Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, October 1996, p.49
Other People’s Mail ❑
Some letters by or to other people are as informative for our readers as anything we might write ourselves.
Throwing Up My Hands!
To James Zogby, Arab American Institute, Washington, DC, July 22, 1996
In answer to the request for comments in your “Decision ’96 Urgent Appeal,” as a non-Arab United States citizen, I have long supported the Arab cause, most especially that of the Palestinians. As such I have cringed at the disunity and dissonance of the various Arab peoples in this country, a microcosm of that in the Middle East. Our opposition is, generally, UNITED!
I refer you therefore to the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, July 1996 issue of the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, published by the American Educational Trust in Washington, DC and to Publisher Andrew Killgore’s “Dammit” comments on page 138 and Executive Editor Richard Curtiss’ articles on pages 15, 43, and 44. I strongly suggest that you send copies to each of your 18 regional representatives for the action Mssrs. Killgore and Curtiss suggest. If you do not seize this opportunity, then I, for one, “Throw up my hands!”
Helen Overdiek, Hopkins, MN
The Democratic Party Platform
To Mr. Earl Potter, State Democratic Chair, Santa Fe, NM, June 24, 1996
My wife and I were elected to be delegates from Ward 28-B at the State Democratic Party Convention on June 22, 1996.
We decided not to attend for the following reasons:
Prior to the county pre-primary convention (March 7) in Albuquerque, we were told that it was possible to submit a resolution to be presented at the convention—which we did. However, although we presented it on the date we were told to do so, it was not presented (along with the other resolutions) at the convention. We were told at the time that, if we were to make copies for each of the delegates attending the state convention in Las Cruces (on March 16), we could present it at that time.
When we arrived at the convention in Las Cruces we distributed over 1,600 copies of the proposed resolution (placing them on the chairs of each of the delegates). We were then informed that no resolutions would be presented at the convention.
In discussing this with Mr. Moreno (chair of the Resolutions Committee), he assured us that I would be invited to attend the State Resolutions Committee meeting during the month of May, at which time I could speak to the merits of the Resolution.
Following this, I sent a packet of information in support of my Resolution. I received no response. I later attempted to call Mr. Moreno on two occasions, but was never able to talk with him.
I believe the Resolution to be not only good for New Mexico—but also for the nation. I understand that the subject matter is one which may affect the sensitivities of some members of the party—but would surely win the support of most members of the party—if they were given the opportunity to consider it.
I have been a life-long Democrat—and always believed that this Party stood for the interests of the people of this country (rather than a privileged few)—I also felt that Democrats would fight to defend the right of those who wished to speak out against ideas or policies which were harmful or injurious to their country. This incident has made me wonder if I have been wrong—or if something has changed?
Apparently, someone has decided that the Democratic Party is an exclusive, rather than an inclusive organization. For this reason, we have decided that it no longer merits the respect in which we have held it—and that it would be difficult, if not impossible, to support it any longer.
Yours, in hope of good government,
Samuel and Viola Parks, Albuquerque, NM
P.S. I am enclosing a copy of the proposed resolution along with some supporting documentation.
cc: Mr. Ed Moreno, editor, Albuquerque Tribune
A Proposed Resolution
For the New Mexico Democratic Party
Resolved — Whereas, The Democratic Party has traditionally taken strong positions in defense of human rights and for self-determination for all peoples, and has stood against all forms of terrorism, including state-terrorism, and
Whereas, the present policies of the U.S. government (as exemplified by, and facilitated by the Cranston Amendment to the foreign aid bill) have been notably one-sided, and have not been effective in securing or maintaining a just peace in the Middle East: instead, have resulted in a breakdown of international law, continued violations of human rights, and the continued oppression of, and the denial of self-determination for the Palestinian people,
Therefore, — the New Mexico State Democratic Party calls upon all congressional candidates on the Democratic ticket to sponsor, co-sponsor, or otherwise support legislation to rescind, repeal, or otherwise eliminate the Cranston Amendment to the foreign aid bill, which has been passed as a “continuing resolution” over the previous 11 years, has cost American taxpayers many billions of dollars, only to fund policies and actions which are in contradiction to the expressed principles and values of the Democratic Party.
Submitted by Sam F. Parks (Ward 28-A, Bernalillo County)
I Can’t Threaten You
To the VFW Magazine, Kansas City, MO, Aug. 6, 1996 (as submitted).
I signed up as a lifetime member just before I received my latest copy of VFW Magazine , so I can’t threaten you.
