Bulletin #22

From: Francis Feeley <Francis.Feeley@u-grenoble3.fr>

5 MAY 2002





                         The "Do More" Chorus in Washington
                                         by Charles D. Smith

(Charles D. Smith, professor of Middle East history at the University of Arizona, is author of Palestine and the Arab-Israeli Conflict, now in its fourth edition.)

Secretary of State Colin Powell arrived in Israel April 11 calling on Prime
Minister Ariel Sharon to immediately withdraw Israeli troops from the West
Bank. As of April 15, Sharon remains defiant, insisting that his troops must
stay until full victory has been achieved. In Washington, Press Secretary
Ari Fleischer remarked that Palestinian Authority (PA) head Yasser Arafat
had to make greater efforts to stop Palestinian terrorism.

This minuet, played out in the midst of the now familiar carnage occurring
in the West Bank as well as in Israel, recalled George W. Bush's remarks on
March 31, as he lounged outside his office/trailer in Texas. He declared
once more that Arafat "had to do more" to stop terrorism if he was to have
any credibility with the US with respect to the peace process. At that
moment, Arafat was besieged by Israeli troops who had occupied all but one
floor of his compound. The image of Bush asserting this platitude, already
offered robot-like by National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice for several
months, established an aura of farce one would expect on "Saturday Night
Live," not in pronouncements emanating from the president of the United

As Bush spoke the Israeli retaliation for the Passover suicide bombings in
Netanya that killed at least 26 Israelis was in full swing. This bombing had
given Sharon what he had been looking for -- the justification to try to
destroy the PA and its infrastructure, along with its ties to the US.
Sharon's purpose should have been clear to administration officials. He has
no intention of entering real peace talks, but seeks further Israeli
expansion in the West Bank to suit his settler constituency. But Bush's
choice of words indicated that he identified with the Israeli prime
minister. Sharon, said Bush, had a right to defend his "homeland" against
terror, a significant usage of the terminology Bush saves for his speeches
to the nation.

Yet Sharon's demonization of Arafat as a terrorist, fully qualifying him for
removal, was not matched by White House enthusiasm. Washington's mantra was
that Arafat was responsible for the terrorist attacks because he could stop
them but did not -- he could "do more." But he was not deemed a terrorist
because Washington would not deem him "irrelevant" as did Sharon. Arafat
appeared to be essential to the peace process, and is considered the leader
of the Palestinians elsewhere in the world.

The incoherence of these White House statements was matched if not outdone
by administration responses to Israel's March-April 2002 invasion of the
West Bank. Initial endorsement of the attack shifted to muted criticism as
reports mounted of destruction and deaths that have led three Israeli peace
organizations to refer to "war crimes" by Israeli forces. When Powell was
ordered to the region, following Bush's statement that he "expected" Sharon
to order an Israeli withdrawal, the Israeli press reported that Israeli
officials did not believe that Bush and company required an immediate
response. US officials had told Israeli counterparts that Israel had a
window of opportunity at least until Powell's arrival in Israel.

The Israeli interpretation seems correct. When Bush barked that he had meant
an immediate withdrawal, Condoleezza Rice followed up by explaining that
"now" did not mean "right away." Obviously an "orderly" withdrawal would
take several days. As for Powell, he appeared to be taking the "slow boat to
Tel Aviv," stopping first in Morocco, then in Egypt and finally going to
Spain and Jordan before heading for Israel. According to reports, Powell's
meandering excursion was planned so as to give Israeli troops more time to
pursue objectives before withdrawing to what are now being called "security
zones" within the West Bank. This itself is a major shift in Israeli
strategy whose political implications for any renewed activity by a smashed
PA remain to be seen.

What then is Washington's "policy" toward Arafat and the Palestinians? Is
there any consistency other than apparent full sympathy for Ariel Sharon, a
blind eye to further Israeli settlement expansion and incantations
condemning Arafat for any terrorist assault on Israel? Has recent American
support for UN Security Council resolutions backing the idea of a
Palestinian state and calling for Israeli withdrawal from
Palestinian-controlled areas demonstrated commitment? Or did it constitute a
transparent tactic designed to seek broader Arab backing for an assault on
Iraq, drawing disbelief rather than applause? Perhaps Bush, and possibly
Rice, are so out of their depths that they can be buffeted by the strongest
wind encountered, usually blown by Pentagon hawks closely linked to Israeli

Bush officials claim that excessive US diplomatic activity under President
Bill Clinton caused the violence which led to Sharon's electoral victory.
Former Prime Minister Ehud Barak lost because of his diplomatic concessions,
which signified Israeli weakness. The administration apparently agreed with
Sharon, who "formed a unity government, arguing that with national unity
Israel could prevail in even the most violent guerrilla contest...[I]n this
environment, the Bush administration concluded that circumstances were not
ripe for high-level efforts to restart the peace negotiations, and that the
most urgent task was to prevent a regional war while fighting terrorism and
weapons proliferation." So stated Robert Satloff of the Washington Institute
for Near East Policy, who co-chaired the 52-member group of "experts" and
members of Congress that recommended this approach, in the Los Angeles Times
April 3.

