palestinians solely responsible for the violence and terrorism in the West Bank, Gaza and Israel, and are prepared to ignore the acts of violence and terrorism committed by the Israel Defense Force (IDF). The House letter, sent on March 14, was initiated by Reps. Henry Waxman (D-CA) and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) and was signed by 235 of the 435 House members (see box on facing page). It commends Bush for his strong criticism of PA Chairman Yasser Arafat and urges that he “take even stronger action by adding the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade, the Tanzim, and Force 17 to the U.S. list of foreign terrorist organizations.” The letter describes at length each organization’s evil deeds against Israeli civilians, but makes no mention of the terrorism inflicted upon Palestinian civilians by the IDF, nor does it suggest that the IDF be added to the list of terrorist organizations.
The list of foreign terrorist organizations is maintained by the State Department, and groups can be added at any time. Subsequently, on March 21, Secretary of State Colin Powell announced that he was adding the Al-Aqsa Brigade to the list. Being on the list means that it is illegal for individuals or groups in the U.S. to financially support the group, and banks are required to freeze the group’s assets in the U.S., which likely will not have any practical effect on the Al-Aqsa Brigade.
The Senate letter, signed by 52 senators, was initiated by Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Mitch McConnell (R-KY), and was sent March 21, during Vice President Richard Cheney’s visit to the Middle East. It expresses “profound concern and dismay” at Arafat’s failure “to do what is necessary to help bring peace to Israel and his people.” The letter urges Cheney to reconsider his offer to meet with Arafat “until Mr. Arafat and the Palestinian Authority demonstrate their commitment to end the violence.”
Those who signed the letter to Bush, in addition to Feinstein and McConnell, were Sens. Wayne Allard (R-CO), George Allen (R-VA), Evan Bayh (D-IN), Robert Bennett (R-UT), Christopher Bond (R-MO), John Breaux (D-LA), Jim Bunning (R-KY), Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-CO), Max Cleland (D-GA), Hillary Clinton (D-NY), Susan Collins (R-ME), Kent Conrad (D-ND), Jon Corzine (D-NJ), Mike Crapo (R-ID), Tom Daschle (D-SD), Christopher Dodd (D-CT), Richard Durbin (D-IL), John Edwards (D-NC), Russell Feingold (D-WI), Bob Graham (D-FL), Charles Grassley (R-IA), Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Jesse Helms (R-NC), Fritz Hollings (D-SC), Tim Hutchinson (R-AR), Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX), James Inhofe (R-OK), Daniel Inouye (D-HI), Jim Jeffords (I-VT), Timothy Johnson (D-SD), John Kerry (D-MA), Herb Kohl (D-WI), Jon Kyl (R-AZ), Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Carl Levin (D-MI), Joseph Lieberman (D-CT), Blanche Lincoln (D-AR), Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Frank Murkowski (R-AK), Bill Nelson (D-FL), Harry Reid (D-NV), John D. Rockefeller IV (D-WV), Charles Schumer (D-NY), Richard Shelby (R-AL), Bob Smith (R-NH), Arlen Specter (R-PA), Robert Torricelli (D-NJ), John Warner (R-VA), Paul Wellstone (D-MN), and Ron Wyden (D-OR).
New “Afghan Freedom Support Act” Introduced in House
There has been very little recent congressional activity regarding the previously described bills and resolutions affecting the Middle East. However, on March 19, House International Relations Committee Chairman Henry Hyde (R-IL), along with ranking Democrat Tom Lantos (D-CA), Middle East subcommittee Chairman Benjamin Gilman (R-NY) and subcommittee ranking Democrat Gary Ackerman (D-NY) as co-sponsors, introduced H.R. 3994, the “Afghan Freedom Support Act” to authorize economic and military development assistance for Afghanistan. This is a long, comprehensive bill that presumably supercedes the previously introduced Afghanistan reconstruction bills. It authorizes humanitarian, agricultural and counter-narcotics assistance, as well as refugee resettlement, nation-building assistance, and help to develop a market economy. For these activities it authorizes $200 million for this fiscal year, $300 million for each of fiscal years 2003 and 2004, and $250 million for fiscal year 2005.
In addition, the bill authorizes military assistance to help Afghanistan develop a standing army and a civilian police force, and to help support a multinational security force in Afghanistan. For these activities the bill authorizes $300 million.
Specter Circulating Bill to Correct Immigration Injustices
Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) is circulating for co-sponsors a draft bill to, in the words of one of his staff members, “correct some of the immigration concerns that he has with the Patriot Act,” which was passed after the Sept. 11 terrorist attack, and which gives the Justice Department broad search and seizure and detention authorities. Although the text of the draft bill is not available, the staff member said that a key provision is one placing a strict seven-day time limit on how long a detainee can be held without charges being brought. (The Patriot Act already includes a seven-day limit, but it also includes a liberal waiver provision.)