However, I can point out that your feature story, “GIs on the Golan Heights” did not represent generally accepted journalistic balance. The sources were all Israeli, none from the other side. There was apparently no consultation with the Pentagon or other military authorities. The writer suggested that Israelis generally favor the stationing of U.S. peacekeeping troops on the Golan. News reports from Israel suggest the opposite—that the Israeli government opposes U.S. peacekeeping troops.
The most one-sided paragraph of this article, clearly originating from Israel, described numerous Syrian “violations” of an Israeli-Syrian armistice agreement. If the other side, the Syrians, or any American Middle East scholar, had been asked, they would have pointed out that such violations were in fact preceded by the movement of Israeli armored tractors or military units into a demilitarized zone below the Golan, and also that the capital of Syria, Damascus, is much closer to the front lines, and is thus more threatened, than is Tel Aviv, or even Jerusalem.
I was particularly grieved to note that the writer was Tim Dyhouse, listed as “Senior Editor” and presumably an experienced journalist who should know better. Was he just following instructions after Commander-in-Chief Paul Spera’s visit to Israel for a “first-hand assessment”? Will Spera visit Syria for another assessment?
As a veteran I, too, am concerned about American troops in dangerous locations. But I want a balanced statement of the situation.
C. Patrick Quinlan, Edina, MN
Palestinians Want Justice
To the Corvallis Gazette-Times, Corvallis, OR, July 25, 1996 (as published).
Mona Charen’s column on Israel (July 10) is a choice example of slanted writing. She states, “All the Palestinians have done to date is talk.” Further on she states, “So far, the Israelis have done all the giving.” Ms. Charen fails to describe events in true perspective.
The Israelis have been not so much giving as taking — taking Palestinian farmlands and water, crippling their economy, and generally depriving them of a tranquil life. The Palestinians have little left to give, but they talk in the hope of salvaging something for their people. They, too, have families and homes, try to provide a better future for their children, and want peace and justice in their lives.
Ms. Charen writes of Israeli civilians dying “at the hands of Arab terrorists.” Yes, it is criminal when innocent people are killed, be the victims Israelis or Arabs. I believe it’s equivalent to a war crime when a state uses its power to terrorize, maim, and kill innocent people. Israel has done this repeatedly over many years to Palestinians and Lebanese.
Americans have long been subjected to a pro-Israel spin on most news of Middle East vs. Israel affairs. To gain a broader understanding of Middle East issues examine the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs. It is available in the reading room of the Corvallis-Benton County Public Library.
Glenn Davenport, Corvallis, OR
Look for Israel to Back Out of Its Oslo Accords Commitments
To the St. Petersburg Times, July 10, 1996 (as published).
The three lead letters published on June 26 attempt to explain the action of Israeli citizens in electing hard-liner Binyamin Netanyahu as prime minister.
The first letter (“Israelis Have Good Reasons to Worry About Security”) invokes memories of the Holocaust to justify Israel’s obsession with security. The second letter blames Hafez Al-Assad of Syria, stating that he is ruthless and not serious about peace. Astonishingly, the third letter claims that there never was a “peace process.” This reminds me of Golda Meir’s famous statement that “There are no Palestinians.”
Why this sudden flood of explanations? In my view, it is to cover up the fact that Israel plans to back out of commitments made to the Palestinians, to other Arab countries and to the United States.
The peace accords developed in Oslo in 1993 were based on U.N. Resolution 242 which calls for Israel to return to its pre-1967 boundaries. This was the origin of the phrase “land for peace.” Netanyahu has stated he will not trade land for peace. He plans to retain the Golan Heights, East Jerusalem and control of the West Bank.
Hebron is a Palestinian city of 100,000 with a small enclave of 400 Jewish settlers in the middle. There are 1,200 Israeli soldiers deployed to protect these settlers, and both soldiers and armed settlers continually harass their Palestinian neighbors. The troops were to be withdrawn as part of the West Bank autonomy arrangements. Netanyahu says the Israeli army will remain in Hebron.
The United States agreed to guarantee $10 billion in loans to Israel with the understanding that there would be no more settlements built in the occupied territories. Netanyahu says he plans to expand Jewish settlements on the West Bank.
Many prominent Palestinians have been critical of Yasser Arafat for his efforts to achieve peace with Israel. They said the Israelis cannot be trusted. It looks now as if they were right.
Joseph A. Mahon, St. Petersburg, FL
Conflict, Not Peace
To the Washington Times, June 26, 1996 (as published).
In his June 18 Commentary article “About as Radical as the Reaganites,” Douglas J. Feith offers many misconceptions.