Behind this verbal smokescreen was the real recommendation -- that Sharon be
given a free hand to crush the Palestinian uprising, so long as he did not
incite a regional war that would hinder the administration's pursuit of
other priorities. Indeed Satloff congratulates himself and his comrades
because "regional war has been averted."

For the Bush administration, however, much broader goals beckoned. Included
in them were preparations for the United States to assert itself as the
truly dominant power in the world, assuming "imperial" responsibilities.
These ideas are not new, as Nicholas Lehman points out in the April 1 New
Yorker. First articulated in policy proposals by Wolfowitz to outgoing
Defense Secretary Dick Cheney in 1992, they could now be implemented with
the arrival of Cheney and his long-time associate Rumsfeld, along with
fellow hawks from the Reagan and Bush administrations. The most prominent of
these are Paul Wolfowitz and Douglas Feith, who were appointed to major
positions in the Pentagon under Rumsfeld.

To be sure, the US, though intending to be aggressive in its assertion of
its power, would always enforce its will in a responsible manner. As Rice
explained to Lehman, the US had an "imperial" vision but it was not
"imperialist." The distinction is not clear, but Rice's words suggested a
stab at an imperialist vision of foreign policy equivalent to Bush's
prescription of compassionate conservatism for American society.

There exists today an informal coalition of right-wing Americans and Likud
supporters, abetted by Christian conservatives advocating antagonism toward
Islam and full support for Israel. Extensive websites, such as those of the
Weekly Standard and the National Review, promulgate this message, often in
radical tones.

Wolfowitz and Feith are closely associated with right-wing Israeli circles.
Feith appears to assume the right to act independently of his governmental
affiliation. He was identified recently by the Israeli daily Haaretz as
closely linked to right-wing settler groups in the West Bank, and as a
constant opponent of the Oslo accords. According to Haaretz, Feith
approached the government of Israel in March as a private citizen -- not as
a government official -- to advise them to seek cancellation of US military
aid. He was also due in Israel in late April to meet with his Israeli
counterparts in his official guise. Richard Perle, who claims to have
arranged Feith's hiring, established a Defense Policy Group independent of
but linked to the Pentagon. Perle was identified by Seymour Hersh, in his
1979 biography of Henry Kissinger, as someone whom Kissinger discovered to
have spied for Israel while a National Security Council staffer. Perle was
not discharged.

Two organizations with leading figures of the pro-Israel coalition on their
advisory boards are the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs
(JINSA) and the US Committee for a Free Lebanon. JINSA backs a strong US
presence in the world, bolstered in the Middle East by a full alliance with
Israel. A recent e-mail letter calls for boycott of any ties to Arab oil
states, especially Saudi Arabia. Perle is on the advisory board, as is
Cheney, though the latter is listed as on leave while vice president. The
Committee for a Free Lebanon, meaning free of Syrian occupation, is backed
by Lebanese close to the Cedars of Lebanon movement identified with Bashir
Gemayel and his alliance with Menachem Begin and Sharon in 1982. Strong
support for Israel is part of the committee's mission. Included in its
Golden Circle are Feith, Sen. Jesse Helms, Jeanne Kirkpatrick, Congressman
Tom Lantos (D-CA), Perle and scholar Daniel Pipes. In a recent Jerusalem
Post column, Pipes called for Sharon's "total victory" over the
Palestinians. Among the committee's recommended readings for January was a
call by Rush Limbaugh for unleashing Sharon against the Palestinians.

Finally, the rapidly growing Christian evangelical movement backs Israeli
takeover of the West Bank, believing that Jews have "a divine deed" to the
land. Israel actively encourages evangelical efforts in Congress and
elsewhere. These efforts often have a specifically anti-Muslim message,
whether openly pushed by Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell, or couched in
language suggesting that texts in American schools are trying to convert
Christian children to Islam. This charge, made by Pipes in the Jerusalem
Post, has been taken up by the conservative Hudson Institute. Pipes and
others omit the fact that instruction in Islam designed for seventh-graders
is similar to that designed to teach other religions such as Buddhism. The
omission suggests that Islam is being privileged in a way aimed at

These groups share a common interest in a total Israeli victory in the
Occupied Territories. When Bush reactivated Gen. Anthony Zinni's ceasefire
mission, criticism from the right mounted. William Bennett argued in the
April 3 Los Angeles Times that the US should let the Israelis and
Palestinians "fight it out," advice not far removed from Limbaugh's call or
Pipes's idea of total victory.