Although Specter voted for the Patriot Act, he said on the floor of the Senate at the time that he had several concerns about the act, which would have to be addressed by subsequent legislation. The fact that Specter is the person promoting such a bill came as no surprise to other congressional staff members, including a Democratic staff member, questioned about the draft bill. While Specter is conservative, they pointed out, he has a long reputation as a defender of civil liberties, especially when he believes constitutional rights and liberties are being infringed.
Few Old Bills Making Progress
Only two previously described bills affecting the Middle East have gained multiple co-sponsors, and none has made any progress through the legislative process. The one gaining the most co-sponsors is H.R. 1795, the House bill introduced by Ackerman that would impose sanctions on the PLO and the PA unless they comply with previous commitments. It now has 126 co-sponsors, including Ackerman.
New co-sponsors of H.R. 1795 since those named in the previous issue of this magazine are Reps. Dave Camp (R-MI), Chet Edwards (D-TX), Jim Gibbons (R-NV), Jack Kingston (R-GA), John Larson (D-CT), Ken Lucas (D-KY), Dennis Moore (R-KS), Mike Pence (R-IN), Joseph Pitts (R-PA), Deborah Pryce (R-OH), Clay Shaw (R-FL), Ike Skelton (D-MO), Mark Udall (D-CO), and Roger Wicker (R-MS).
The second bill to gain co-sponsors was H.R. 3624, introduced in January by Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA), which would prohibit any U.S. funds from being used “for any form of assistance directly or indirectly to the Palestinian Authority or any instrumentality of the Palestinian Authority.” This is a pointless bill, because for the past several years every foreign aid appropriations bill has contained provisions prohibiting funds to the PA. All of the $80 million to $100 million in aid currently provided to the West Bank and Gaza is administered directly by USAID, usually through non-governmental organizations.
Nevertheless, H.R. 3624 now has 63 co-sponsors, including Cantor. The five new ones are Reps. Robert Aderholt (R-AL), Todd Akin (R-MO), Kevin Brady (R-TX), Ron Lewis (R-KY), and Sue Myrick (R-NC).
Positive Bills Bog Down
All of the previously described positive bills not only have made no progress, but appear to be doomed, at least during the remainder of the 107th Congress. Neither Rep. John Dingell’s (D-MI) balanced cease-fire resolution, H.Con.Res. 253, which specifically endorses the recommendations of the Mitchell Report, nor Rep. David Bonior’s (D-MI) Secret Evidence Repeal bill has gained any co-sponsors.
Even the Hate Crimes Prevention bill, H.R. 1343, introduced by Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) last April, has gained only one new co-sponsor, Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-MA), for a total of 206, including Conyers. The bill would provide federal assistance to states and local jurisdictions to investigate and prosecute crimes motivated by race, color, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, or disability.
Two New Resolutions—One Good, One Strange
Two new resolutions were introduced right before the House broke for the Easter recess. The first, introduced by Reps. Dingell and Darrell Issa (R-CA), is an updated version of Dingell’s earlier, balanced cease-fire resolution. It refers to U.N. Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338 establishing the “land for peace” principle, as well as Resolution 1397, adopted March 12, 2002, which calls for “two sovereign states able to reside in peace with one another.” Finally, it expresses support for the efforts of U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, special envoys from the Russian Federation, the European Union, the U.S., and others “to assist the parties to halt the violence and resume the peace process in the Middle East.”
The second resolution, H.Con.Res. 369, was introduced by Israel sycophant Rep. Jim Saxton (R-NJ), and makes no effort toward balance. Its title is simply “calling upon Yasser Arafat and the leaders of other countries in the Middle East to accept the existence of Israel,” which is innocuous enough as far as it goes. The rest of the text, however, seems to be saying that this should be a precondition before any discussion of “land for peace” can take place. It says that “Israel currently relies upon territories captured in the course of previous defensive wars to protect itself,” and that without a commitment to peaceful coexistence with Israel “on the part of the Palestinian people and Israel’s historic enemies, the relinquishing of such territories by Israel could give rise to new and potentially mortal threats to the Jewish state.”
Biden Urges Increased Contacts With Iran
On March 21 Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE) commended on the floor of the Senate the speech that Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Joe Biden (D-DE) delivered before the American-Iranian Council on March 13. Asking that Biden’s speech be printed in the Congressional Record, Hagel specifically associated himself with Biden’s remarks and recommendations, and urged other senators to read them before “considering next steps in U.S. policy toward Iran.”