There are many problems with Mr. Feith’s comparison of the new Israeli government under Binyamin Netanyahu with the U.S. government under Ronald Reagan. Mr. Feith cites Reagan policies such as “peace through strength” and “cautious realism.” Mr. Feith says that those Reagan politics “helped the United States win the Cold War and Israelis evidently believe they can maximize Israel’s chances of peace with security.” Mr. Feith continues, “Likud’s position on settlements reflects the peace-through-strength principle.”
The Soviet Union was never building settlements in the United States or treating Americans as second-class citizens, as the Israelis are doing to Palestinians — on Palestinian land. Mr. Feith argues that if Israel gives up land in the occupied territories, “peace will...not be possible.” Immediate Israeli withdrawal from these areas is exactly what needs to be accomplished for peace to be possible in the Middle East.
In general, the more strength a country has, the more cautious and quick to react to its foes it will be. The more powerful the Israelis are, the more on edge the Palestinians will be. The Palestinians have only one request — to have their own autonomous region. If this were accepted by the Israelis, the problems would cease.
Mr. Feith tries to argue that Israel is going to “begin to wean itself from U.S. economic aid.” Is this really believable when Israel annually receives billions of dollars from the United States as well as other assistance and military aid? The executive director of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee recently described U.S. aid as the “lifeline” of Israel. Why would Israel think of cutting off its lifeline?
Mr. Feith also makes the argument that Israel needs to have a sea-based, wide-area defense system. Is this really necessary when Israel is the only country in the Middle East that has nuclear weapons at its disposal and has not signed the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty? Does Israel really need more missile defense?
It looks as if Mr. Netanyahu is taking drastic steps in the direction of another war with the Palestinians and possibly with Syria. His policies of expanding the settlements and eliminating the land-for-peace idea are extremely destructive and may throw the entire peace process out the window. It also seems that U.S. relations with Israel will not change in the near future.
Israel has become an out-of-control giant that no one can stop. It will continue to do whatever it wants until some country puts its foot down. It doesn’t seem that the United States will be that country.
Kirsten U. Franklin, Fredericksburg, VA
Questions for Israeli Official
To Ido Aharoni, Israeli Consulate, Los Angeles, CA, June 12, 1996
I attended your presentation at the Friends’ Community Center, and also your debate with Monir Deeb at Crossroads School.
As you are perhaps aware, a number of Americans are becoming concerned about foreign aid reform. In light of that, and because you invited us to share our concerns and questions, I address the following to you. The last time one of us asked these questions of one of your government officials, we received a publicity packet, but no answers.
1) We often receive information about the continuing confiscation of land belonging to Palestinians, and the demolition of Palestinian homes. The information comes to us from Americans in Jerusalem. We are lately given to understand that since the Oslo peace accords 262,452 dunums of Palestinian land have been confiscated. As lately as two weeks ago, 60 Palestinian homes were slated for demolition. Can you explain the rationale for such flagrant violation of personal property rights? Does your government consider the continued confiscation to constitute “bargaining in good faith?”
2) You explained to us Israel’s plan for “isolated and protected industrial camps, to employ Palestinians within the territories.” One of the stated rationales was, “to keep the Palestinians out of Israel proper.” How does this differ from South African apartheid?
3) We often see fanatic American “settlers” interviewed on television. Their Messianic attitude and expressed hatred of the indigenous Palestinians is distressing to many of us. This concern was voiced to you by an audience member at the Crossroad School event. Your response was, “They are citizens of Israel who were sent by the government to live in Arab territories.” The Jews do not suffer from widespread oppression in America. Being familiar, as you are, with both cultures, do you have any theory regarding this apparent American peculiarity?
4) Our own State Department has criticized Israel for arrest of Palestinians without due process, and for collective punishment. The family homes of Palestinian terrorists are destroyed, the homes of Israeli terrorists, such as Yigal Amir and Baruch Goldstein, are not. What is the rationale for the double standard?
5) You have indicated that Israel is not willing to share the governing of Jerusalem with the Muslims, but will allow them full freedom of worship, and some input into management of shared holy sites. How do the Christians, to whom Jerusalem is also holy, figure into the equation?
Hard questions, but it’s a hard situation. And, it’s one in which Americans might want to be less fiscally involved.
Thanks much for your presentation and for your attention to this letter.