Since September 11, Israel's victory is linked with total victory for the US
in its war on terrorism. Former Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu
stressed this theme when he addressed the Senate on April 10, arguing that
otherwise the US would be encouraging terrorist attacks on itself. The
opposite is far more likely. By siding so openly with Israel to block any
chance of Palestinian self-determination, with the concomitant result of
further Israeli settlement expansion, the US cannot be believed when it
claims to support a Palestinian state. This image of duplicity in
Washington's approach to the issue seems to fulfill the propaganda themes
outlined in Osama bin Laden's recruiting video.

Administration officials appear fully to have bought the pro-Israel lobby's
line when the Israelis seized the Karine A in early January 2002. The ship,
with a Palestinian captain and crew, carried 50 tons of weapons and
munitions, including Katyusha rockets and launchers.

Israel has claimed that the weapons came from Iran and were destined for the
PA -- supposedly proving a direct link between Arafat and Bush's "axis of
evil." Intended to further discredit Arafat, this propaganda blitz also
sought to undermine a rapprochement between Washington and Tehran that had
begun to blossom following the September 11 attacks. Closer relations
between Iran and the US threatened Israeli control of American policy and
the "dual containment" designed for Iraq and Iran. (It is worth noting that
although Israel has lobbied heavily to block American trade with Iran, as
part of "dual containment," the Jerusalem Post reported that Israel has
conducted $100 million of trade annually with Iran throughout the 1990s via
companies based in Europe.)

Pro-Israel lobbyists exploited Arafat's alleged ties with the weapons ship.
For Robert Satloff, writing in the National Intereest, the Karine A affair
produced "analytical consensus regarding Arafat's unsavory character, his
untrustworthiness, his collusion with Iran and his lack of fitness to serve
as a partner for peace." Washington should, said Satloff, suspend ties with
Arafat and his senior aides, and seek a change in the PA leadership.
Militarily, the US should shift from its original "conflict management"
approach, giving Sharon free rein, to a "full 'alliance-based' relationship
with Israel in recognition of the threat posed to a US ally by Palestinian
collusion with an outside power [Iran]." This recommendation jibes with that
issued by JINSA in early April. The identification of Arafat with Iran as
enemies of the US and Israel in their joint war on terrorism, which demands
"total victory" for both, is thus established.

Less expected was the apparent willingness of the New York Times to mislead
the public on the Karine A. On March 24, the lengthy front-page article
appeared under the headline: "A Secret Iran-Arafat Connection Is Seen as
Fueling the Mideast Fire." The first sentence sustained the title charge,
asserting that "American and Israeli intelligence officials have concluded
that Yasser Arafat has forged a new alliance with Iran that involves Iranian
shipments of heavy weapons and millions of dollars to Palestinian groups
that are waging guerilla war against Israel." The Karine A incident proved
these assertions according to authors Douglas Frantz and James Risen.

Only toward the very end of the article do the authors admit that the
Israelis themselves could not tie the Karine A shipment directly to Arafat:
the case was "circumstantial." Moreover, an assertion by unnamed "American
officials" that Arafat sent close aides to meet Iranians in Moscow last
April to clinch the arms deal was denied the next day by Cheney and Rice,
who questioned whether such a meeting ever occurred. This disclaimer did not
appear in the Times, leaving the misleading impressions of the original
piece unchallenged in readers' minds.

The facts of the case appear to be these: the Karine A arms did originate
rom an island off the Iranian coast. The Lebanese group Hizballah was
involved; the shipment was possibly authorized by radical elements in the
Iranian government for Hizballah, not the PA, despite Israeli insistence to
the contrary. The 50-ton cargo was to be placed in submersible rafts and
anchored off the Gaza coast for Palestinian fishing boats to retrieve. Given
extensive Israeli surveillance of the Gaza coast and the range permitted for
fishing, Palestinian ability to recover this cargo seems highly unlikely.

Despite these problems with evidence, the propaganda blitz linking the ship
to Arafat worked and, according to some reports, clinched the case for
Bush's personal distrust of and antipathy toward Arafat. When Bush announced
on April 4 that he was sending Powell to the region, he referred to Iran's
"arms shipments and support for terror."

