April/May 1994, Page 41
Other People’s Mail
Some letters by or to other people are as informative for our readers as anything we might write ourselves.
To Albert Mokhiber, President, American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, March 10, 1994
Thank you for providing me this opportunity to express my sympathies to the families of the worshippers killed at the Cave of the Patriarchs Mosque and the Cathedral of Notre Dame de la Deliverance.
These senseless acts of brutality were not committed by a lone individual but, particularly in the case of the mosque in Hebron, were collective acts of complicity in a pervasive injustice. An Israeli security guard admitted today that they were instructed as Israeli security policy to shoot only Palestinians, never Jewish settlers. If a Jewish settler was shooting Palestinians, Israeli security forces were to wait until the clip was empty and men overpower him.
If security guards were there in the mosque at the time of the massacre, they would not have been able to even shoot the gunman in the leg. This is undoubtedly why, after being let out of a car in front of the mosque, at least three guards watched this man carrying an assault weapon into the mosque, carrying a bag of ammunition, with earplugs inserted to protect his ears from the sound of high velocity gunfire.
This type of atrocity will continue unless the United States exerts its leverage free of political considerations, but motivated by the principles of justice and human rights, and Jewish and Arab leaders act with a sense of urgency, fairness and above all, principled courage.
James P. Moran, Member of Congress, Eighth District, Virginia
To 7he Washington Post, Feb. 14, 1994
Your article Feb. 11 on Neal Sher, the new executive director of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), reported that "although AIPAC does not contribute to political campaigns or endorse candidates, its perceptions of members of Congress are considered influential among Jewish voters and large donors." AIPAC persistently has maintained and promoted the idea that it is a mere lobbying organization that does not contribute to political campaigns, and many press reports over the past 10 years have reported this as if it were an established fact.
In July 1992, however, the Federal Election Commission (FEC) found that the opposite was true. In response to a complaint that we filed, the FEC determined "that AIPAC has made, in cooperation, consultation, or coordination with federal candidates, communications to persons urging support, financial or otherwise, for such federal candidates or providing assistance to federal candidates in their campaigns." The FEC said these AIPAC activities constituted contributions to political campaigns and that, since AIPAC is a corporation, they were illegal under the federal law which prohibits corporate campaign contributions.
It is significant, moreover, that AIPAC admitted the facts on which the Commission based its determination. AIPAC claimed only that what it was doing was legal. The FEC rejected AIPAC's contention, and held that AIPAC had violated the law. After making this finding, the FEC then dismissed the complaint.
James E. Akins, former U.S. Ambassador to Saudi Arabia
Richard Curtiss, former Chief Inspector, U.S. Information Agency
Paul Findley, former U.S. Congressman from Illinois
Robert J. Hanks, Rear Admiral, U.S.N. (Ret.)
Andrew L. Killgore, former U.S. Ambassador to Qatar
Orin Parker, former President, AMIDEAST
Aftermath in Afghanistan
To 7he New York Times, Feb. 8, 1994
"Bitter Epilogue in Afghanistan" (editorial, Jan. 27) is on the mark. Today's chaos in Afghanistan is directly due to the preference shown by American and Pakistani covert agencies throughout the war years of the 1980s. The unreasonable bias of United States support given to Gulbuddin Hekmatyar and Burhanuddin Rabbani (the most anti-American fanatics in Afghanistan) has never been adequately explained.
The ultimate victims are the people of Afghanistan, who proudly and steadfastly opposed the Soviet invasion and occupation for more than a decade. The factional infighting between the two groups of fanatics in control in Kabul today has uprooted tens of thousands of people and has killed or injured thousands more.
The United States must not only oppose such savagery vocally, but we must also examine actions of our own agencies that led to this brutality and look closely at what their role is now in Afghanistan, Pakistan and the former Soviet republics of Central Asia.
The congressional committees that eagerly dumped funds into Central Intelligence Agency and State Department coffers for prosecuting the Afghan war would be the appropriate forums for such an examination. The American people rightly supported the resistance of the Afghan people to a Communist government imposed upon them by force. The American people are also entitled to know how that support was and is being implemented.
Kurt Lohbeck, Albuquerque, NM
(The writer covered the Afghan war for CBS news and is author of Holy War, Unholy Victory: Eyewitness to the C.I.A.'s Secret War in Afghanistan.)
A Letter to Shimon Peres
To Foreign Minister of Israel H.E. Shimon Peres, Jan. 27, 1994
In the beginning of that part of the peace process which began with the handshake on the White House lawn, your noble words endeared you to me. Here at last, I thought, is a man who takes a humane approach to the Palestinians whom the Israelis have so cruelly and unfairly oppressed for so long.
