Other People's Mail

Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, November/December 2018, pp. 71-72

Other People's Mail

Compiled by Dale Sprusansky


To the Anchorage Daily News, Oct. 1, 2018

Saudi Arabia's war in Yemen has caused the worst humanitarian crisis in the world today: 5 million children starving, school buses and hospitals being bombed, the worst cholera outbreak in history and 130 children dying every day.

Our country has provided military support for Saudi Arabia in that war without any authorization from Congress since 2015. As the atrocities committed by Saudi Arabia on Yemeni civilians have become known, the reason why our country would continue to provide that support has been unclear.

Well, now the reason is clear. According to The Wall Street Journal, “Secretary of State Mike Pompeo backed continued U.S. military support for Saudi Arabia's war in Yemen over the objections of staff members after being warned that a cutoff could jeopardize $2 billion in weapons sales to America's Gulf allies.”

In short, our country continues to provide military support for Saudi Arabia's war in Yemen so that weapons dealers can continue to reap massive profits by selling more arms to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, which will be used with our military support to kill more Yemeni civilians.

Shocked and disgusted by that? It gets worse. In another example of President Donald Trump “draining the swamp” directly into his own administration, the warning to not “jeopardize $2 billion in weapons sales” came from a State Department team led by a former Raytheon lobbyist and the $2 billion worth of weapons to be sold are air-to-ground munitions produced by Raytheon.

Alaskans can help alleviate the humanitarian crisis in Yemen. They can contact Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan and Rep. Don Young today and tell them to do something to end our military support for Saudi Arabia's immoral war in Yemen, and to block the sale of arms that are used to slaughter civilians in Yemen.

Douglas Pengilly, Kodiak, AK


To The New York Times, Oct. 17, 2018

The Trump administration’s eagerness to bend over backward to accept the Saudi regime’s denials that it murdered Jamal Khashoggi, a United States resident and Washington Post journalist, is deeply troubling. This is particularly true given that both the president and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo seem willing to accept the results of the Saudi government’s proposed investigation of the case—an instance of the accused investigating themselves that would not hold up in any court of law.

More important, as the chief architect of Saudi Arabia’s brutal intervention in Yemen, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is already implicated in the killing of thousands of innocent civilians in an indiscriminate bombing campaign that has targeted hospitals, water treatment plants, markets, weddings, a funeral and, most recently, a school bus carrying dozens of children. The regularity with which the regime has targeted civilians—frequently using United States-supplied bombs and aircraft—make its claims that these are “mistakes” ludicrous.

At a minimum, the United States should stop arming Saudi Arabia and end military support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen, regardless of how the Khashoggi case is resolved.

William D. Hartung, New York, NY. The writer is the director of the Arms and Security Project at the Center for International Policy.


To The Guardian, Sept. 3, 2018

The article by Peter Beaumont and Oliver Holmes (U.S. accused of using aid cuts to force Palestinians into accepting Israel peace deal, August 31) only deals with one side of the involvement of the U.S. government in the Middle East peace process. A far more effective way of using aid cuts to force a peace deal would be for the U.S. to cut its massive military aid to Israel. The deal over that aid was signed in September 2016 and amounts to $38 billion over 10 years. If the U.S. government stopped signing the checks, the Israeli government would certainly be forced to engage in genuine peace negotiations with the Palestinians.

Michael Meadowcroft, Leeds, UK


To The Independent, Sept. 25, 2018

On Nov. 21 of last year, three members of Utahns for a Just Peace in the Holy Land met with Rep. Chris Stewart’s district director with concerns regarding U.S. relations with Israel. One of our concerns was with Rep. Stewart’s co-sponsorship of the Israel Anti-Boycott Act. We wanted to know why Stewart supports erosion of American free speech rights in favor of a foreign power.

We also asked that Stewart co-sponsor the Promoting Human Rights by Ending Israeli Military Detention of Palestinian Children Act. It seemed to us that opposition to child abuse should not be a partisan issue.

We asked Rep. Stewart his opinion of Israeli nuclear weapons and the prospect of a Middle East nuclear-weapons-free zone. We wanted to know his opinion as to whether Israel should sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and submit to inspections like Iran does. The only non-signatories besides Israel are India, Pakistan, South Sudan, and North Korea (which withdrew from the treaty).

After several follow-up inquiries and 10 months later, we finally got a letter from Rep. Stewart, which was vacuous and dodged our questions. Stewart certainly has no obligation to share our political views nor support or oppose any particular piece of legislation. But like any elected official, Stewart does have an obligation, as our representative in Congress, to directly and honestly answer our questions on matters before the House of Representatives. Just why he cannot or will not meet that obligation we do not know. Unfortunately, we cannot ask him directly, because he will not meet with us in person.

Utahns deserve better representation than that.