Kari Sprowl, La CaÃ±ada, CA
cc: Pres. Bill Clinton
Sen. Barbara Boxer
Sen. Dianne Feinstein
Hon. Carlos Moorhead
An Official Israeli Non-Response
To Ms. Kari Sprowl, La CaÃ±ada, CA, June 22, 1996
Shalom. Thank you for your letter expressing your views on Israel. You have presented many rhetorical questions which express your point of view. In this debate there is room for differences which your letter clearly reflected. I hope that you found the various presentations which you attended interesting and informative.
You bring up a variety of issues which are currently being resolved within the framework of the Peace Process. Israel has chosen to negotiate with the Palestinians with an eye to the future to ensure that generations to come will enjoy a true and lasting peace. In my presentations I have reiterated that we choose not to dwell on the past, rather focus on the realities of today and tomorrow.
Israel has embarked on a Peace Process which we believe is the only practical way to achieve peace. We are engaged in a serious dialogue with our Arab neighbors which is clearly yielding benefits for all parties involved. This is precisely what I emphasize when I speak to American audiences.
Enclosed you will find the text of the Declaration of Principles signed by Israel and the PLO. I believe it contains some of the answers to your questions regarding Israel’s seriousness.
Thank you for your input.
Ido Aharoni, Consul for Communications and Public Affairs, Consulate General of Israel in Los Angeles.
Mythinformation on Syria
To Forbes Magazine, New York, July 1, 1996 (as submitted).
I subscribed to your magazine for the first time this year. While your articles and content relating to the economy are to be commended, your article on page 26 of the May 20 issue titled “Time to Tell Assad Where to Get Off” was shocking to me.
Your choice of words such as — Syria’s thug dictator, gangster, Assad rules with sadistic Saddam-like ruthlessness, has annexed neighboring Lebanon, clever killer — is tantamount to dehumanization of a nation, of an ethnic group and anti-Arab hysteria.
Syria, like the United States, as a member of the United Nations and adhering to international law, has the right to protect its borders from foreign invaders. If you would research the facts and the history of the Middle East, rather than having others brief you, you would find that:
1. Jewish terrorists killed Count Folke Bernadotte, United Nations special emissary to the Mideast.
2. The size of Israel has been almost doubled since 1948 by armed aggression against the Arabs, by annexation of Arab land, which includes Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Palestine, by building settlements on Arab land and with United States monetary and military help.
3. Israel gets almost as much loan and grant money as the rest of the world combined, and all at the expense of the American taxpayer.
4. The United States gets more oil from the Western Hemisphere countries of Canada, Mexico and Venezuela, but one only hears about Middle Eastern oil. There is obviously a deliberate attempt to cover up the truth and the fact that the United States is exporting oil to Israel at the expense of the American public. This information is available in State Department records.
President Lincoln once said, “You can fool all of the people some of the time and some of the people all of the time, but you can’t fool all of the people all of the time.” I look forward to seeing an article representing the other side of the coin.
Corinne Mudarri, Cambridge, MA
cc: The American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee/The Arab American Institute/The Syrian Embassy/The National Association of Arab Americans/Americans for Middle East Understanding/the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs,/The Middle East Institute
U.S. Arrogance Is Reason for Hate
To the Kingman Daily Miner, May 27, 1996 (as published).
When you consider that it was the United States that introduced most of the weapons of mass destruction into the world, it seems preposterous that we could stand in judgment of the Libyans and other Muslim countries for wanting to protect themselves from outside influences and enemies.
This kind of hypocritical arrogance is just one of the reasons why so many cultures around the world hate Americans. When Americans learn to be nonviolent; to abandon our weapons and guns; and to set a humane and peaceful example to the world, Then we shall have just cause to criticize and condemn other nations and cultures.
Dawn Pisturino, Kingman, AZ
Cal Thomas Unfair to Dole
To The Orlando Sentinel, July 25, 1996 (as published).
Cal Thomas sank to a new low in his Sunday column. For Thomas to attack Bob Dole because he does not suit Thomas as a candidate is unfair. Dole won the Republican primary elections fair and square, and he will get my vote in November.
We supported Pat Buchanan in the Florida primary election, but he lost, so now our support and votes go to Dole. I believe that Dole will win in November because Ross Perot is known now as a megalomaniac and will not throw the election to Bill Clinton as he did in 1992.
Thomas purports to be a conservative, but this is not true. His prime function in life has been to propagandize for the mendicant mini-state of Israel in general and its murderous Likud Party in particular.
Thomas should concentrate on what he does best.
Ted Byrd, Merritt Island, FL
The Social Calendar of Cal Thomas
To the Ft. Worth Star Telegram , June 10, 1996 (as published).
