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, September 2003, pages 61-63
Other People's Mail
Some letters by or to other people are as informative for our readers as anything we might write ourselves.
Closing Peacekeeping Institute
To The Washington Post, June 27, 2003.
The June 20 front-page article "U.S. Troops Frustrated With Role in Iraq" revealed that despite being able to deploy overwhelming military power, the United States lacks peacekeeping capabilities. Ironically, the Defense Department will close the Peacekeeping Institute at the U.S. Army War College in Pennsylvania this October.
Why, with expanding peacekeeping requirements in Afghanistan and Iraq and peacekeeping forces still deployed in the Balkans, is the Pentagon closing the United States' only peacekeeping school? The United States cannot rely on allies to do all of the cleaning up after its military conflicts. Allies will grow weary of U.S. military interventions if they are expected to keep the peace every time. What's more, military conflict has its gray areas. As the article showed, soldiers are confronted with intense battle one moment and peacekeeping and policing duties the next. Even with the help of allies, U.S. soldiers still need these skills.
Chris Lindborg, Vienna, VA. The writer is an analyst with the British American Security Information Council.
America's Grotesque Math
To the San Francisco Chronicle, June 26, 2003.
Bravo for the Chronicle's publishing of Robert Higgs' Open Forum article, "Not exactly an eye for an eye" (June 23). It is a rare experience indeed to see a body count of civilians killed by the United States published domestically during wartime—or peacetime, as sadly is the case. That we have killed a minimum of two innocent people in Afghanistan and Iraq for every person killed in the United States on Sept. 11, 2001 is a grotesque math first calculated at the dawning of the 20th century, when the United States military suppressed the Philippine people's democratic aspirations at a cost of hundreds of thousands of Philippine lives.
In the past 100 years, U.S. anti-democratic actions worldwide have resulted in the deaths of millions of innocent people and in the injury, maiming, orphaning and torture of millions more. Publishing Higgs' essay is a welcome step in filling in the number of human perversities that have been committed by we, the people of the world's leading democracy—and anti-democracy. We cannot change what we are unwilling to even acknowledge.
Alex Reyes, San Francisco, CA
Of Patriots and Scoundrels
To The Boston Globe, June 24, 2003.
The war on Iraq was a ploy to get more Republicans elected.
Last fall the campaign to arouse fear of mass destruction was timed to maximize the patriotic support of the president and his party. Of course we will all rally round the flag if our country is threatened. Well-meaning people were duped by cunning strategists to support partisan policies.
Now that tax windfalls are filling campaign coffers and the Federal Communications Commission is strengthening media monopolies, it will be even more difficult for truth and a free press to defend our constitutional liberties against the power of lobbies and flag-waving scoundrels.
In 1775, the essayist Samuel Johnson wrote, "Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel" in reference to the appropriation of the term by opponents of British national interest. Johnson loved his country and resented the cry of "unpatriotic" being used as political slander to quell protesters.
The right wing of the Republican Party must not be allowed to use American patriotism and love of country to destroy our democracy.
Carol Langford, Duxbury, MA
Who Dug Those Graves?
To the International Herald Tribune, June 5, 2003.
It may well be that there are 300,000 graves in Iraq that must be counted. It is important to note, however, that most of these people met their fates during the two to three decades that the West (with the United States as a principal actor) actively supported Saddam Hussain's regime. A certain portion of responsibility for Saddam's atrocities must rest with Western makers of foreign policy.
It is difficult to accept that this was a "humanitarian intervention" or a "just war," when those who use these justifications ignore the multitude of other pressing humanitarian and human rights crises that exist around the world. If Americans don't find any substantial proof of weapons of mass destruction, then either the intelligence community made an almighty blunder or the politicians manipulated and deceived, in which case the issue should be investigated thoroughly.
Oliver Keetch, Swindon, UK
With "Victory," a Quagmire
To the San Francisco Chronicle, June 12, 2003.
What was Debra J. Saunders thinking when she wrote, "They were wrong on the quagmire" ("WMD—relic of a quagmire," June 10)?
According to every published report, lawlessness in Iraq is rampant. The country has a devastated infrastructure, economy and health-care system with a populace wary of American and British motives and abilities for reconstruction.
Our soldiers are dying there on a nearly daily basis. The humanitarian crisis worsens.
The Bush administration has no clue as to how to stabilize and rebuild Iraq, nor has it produced a substantive plan. No budget, no time line, no exit strategy. Saunders may wish away these realities, but Iraq and Afghanistan look more like quagmires every day, not less so.
She is right that we should be afraid, but not of Saddam Hussain's nonexistent WMDs. We should be wary of our administration's shortsighted vision and of the credibility gap of journalists who believe that repeating erroneous perceptions makes them real.