But listening to you on CNN the other day when you were demurring about making peace with Syria, I was disappointed in your attitude and your statements. First of all, you said that Syria had attacked Israel three times from the Golan Heights, which is a bald-faced lie, just as the myth that the 1967 war was an attack against Israel is a lie. Menachem Begin himself said that Israel started the war:
"In June 1967," he said, "we had a choice. The Egyptian army concentrations in the Sinai approaches do not prove that Nasser was really about to attack us. We must be honest with ourselves. We decided to attack him. " (The New York Times, 8/21/82)
And Yitzhak Rabin himself said: "I do not believe that Nasser wanted war" (Le Monde, 2/29/68)
To those us of who are aware of the terrible crimes the Israelis have committed against the Palestinians—the massacres, the sacking of their villages, the forced expulsions from their lands, and the allotment of their ancient farms and olive groves to the destruction of bulldozers to build Israeli settlements; aware indeed of the countless crimes that hordes of European Jews who had never set foot in the holy land committed against the indigenous people who had lived there for thousands of years and never left it; to those of us who are aware of these crimes of greed and usurpation, the attitudes the Israelis strike in the peace talks are absolutely outrageous and well nigh unbelievable. You make out the Palestinians to be the villains and terrorists when the crimes committed by Israelis who belonged to the Irgun and to the Stem Gang, two of whom, Menachem Begin and Yitzhak Rabin, have become prime ministers of Israel, have never been equalled or even vaguely matched by the Palestinians.
During the disastrous Lebanese war perpetrated by Ariel Sharon, the terrible massacre at Sabra and Shatila took place beneath the very eyes of the Mossad and Israeli army officers "who stood on the roof of a nearby building scanning the area with powerful binoculars" and did nothing to stop the slaughter (Zealots for Zion by Robert Friedman, p. 103).
What a terrible irony it is that far from admitting guilt or rendering an apology for the awful destruction of life and property that he caused in Lebanon, Sharon is in America at this very moment seeking handouts to conduct a campaign against the peace process and the defeat of the Labor Party at the next election!
There is a gathering storm in this country of the truth about Israel and its relent less fight against coming to peaceful terms with the Palestinians, of its conquest for land and its long and tortuous years of crimes against an ancient and dignified people, whose hearts and minds and culture were no match for the greed and acquisitiveness and the public relations juggernaut of the European Jews who have usurped their ancient land.
Yet it is Arafat who smiles and expresses all the optimism and hope in your meetings with him. You Israelis are so niggardly, and fearful and ungiving. (See attached photograph from the November/December 1993 Washington Report on Middle East Affairs. )
GIVE SOMETHING! Give the Palestinians what they most need, which is evidence on the ground that peace is at hand.
GET OUT OF THE WEST BANK like you promised to do! Take a chance for peace! You have one of the mightiest military arsenals in the world. That you continually prate about security for Israel is laughable—or would be if it were not so disgusting. What on earth could the Palestinians do to you? Annihilate you with slingshots?
Accord dignity to these people whose land you have usurped as surely as the Serbs have usurped Bosnia. Go back to your noble words about dealing with the Palestinians in a sincere and honest way, about helping them all you can, about being partners for peace in the Middle East.
Be kind. Be decent. Be generous. Be honorable. Be fair.
Exchange the lands you have stolen by conquest and by breaking one United Nations resolution after another, and by violating over and over again the Israeli-Syrian demilitarized zone with your illegal attacks on Syrian villages on the Golan Heights. Give back the lands you conquered in the 1967 war which you started!
I do not even attempt to be diplomatic in my approach to you. This is an anguished cry for peace in the Middle East which Israel could so easily, single-handedly, bring about if she would return these lands to their rightful owners.
I have, as I said at the beginning of this letter, admired you in the past because you have seemed more sympathetic and humane than anyone else in Israel, certainly including Prime Minister Rabin. I urge you to return to that vein, to continue unflinchingly mining it, because your actions will then bring about a better world for us all. I think the hopes of all mankind for peace in the Middle East rest more with you than with Rabin because you are more generous. Please, please hang in there until it is brought about and convince Rabin to be more giving too.
If, as I hope, you have read this long letter, please accept my thanks for hearing me out.
