May 27, 2001
From: Neal AbuNab
To: Honorable John D. Dingell
Member of US Congress
Subject: Mideast Update
I was very pleased to receive your update letter of May 22, 2001 briefing us on all the good work that you are doing on behalf of the people of the 16th District and the best interest of the American people. We have been following the news and applauding your courage and initiative. Your stand on US aid to Lebanon has been instrumental in extending a gesture of goodwill to the people of south Lebanon who are just beginning to recover from a long and obtrusive Israeli occupation. You fought the good fight in the House, and while you lost by just 6 votes you gained a bipartisan coalition highly sensitized to true American interests in the Middle East. That is an historic victory. Your leadership is well regarded and very much appreciated.
The amount of actual aid, a mere 35 million US dollars, is symbolic when compared with the billions of unopposed US dollars that flow to Israel every year. But symbols mean a lot as they indicate intentions and point to a direction in a relationship. As much as the aid was helping mostly US institutions in Lebanon and thus serving US interests more than lending a hand to the Lebanese, it was still money being spent in an economy starved for foreign investment. The issue and the symbolism of the money being cut off will only give fuel to anti-American sentiments in the Middle East. It is being interpreted as a clear signal to the people of the Middle East that America will stay one-sided totally behind Israel no matter what Israel does.
When it comes to the Lebanese-Israeli conflict, the US has never understood or clearly translated its interests. It has mangled its own reputation and mutilated its diplomatic efforts in a dismal dither teetering between adopting the official Israeli position or retreating to total disengagement. The last amendment in the House was a perfect example of this behavior. The House was split over adopting the official Israeli position or retreating to total disengagement. The issue was not resolved as arguments supporting American interest drowned in the cesspool of domestic politicking. The same dithering behavior prevailed.
Your leadership on the issue gained tremendous grounds as you’d proven to be more in touch with the issue of American-Lebanese relations than any other member in the House. You are poised to become the authority on this subject. You are in a unique position to define this relationship not through the singular eye of Israel but through the autonomous all seeing eyes of the American people. We urge you to go forward, to pull ahead, to regroup all your assets, and to come back with an amendment that roars with clarity and vision. We urge you to take the lead this time and to ask for 350 million US dollars of aid to Lebanon. We urge you to fight for substance as well as symbols.
As always, we are here, behind you, supporting you like a brick wall. We are ready, willing and able to assist you in any means, and to help in clearly mapping out an American interest-based future relationship with Lebanon.
Your letter of April 19th to the President and your recent comments about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict have been well received in our community. Urging the President to reengage the Peace Process is a moral obligation that we owe to the people of the Middle East. The latest Intifada would not have taken place if the previous administration had not built up the hopes of everyone in the Middle East for an impending comprehensive settlement. The new administration, and particularly President Bush, have encouraged the forces of extremism to prevail in the Middle East. They have encouraged the Israelis to bomb the Palestinians to submission. The blood of the dead Palestinian children is on the hands of President Bush who has not uttered a word of condemnation of Israeli actions.
It is not a choice for the United States to disengage from the Middle East. We have been party to the conflict right from the start. We recognized the establishment of the State of Israel giving it Palestinian land, as if it were ours to give away, before any real military engagement between Zionists and Arabs had ever taken place. We turned a blind eye to the numerous massacres committed by Israel and its war heroes like Yitzhak Shamir and Ariel Sharon. We called Palestinian resistance "terrorism" and globalized the conflict so we could prevail over communism in the Middle East. We supplied Israel with weapons, manpower and moral support. Most of all we gave them the moral authority of this country’s reputation of fighting for freedom and human rights. We vilified the Palestinian struggle and hoped that in time they would be subdued, just like the American Indians, content to live in contained reservations.
The Peace Process aimed at naturalizing the foreign intrusive presence of Israel in an ocean of Arabs and Muslims. In a very short period of time, it succeeded in opening diplomatic channels for Israel with most Arab and Muslim nations around the globe. Before Israel gave up one inch of land in 1994 it had already cashed in the gains of the entire Peace Process. Its products were flowing from Morocco to Qatar and had free trade agreements with most nations of Europe and the United States. Its stock market sky rocketed and standards of living were pushed higher than most European nations. Israel had no incentive of giving up one inch of the land. It had already taken all the benefits that could ever be gotten from the Peace Process.