John Gingrich, Martinez, CA
Friedman's Blind Spot
To The New York Times, June 4, 2003.
Thomas L. Friedman (column, June 1) needn't look for elaborate reasons of global hegemony and economic interrelations to see why the Muslim world is at odds with the United States. We finance and arm Israel's occupation and colonization forces in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. We are now occupying Iraq, but we have found no illegal weapons, no links to terrorism, and there are dozens of other nations, like Uzbekistan, allied with us in the war on terror that treat their populations much worse than Saddam Hussain ever did.
There is nothing complicated about the Muslim world's anti-Americanism. It is a product of Israel's occupation of Palestine, and now of our occupation of Iraq. What more reason could these people need than unprovoked usurpations of their territory?
Feroze Sidhwa, Baltimore, MD
Our Own West Bank
To the Los Angeles Times, June 11, 2003.
Your June 6 front-page photo showed anxious soldiers, weapons leveled, searching for snipers as they patrolled an Arab shopping district. They could have been Israeli soldiers in a Palestinian town, but they were not. They were Americans in Fallouja, Iraq. Congratulations, President Bush. We now have our own West Bank.
Barry Gold, Los Angeles, CA
Arab-Jewish Political Force
To the Los Angeles Times, June 30, 2003.
Re "U.S. Jews Should Offer Abbas a Helping Hand," Commentary, June 26: A new political force is slowly emerging in America to counteract the Christian and Jewish right, which to date have largely dictated U.S. Middle East policy. Mainstream Arab/Muslim groups and liberal Jewish groups are increasingly promoting a common vision on how to solve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. At annual meetings of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee and the San Francisco-based Tikkun Community, leaders from each organization were invited to address each other's convention.
A growing confluence of views acknowledges the pain and affirms the humanity of both peoples, while seeking to implement a just, pragmatic resolution to the conflict. Fundamental to this nascent collaboration is the recognition that peace requires a strong U.S. commitment to the near-term establishment of a meaningful Palestinian state along 1967 lines, and not the endless delays, continued violence and dismantling of token outposts associated with the current ill-defined "road map."
Khaled Galal, San Francisco, CA, and Heather Merriam, Berkeley, CA
Settlements and the Wall
To Ha'aretz, June 2, 2003.
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon calls Israeli settlements, built on Palestinian land, "facts on the ground." Now Israel is building a huge wall. Not on its internationally recognized border, but within Palestine. This wall and the settlements will not be facts on the ground, but clear evidence of ongoing policies that use force of arms to confiscate land from Palestine.
The Johnson administration, in a communiqu... to Israel, put it this way, "Further, the transfer of civilians to occupied areas, whether or not in settlements which are under military control, is contrary to Article 49 of the Geneva Convention, which states 'The Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.'"
Our government and our media used to call these settlements illegal. They still are.
Doug Willbanks, Beaverton, OR
Israelis Must Accept Arab Position
To the Financial Times, June 20, 2003.
I was disappointed to read Prof. Shlomo Avineri's article, "A Mideast road map for an endless journey" (June 17). I am also saddened that so much prominence continues to be given to articles on the Middle East that distort the Arab position and that seek to confuse world opinion.
The entire Arab world is united in its position that it recognizes the Jewish state of Israel and its right to live in peace among its Arab neighbors. All Arabs ask in return is for all the territory forcibly taken from the Palestinians in the 1967 war to be returned to them. The issue of the return of the refugees could be solved without threatening the existence of Israel as a Jewish state.
In contrast, the Israeli position is completely unclear. They can have peace in the region as soon as they are prepared to accept the Arab position (which is the only sensible and fair solution), but appear to prefer the status quo with its inevitable disastrous consequences that inflicts far more harm on the Palestinians than on Israelis.
We continue to hear that Israel offered the Palestinians 97 percent of the West Bank and Gaza at Camp David and Taba and that this generous offer was rejected by Palestinians. Maybe Professor Avineri or the Israeli government can tell us what percentage of the illegal infrastructure of Jewish settlements in the West Bank and Gaza they are prepared to sacrifice for peace. I suspect that this answer will tell us why they have not been able to achieve peace in the region.
Peter GÅ¡bel, London, UK
Palestinian Right of Return
To The Washington Post, June 23, 2003.
Jim Hoagland argued that "the Palestinian Authority will have to abandon the fiction that the Palestinians in diaspora have an absolute and unlimited 'right of return' into Israel" [op-ed, June 5]. As a Palestinian living in diaspora, I would like to point out that the right of return is an individual right guaranteed by international law. It cannot be bartered away by anybody, including the Palestinian Authority.
