April/May 1994, Page 61
California Congressman Decries "Malevolent" Anti-Islam Tactics
By Pat and Samir Twair
Now that Communism has been defeated, some say the next great menace to the world is Islam. This is a heinous and malevolent tactic, " stated Congressman Dana Rohrabacher. The Southern California Republican was addressing more than 40 members of the Greater Los Angeles Chapter of the National Association of Arab Americans at a brunch in the Huntington Beach home of Dr. Paul and Susan Qaqunda.
"I think the greatest threat to Arab Americans is the notion that the Western world is inherently at war with Islam," he said. "There are two groups whom it's okay to portray as evil: the Arabs and the Germans. To cast Arabs only as terrorists in motion pictures is unfair, and this negative stereotyping should be addressed.
"The greatest threat to Arab Americans is the notion that the Western world is inherently at war with Islam."
The former speech writer for President Ronald Reagan said the specter of Islam versus the West has been used to withhold American intervention in Bosnia. "If the Serbs won't remove their tanks, then we should give the ultimatum that we will eliminate the arms embargo on the Muslim Bosnians and bomb Serbian military bases as well as electricity plants and bridges," he stated.
Representative Rohrabacher theorized that a deal has been cut and the centuries old Serbian paranoia that the Muslims are seeking a toehold in Europe may have achieved its goal in that there might no longer be a Bosnia.
The congressman expressed surprise when he heard during his introduction by Adeeb Sadd that the book Stealth PACs states he has accepted "no more than $250" from pro-Israel political action committees.
"I wasn't aware I'd received any money from the American Israel Public Affairs Committee," he said. "The important thing is any funds received from a lobby won't influence my vote." (Technically,the congressman is correct, since AIPAC, as an organization registered to lobby Congress on behalf of Israel, is prohibited by law from making direct campaign contributions. To circumvent this, AIPAC officers have set up a network of deceptively named political action committees. AIPAC illegally coordinates the donations of these PACs, according to the book. The book's assertion subsequently has been confirmed by a finding of the Federal Election Commission in Washington, DC.)
Representative Rohrabacher, who is serving his third term representing California's 45th district, pointed out that Irish, Greek, Vietnamese and Armenian Americans all have agendas and he's willing to hear from them.
Concerning the Middle East, Rep. Rohrabacher was much more optimistic than his audience. Commenting that all of his decisions on the Middle East are based on what is right for the United States, the solon said he foresees adjustments on borders that could result in a confederation between the West Bank, Gaza and Jordan. "Eventually, this could become the state of Palestine," he said.
In response to a query as to why the U.S. should send an annual $3 billion military and economic aid package to Israel now that the Middle East seems to be on the threshold of peace, Rep. Rohrabacher said:
"I don't believe in sending foreign aid anywhere. I've voted against the foreign aid bill for the past four years."
On the question of lifting the U.S. ban on travel to Lebanon for American citizens, Rep. Rohrabacher said the government does not want another hostage situation and it should be made clear that any Americans who go there are doing so at their own risk.
NAAA member Florence Richards stated that, as a non-Arab, she is appalled that Zionists use the Bible and the Holocaust to justify driving Palestinians off their own land. Peace hopes are growing dim because Palestinians still are being killed, she said.
"There are people on both sides who don't want peace, and there are people on both sides who do," Representative Rohrabacher replied.
Holding the morning newspaper in her hand, Mrs. Richards pointed to a story that pro-Israel groups were urging President Clinton to withdraw his nomination of Strobe Talbott for the No. 2 spot at the State Department because he criticized Israel when he wrote for Time magazine.
Mrs. Richards continued: "I understand Arab anger and I am disturbed as an American that President Clinton's senior Middle East adviser is Martin Indyk, who was only naturalized as an American citizen a few weeks before he took office, and who served as a former adviser to Yitzhak Shamir. How can we have an evenhanded foreign policy when an unabashed Israel supporter is in charge?"
"Don't be so pessimistic," Rep. Rohrabacher replied. "I've learned that even my adversaries have good traits. There is a chance for good people on both sides to prevail."
When it came to the subject of convicted spy Jonathan J. Pollard receiving an early release on his life sentence, Representative Rohrabacher stated: "Don't worry, Pollard is going to stay right there in prison.
Reaction to Hebron Massacre
Hours after Los Angeles awoke to news of the massacre of 30 Palestinians in Hebron's Ibrahimi mosque, Muslims gathered for their Friday prayers at the Islamic Center of Southern California. Dr. Maher Hathout told worshippers that in that day's sermon he had planned to follow a Ramadan theme and discuss generosity. After the slaughter of Muslims at prayer in a mosque, however, the physician changed his theme. "We want to fight extremism, all extremism," he told the congregation. "It is time to play the game fairly and talk about Jewish terrorists and Jewish fundamentalists as well."
"We want to right extremism, all extremism."
At 3 p.m. that day a joint news conference was called at the Westwood Federal Building by the National Association of Arab Americans, American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, Americans for Peace Now and the American Jewish Congress. Arab-American and Jewish spokespersons condemned the massacre, made all the more tragic because it took place during Ramadan and on the Jewish Purim holiday.
Manning Gets Life Term
U.S. District Judge Dickran Tevrizian sentenced Robert Manning to life in prison Feb. 7 for his role in the 1980 mail-bomb death of a secretary in Manhattan Beach, CA. Judge Tevrizian termed the former Jewish Defense League activist's crime as "callous" and "hideous" when he imposed the maximum term. The judge said the life sentence was commensurate with Manning's "utter disregard for the public ' " The 42-year-old Manning will be eligible for parole in 30 years.
Manning fought extradition from the Kiryat Arba. Jewish settlement in the West Bank for nearly two years before he was returned to Los Angeles and convicted Oct. 14 of constructing and mailing the bomb. Also charged with complicity in the 1980 murder were Manning's wife, Rochelle, 53, and William Ross, another former Jewish Defense League leader. Rochelle Manning died March 18 in an Israeli jail while awaiting extradition. Ross is scheduled for trial in July. The prosecution states that the slain secretary's employer was involved in a lawsuit with Ross, who hired the Mannings to build and mail the bomb to the Manhattan Beach firm. Manning also is a prime suspect in the 1985 bombing death of Alex Odeh, who headed the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee's regional western office. Under Israeli terms for extraditing him, however, Manning cannot be tried in the U. S. for that murder.
Basil Al-Assad Mourned
On the 40th day after his death in a car crash, Major Basil Al-Assad was commemorated at an arbain ceremony hosted by the Syrian Arab American Association in St. Anne's Melkite Church in North Hollywood. More than 200 people were on hand for the ceremonies honoring the 32-year-old son of Syria's President Hafez Al-Assad. Syrian Consul General Jamil Saqr traveled from Washington, DC, to speak at the memorial service. He condemned the Feb. 25 Hebron massacre and the bombing of a Maronite church in Lebanon. A friend of the deceased, Dr. Yahya Al-Shimali, recalled personal memories of Basil Al-Assad, who studied engineering at Damascus University and was an-award-winning equestrian.
Pat and Samir Twair are free-lance writers based in Los Angeles.