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 2012, Pages 5-6
Letters to the Editor
Petty but Cruel—and Ongoing
In her August 2012 article, "Netanyahu Tightens His Grip While Palestinians Stand Fast," Rachelle Marshall quotes Prof. David Shulman of Hebrew University as saying "...house demolitions and other abuses are part of a malevolent campaign to make life as miserable as possible for the Palestinians…in the hope that they will go away."
Nineteen years ago, in the spring of 1993, I was in Jerusalem, pre-Oslo, pre-wall, before the worst of the Israeli-inflicted atrocities which were yet to come. I asked an Israeli I knew—an Israeli/American who had accepted Israeli citizenship and residence but kept his U.S. passport and New York apartment and law practice—about the petty but cruel treatment Israelis inflicted on Palestinians: bank tellers stalling for 15 minutes before closing time so that Palestinian clients waiting in line would have to return the next day, soldiers harassing a garden wedding in the West Bank (and stealing the cake) apparently just for the fun of it, soldiers lounging in windows and taunting women standing in line for hours for permits or to find out where a husband might be jailed. They were the sort of indignities Jews had suffered over the centuries. The American Israeli agreed that all this was bad and he would not for a moment condone it. Then he added: "If it makes them [Arabs] realize that they are not wanted and should leave, then it could be acceptable."
As Shulman notes 19 years later, the practice is still prevalent. I receive e-mails from Palestinians in Jerusalem and the West Bank; they are not leaving. Life is close to intolerable, but they somehow manage to make it day to day—and stage musical events, write poetry, make films, educate their children, celebrate weddings under circumstances we here in America cannot envision, even as we allow our Congress and White House to bow to every Israeli edict and demand for our taxpayer dollars.
Bernice Youtz, via e-mail
If only members of Congress, like the Palestinians whose oppression they make possible, would learn from and develop a spirit of sumud (steadfastness). Is it too much to ask that our elected officials put the interests of their own nation and constituents ahead of those of a foreign country?
The Friend of My Friend…
"The Failed State Lobby," Alan Boswell's artice in Foreign Affairs on July 9, the first anniversary of the partition of Sudan and the independence of the Republic of South Sudan, is a depressed and depressing assessment of where the new country stands, and appears to be heading, one year on.
I visited South Sudan in late April, as fighting was continuing around the Heglig oil fields. The "international community" can scarcely be accused of not doing enough to help the new country. While South Sudan has a population of only 8.3 million, the total number of international personnel of U.N.-affiliated organizations present and working in the country is the third largest in the world. The international personnel with whom I met were extremely impressive people, often living in very rudimentary and difficult conditions, but the tasks and challenges which they face are immense.
Boswell's article notes the remarkable bipartisan support of the American political class for the Sudan People's Liberation Movement and South Sudan. The South Sudanese have been well advised as to which strings to pull—and not to pull—in order to maintain that support. When South Sudan proclaimed its independence last July 9, the State of Palestine promptly extended diplomatic recognition and the new country promptly promised to reciprocate by recognizing the State of Palestine. Someone in Washington must have advised Juba that recognizing Palestine would be a VERY BAD idea. South Sudan has not only remained one of only three African countries (along with Cameroon and Eritrea) NOT to recognize the State of Palestine but has fallen into an all-encompassing mutual embrace with the State of Israel...which should ensure its impunity from any serious and consequential American criticism no matter how misguided its government's policies and behavior have been or may prove to be.
One may recall in this context the memorable example of Zaire's Mobutu Sese Seko when the U.S. Congress was threatening to respond to his egregious financial and human rights abuses by cutting off all American aid. What is a monstrous dictator to do? He announced that his country recognized Israeli sovereignty over all of Jerusalem—something no other country (not even the United States) had dared to do. Congress backed off, and the aid continued to flow.
John V. Whitbeck, Paris, France
We thank you for bringing Boswell's article to our attention, and have reprinted it in this issue's "Other Voices" supplement. For several years now we have been following the funding and activities of the now seemingly defunct (except, perhaps, for George Clooney) "Save Darfur" movement. We found it curious, for example, that the massive April 30, 2006 rally in support of Darfur took place on a Sunday, when a very large percentage of the African-American community—seemingly a natural constituency—is in church. But perhaps a march on Saturday, the Jewish Sabbath, would have drawn too few people. "No More Genocide in Darfur, So Let's Take on Sudan" (see November 2009 Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, p. 67) quoted an Aug. 14, 2009 editorial in the Jewish weekly Forward which noted that "Jews were and continue to be at the forefront on this issue." The editorial went on to acknowledge "a changing reality in Darfur, where the mass killings have largely stopped." Whether the pretext was Darfur or South Sudan, however, the target remained the same: the Muslim government in Khartoum.