Moreover, Mr. Hoagland could perhaps explain why this right is "fiction," given that it is codified in U.N. Resolution 194, to which Israel agreed to comply as a prerequisite for admission to the United Nations. Can he explain why the universality of this right as defined by Article 13 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights does not apply to the Palestinian refugees?
In 1999 President Clinton, referring to the Kosovo refugee crisis, said, "We cannot say, 'Well, we'll just take all these folks and forget about their rights to go home.' The refugees belong in their own homes on their own land. Our immediate goal is to provide relief. Our long-term goal is to give them the right to return."
Fifty-five years after the Palestinian refugee crisis began, the Palestinians have yet to see either relief or their inalienable right to return. The double standard forwarded by one administration after the other and one commentator after the other is morally repugnant. The key for peace does not lie in the abandonment of this right. Rather, it will come with the reconciliation that will arise from its fulfillment.
Fadi Kiblawi, Arlington, VA
Halt Transfer, Stop Aid
To the San Francisco Chronicle, June 18, 2003.
Thank you for allowing the words "transfer" and "ethnic cleansing" to be used (Open Forum, "'Transfer' no solution in Mideast," June 17) in describing the Israeli policy in the occupied Palestinian territories. As David Landau points out, this policy has never reflected the will of the Israeli majority, but has always been represented in the government, and never more so than in Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's government.
The Palestinian resistance is dismissed as "terrorism" for using the few methods available to an essentially unarmed population, whose land, livelihood and freedom are progressively being lost. U.S. complicity in this crime has got to stop. Stop all aid to Israel now.
Paul LaRudee, El Cerrito, CA
No Pleasing Some
To The Washington Times, June 11, 2003.
Zalman Shoval could not be more hypocritical in his analysis of those individuals who stand for nonviolence in the occupied territories ("Human shields," Op-Ed, June 4). The Zionist movement was born of a desire to end suffering and a desire to find peace. Peace through strength. This is all that Palestinians seek now. Those in nonviolent resistance to the occupation are only demanding the same. To argue that everyone who stands with Palestinians is standing for terror and anti-Semitism is to expound the same tired old extremist ideology that got us into this mess in the first place. This is not a zero-sum game. Someone can be pro-Palestinian and pro-peace, just as someone can be pro-Israeli and pro-peace. Peace is not an ethnic birthright. As a nonviolent activist, I have to wonder what Mr. Shoval wants. He doesn't want Palestinians to act violently to stop the occupation, and now he doesn't want them to act nonviolently to stop the occupation. Perhaps he just wants them to live with occupation.
David Nassar, Arlington, VA
Anti-Semitic Cartoon 1
To the Chicago Tribune, June 3, 2003.
The May 30 Editorial page featured a cartoon commenting on the Middle East. In the forefront there is a fat man with a grotesquely big nose and a large Star of David on his jacket.
Presumably it is Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. In front of him, there is a figure of President Bush kneeling down and paving a bridge with dollar bills. The bridge leads to an unidentified figure in an Arab headdress; presumably it is Yasser Arafat. The caption coming out of Sharon's mouth reads, "On second thought, the pathway to peace is looking a bit brighter."
This vile cartoon is not only misleading in political terms. It is also blatantly and frighteningly anti-Semitic. It has all the classic features of the anti-Semitic cartoons that were the staple of European newspapers in the 19th and 20th centuries; Jews often were depicted as grotesquely fat, with huge hooked noses. It was always implied that Jews were only interested in money and had no other ideology than that of getting the most money possible.
Finally, the image of an American president kneeling before Sharon in the cartoon is also a staple of anti-Semitic propaganda; it implies that Jews somehow secretly rule the world and even an American president kneels and crawls on his knees before the Jew personified by the caricature of Sharon.
Shame on you.
Eva S. Belavsky, Chicago, IL
Anti-Semitic Cartoon 2
To the Chicago Tribune, June 4, 2003.
It is ridiculous that Don Wycliff has construed the cartoon about Ariel Sharon as anti-Semitic. Wycliff asks rhetorically if the figure shown in the cartoon is a "generic Jew"? Of course not. Anyone who has seen a picture of Sharon would instantly recognize him in the cartoon. To imply that any depiction of Sharon and his bad deeds necessarily reflects on all Jews is absurd. To do so would stifle any comment about Sharon's atrocities, past and present.
As for the specific notion that Israel might be led down the road map with the help of American taxpayer money, that is a completely reasonable opinion, bolstered by the fact that we give billions to Israel every year, even when our own economy is in shambles.
The cartoonist makes a valid point that we will have to pay our ally to make peace with the Palestinians. This message should not be stifled by those who throw around the term "anti-Semitic" for political gains
Yusuf Waseem, Chicago, IL
U.S. Hinders Progress in Iran
To The Christian Science Monitor, June 2, 2003.