Marion E. Sittler, Washington, DC
U.S. Bias Is Obstacle to Peace
To the Nation, Feb. 12, 1994
As a lifelong activist for peace with justice, especially in the Middle East, I read with pain Edward Said's challenging and disturbing article, headlined "For Palestinians, Time to Resist" and its contentions that the Palestinians needed new leaders and a new realism and must stop thinking that Arafat and Co. can be reformed. Long sympathetic and an advocate of the cause of the Palestinian Christian and Muslim people for justice and peace and their struggle for self-determination and liberation, I recognized the many years of dedication to that noble cause that Yasser Arafat had given. In fact, four years ago in public print I classified Nelson Mandela and Yasser Arafat together as "comrades of liberation," and I called Arafat "the George Washington of his people" and urged my fellow American citizens in their national and geo-political interests to regard him so.
The big obstacle to Middle East peace has been our country's failure to practice what we have been and are preaching. We say we are evenhanded between Israel and the Palestinians, but in practice, we have been partial to Israel, fueling her military and economic chests, and defending her in the United Nations despite the weakness of her case. This partiality has been graphically seen insuch front page controversies as Bobby Inman's withdrawal of his nomination as defense secretary after criticism by pro-Israel New York Times columnist William Safire; the public relations attempt to free Jonathan Pollard, who has been imprisoned for spying for Israel; President George Bush's valiant political struggle against the loans to Israel; the Israel-Iran-Contra scandal; and the USS Liberty incident, the unprovoked attack by Israeli war planes on an American ship at the cost of the lives of American boys.
If the peace initiative entered upon by Rabin and Arafat recently is to bear fruit, the world needs Palestinian leadership worthy of its courageous and long-suffering people, Israeli integrity for a true peace with justice, and above all an American government that will at long last truly be evenhanded between the Israelis and the Palestinians.
Dr. Frank Maria, Warner, NH
A Christmas Under Occupation
(Excerpts from Christmas 1993 letter to friends and relatives by Richard and Joyce Bacon, Covina, CA)
Joyce spent Christmas '92 under Israeli military occupation in disappearing "Arab" East Jerusalem, the West Bank, and the impoverished refugee camps in Gaza. Her second trip in five months, it was a time of greatly increasing pain and suffering for the Palestinian people.
Across the valley from the hotel on the Mount of Olives lies the Old City where Christian pilgrims still come to walk the Via Dolorosa amid the heavily armed Israeli soldiers, Palestinian shops with their colorful wares, the aroma of sweet coffee, felafel, and shawarma slowing turning on vertical spits.
Next to the hotel is the Church of the Ascension. Across the street, through an arched gateway in the ancient stone wall, lies the rubble of the Greek Orthodox Church just bulldozed by the Israelis because it was built without a permit. ("Arabs" are forbidden permits to build or repair.) Undeterred, devoted hands began again, and in August Joyce returned and stood atop the newly formed foundation of God's house to watch the sun rise over the once Holy City and the sacred Dome of the Rock.
With Palestinian voices silenced by Israeli censors, few Americans know the discrimination and increasing struggle to survive the Palestinian Christians and Muslims experience at the hands of their occupiers. Unless Peace with Justice can find its way through the misinformation, oppression, deprivation, deceit and racism, the diminishing Christian population will disappear, and the Holy Places for Christians and Muslims alike will be reduced to "tourist sites" and souvenir shops for international travelers.
Within days of her December 1992 arrival, curfews, military sieges and searches, 1,600 random arrests, closures and mass expulsions laid a blanket of fear and gloom over the occupied territories for Joyce and her hosts, but the friendliness, warmth and traditional hospitality of the Palestinian people remained steadfast, even as the Christians from the occupied West Bank were barred from celebrating Christmas in their churches.
In August, Joyce and 17-year-old grandson Jason were both in Palestine. Jay was with a group from Presbyterian USA who joined 20 to 30 Palestinian youth in a work project at the Friends School in occupied Ramallah, just north of Jerusalem. The day Joyce arrived in Israel, Jay's group was locked down inside the school while the city was once again under blanket curfew and military siege.
The army had taken over the building next to the school, and Jay reported that one day he accidentally walked into a street demonstration-march protesting a killing by the army, and escaped into doorways as soldiers began firing down on the youths from the top of a multi-storied building, killing a young boy and wounding others.
Jay was prepared for the "occupation" from his reading and our films about Palestine, and found the travel, work and close social interaction an overwhelming and unforgettable experience. He's written about his experiences for his high school paper, was interviewed by the local press, and this month won a bronze medal for his speech about Ramallah and human rights in the school district's academic decathalon.
Joyce's experiences were both heartwarming and heartbreaking. During two plus months in Palestine she met with and was a guest in the homes of Palestinians on both sides of the "Green Line." She also met with Israeli peace activists, Knesset members, and stood with Israeli and Palestinian "Women in Black" (now disbanded) in downtown West Jerusalem, protesting the occupation and expulsions.
