Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, June 2004, pages 5, 70-71
Letters to the Editor
A Death Knell for Americans?
The most shocking aspect of the photos shown on CBS, and subsequently around the world, is not that Americans have been torturing Iraqis. That was to be expected, as every army and police force has its fair shareof sadists wishing to live out their fantasies legally. At the risk of sounding sexist or old-fashioned, what shocked me most is that the photos showed female American soldiers grinning and posing as they watched or participated in the torture of naked Iraqi men.
I shudder to imagine how Arab and Muslim public opinion will react. This could prove the death knell for the Arab and Muslim capacity (highly salutary for those Americans who live in the region) to distinguish, generously, between American government policies (outrageous, racist and loathsome) and the American people (fundamentally decent). The distinction was getting difficult to maintain even before this.
We have seen Iraqi children grinning and posing before the charred bodies of dead Americans. Now we have seen fresh-faced young American girls grinning and posing alongside the naked bodies of live, tortured Iraqis. This occupation, like all occupations, is a dehumanizing descent into hell for all concerned. This occupation, like all occupations, must end—the sooner the better.
John V. Whitbeck, via e-mail
Armed Civilians vs. Mercenaries
The escalating violence in Falluja, resulting in the brutal killing of the four U.S. non-military “security” personnel, is part of the developing pattern of retaliatory attacks in Iraq. However, an important aspect of this incident is being overlooked. There were questions as to what these armed “civilians” were doing driving in such a dangerous neighborhood. The answer may lie in the fact that all four were employees of Blackwater, a company based near McLean, Virginia, coincidentally near CIA headquarters; its Web site states that Blackwater “has it roots in the Special Operations community and continues to sustain the skills that have been acquired over the years as effective tools that will support both national and commercial objectives.”
Basically, the company employs mercenaries—hired killers. Many of these “security” personnel work for huge salaries, as much as $1,000 per day. Although there is no excuse for the barbaric killings, these four were obviously not driving around for humanitarian purposes.
Stephen Strauss, via e-mail
Vanunu in Good Company
Many thanks to Delinda Hanley for becoming one of those who is helping to lift Mordechai Vanunu from his 18 years of dark obscurity in his 6-by-9-foot cell into the light of honored martyrdom. The Zionist-influenced media is not likely to help his light shine or place him among those 20th century men of integrity and martyrdom such as Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela, but surely history will. How our world needs such icons to sustain it in the midst of the multiple betrayals of so many of today’s leaders.
Kathleen Banks, Silver Spring, MD
You’ll find an eyewitness account of Vanunu’s release, written by Felice Cohen-Joppa, coordinator of the U.S. Campaign to Free Mordechai Vanunu, on p. 16 of this issue.
An American Jew Speaks Out
One fact that is being ignored, to the detriment of all Palestinians and Israelis, is that the government of Israel has kept over three million people under military rule since 1967. This is the crucial fact to consider when evaluating the assassination of Sheikh Yassin by the order of Ariel Sharon. Since Sharon refuses to negotiate the setting of internationally recognized borders, he seems to think that he can kill who and where he pleases.
The entire spectrum of Palestinian resistance, from the ultra-religious to the secular, voices the same central point. All say that the Occupation (capitalized because after 37 years it has become a proper noun) is the roadblock to any binding settlement.
Unfortunately, the government of Israel has annexed Palestinian land continuously since the Six-Day War. These “settlements” have been expanded (even during the Oslo accord era) and are proof that religious zealotry and Sharon’s ethnocentric worldview are a toxic combination for the Middle East. The Israeli peace movement, which gets practically no coverage in America, has presented alternatives based on ending the Occupation.
The current Israeli government, armed to the teeth by the U.S. government, must be voted out. As an American Jew, I speak out against the state terrorism of Sharon and Bush.
Suicide bombing is an act of desperation where no alternatives exist. American Jews must speak out against the Occupation and vote in Americans who will create peace, not empire, in the Middle East.
David-Israel Sandler, Seattle, WA
Your May 2004 issue brings some needed hope regarding the Palestinian question, in particular the story about American Jews who are questioning the policies of Israel, and making their voices heard.
