Posted on October 20, 1997 in Washington Watch

The mood in the Arab world and among many in the Arab American community is bleak. There is confusion, alienation and , at times, anger. This is what I hear from my callers each week on my national call-in television program broadcast on ANA-TV in the U.S. The same can be heard listening to callers on other satellite call-in programs now broadcast throughout the Arab world or reading editorials in any Arab or Arab American newspaper. This mood is borne of a disturbing reality that is, itself, confusing.

Recent events defy logic:
· In Israel last week, Prime Minister Netanyahu was still attempting to justify the attempted assassination of a Hamas leader in Jordan as part of Israel’s “ongoing war against terror.”

Netanyahu has been attacked on a variety of grounds in the U.S. and Israeli press: the attack shouldn’t have taken place in Jordan, a “friendly” country; the attack was bungled; the timing of the attack was bad; it was wrong to have used Canadian passports; or in this politically sensitive time the attack was ill-advised. Nowhere have I seen the legality or morality of this terrorist operation called into question.

In fact, Israel has routinely used assassination and even “death squads” to eliminate Palestinians. Recently a press story appeared where an Israeli accused of murder based his defense on the argument that his mind had been affected by his training as a death squad assassin who participated in many “executions” in the West Bank.

Since none of the Palestinian victims of these assassination attempts, including Khaled Mish’al, had been tried and found guilty of any crime or received any “due process” before their execution was ordered, where, one might ask, is the “rule of law”? And how, to a disbelieving Arab audience, does one explain the disparate treatment meted out to other countries that use assassination and terror to accomplish their objectives?

· In this context it was confusing, at best, to note that Canada’s Ambassador to Israel, who was recalled to Ottawa in protest of Israel’s use of fake Canadian passports, was quietly returned to his post last week. Israel simply promised not to use Canadian passports again.

· Israel has now freed Sheikh Yassin and other Hamas activists. Presumably, dozens of others are soon to be released as part of a political accommodation resulting from the failed attack on Mish’al. Several questions now come to mind:
If the murder of Mish’al had succeeded, and the Mossad agents had escaped, would the Hamas leader and activists still have been freed?

Now that they have been freed, is the Palestinian Authority supposed to re-arrest them and continue to arrest other Hamas activists in order to break the infrastructure of the group?

On what legal or political grounds can anyone expect the P.A. to arrest and hold, with no “revolving door,” those whom Israel has freed?

· A short while ago Netanyahu announced 300 new settlements units at Effrat, and claimed that they are part of “natural expansion.” “Where else”, he asked, “are these people to go when their children marry?”

Last week Netanyahu ordered the demolition of two more Palestinian homes in the West Bank. The homes were being built adjacent to a Palestinian refugee camp and were intended for young men who were soon to marry. As they have done each time Palestinian homes have been destroyed, the Israelis once again sought to justify their action claiming that the targeted buildings had been built without permits. Since Palestinians cannot get permits to build, they are, presumably, not allowed “natural expansion.” “Where”, one might ask, “are those people to go when their children marry?”

· In the 1980s the U.S. Congress passed laws banning U.S. contact with the PLO and forbade the PLO from operating within the U.S.
After the 1993 signing on the White House Lawn, instead of rescinding these anti-PLO laws; Congress passed the Middle East Peace Facilitation Act (MEPFA) which simply provided the Administration with the right to waive the anti-PLO laws if they could certify that the PLO was living up to certain conditions stipulated by Congress.

This year Congress refused to renew MEPFA. The PLO office in Washington is now closed and the PLO is once again forbidden to operate in the U.S.
Pro-Israel groups have been pressuring Congress and the Administration to make sure that the old anti-PLO laws are once again enforced. As a result the PLO representative was not allowed to attend a recent meting called by the U.S. to prepare for the Doha conference.

Meanwhile Arab states continue to be pressured to participate with Israel in the Doha Summit. These summits, it might be recalled, came about only because the PLO signed an agreement with Israel opening the door to Israel’s involvement in multi-lateral efforts in the region. How does one justify this exclusion of the PLO in the U.S. while insisting on the inclusion of Israel in the Middle East?

This list of seemingly strange stories could be much longer. In the face of such a “reality” should there be any wonder why there is confusion, alienation and anger? When logic and rule of law are replaced by the arrogant use of power, confusion will reign. This is, of course, worrisome, because it is out of such an irrational environment that fanatic theories are created and irrational acts are justified.

For comments or information, contact jzogby@aaiusa.org

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