Cal Thomas, in his April 30 Op-Ed piece, contended that before peace can come to the Middle East, Arab and Muslim hearts must be changed and minds transformed. I guess it never occurred to Thomas that creating thousands of refugees in Lebanon is not a great way to change Arab hearts and minds about Israel.
Thomas also told us that Hezbollah is a “terrorist organization.” But Hezbollah is fighting an Israeli occupation of its homeland. When the French fought Nazi occupiers, were they terrorists, too?
It is nice to know that Thomas, as he told us, got invited to the Israeli embassy for an Israeli Independence Day party. Clearly, being an unbiased and thoughtful pundit has its rewards. Judging by the number of journalists who repeat the Israeli propaganda line on Hezbollah, Syria, the Palestinians, etc., like coached parrots, the party must have been pretty crowded.
Mike Anderson, Azle, TX
To the Ft. Worth Star Telegram , June 10, 1996 (as published).
Poor Lebanon — nobody cares about what’s going on there. It’s a small, poor country with the kindest, most generous and peaceful people. The world has no interest in launching warfare there to defend and support the civilians. Is it because there’s no oil or money there?
Who has been behind all the misery and suffering in Lebanon and the rest of the Middle East since this dying century started? Nobody can deny that Israel was and will be the main problem — the volcano that Great Britain put in the heart of the Arab world to cause all these struggles and crimes and victims.
Israel is the spoiled, prejudiced boy who was supported by the great countries that guaranteed security and full economic and political support. It’s the country that kills innocent people in the name of peace.
And the problem is here! Why is America still supporting the Israelis? Why does nobody consider them to be terrorists? What the Nazis did to them in Germany, they have done in Lebanon and Palestine. And all these crimes were performed by the latest technology supplied by Americans — money taken from our own taxes.
I ask the whole world to be fair and to remember that one day you will be asked by God about what you did in your life, good or bad.
The only solution to the problem in Lebanon is the withdrawal of Israel from all Arab lands. After that, the world will live in peace and harmony.
Nawal Suleiman, Fort Worth, TX
Buckling Under at NPR
To Mr. Delano E. Lewis, President, National Public Radio, Washington, DC, Feb. 6, 1996
My wife and I have been listeners to and financial supporters of National Public Radio for some time. We were recently unhappy to learn that you have stopped using news reports from Jerusalem by Maureen Meehan because she is married to a Palestine Liberation Organization official, after being pressured to do so by the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting (CAMERA), a grossly mis-named organization which is involved in Middle East advocacy for the Israeli lobby.
If Ms. Meehan has a conflict of interest as the wife of a PLO official, how about the conflict of interest of House Speaker Newt Gingrich, whose wife is employed to attract U.S. companies to set up branches of businesses in an Israeli duty-free zone? She receives a salary from the Israeli-American organization setting up the free zone, and also a commission for each U.S. company that locates there. Someone familiar with the quid-pro-quo atmosphere which pervades our legislature might suspect that it wouldn’t harm any U.S. company concerned with legislation before the House to look kindly at the Israeli free zone. That sounds like it might be a great conflict of interest story for NPR. We won’t hold our breath waiting to hear it from you.
It is indeed sad to hear of an organization with your reputation of fair and unbiased journalism buckling to the pressures of a special interest group. I would have hoped that you, as president of NPR, might encourage the organization to do the right thing. It appears that your principle, because of fund-raising pressure, is now spelled principal. Until you realize that principle is spelled with an le, not an al, please remove us from your list of contributors.
R. Peter Knerr, Kailua, HI
Stockholm Syndrome at NPR
To R. Peter Knerr, Kailua, HI, June 10, 1996
Please excuse my tardy response to your letter of Feb. 6 concerning NPR’s release of Maureen Meehan. My travel schedule has kept me from answering correspondence as promptly as I would like.
Regarding our action with Ms. Meehan, let me clarify for you that she was not released because of her marriage to a PLO official, but for failure to comply with NPR’s requirement that she disclose such a relationship. While we do not investigate the family members or personal relationships of our correspondents, we have a policy that requires correspondents to disclose potential conflicts in the interest of ethical journalism. CAMERA was instrumental in bringing this to our attention, and I offered them our thanks for doing so.
In connection with your question about the employment of Mrs. Gingrich, we have covered that story, and will continue to do so as developments warrant.
Thank you for taking the time to share your comments with me, and for the opportunity to respond.
Delano E. Lewis, President, NPR, Washington, DC
Journalistic Bias in Oklahoma
To The Daily Oklahoman, Oklahoma City, OK, June 10, 1966 (as submitted).