Biden opened his remarks by pointing out some of the many reasons why “an improved relationship with Iran is in the naked self-interest of the U.S.,” and why “the direction Iran takes in the coming years will have a significant impact upon American strategic interests in the region.”
The Delaware senator acknowledged the internal power struggle in Iran between the wishes of the people, as expressed in President Khatami’s 1997 election, and a “hardcore clique which refuses to give way to the will of the people.” He also acknowledged the problems some of Iran’s policies and actions pose for the U.S., especially the support for terrorist organizations and the pursuit of weapons of mass destruction, and said that the U.S. must be prepared to hold discussions with Iran to develop creative solutions, as it did with North Korea.
Regarding the internal power struggle, Biden emphasized that the U.S. should not intervene in any direct way, recalling some of the “painful history between our two countries, which includes reported CIA support for a coup in 1953.” Instead, he said, Washington should try to help the Iranian people by taking actions that do not require reciprocity, which would probably be thwarted by the hard-liners. He suggested five specific steps the U.S. can take:
”¢ Issue a general license to permit American non-governmental organizations to support democracy-building activities in Iran;
”¢ Continue to work with Iran on matters of mutual interest, as on Afghanistan;
”¢ Agree to Iran’s bid to begin accession talks to the World Trade Organization;
”¢ Be prepared to indirectly help Iran on refugee and narcotics matters; and
”¢ Continue to encourage citizen exchanges.
Regarding the last point, Biden said that, in his capacity as chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, he is prepared to meet with members of Iran’s Majlis whenever and wherever they would like to meet.
Shirl McArthur, a retired foreign service officer, is a consultant in the Washington, DC area.
235 House Members Sign Letters to Bush to List Palestinian Groups as “Terrorist”
The 235 representatives who signed the Waxman-Ros-Lehtinen letter to President George W. Bush urging him to add the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade, the Tanzim, and Force 17 to the list of foreign terrorist organizations were:
Reps. Gary Ackerman (D-NY), Robert Aderholt (R-AL), Todd Akin (R-PA), Robert Andrews (D-NJ), Dick Armey (R-TX), Joe Baca (D-CA), Spencer Bachus (R-AL), Brian Baird (D-WA), Richard Baker (R-LA), Roscoe Bartlett (R-MD), Charles Bass (R-NH), Ken Bentsen (D-TX), Shelley Berkley (D-NV), Howard Berman (D-CA), Michael Bilirakis (R-FL), Rod Blagojevich (D-IL), Roy Blunt (R-MO), Henry Bonilla (R-TX), Mary Bono (R-CA), Robert Borski (D-PA), Leonard Boswell (D-IA), Kevin Brady (R-TX), Corrine Brown (D-FL), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Ed Bryant (R-TN), Dan Burton (R-IN), Stephan Buyer (R-IN), Sonny Callahan (R-AL), Chris Cannon (R-UT), Eric Cantor (R-VA), Benjamin Cardin (D-MD), Brad Carson (D-OK), Michael Castle (R-DE), Saxby Chambliss (R-GA), Bob Clement (D-TN), Howard Coble (R-NC), Jerry Costello (D-IL), Bud Cramer (D-AL), Phil Crane (R-IL), Ander Crenshaw (R-FL), Joe Crowley (D-NY), Danny Davis (D-IL), Jim Davis (D-FL), Susan Davis (D-CA), Jo Ann Davis (R-VA), Diana DeGette (D-CO), Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), Peter Deutsch (D-FL), Lincoln Diaz-Balart (R-FL), Norman Dicks (D-WA), Calvin Dooley (D-CA), John Doolittle (R-CA), Mike Doyle (D-PA), Jennifer Dunn (R-WA), Chet Edwards (D-TX), Jo Ann Emerson (R-MO), Eliot Engel (D-NY), Phil English (R-PA), Anna Eshoo (D-CA), Bob Etheridge (D-NC), Lane Evans (D-IL), Mike Ferguson (R-NJ), Bob Filner (D-CA), Jeff Flake (R-AZ), Ernie Fletcher (R-KY), Mark Foley (R-FL), Randy