The article by Stephen Zunes in “Other Voices” entitled “Kerry’s Foreign Policy Record...” has definitely removed the blindfold behind which I was hiding. As much as I would want to see George Bush defeated, I cannot in good conscience vote for Kerry and, by the same token, endorse his decidedly pro-Israel and ferociously militaristic foreign policy. I don’t know what to do now. If I vote Nader, I weaken Kerry’s chances. If I vote Kerry, I abet a wrong-headed American foreign policy. The last resort is no ballot on voting day. I am certain that many Arab Americans are facing the same dilemma and wondering how the “greatest democracy” has left us with so little choices.
I look forward to reading about the Arab- American vote in the next few issues of the Washington Report. In the meantime, keep up the fantastic work. My thanks can never be enough, nor my enclosed modest check.
Nayla Rathle, Belmont, MA
You’re an Angel—welcome to the Choir, and please accept our heartfelt thanks. We don’t have the answer to the “lesser of two evils” dilemma, but we suspect that not voting isn’t it. Voting for a third-party candidate or writing in a candidate of one’s own choosing will send a message of “none of the above.” You are right, however, that this year it probably will result in the re-election of George W. Bush. Not voting at all, however, sends the message that we don’t care—and nothing could be further from the truth! Finally, the fact that Americans do not elect their president directly limits voter influence even further. Americans do directly elect their senators and representatives, however, and it is therefore imperative that voters make their opinions known, and their influence felt, at the local level. Congress doesn’t have to be Israeli-occupied territory.
Anti-Semitism vs. Anti-Zionism
In the “Other Voices” included with my May edition of the Washington Report is another article concerning “anti-Semitism” and “anti-Zionism” (George S. Hishmeh, “Confusing Anti-Semitism with Anti-Zionism”).
The German who coined the word “anti-Semitism” in 1879 regarding Jews in Europe must have been a little confused himself, because at that time nearly 90 percent of the world’s Jews were Yiddish-speaking Jews living in Europe. Yiddish is a High German language derived from medieval Old High German dialects. What is Semitic about a Germanic-speaking people? That Yiddish is written in the Hebrew alphabet no more makes the language Semitic than writing English in the Roman alphabet makes English a Romance language.
The word “Semitic” properly refers to a language family or to people who speak these languages. About 70 Semitic languages are known in history, although many of them have been extinct for centuries: Akkadian, Ugaritio, Phoenician, Standard Literary Aramaic, etc. Hebrew was “revived” as a spoken language in the late 19th century, but some Semitic language scholars question what was really revived. I myself am impressed with the entirely European, non-Semitic phonology of the modern language aside from other Yiddish, English and Slavic substratum influences.
When the 1967 war broke out, I was pro-Arab in part because of my interest in Semitic languages, especially Arabic; however, I was mostly influenced by the extensive writings of American Jewish professors and other intellectuals who were opposed to Zionism and the creation of a Jewish state in Palestine way back in the early decades of the 20th century. They exposed the “fallacies” of political Zionism, including the absurd notion that most of the world’s Jews got into eastern Europe by walking there from Palestine during the turmoil of the Middle Ages, while yet maintaining genetic “purity”—that is, the seed of Abraham—over many, many centuries.
Long after 1967, I began to study the Yiddish language, and became quite impressed with its linguistic beauty and its literature, especially the writings of J.L. Peretz (who died 1915), an anti-Zionist and the father of modern Yiddish literature.
I have been called a “Jew-hater” and “anti-Semitic” many times. I suggest yet another meaning for the word “anti-Semitic,” one perhaps less ridiculous than those other meanings presented: a non-Jew who has a great admiration for the Yiddish language, its literature, and its culture.
Bill Strange, Fort Garland, CO
We like your definition—and your learning. It helps explain why Israel-firsters are so desperate to convince people that anti-Zionism is synonymous with anti-Semitism. They may realize that the latter term is on its way out.
Bold and Enlightened
Kudos for the editorial board of the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs and bold, enlightened cotributors like Stephen Green, Robert Younes, and Noam Chomsky who have enormous moral courage to call a spade a spade in today’s threatening world ruled by neocons.
This is the first time I had a chance to go through the May 2004 Washington Report, as I”˜m on a visit here from Pakistan. I was encouraged to send this comment, as I noted that you are very generous and accommodating in publishing the feedback of your readers under “Letters to the “Editor.” Your relevant comments or replies to the letters are also very appropriate and consoling
Stephen Green’s neocon corner article was particularly revealing about the background of key figures of the Bush administration and the resultant mess the U.S. has gotten itself into.