I strongly support the series of editorials “On Wings of Bias” which appeared in your paper. News stories should not “reflect the tendency of reporters to label people based on their own bias and double standards.” To me this must apply to all aspects and branches of the media and The Daily Oklahoman should not be an exception. A very important legal maxim of Anglo-American jurisprudence is that “he who seeks equity should seek it with clean hands.”
You accused The New York Times of being “a left wing caricature.” This is quite interesting since so many of your editorials are based on what A.M. Rosenthal publishes in The New York Timesand you did point out that at one time he was editor of The New York Times. So I have to ask whether it was your journalistic bias that prompted you to select what Rosenthal publishes inThe New York Times over what Thomas Friedman and Anthony Lewis and others publish in the same paper and on the same subject.
I am not a Muslim, yet I have detected a continuing anti-Muslim and anti-Arab bias on your part. Recently your attention was drawn to a front page headline which read: “Muslim Fighters, Israel Agree to a Cease-Fire.” (April 27, 1996). Can anything be more biased? Muslims live all over the world. Were you referring to the Muslims of Oklahoma or Timbuktu? Having used Muslim, why not Jews instead of Israel?
Journalists should not label people and events based on their own bias and double standards and if The Daily Oklahoman is seeking equity it should seek it with clean hands.
Raymond Habiby, Professor Emeritus, Middle East Studies, Stillwater, OK
Israelis Must Compromise
To the Orange County Register, June 21, 1996 (as published).
Much as Herb Tobin [“The Peace Pot Still Bubbles in the Mideast,” The Orange Grove, June 17] would portray the June 11 World Affairs Council meeting as presenting only half the story of the Arab-Israeli conflict, we believe history was made June 11 when, for the first time in Orange County, the American public had the uncensored opportunity to hear Palestinian scholars and former State Department experts speak out on the pro-Israel lobby’s stranglehold on the U.S. Congress and Israel’s refusal to give back Arab land in exchange for peace.
Mr. Tobin’s peace pot won’t bubble anything until the Israelis learn that negotiation means compromise. They are going to have to give back some of the Arab land they took with the military backing of the United States.
Samir Twair, Los Angeles, CA
(Mr. Twair is president of the Arab-American Press Guild.)
Wishful Thinking in Orange County
To the Orange County Register (as submitted).
Mr. Herb Tobin, in his article: “The peace pot still bubbles in the Mideast,” commented on the speeches of Dr. Naseer Aruri and Richard Curtiss and the taped interview with Dr. Hanan Ashrawi at the recent World Affairs Council of Orange County dinner.
I was saddened that Tobin questioned the accuracy of their words and accused them of telling only “half the story.” He then proceeded with some misinformation, distortions, unrealistic conclusions and some strange interpretations of past events. Fifty years ago, the “empty deserts of Israel” were not “empty” but occupied by people, vineyards, orchards, homes, villages, businesses and ancient cities. There were massacres of Palestinian Arabs (including that at Deir Yassin) and hundreds of thousands of Arabs were driven out of their homes. Over 400 villages were utterly destroyed and the bulldozer became an early symbol of modern warfare. Unarmed villagers were attacked by well-trained soldiers with arms supplied to them by people throughout the world, including the United States. The unsophisticated Arabs were no match for the invaders.
To state, as Mr. Tobin does in his article, that “England simply packed up and left” does a disservice to brave British soldiers and diplomats who died trying to maintain some kind of justice and order under the most difficult conditions. Terrorists, gangs, assassinations, bombings, kidnappings were the methods used by early Israelis — including Yitzhak Shamir, Menachem Begin and Yitzhak Rabin.
Space does not permit an accurate retelling of all the misdeeds and injustices of the past and the background of the present conditions and negotiations, but some things should be known. Mr. Tobin, in referring to Israel as “our only consistent friend in the Middle East” chose to ignore a few events, including Israel’s attack on the USS Liberty on June 8, 1967 when 34 Americans died and 171 were injured as bombs, torpedoes and napalm were used against the ship. Survivors of that “incident” are still fighting for an honest congressional investigation, recognition for their dead shipmates and an end to a cover-up. The day after the attack on the American ship, Israeli forces invaded the Golan Heights — the area that Syrian President Hafez Al-Assad now wants returned to Syria.
Israel’s reluctance to return the lands captured and occupied by Israeli forces is obvious, but the people living under occupation are frustrated and tired of postponements and decades of negotiations, and want the human rights that are being denied them.