Forbes (R-VA), Vito Fossella (R-NY), Barney Frank (D-MA), Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ), Martin Frost (D-TX), Greg Ganske (R-IA), Richard Gephardt (D-MO), Jim Gibbons (R-NV), Benjamin Gilman (R-NY), Charles Gonzalez (D-TX), Bart Gordon (D-TN), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Sam Graves (R-MO), Gene Green (D-TX), Felix Grucci (R-NY), Luis Gutierrez (D-IL), Jane Harman (D-CA), Melissa Hart (R-PA), Alcee Hastings (D-FL), Robin Hayes (R-NC), J.D. Hayworth (R-AZ), Wally Herger (R-CA), Maurice Hinchey (D-NY), Joseph Hoeffel (D-PA), Tim Holden (D-PA), Rush Holt (D-NJ), Mike Honda (D-CA), Darlene Hooley (D-OR), Steve Horn (R-CA), Steny Hoyer (D-MD), Jay Inslee (D-WA), Johnny Isakson (R-GA), Steve Israel (D-NY), Nancy Johnson (R-CT), Tim Johnson (R-IL), Walter Jones (R-NC), Ric Keller (R-FL), Sue Kelly (R-NY), Mark Kennedy (R-MN), Patrick Kennedy (D-RI), Peter King (R-NY), Mark Kirk (R-IL), Joseph Knollenberg (R-MI), Nick Lampson (D-TX), Jim Langevin (D-RI), Tom Lantos (D-CA), Rick Larsen (D-WA), John Larson (D-CT), Tom Latham (R-IA), Steven LaTourette (R-OH), Jim Leach (R-IA), Sander Levin (D-MI), John Lewis (D-GA), John Linder (R-GA), William Lipinski (D-IL), Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ), Nita Lowey (D-NY), Ken Lucas (D-KY), Bill Luther (D-MN), Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), James Maloney (D-CT), Donald Manzullo (R-IL), Edward Markey (D-MA), Jim Matheson (D-UT), Robert Matsui (D-CA), Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY), Karen McCarthy (D-MO), Betty McCollum (D-MN), Jim McCrery (R-LA), Scott McInnis (R-CO), Michael McNulty (D-NY), Carrie Meek (D-FL), Gregory Meeks (D-NY), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Dan Miller (R-FL), Jim Moran (D-VA), Dennis Moore (D-KS), Connie Morella (R-MD), Sue Myrick (R-NC), Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Richard Neal (D-MA), George Nethercutt (R-WA), Anne Northup (R-KY), Jim Nussle (R-IA), Doug Ose (R-CA), Butch Otter (R-ID), Major Owens (D-NY), Frank Pallone (D-NJ), Bill Pascrell (D-NJ), Mike Pence (R-IN), Thomas Petri (R-WI), David Phelps (D-IL), Chip Pickering (R-MS), Joseph Pitts (R-PA), Todd Platts (R-PA), Richard Pombo (R-CA), Earl Pomeroy (D-ND), Deborah Pryce (R-OH), Adam Putnam (R-FL), Jack Quinn (R-NY), Jim Ramstad (R-MN), Dennis Rehberg (R-MT), Silvestre Reyes (D-TX), Thomas Reynolds (R-NY), Ciro Rodriguez (D-TX), Tim Roemer (D-IN), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Mike Ross (D-AR), Steven Rothman (D-NJ), Marge Roukema (R-NJ), Bobby Rush (D-IL), Loretta Sanchez (D-CA), Max Sandlin (D-TX), Jim Saxton (R-NJ), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Adam Schiff (D-CA), Ed Schrock (R-VA), Pete Sessions (R-TX), John Shadegg (R-AZ), Clay Shaw (R-FL), Christopher Shays (R-CT), Brad Sherman (D-CA), Don Sherwood (R-PA), John Shimkus (R-IL), Ronnie Shows (D-MS), Rob Simmons (R-CT), Mike Simpson (R-ID), Ike Skelton (D-MO), Louise Slaughter (D-NY), Adam Smith (D-WA), Chris Smith (R-NJ), Lamar Smith (R-TX), John Spratt (D-SC), Charles Stenholm (D-TX), Ted Strickland (D-OH), Bob Stump (R-AZ), Bart Stupak (D-MI), John Sullivan (R-OK), John Sweeney (R-NY), Tom Tancredo (R-CO), Ellen Tauscher (D-CA), Billy Tauzin (R-LA), Lee Terry (R-NE), Karen Thurman (D-FL), Pat Tiberi (R-OH), John Tierney (D-MA), Patrick Toomey (R-PA), Jim Turner (D-TX), Mark Udall (D-CO), Tom Udall (D-NM), Fred Upton (R-MI), Peter Visclosky (D-IN), David Vitter (R-LA), Zach Wamp (R-TN), Diane Watson (D-CA), J.C. Watts (R-OK), Henry Waxman (D-CA), Anthony Weiner (D-NY), Curt Weldon (R-PA), Dave Weldon (R-FL), Jerry Weller (R-IL), Robert Wexler (D-FL), Roger Wicker (R-MS), Joe Wilson (R-SC), Frank Wolf (R-VA), Lynn Woolsey (D-CA), David Wu (D-OR), Bill Young (R-FL), and Don Young (R-AK).