A recent Washington Post article dated 5/23/2001, revealed part of the recipe that goes into making American foreign policy in the Middle East. Read this and weep: “Anti-Defamation League head Abraham Foxman said he had been assured in a letter from Mitchell that the commission’s report did not suggest any quid pro quo between halting violence and halting settlements. ” So, it is well to review the Mitchell report with the ‘Foxman’ assurances in mind.
The article goes on to advise that: “With a full agenda and only a slim Republican majority in Congress, the administration has no interest in picking a fight with a key domestic constituency. “It’s probably not to the administration’s advantage to play against the support for Israel here,” said the foreign policy aide to a leading Democratic senator, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Now, I wonder which Democratic Senator’s ‘foreign policy’ aide sent the above warning to the Bush Administration to ‘not play’ against the “support for Israel here”. Is there a counter-balancing faction in the Senate that champions American interests? The answer to that last question is ‘no’. If the President of the United States take a “hard line” with a ‘key’ constituency named Abraham Foxman, he is in for political trouble on the Hill.
Articles warning the younger George Bush about the consequences of independent thinking in the White House are becoming quite noticeable. Invariably, they remind the president of what it cost George Bush senior when he tangled with the mighty constituency that labors under the banner of the Jewish Lobby. Even though he emerged from the Gulf War with a 90% approval rating, cutting back American subsidies for illegal Jewish settlements cost George Bush senior the unbearable price of a Clinton presidency. George Bush is taking the warnings seriously enough to give Sharon a carte blanche. I am sure the elder George Bush senior has often reminded his son of how Sulzberger and Abe Rosenthal ‘punished’ him for letting James Baker take a stand. At the time, Ariel Sharon was the Israeli housing minister who greeted every visit by the American Secretary of State with a new Jewish settlement in the West Bank
The pro-Israeli lobby is not subtle. From day one, they have been sending their advice to the president to let “Sharon’s Army win” or face a challenge to his ‘legitimacy’. Now that the wisdom of that policy is being challenged even in the Israeli press, the Likudniks at the New York Times want to reclaim a bit of their credibility with other ‘liberals’. But they don’t want a Bush administration that is out of control. In the aftermath of the release of the Mitchell Commission report recommending a settlement freeze and denouncing the excessive use of lethal force by the Israeli Army, Colin Powell has again been made to pledge that he will not bother Sharon with a ‘peace plan’. Colin’s stated mission is to find language suitable to the Israelis that gets around the ‘settlement freeze’ recommendation and then stuff it down the Palestinians’ throat.
Thomas Friedman’s mission, which he always chooses to accept, is to find a way to get the heat off Sharon while he goes about the business of killing Palestinians. His argument sounds reasonable enough, if you don’t pay attention to the ‘Sulzberger’ nuances.
The settlements are foolish, and their continued expansion is a shameful act of colonial coercion that will meet with the fate of all other colonial enterprises in history. The inability of American Jewish leaders or U.S. governments to speak out against settlement expansion é which should be stopped under any conditions for Israel’s sake é is a blot on all of them. But the settlements are not the core problem. The core problem right now is Yasser Arafat. (Thomas Friedman, NYT, May 22, 2001).
Friedman goes on to admit that Mr. Sharon “is trying to pummel Mr. Arafat into submission.” Now who exactly was Mr. Sharon pulverizing into submission in Qibya in 1953? While Arafat was an Engineering student in Cairo, dozens of innocent Palestinians were blown up in their homes by a unit led by Ariel Sharon on an official mission of vengeance. Thomas ‘Internet’ Friedman should go out and search for the information on the Web. Here is a hint for Friedman; try “New York Times, Qibya” as a search criteria on Yahoo or Google. He will get plenty of results, except that they are not from the pages of the New York Times. The results are from dozens of other publications that are challenging Sulzberger’s minions to stop covering up for the State Department documented war crimes of one Ariel Sharon.