Tobin labels as “old wives’ tales” the stories about the Jewish lobby and its ability to dominate and control “the American Congress and political scene” and the granting of billions of dollars each year that benefit Israel. Books and articles have been written on this and some groups and individuals take great pride in their power. Some members of Congress who choose to remain anonymous admit the intimidation, their lack of courage and their fear of being targeted if they do not meet Israel’s demands.
Hanan Ashrawi knows what she is talking about because she has been living under occupation, has negotiated with the Israelis and has been an honest and passionate spokeswoman for her people. She is intelligent and has shown remarkable courage and deserves the praise she receives. Her words should be listened to and her advice followed.
Richard Curtiss is not just a “former State Department expert.” He is the executive editor of theWashington Report on Middle East Affairs, a well-respected source on the Middle East. Curtiss has lived and traveled in the area for many years and is an honest, fair, courageous and realistic observer and analyst.
As a subscriber to his publication for many years, I have learned how to recognize the lies, misinformation and the many attempts to manipulate public opinion that can be found in most of the other media. His publication is a reliable source and his concern for the United States and its role in the world is obvious. Some of the articles in the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs are by Jewish writers — American and Israeli — and would be an excellent source for true understanding of conditions and the realities of the Middle East.
Mr. Tobin predicts that Israel in the future will “forfeit land in exchange for an opportunity to exercise its world-class entrepreneurial leadership.” I hope he is right so the people of the region can have their lands and rights without future bloodshed. But entrepreneurs can sometimes be involved with exploitation of others and this would not be a desirable result.
This controversy is a complex one and can only be solved with truth and honesty and an understanding of the realities. Dreams and myths and wishful thinking will not solve problems.
Florence Richards, Whittier, CA
AARP’s Grill the Candidates
To “Grill the Candidates,” AARP Bulletin, 601 E St. NW, Washington, DC 20049
Sirs: Question for the Presidential Candidates: Will you use the office of President to take back control of our foreign aid policy?
I refer to the enormously disproportionate amount of foreign aid and loan guarantees allocated to the state of Israel. This is a nation of fewer than 6 million people that has received American foreign aid since 1949 in a total amount of $77.73 billion. By contrast, the American Marshall Plan for all of Western Europe amounted to 11 billion dollars and was completed in four years. Israel, however, after 45 years of aid, continues to have a problem economy, cannot live within its income and cannot or will not come to peace with its neighboring countries.
The so-called self-serving “special relationship” (against which our first president, George Washington, issued a warning, and which has never been approved by a vote of the American people), has brought down upon the United States the enmity of millions of Muslim people and their governments who clearly perceive American backing as the prop that encourages Israel to defy United Nations resolutions and to continue to occupy and exploit the land and property of other people.
Israel is the only foreign government that successfully uses American citizens of a given religious faith to lobby the legislative and executive branches of the U.S. government by devious means, including interference in domestic politics, to provide $5.5 billion annually in outright grants and loan guarantees to the Israeli government which, meanwhile, offers no responsible accounting to the U.S. of the funds provided.
I think it is high time that our elected representatives take control of our foreign aid policy and re-assess its use with regard to the best interests of the people of the USA.
George E. Brown, Palm Beach Gardens, FL
Don’t Let Israel Back-pedal on Peace
To The Orlando Sentinel, June 17, 1996 (as published).
Thanks for the excellent editorial on June 12, “No Back-pedaling from Peace.”
Indeed, Arab Americans and many concerned Jews and Americans are extremely frightened that, with Binyamin Netanyahu’s Likud victory in Israel, the Middle East peace process, which was internationally embraced and was laboriously delivering a healthy baby, is being killed.
Unfortunately, Netanyahu’s extremist rhetoric and promised actions against the Palestinians and other Arabs will not only undermine the deeply divided Israelis, but will undermine the fate and future of the entire Middle East and throw the whole area into more senseless bloodshed, destruction, chaos and, ultimately, full-blown war.
But what will be most frightening is the illegal closure of the Orient House, which is the center of Palestinian activities in Arab East Jerusalem. It would be like annihilating the Palestinians with what little pride and hope they still muster.
We must never allow such injustices to happen. Please write or call our president. Urge him to pressure Netanyahu to honor the peace process.
Nuha Marchi, Orlando, FL
End All the Terrorism
To the St. Petersburg Times, July 20, 1996 (as published).
Re: “Peace His True Goal, Netanyahu Insists,” July 11.
Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu tells us to “think about a situation where you would have had that happening [bloodshed on the streets]... time and time again, in your major cities — in Tampa, or St. Petersburg, or in Cleveland, or in Washington and in New York.” He says that peace will not work unless the terrorist attacks stop.