Experiencing the harshest reality of military occupation, she stayed with residents of a refugee camp in Gaza never knowing if and when soldiers would burst in and beat, gas or arrest them; was forced with them out of their car and lined up beside the road with the barrels of machine guns aimed at their midsections; and was intentionally run into by an Israel Defense Forces jeep occupied by three jeering teenage IDF soldiers; watched military jeeps pursuing three small boys in the marketplace, then mustering for an assault on the refugee camps after they had killed a 10-year-old.
Joyce skirted gunfire aimed at children running past her car from soldiers perched in 60-foot-high guard towers, protected behind 20-foot fences, walls of concrete filled barrels and rolls of razor wire. She quickly evacuated a hospital she was visiting as soldiers surrounded it and prepared for an assault; stood in the shambles of a block of refugee camp homes and personal possessions destroyed by anti-tank rockets; and mourned with the families of martyrs killed by army snipers, settlers, death squads, and by torture during "interrogation."
While we Americans are consumed with shopping, parties, and feasting, two million of God's children are having life and hope squeezed out of them under cover of the myth of "a comprehensive peace. " With U.S. money, Arab East Jerusalem is being overtaken, their homeland is being divided into South African-style cantons, settlements already encircle, overlook and invade their cities, and "settlers" (many of whom are militant American zealots) are now planning 130 additional settlements on confiscated Palestinian land.
Few Americans know what Zionism is, its colonizing and hegemonic goals, that it is the antithesis of democracy, and that it calls for the elimination of the Palestinian population from all of historic Palestine. Powerless, voiceless, dehumanized and invisible, Palestinians ask in one voice for American travelers to carry back with them the message of truth about what they have seen. The tragedy for the returnee is that most Americans don't want to hear, choose not to know, have no desire to understand. Besieged by increasing oppression, deprivation, dispossession and hunger, Palestinians exist in what can best be described as the modem world's largest and longest-existing brutal, dehumanizing and immoral concentration camp.
Bells in church towers and calls to prayers from minerets on mosques around the world remind us that all people are God's children, and if we remain silent and do nothing when others are suffering and being put to death in their struggle for freedom and justice, we will remain what we are, accomplices by omission.
Richard and Joyce Bacon, Covina, CA
Don't Commute Pollard's Sentence
To President Bill Clinton, Feb. 17, 1994
I am writing to you today regarding your review of the Jonathan Pollard case. I understand that Prime Minister Rabin requested that you shorten Pollard's sentence as a gesture toward peace. As Americans, we should be supporting the oppressed Palestinian people instead and press Rabin to make some gestures toward peace himself. First, I would ask him to stop bombing civilians in Lebanon with U.S.-made weapons. Then, I would suggest that he put an immediate end to the administrative detention and torture of Palestinians.
In any case, I beseech you as an American not to give in to the pressure to commute Pollard's sentence. Pollard has never exhibited any remorse for his massive breaches of the most sensitive U.S. intelligence, and the government of Israel has been equally duplicitous in the whole matter. Each month, Pollard's bank account receives a hefty deposit from the very same Rabin government that now pretends the whole affair was unauthorized. Chutzpah!
I know that the pro-Israel lobby is very well organized, and many Jewish groups are pressing for Pollard's release. However, B'nai B'rith's Anti-Defamation League and the National Jewish Community Relations Advisory Council, which represent a large portion of the American Jewish public, are not calling for Pollard's release. Needless to say, the Arab-American and security communities are solidly against it. We say, don't give in!
Thank you for treating this matter with the seriousness it deserves.
Katherine M. Metres, National Liaison, Arab-American Students' Association, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI
To The New York Times, Feb. 4, 1994
The two juxtaposed pictures in the Feb. 4 New York Times showing screaming Vietnamese children, running naked from the jellied gasoline of U.S.-dropped napalm, and Palestinian kids fearfully crouched behind bushes and a trash can as Israeli soldiers spray lethal automatic weapons fire in their direction show war at its worst.
Such picture-truths helped us quit the war in Vietnam. Now let's stop the child-murders in the occupied territories, where these deadly confrontations have nothing to do with peacekeeping.
As Israeli educator and editor Dr. Israel Shahak recently pointed out, violence against Arabs in the territories is aimed at "having them feel vulnerable, as serfs of a feudal lord felt in the Middle Ages. " If our own press really is concerned about "anti-Semitism," rather than expending its ammunition on the self-styled Nation of Islam, it might better aim at those child-killers in Israel whose inexcusable slaughter arouses more anti-Jewish feelings among Americans than a thousand Louis Farrakhans.