M. Saleem Chaudhry, via e-mail
Would that our following correspondent found our replies “consoling.”
An Unkind Truth
I appreciate your having published my recent letter regarding your insistent coverage of the USS Liberty affair. It seems you are somewhat obsessed with this event that happened 35 years ago; I don’t think I can change that.
I do believe that you are unkind in referring to my organization (FLAME) as “Fallacies and Lies about the Middle East.” That certainly would not come under the rubric of journalistic evenhandedness.
You do fulminate against Rupert Murdoch, who you believe to be the proprietor of The Jerusalem Post. You’re wrong in that, of course; the owner of The Jerusalem Post is Hollinger Corporation (Lord Conrad Black, chairman).
I also notice that in your current issue you give substantial coverage of Mordechai Vanunu, probably the most prominent traitor in Israel’s short history. The Israelis, foolishly I believe, are going to let him out of prison, after only 18 years. How does that compare with the terrible punishment (life in prison without parole) imposed on Jonathan Pollard who did not actually betray his country, but who did indeed deliver information to Israel, information vital to its survival. Israel is of course a friend and an ally of the United States, and not a hostile nation. Many believe that it would have been the obligation of the U.S. government to turn the information over to Israel that Pollard delivered surreptitiously. I don’t recall reading anything in the Washington Report regarding the unprecedented penalty imposed on that man.
Finally, I think it would be appropriate if you dedicated an article regarding the rampant corruption within the Palestinian Authority. Specifically, you might want to address the inquiry that the French government launched into the transfer of $11.5 million into the private bank account in Paris of Suha Arafat, the wife of the chairman, between July 2002 and July 2003.
Gerardo Joffe, San Francisco, CA
P.S. Would you accept FLAME advertisements? I am really quite serious about that, because I believe that your readership, which only gets one-sided information, could benefit from the information that we can impart.
Hello, again. We wonder if your subconscious made you write us just before our June issue, when we typically remember Israel’s June 8, 1967 attack on the USS Liberty. We also wonder if, in your correspondence with The Jerusalem Post, you chastise Israel for its “obsession” with missing airman Ron Arad (who may still be alive, as are many horrifically wounded Liberty survivors), or with the bodies of three soldiers killed in Lebanon, in exchange for which it was willing to release 429 Arab “terrorists.”
Thank you for reminding us of the difference between Conrad Black and Rupert Murdoch—it’s true we sometimes get them confused. One pays Richard Perle and the other William Kristol, right? With regard to Jonathan Pollard, perhaps you can explain how the secrets he stole for pay and gave to Israel ended up in the hands of the Soviet Union, resulting in the deaths of many U.S. undercover agents there. Nor was Pollard forced to plea bargain: he was free to demand a trial, but chose not to. We wonder why. (If life in prison is an “unprecedented penalty,” by the way, how would you describe the death penalty meted out to the spies Julius and Ethel Rosenberg?) Mordechai Vanunu, on the other hand, did not sell information on Israel’s secret nuclear weapons program to another country—rather, he revealed its existence to the world. He served his entire prison sentence, much of it in isolation, and has paid any debt the Israeli justice system deemed appropriate. Nevertheless, he still is being subjected to virtual house arrest and other restrictions. (See article on p. 16 of this issue.)
Any corruption on the part of Yasser Arafat or his wife in no way detracts from the rights of the Palestinian people and Israel’s obligation to abide by international law. You’ll note we have not reported extensively on the scandals surrounding Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, either. We have, however, reported on the latter’s condemnation by an Israeli investigating commission for his role in the 1982 massacres at the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps and his recent indictment in Belgium as a war criminal. By contrast, Arafat, like former “terrorist” Nelson Mandela, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize—and you can take that to the bank.
Finally, if you’ll send us a copy of your letter to the Nation urging it to advertise Roger Garaudy’s book, The Founding Myths of Modern Israel (see below), we will review our position on FLAME ads—on the assumption that you’d also encourage us to run ads by the Institute for Historical Review and other “revisionist” groups we have turned down in the past. (But of course you would, because then you could accuse us of being “anti-Semitic”—so we think we’ll leave well enough alone.)