A Thesis on the Lobby
My name is Mahmoud Abdou and I am from the Gaza Strip. I have recently graduated from Heidelberg University in Germany with a MA degree in American Studies. The title of my MA thesis is "The Middle East Peace Process and U.S. Special Interest Groups." In researching this thesis I looked at your monthly publications from 1989 to 2011 and investigated how the Israel Lobby and its allies in the Evangelical Christian community in the U.S. have affected the U.S. role as the mutual facilitator of the peace process, leading to Palestine's application for full U.N. membership.
You can download a PDF copy of my thesis by following this link:
It has been an honor to use your publications as a main source of information. I offer my full services at your disposal. Please let me know if there is anything I can do from here in Gaza Strip to support the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs,.
Mahmoud Abdou, via e-mail
Congratulations on your master's degree and thesis (which, we were relieved to find, is written in English). According to the English synopsis (we thank art director Ralph Scherer for the translation of "Kurzfassung"): "This study combines a qualitative analysis of U.S. official policies toward the Peace Process from 1991-2011, with a quantitative investigation of the Peace Process-related activities of pro-Israel U.S. special interest. The quantitative data is collected from public opinion polls, the Congressional Record, government documents, the reports of the Federal Election Commission, and the monthly publications of the non-partisan Washington Report on Middle East Affairs from 1989-2011." It is precisely this kind of resource we are dedicated to providing, and we in turn are honored by your use of it.
Spreading the Word
We (PEN-Palestine Education Network of NH Peace Action) just did our tabling event at Concord Market Days, July 19-21. Of the 50 sample copies of the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, that you sent, there was only ONE left by Saturday night! Most people were glad to get them—or at least said "Thank you." Four or five grabbed our free literature, including the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, and huffed off. So they reach a lot of new readers.
One of our handouts is a "loss of land" map card I get from Anne Remle, a Quaker in Michigan. They are now being shown in New York City-area Metro North stations—to some consternation.
James G. Smart, via e-mail
We hope you'll soon be passing out our current issue, which includes your excellent and thorough review of the late Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir's terrorist and obstructionist past (see p. 22).
Our July 23 action alert "Will this be the beginning?" features a photograph of the billboard, and a link to a local news report on reaction to the one in the White Plains, NY commuter train station and an interview with Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, reader and supporter Henry Clifford, whose project this was. (To sign up to receive our action alerts, visit our Web site, <www.wrmea.org> and, under "Resources," join our e-mail list.) We used the same series of maps to illustrate two views on "Acknowledging Israel's Right to Exist" (see March 2007 Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, p. 17).
Warmth and Commonality
Delinda C. Hanley's article in the August issue, "Muslim Americans Challenge and Inspire on Memorial Day," was a beautiful reminder of the warmth and sense of commonality I felt when I used to attend events at the imposing mosque in Santa Clara, California. Hanley's article brought two occasions especially to mind. One was a talk by a visiting imam that was addressed to the almost entirely Muslim audience. During the question period a young man asked the speaker how, as a recent convert to Islam, he should behave toward his Catholic family when he went home for his first visit after his conversion. The imam asked if he loved his family. When the young man said "yes," the imam told him to behave exactly as he always did. "Above all," he said, "continue to love them." He then reminded us all that the three major religions, Judaism, Christianity and Islam, all have the same message: Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.
The other occasion included a spectacular dinner. Following the main course almost all the guests went into another room for prayers, leaving six of us non-Muslims at the table. One of them was a woman I will call B., whose friendship, support and love for the people of Gaza, and especially their children, is legendary. She and I immediately began raving about the food and trying to figure out what went into it and so on. Another guest asked how we could talk about food at such a serious occasion. "Because we're Jewish!," said B. That was true, and both of us felt completely welcome in that place.
Rachelle Marshall, Mill Valley, CA
Your second story brings back fond memories of New York City billboards that featured pictures of an Asian man, African-American boy, Native American and others eating sandwiches to the words, "You don't have to be Jewish to love Levy's real Jewish rye" bread!
To our Muslim friends we send our wishes for a Ramadan kareem.