Cheney's tour of the Middle East in March clearly showed how much
Washington's search for Arab backing, however tacit, for its desired assault
on Iraq depends on the US approach to the Palestinian issue. But the
Palestinian "diversion" will not deter the hard-liners inside and outside
the administration. Saddam Hussein is the Bush administration's next target,
whether with allied support or going it alone. Whether the Arabs openly fall
into line or not, as Satloff wrote in the National Interest, they will
"accommodate themselves" to a fait accompli. But first, in this view, the US
must force a transition to a new Palestinian leadership, one able to control
the Palestinians but willing to obey Israel's directives.

The arrogance behind these assumptions verifies the imperial underpinnings
to Bush administration policy, appearing to identify its war on terrorism
with Israel's war against the Palestinians. One imposes one's power with the
preconception that order will result: as America will act in the wider
world, so Israel will act in the territories. What goes unrecognized behind
this hubris is the fact that the Bush administration's main priority,
gaining support for and conducting the war on terrorism, has been sabotaged
by administration backing for Sharon's war on the Palestinians. A Washington
Post headline April 11 states that some administration officials are
beginning to wonder if Sharon really is "a partner for peace." What a

The idea that massive Israeli force will compel Arabs to sue for peace has
never worked but is still operative. The blatant hypocrisy of the
administration stance blinds it to the fact that the Palestinian issue is at
the heart of Arab and Islamic concerns, whatever Israel and its allies in
the US want Washington to think.

Insincere efforts to resolve this crisis, eschewing direct intervention with
monitors to ensure separation with full Israeli military withdrawal, will
only exacerbate matters. As it is, the US approach in the past 15 months has
isolated it to the point where British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Bush's
only real ally, can state after returning from Texas that "it's hard to
overstate the dangers or the potential for this conflict to impact far
beyond the region itself. I don't think people yet realize how much worse it
could get."

Blair is right. It can get much worse, with American military personnel
abroad targeted for attacks in retaliation for US support for Israeli
repression and undermining of the peace process. If the US is sincere in
seeking a viable Palestinian state with Israeli withdrawal from the
territories, the administration must say so and act upon it. Otherwise, the
combination of backing for Israel with calls for Palestinians only to "do
more," with no apparent concern for the impact of this stance beyond Israel
and Congress, will endanger Americans as well as American interests for the
foreseeable future.

Fareed Mohamedi and Yahya Sadowski outline the worldview of the Bush foreign
policy team in their article, "The Decline (But Not Fall) of US Hegemony in
the Middle East," in Middle East Report 220 (Fall 2001).

The summer issue of Middle East Report (MER 223) will focus exclusively on
Israel's war against the Palestinians, with a special section on the
Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the US arena.

Order individual copies or subscribe to Middle East Report online by
lisiting the MERIP home page:

                Israel Radio defines Arabic Newspeak
                                By Ori Nir

 Journalists in the Arabic language department of Israel Radio must not use
 the word "victim" when referring to Palestinian civilians killed in the
 intifada, according to guidelines distributed a week ago to editors and
 journalists at Reshet Daled, the Arabic station of Israel Radio. Instead
 of "victim" broadcasters should say "the dead"(katla).

 The guidelines include other instructions on the use of certain

 "Quotations of Palestinians or Arabs should not be preceded by the word
 `akkada'" which means "underscored." This, says the guide, might "give the
 impression that you support or identify with the quote."

 The word "version" should not be used to describe statements by "official
 Israeli spokespersons" - like the Israeli Defense Forces -
 "because this gives the impression you are casting doubt on the
 statement." But it does add "there is no restriction on using the word
 when referring to the Palestinian side."

 l When an official Israeli spokesman, such as the IDF spokesman, denies
 "lies and slander like the massacre in Jenin, it is not sufficient to use
 the expression `nafa' [denied] as has been done in some broadcasts."
 Instead, journalists must use verbs that make clear the allegations are a
 lie, and reiterate this by adding at the end: "The spokesman underscored
 that these slanderous allegations are entirely false and baseless."

 When a Knesset member contradicts or refutes statements by the prime
 minister "never use expressions such as `refuted' or `contradicted,' but
 say instead: `The Knesset member objected, or expressed his objections to,
 the prime minister's statement."

 The word "assassination" should not be used in referring to
 Israel's assassinations of Palestinian activists. Instead the word
"killing" (katal in Arabic) should be used for those actions which the IDF
 itself calls "targeted assassinations."

Journalists in the Arabic news department say that since the
intifada began in the territories a year and a half ago, there has been
considerable management interference in broadcasting. Several employees
argue that this harms the reputation for reliability and integrity which
the station has among its Arab Israeli listeners and in the Arab world.
Edmond Skhayyek, the head of the department, said the guidelines have yet
to be approved and he has not taken a position on the directives. He said
they had not yet been distributed in the department, but employees denied