Bob Brister, Salt Lake City, UT


To The News & Observer, Sept. 12, 2018

The U.S. recently announced it is ending all funding to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA). Since then I have been thinking about the column “How I made it from Gaza to Duke and UNC” (July 1).

In this thoughtful piece, the author credits UNRWA as a lifesaver for him growing up in a refugee camp in Gaza. It provided him with the education that enabled him to land a Rotary Peace Fellowship. He is currently working toward a graduate degree in Global Studies and International Development at UNC and Duke.

The U.S. has been funding a third of UNRWA’s budget of $1.1 billion which provides social and medical services and education to five million Palestinian refugees. The U.S. is stopping its support, and a shortfall will result in service reduction. Schools for 526,000 Palestinian children could close.

All children have the right to education and the dignity and opportunity that come with it. Withdrawing support ratchets up the risk for recruitment by extremist groups and leads to greater destabilization in the Middle East. Moreover, this act is another example of the erosion of moral leadership and values evident in this administration.

Kathy Huffstetler, Raleigh, NC


To The Independent Florida Alligator, Oct. 8, 2018

On Oct. 2, Lara Alqasem, 22, a University of Florida graduate was detained at Ben Gurion airport and ordered deported after Israeli security looked her up on Canary Mission, a right-wing blacklist site. Alqasem was going to study to get an MA at Hebrew University in Jerusalem and had received a visa valid for a year for that purpose. Lara's detention raises major concerns about study abroad programs in Israel which might well deny entry to students of Palestinian origin or anyone who does not pass the right-wing litmus test. Unfortunately such tests are also being used to deny entry to people engaged in social justice work. Just recently, Professor Katherine Franke, who arrived in Israel to lead a delegation of human rights activists, was detained and deported.

We the undersigned faculty call for the immediate release from detention at Ben Gurion airport of Lara Alqasem, a U.S. citizen of Palestinian heritage who had a valid visa and was detained several days ago after being profiled by Israeli immigration officers at Ben Gurion airport and continues to remain in detention. She has been interrogated, threatened with a denial of the right to enter, and according to Cody O’Rourke, communications director of the Holy Land Trust in Bethlehem, was at times denied food, water, and access to the bathroom when she was first detained.

This kind of surveillance and treatment of U.S. students by Israel is unacceptable. It is a violation of her human rights, her academic freedom and freedom of movement. The detention unfortunately suggests that Israel discriminates against Arab American students, who because of their cultural and familial connections to Palestine (Lara has Palestinian grandparents) are regularly turned back when they seek to enter Israel.

—Signed by 26 professors from the University Florida and elsewhere.


To The Washington Post, Sept. 28, 2018

The Sept. 26 news article “Afghan civilian casualties alarm U.N.” represented another example of how limiting the use of precision-guided munitions to only well-trained combatants with strict rules of engagement is no guarantee that civilians will not be inadvertently killed or injured. Global statistics show that when explosive weapons with wide-area impacts, such as those that killed a teacher and her family in Kapisa province in Afghanistan on Sept. 22, are deployed in populated areas, 92 percent of casualties are to women, children and men who are not part of the conflict. These losses are unacceptable. They violate international humanitarian law and are clearly preventable.

Simply put, we must instruct our military and those of our allies to stop bombing civilians.

Jeff Meer, Silver Spring, MD. The writer is the U.S. executive director of Humanity & Inclusion.


To the Missoulian, Oct. 11, 2018

Another 9/11 memorial has come and gone, No. 17. That's 17 years of war in the Middle East on top of the 10 years of war on terrorism prior to Sept. 11, 2001.

We haven't made much progress fighting terrorism. We’ve lost 7,000 men and women. We’ve killed countless terrorists and civilians. We are suffering the loss of 20 veterans a day to suicide. There is no real hope of so-called victory.

It is time to put our energy into bringing this worldwide war on terrorism to an end. It’s time to find a way to bring the essential people to the table and bring peace to the Middle East, North Africa, the Philippines and elsewhere.

It's time to work for peace between two great religions whose roots are in the worship of the same God.

But even as I write this letter, I feel that my effort is as futile as our war on terrorism.

Dean Grenz, Boulder, MT





2018barefoot to palestine
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1983, Lebanon, U.S. Embassy bombed, 63 killed. Months later, Marine Barracks bombed, 241 killed.

1987, Cassie accepts a job teaching Shakespeare at a private academy near Princeton, to forget memories of her late husband killed at the barracks.

First day, she meets Samir, a senior whose parents were killed in the embassy attack: Cassie & Samir, forever linked.

As Cassie teaches Hamlet & Othello and rebukes advances from her unscrupulous dean, Shakespeare’s timeless themes of trust, betrayal, and hate ­become reality as the Palestinian-Israeli struggle destroys their lives. Powerful!

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