Some Speech Freer Than Other
The Nation magazine just caved in to a censorship campaign from the ADL over an ad from Roger Garaudy. This came after years of running ads from FLAME during which the Nation repeatedly resorted to a “free speech” argument.Now suddenly that argument has gone out the window in the face of ADL censors. I hope that you will voluntarily offer to run the ad which the Nation turned down as a matter of principle in order to show that the caving in which the Nation did when they supported Shrub’s war in Afghanistan has not penetrated this far yet.
Patrick McNally, via e-mail
See our response to FLAME’s Geraldo Joffe above. Unlike the Nation, we have always turned down that organization’s ads—maybe because we can’t remember what the acronym stands for.
The Legal Angle
I support your efforts completely, but I think you are missing the biggest opportunity to influence Middle East policy by not pursuing the legal process. I am not a lawyer, but if a case can be brought before the Supreme Court about the legality of keeping prisoners in “Gitmo” [Guantanamo Bay], then several cases could be brought concerning the legality of the U.S. providing weapons to kill civilians in Palestine, or concerning the U.S. providing foreign aid to a country (Israel) which manufactures nuclear weapons, and flagrantly violates the civil rights of the Palestinians. If the courts can force a judge to remove a monument to the Ten Commandments, then the court could stop the U.S. from financing a religious organization (Israel). The U.N. declared Israel a Jewish state in 1948. This is then a religious state, since Judaism is a religion, not a nationality, and as such the U.S. is not allowed to support it.
Ariel Sharon could be tried as a co-conspirator in the murder of Rachel Corrie. U.S. Palestinians could charge Israel in a civil suit for damages in the destruction of their relatives’ homes in Palestine. Israeli assets in the U.S. could be frozen until these damages are paid. If people can sue Libya for the Pan Am disaster then I am sure somebody can sue Israel for killing, destruction of property, violation of civil rights, and many other atrocities.
Thomas V. Muller, Arcadia, Florida
As you may know, the suit against the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), Israel’s Washington, DC lobby, continues to wend its way through the federal court system. And, as managing editor Janet McMahon reported in our October 2002 issue, New York City attorney Stanley L. Cohen filed a lawsuit on behalf of 18 Palestinian Americans (one a survivor of the Sabra-Shatila massacre) against Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and other Israeli and American officials. We tend to favor “the money angle,” however, on the premise that a total cut-off of American taxpayer assistance will bring Israel’s illegal and inhuman occupation to a screeching halt.
Response to Retired Diplomats’ Letter
Following our sending to the Washington Report e-mail list the draft of the letter to President Bush by retired U.S. diplomats (see p. 9), we received many responses from other Americans. A sampling follows:
I am not a diplomat by any stretch of the imagination. I’m just a retired guy aged 76 and holding. The reason I’m holding is that I have 10 grandkids that I love very much, and I want them to have every chance in the world to grow up and have grandkids like my wife and I did. They shouldn’t have to go out and fight for something that is somindless; senseless is probably a better way to describe this administration’s actions.
It’s hard to see GW going full blast at the rest of the world, dragging our good name in the mud. He must be stopped, and I believe that you diplomats are the ones to do it. Please rush your letter on with all our blessings
I’m a retired army sergeant of 22 years (retired in 1968), retired from a position of Microbiology in 1982 after 14 years, and retiredas director of a homeless Shelter in 1997. I have a wife of 52 years, and we’re very happy. Thank God we were raised in a time when “YOUR WORD” meant something.
God bless you and thank you.
Henry E. Kydd, via e-mail
Would you consider working up a similar statement from missionaries and former church workers in the Middle East? You’d get another group I’m sure.
Rev. J. Martin Bailey, Consultant to the Common Global Ministries Board, Middle East Office, United Church of Christ
Thanks for your courage and honesty. Congratulations for being great Americans who care for America’s interest. I am not a diplomat, but I wish you success with your project. Thanks.
Prof. Jamil Fayez, M.D., via e-mail
I am not a retired diplomat, though I often felt like a diplomat as I worked as a secretary with high school students, staff and the business community.I am a concerned citizen, one who participated in the democratic process. I read your messages, share information with friends.
More importantly I vote.
Mary Ann Schwab, via e-mail