He didn’t mention Israeli terrorists or the illegal occupation which has not ended. I personally cannot imagine anything more terrifying than to have Uzi-toting strangers come to my door, telling me that their god gave them my land, my home and my possessions, and that I must, therefore, leave or be bulldozed with the house or simply dispossessed for the strangers to move in. Thousands of Palestinian Christians and Muslims lost their lives disagreeing with the strangers who came into their land, many of them American Jews.
Netanyahu is correct that there can be no peace until terrorism stops. But Israeli terrorism continues daily. Land is being stolen continually, people are beaten, roads are being built only for Jewish use to go to homes built illegally on occupied land for Jewish use only. The bigotry and racism practiced by the Israelis are largely ignored by American Jews who support Israel. Yet, they may protest racism and/or bigotry here.
Jerusalem is a very divided city, controlled by sullen, trigger-happy Israelis, many of them American Jews.
I would ask Netanyahu to think about a situation I have just described, a situation that he is guilty of supporting. He also claims Jerusalem for Jews only to control. As a Christian, Jerusalem belongs as much to me as to him, and that city should be internationalized.
James V. Rogers, President, Palestine Human Rights Campaign of Georgia, Inc. Stone Mountain, GA
To the St. Petersburg Times, July 20, 1996 (as published).
With regard to the matter of Jerusalem, I have difficulty understanding the logic of Diplomatic Editor Jack R. Payton (“Truth be told about Jerusalem: Israel won’t give up any of it,” July 13).
I first visited the Middle East region 40 years ago. In 1956 the status of Jerusalem, as discussed in the United Nations, leaned toward the possibility of being named an “international” city.
Resolution 242 looks at East Jerusalem as being occupied.
What Payton overlooks is the status of Gentiles and Muslims. They will determine their own future in East Jerusalem.
For 29 years Israel has occupied the West Bank. Israeli publications show this area as being Judea and Samaria.
The Israeli leader has dreams of more settlements on the West Bank. No country sees the settlements as being legitimate. Surely, this is not the time to praise Netanyahu.
George Sexton, Largo, FL
Historic Facts Were Distorted
To The Florida Times-Union, July 12, 1996 (as published).
Binyamin Netanyahu’s election seems to have provided an even greater incentive for syndicated columnists George Will (June 24: “Israel’s Netanyahu keeps promise to draw a line in Mideast sands”) and Cal Thomas (June 30, “Mideast choice: peace or continued terrorism”) to call for abandonment of compromise by Israel and the pursuit of a tougher and more extreme policy of confrontation.
However, they fail to comprehend that their incontestable ability to distort established historic facts, and their total insensitivity to the factor of justice, is counterproductive and will not provide greater security for Israel.
The Palestinians are the current and former inhabitants of Palestine, not the inhabitants of “one-sixth of 1 percent of the 7.5 million square miles of land that is too casually called ”˜the Arab world.’”
The war of 1956 was an unprovoked invasion by Israel of the Egyptian Sinai to help the British and French navies force the denationalization of the Suez Canal.
Regarding the 1967 war, everyone knows that it started with pre-emptive and devastating air strikes against Egypt and Syria. This was not contested by a number of Israeli leaders and historians.
In fact, France almost broke relations with Israel. The 1973 “war” was a limited operation by Egypt and Syria to shake off Israel’s occupation of the Sinai and the Golan Heights after all attempts by the United Nations to negotiate withdrawal had failed.
The measurement of human casualties by a percentage of the country’s population is entirely racist. It implies that the larger the population, the cheaper becomes the loss of life.
I firmly believe that the loss of 100 Israelis is not more tragic than the loss of 100 Americans or 100 Palestinians.
The mathematical formula by Will that the Jews were 10 percent of the population of the Roman Empire and should, therefore, become 200 million of the world’s population is too difficult to comprehend.
I can only say that the Palestinians had nothing to do with this. In general, history records that the Jews held very high positions in the 800 years of Arab rule. Following the Spanish Inquisition, they chose to take refuge in the various Arab countries stretching from Morocco to Iraq.
It is most unhelpful to talk of Israel and enemies. Israel continues to use force to occupy and confiscate Palestinian lands. Despite repeated U.N. resolutions, Israel refused to allow the return of any of the 1948 or 1967 refugees and no compensation was ever paid or negotiated.
The alternating claims of divine title and security of Israel have become redundant and pose the greatest risk to peace and understanding in the Middle East.
Israel’s future can only be guaranteed when it reconciles itself to the principle of peace with justice.
Shukri Salameh, Jacksonville, FL