Talk in Washington of "regime change" in Iran, even when the results of our last one in Iraq are yet unclear, should be unsettling to Americans ("U.S. weighs a tougher Iran stance," May 28). In both Saudi Arabia and Morocco, condemnation of recent terrorist attacks is widespread, as is the opinion that the Iraq war energized extremists.
There are people in Saudi Arabia, Iran, and other Islamic countries pushing for more open political systems, based on a more enlightened interpretation of Islam.
If Iran were a world power and declared an intention to destabilize the American political system, would those of us disenchanted with policies of the Bush administration join with Iran? Democrats would be the first to condemn Iranian interference, out of both revulsion and the need to demonstrate patriotism. And so it is in Iran. Aggressive talk in Washington does more to undermine, rather than speed, progressive change.
Todd Buchanan, Eldora, CO
The Key to Iranian Democracy
To The Washington Post, July 2, 2003.
Last month, a youth uprising in Iran made headlines. Young Iranians were said to be rebelling against an oppressive theocracy that denies them "personal freedoms" [news story, June 16]. That claim is backed by exiled intellectuals who tell ironic tales about young Iranian Muslims wearing jeans, listening to Madonna CDs and watching MTV on contraband satellite dishes. For the most part, these claims are true, but they apply to only one group—the affluent, who have managed to preserve their lifestyles regardless of the political climate.
The notion that most Iranians are eager to open their borders to Western-style democracy and consumption is mostly a myth. Most of the Iranians who were "martyred" during the revolution and the war were not from the middle or upper class. The eligible draftees from those groups either left the country, like me, or paid for an exemption from the draft. It was poor, working-class laborers and farmers who believed in—and died for—the Islamic Republic, as many do today.
The key to the success of the Iranian regime is its own brand of democracy, which does away with demeaning class distinctions. The mullahs have appeased the poor with low- or no-interest loans and grants for purchasing homes or starting businesses. Despite the mullahs' use of brutal methods to quell the uprisings, their policies have helped keep the enthusiastic support of the poor in urban and rural areas through 20 years of embargoes and domestic unrest.
For millions of Iranians, whose priorities are food and housing, having the freedom to make a stronger fashion statement or to dance to pop music is not a sufficient motive for overthrowing the government. The opposition could learn something from the mullahs.
Amir Marvasti, Tyrone, PA
A Christian Terrorist?
To the Los Angeles Times, June 5, 2003.
Why is it that an Arab associated with a bombing is termed a "terrorist" while a white American arrested for terrorizing an abortion clinic is called a "bombing suspect"? Pardon me for my ignorance, but I can't see the difference, other than the fact that Rudolph will get a fair trial, while many Muslims in this country are held, and sometimes abused, without the rights we pride ourselves on affording to everyone.
William O. Gaynor, Newbury Park, CA
The Missionaries' Daughter
To The New York Times, June 2, 2003.
As the daughter of missionaries serving over 25 years in Iraq and Egypt, I am saddened and repelled by the arrogant and aggressive posture toward Islam expressed by some fellow American Christians (front page, May 27).
Ascribing "evil" only to Islam and "good" to Christianity distorts history, ignoring the inexpressible horrors carried out by various Christians on the basis of their religious views and biblical interpretation.
Furthermore, Islam offers comfort, serenity and rules to live by for millions of gentle Muslims who treasure and honor their beliefs by leading godly, righteous and deeply faithful lives. I have known many such people.
So let's cease the self-righteous bellowing and get on with the real task of service to all of humankind. That is the real missionary spirit.
Jeanne Badeau Barnett, McLean, VA
An Obvious Agenda
To President Michael Mooney, Lewis and Clark College, Portland, OR.
I am a subscriber to a magazine called Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, on Middle East Affairs. It is one of the most fair and comprehensive magazines on the Middle East and Asia, in my opinion. The writers of the magazine are former diplomats, ambassadors to that area, a former under secretary of state, Jewish writers and Arab writers. Therefore, I was most surprised when I read a "Letter to the Editor" from your librarian cancelling this excellent periodical because it "doesn't fit in with the scope of our collection." I found that pretty lame and think that your school should take a second look at who is working in your libraries and making decisions like this. There is obviously an agenda there.
In any event, if this was not a mistake, I think that it should be made public that Lewis and Clark College does not believe in freedom of speech. Does your International Affairs Program coordinator also wish to see the discontinuation of this magazine?
I spent five years in the Persian Gulf as an educator, and believe me, what is written in the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, is most accurate. Maybe that is what Ms. Olson—or the ones who encouraged her to discontinue the subscription—is afraid of.
In conclusion, I think Ms. Gretchen Olson needs to be reminded that this is the United States of America, not Nazi Germany.
Carolyn Johnson, via e-mail