Friedman and the New York Times can market any Israeli product, including war criminals. They know that Ariel Sharon was elected by an Israeli public that still fantasizes about making the Palestinians vanish into the night. The New York Times publishing company recently made a big splash revealing ex-Senator Bob Kerrey’s war-time atrocities. What makes Sharon such a sacred cow? Compare Sharon’s record at Qibya and Sabra and Shatila to the war time record of Waldheim or Kerrey. Than ponder why Sulzberger, Graham, Ted Turner and Rubert Murdoch have a gag order against any mention of Sharon’s well documented atrocities.
Friedman is partially correct; his half-truths are an essential component of effective propaganda. The settlements are not the problem. The belligerent military occupation is the problem. The New York Times and Thomas Friedman and Deborah Sontag and Safire and Sulzberger and the rest of the Israel Firsters are the problem. Sharon and his right wing ‘unity government’ are the problem. It is interesting how Friedman concedes a role to ‘American Jewish leaders’ that is as large as the role of the U.S. government. Nice to get that bit of business clarified. While he challenges ‘settlement expansion’, he does not explain how America came to subsidize thirty-three years of subsidized illegal settlement construction. In the same edition, another Times article refers to Gilo as a Jerusalem suburb, without even mentioning that it is ‘occupied’ or even ‘contested’. Just another day of ‘making facts on the ground’ at the New York Times, The Daily Ruse.
One of these days, hopefully soon, we will get an American government that refuses to tailor foreign policy to favor a powerful ethnic interest group. The House will be cleaned and the Senate will be swept of the kind of men who ‘play’ for the interests of a foreign government conducting a hostile military occupation of a native people. Men like Powell will be shoved aside in favor of more decent Americans who will liberate the State department and assure that America has as many friends in congress as Israel.
The Mitchell commission reported that “Despite their long history and close proximity, some Israelis and Palestinians seem not to appreciate fully each other’s concerns. Some Israelis appear not to comprehend the humiliation and frustration that Palestinians endure every day as a result of living with the continuing effects of occupation, sustained by the presence of Israeli military forces and settlements in their midst, or the determination of the Palestinians to achieve independence and self-determination.”
Although, the Sharon government has conditionally accepted the Mitchell Commission report, they did so without accepting the freeze on settlements. Which effectively means that they rejected the minimal requirements for a resumption of a ‘peace process’.
What follows are other findings from the Mitchell report that conflict with the seven months of slanted coverage at the New York Times:
In late September 2000, Israeli, Palestinian and other officials received reports that Knesset member (now Prime Minister) Ariel Sharon was planning a visit to the Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount in Jerusalem. Palestinian and U.S. officials urged then Prime Minister Ehud Barak to prohibit the visit.
For the first three months of the current uprising, most incidents did not involve Palestinian use of firearms and explosives. Altogether, nearly 500 people were killed and more than 10,000 injured over the past seven months; the overwhelming majority in both categories were Palestinian.
Israel’s characterization of the conflict, as “armed conflict short of war,” doesn’t adequately describe the variety of incidents reported since late September. By thus defining the conflict, the Israeli Defense Forces has suspended its policy of mandating investigations by the Department of Military Police Investigations whenever a Palestinian in the territories dies at the hands of an IDF soldier in an incident not involving terrorism.
While the Mitchell reports was fairly balanced on reporting the facts, it was under considerable political pressure not to assign blame or recommend solutions. The obvious solution is an immediate end to the Israeli occupation, but that would first require liberating the State Department. If the American officials were serious about peace, they would start by revisiting Sharon’s war crimes and disgracing him out of office. That would also have the great benefit of sobering up the Israeli public and neutralizing the ‘Foxman’ constituency. If the State Department can go after Waldheim and Haider, they certainly have enough damaging material to go after Sharon. Should Washington facilitate a campaign to dump Sharon, perhaps the Palestinians will see the need for a new leader who will have enough stature and intelligence to deliver a Palestinian state. The stale fruits of the Oslo ‘peace process’ should be enough to convince most Palestinians that Arafat is an incompetent leader who allowed the Israelis and Dennis Ross to make a fool of him for seven years. The Israelis need to stop electing war criminals and the Palestinians need a political process with which they can dump leaders who don’t deliver the goods. And America can always use a liberated State Department.
Mr. Ahmed Amr is Editor of NileMedia.com in Seattle and a regular contributor to Media Monitors Network (MMN)