Why did the Peace Process fail? Because it was an American plan to protect the existence of Israel despite Israel’s excesses. Israel never had a true intention of Peace. Peace has to be built on recognizing the legitimate rights of people hung on a framework of justice and mutual respect. None of which has ever been declared by Israel. Israel only aspires to have a docile Palestinian population stripped of any means of defending itself or ever threatening its existence. That was the foundation of the failed Peace Process.
We have entered upon a new stage in this conflict where the United States pretends to sit by idle issuing reports that contain the people’s anger while in essence doing nothing to stop the atrocities. The Mitchell Report recognizes Israel’s right to killing innocent Palestinian children while at the same time calls for the cessation of all Israeli settlement activity. This is a struggle between an occupied people and their oppressive strong occupiers. It is a fight for freedom from the yoke of the agent of the strongest nation on earth, the United States of America. Israel can not exist without the life line support of America.
Whether it likes it or not, America is party to the conflict. Its interests are intertwined with every grain of sand in the Middle East. Its support and respect for a war criminal like Ariel Sharon will only serve to undermine its credibility. Humanity will never forget Sabra & Shatila and the massive destruction that was inflicted by this man upon the people of the Middle East over the past fifty years. He dwarfs Milosovicz in his crimes against humanity record. His entire life and career has been dedicated to ethnic cleansing and annihilation of the Palestinian existence. Yet he is welcomed by President Bush in the White House and given more respect and attention than any Middle Eastern head of state. Till today, not a senior administration official has met with the Palestinians.
Those who want to polish Ariel Sharon say that he was elected by his people. So was Adolph Hitler, who won by a landslide in 1928 and formed a national unity coalition government. A national collective hysteria of one society does not give it the moral authority to commit crimes against another helpless society. Ariel Sharon’s current actions have shortened the life span of Israel considerably and have evoked the deep sentiments of over a billion Muslims on this earth who will not stand by idle watching Israel dismantle Al-Haram Al-Shareef (Noble Sanctuary) in Jerusalem and attempt to build the Third Temple over the Dome of the Rock.
America stands today at a juncture between supporting freedom or opting to stay on the side of the oppressor. As the days and months unfold, Ariel Sharon is more likely to follow the same aggressive and expansionist path that he’d chosen as a path for his life. He is likely to initiate a war against Syria in order to score a military victory that reassures his people that the only way to survive in the Middle East is through military strength and overwhelming brazen force exercised against the people of the Middle East. Israel was created by force and thus its continued survival can only be guaranteed by the use of force. America is headed towards creating a new enemy for itself that extends from Pakistan to Morocco, encompassing over a billion people. American interests all over the world will become legitimate targets for Mujahideen who will flock to enlist in the struggle against the oppressor.
All these forces have been at play to varying degrees for the past four decades. The time has come, however, as translated by the actions of the unrestrained Ariel Sharon, to bring them to a head on collision. This scenario does not bode well for Arab & Muslim Americans. As America supports Israel to annihilate the Palestinians, our legitimate presence and opposition to this action will make us targets for certain groups. These groups will be allowed to embark on another campaign to imprison our people, harass them at airports, vilify them in the media, and cast doubt about their allegiance to their country.
The Bush administration must work to ensure our civil rights at home by passing the Secret Evidence Repeal Act, and begin to condemn Israel’s daily actions of Palestinian property destruction, collective imprisonment, assassinations, and escalation of warmongering behavior.
Thus far, President Bush has proven to be either apathetic or inept in comprehending this issue. His disengagement from the entire conflict and his inability to grasp the important details leads us to believe that we either need James Baker back at the helm or begin an intense and continuous dialogue with the current Secretary of State, Collin Powell.
We commend you for your efforts thus far. You have proven to be a true representative of your constituency and a very dedicated public servant. We urge you to intensify your work and to initiate legislative campaigns to protect our rights and to educate your colleagues on the profound impact of this issue on our lives here. We urge you to coalesce and to play a greater role in creating a continuous dialogue with the Secretary of State and the State Department. We stand with you ready to assist you in any manner you require. And most of all we look for your continued leadership and honorable stand.
With every good wish,
Member of the Arab American community in Michigan.