Edward W. Miller, San Rafael, CA
Awarta Letter Campaign an Invitation to be of Service
Dear Concerned Recipient:
The participants of the West Bank Service Project, summer 1993, are requesting your help in trying to right a wrong that we learned of during our visit to Awarta village, near Nablus. Forty-seven village landowners of 500 acres went to the Israeli Supreme Court in 1991 after their land was confiscated by the Israeli government. For one of the first times in history, the court ruled in their favor and their land was returned. Last fall and winter, the people constructed a new road to the land, cultivated it, planted approximately 4,000 trees, and fenced it. The work was very difficult. People told us about wading waist-deep in the mud in the rainy winter months to plant the trees. (They had received permission from the Israeli authorities for this work.) The total cost of this project was $41,000, plus the volunteer labor hours contributed by villagers, landowners and others from Palestine and abroad.
Tragically, the trees were uprooted and the fencing destroyed last July by Israelis from a neighboring settlement, accompanied by the Israeli army. After villagers went to the authorities with a lawyer, the government claimed that the disputed land falls within state-owned land, and all work should stop until the land is surveyed and marked.
The Palestinians believe that a survey will not be provided, and the land will remain in a state of limbo for years to come (especially dangerous now, because in the coming months the exact borders for Palestinian self-rule will be drawn up). For the villagers, these trees would add a significant source of income. With unemployment running somewhere between 50-70 percent in the area, the people depend on their ability to grow their own food, and sell or trade the excess.
What can you do? Write a brief letter or postcard addressed to: Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, Israeli Embassy, 3514 International Drive, Washington, DC, 20008, or call (202) 364-5500.
If you can, please send a copy to our office so that we can forward it to the villagers and show them that an international campaign is under way on their behalf. Use any of the facts mentioned above, and ask specifically for written guarantees that the disputed lands in Awarta village be allowed to be replanted, without continued harassment by settlers and the army.
It is in our favor that Israel and the Palestinians have just formally recognized each other and signed a peace plan. Israel and the Palestinians both should be interested in demonstrating their good will and intentions to build confidence. We need your letter! Thank you, from our hearts. Earthstewards, P. 0. Box 10697, Bainbridge Island, WA 98110
Letter to Prime Minister Rabin
To Prime Minister Rabin, Oct. 24, 1993 We Americans and the world watched with approval and great admiration as you and Yasser Arafat shook hands and signed the historic peace agreement. You both showed great courage and wisdom. Surely no one appreciates the value of peace like those who have known the horrors of war. I believe history will accord you a place of honor among its great leaders. And I'm sure the God of Abraham will accord you His blessings as well.
Toward that end I have an urgent request. Through an American-Israeli peace group I have learned of an episode which could help defeat your purpose and your success in achieving a secure and lasting peace.
It seems that in Awarta, a village near Nablus, some 500 acres of Palestinian land was first confiscated, then returned by Supreme Court order. The owners then got legal permission, tilled and fenced the land, built an access road and planted some 4,000 trees for future food and income.
However, a few months later a group of settlers, backed by the Israeli army, ripped out the fences and the trees! Now, another government agency has told them that the land is state-owned and that all work on it must stop. Has the Supreme Court been overruled?
If true—and especially if typical—this incident must surely cast a shadow of doubt over the success of your genuine peace efforts. Therefore I would respectfully request that you have the situation investigated, corrected and publicized at the village for the benefit of all concerned.
Thank you and God bless you.
Palmer O. Hanson, Bremerton, WA
From the Embassy of Israel
To Mr. Palmer 0. Hanson, Dec. 7, 1993
We are in receipt of your recent letter concerning Awarta village. We are looking into the incident to which you referred and will provide you with further information as soon as it is available.
Hillary Rubin, Public Affairs Officer, Embassy of Israel, Washington, DC
From the Israeli Government
To Mr. Palmer 0. Hanson, Dec. 28, 1993 I have been asked to acknowledge the receipt of your letter dated Oct. 24, 1993 and addressed to the prime minister of defense.
We have checked the facts and it came out that the case relates to an illegal incursion of Arab residents of the Awarta village into lands owned by the state.
The residents have planted some 1,000 olive trees and a wide area was fenced by means of about 140 angle irons and 3,000 meters, approximately, of wire.
On July 1, 1993, the incursion was terminated by a supervision unit of the Civil Administration authorities, according to powers invested in them by local law.
With best wishes,
Colonel Yoav Hirsch, Assistant to Military Secretary for General Staff Affairs, Tel Aviv, Israel