Pro-Israeli pundits, and government appointees don’t seem to get it, and neither do many Muslim commentators who claim that “Bush” caused the tide of anti-Americanism sweeping the globe. Many believe perhaps, that the conflict between Palestinians and Israelis, and the US and its detractors here and abroad is a popularity contest, one that will be resolved by a poll that says who Americans like more, Palestinians or Israelis, or even more puzzling, by who likes Americans more or less. A general dishonesty about the real reasons that the Palestine/Israel conflict simmers and then explodes in episodic violence is arguably what keeps this conflict going, and what keeps us all upset about US foreign policy. That the same ideologues continually dictate US foreign policy in the Middle East, is another reason. Regardless of who is elected to the White House, the same people pretty much oversee our Middle East policy, and so the American public is forever prevented ! from knowing and understanding the real issues surrounding the Israeli occupation of Palestine, or the reasons for targeting Iraq, and now perhaps even Iran. It is also why no one is on television discussing borders, or the right to return, or water, or any of the other real Middle East issues, including Israel’s nuclear weapon’s program.
Few people know who the appointed, and careered pro-Israeli insiders are. We don’t know much about their educational backgrounds, their political affiliations, their political attitudes and opinions, we don’t even know if they are all American citizens, or even their names. They can access our files, they know whether we are high school gradates, or college graduates, married or unmarried, who and where our children are, etc., yet we are not able to know very much about them. It is a well known fact that at least one very well respected former diplomat was not an American citizen when he first became involved in shaping US foreign policy in the Middle East from the inside, yet he quickly became American when it was necessary for him to drape himself in the flag, and later be appointed a US Ambassador to one of the allied countries. His appointment to that post was necessary so that he could insure that the policy he and his friends had crafted would be carri! ed out as they had envisioned and dictated it. Few Americans even know what the policy was, who the framers were, or how many US taxpayer dollars were spent over his tenure in salaries, benefits and perks, doled out to these people. Neither do we know how many, or what people had to be hurt or destroyed to keep everyone at a distance as the policy played out, or how much taxpayer money was actually spent to implement the policy.
It has cost the United States billions over the years to prevent a solution to the Palestine/ Israel conflict, and to keep up the heat on Iraq until Saddam was ousted. Even now, with our President on record as firmly committed to a two state solution, the appointees and their cronies seem to be working to undermine whatever progress the President might make on the roadmap to peace. Their obsession with Hamas, and attempts to make support for the roadmap a statement of either support or hatred of Hamas, appears to be an attempt to distract us from the real issue, which is the occupation. With most of the media more than willing to play along, they attempt to shape our perceptions not only of the conflict, but also to polarize our society between pro-Palestinian and pro-Israeli, as though this is a game of some sort, and that the lives of millions of Palestinians and Israelis are not important enough for us to understand why there should be peace in spite of everything else. Pretty much the same way some within the Muslim camp want to polarize the Muslim community, anti or pro Bush, and split us up between Sunni and Shia. It has not escaped many observers, that as the media trumps up its rhetoric against the Bush administration about WMD, Iran is being targeted because of its nuclear program, and the call has gone out for a nuclear free Middle East, but no one has said anything about Israel’s nuclear program. Perhaps if the US attacks Iran, pro Saddam loyalists among US Muslims, and the Sunni powers in the Middle East will feel that the US has a balanced policy. Unlike other communities who applaud diversity in thinking and ideas, and who recognize pluralism not only as an intellectual pursuit, but a reality of modern life, too many of our so-called Muslim leaders cannot express happiness that a democracy might be established in Iraq, where a majority will rule, simply because the majority might be Shia. Why can’t Muslims be happy about finding mass graves, testimony to the brutality of the Iraq regime, and their mass killings of Shia and Kurds in Iraq. Why are we disappointed if there are no WMD? The President said that he believed Iraq had a weapons program and that he would invest US troops to find out, and if he found them, they would be destroyed. No one has found the weapons, but we found something far more important. People. Dead, massacred, in the thousands. Murdered during the Clinton administration, just like the Bosnians and the Kosovars and Albanians.
If the past is a reliable predictor of the future, certain appointees and insiders supported by their network of social and political organizations and their billions of dollars, will perhaps work very hard to influence the outcome of this upcoming election, more so than any in the past. It was rumored that those who oppose the roadmap said that Bush’s presidency wouldn’t last long enough for the roadmap to be implemented so Sharon should relax. Their pick for President will not be a man of peace. They will prefer either a man or woman who is more interested in power than peace. Unfortunately, the reality is that this crew can’t actually deliver anything if American people vote, even though over the years they have either fooled, or frightened enough people into kowtowing to their demands. So much so that ingratiating ones self to this group has become somewhat of a tradition in Washington, and perhaps now also among Muslims in and outside of Washington. The politicians and pundits grovel, never stopping to ask how promises to deliver elections can be kept, and our system of Republican democracy survive.
Many blame President Bush for the growing anti-Americanism in the world. We should know better. President’s do not craft foreign policies based upon their personal sentiments, even though they can bring their special perspectives to bear, which Bush did with the roadmap to peace. President Bush is the first modern US president since Franklin Roosevelt to recognize the humanity of Palestinians and to recognize the injustices they have suffered, and to attempt, in his way to change their plight without polarizing his own people, and country over these foreign policy issues. Roosevelt counseled the US to not get involved in the Palestine/Israel conflict, noting that Israel’s objectives could only be accomplished by a tremendous amount of violence against the Palestinians, and Roosevelt wanted no part of it, and neither did Winston Churchill. Bush also tried to offer encouragement to both sides to make peace, while keeping a safe distance from this conflict, until Middle East leaders demanded that the US get intimately involved again. As a result of that involvement, we have a chance for a peace process that will perhaps end the occupation, and hopefully the violence between Palestinians and Israelis, beginning hopefully with an Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and Bethlehem as a start. How does that compare with Clinton and Albright’s vision for Palestine and Israel?
This same group of people launched an attack on Iraq while Clinton was in bed sleeping, and President Clinton claimed he didn’t even know that a US attack had been launched until it was over the next day. Count that as the beginning of the war on Iraq. United State’s policy on the Middle East and Africa is crafted by appointees, and employees who stay, and it was the Bush administration, and Bush supporters who first brought this to the attention of the American public, along with complaints that the Democrats would not allow a complete transition of authority after President Bush’s election, by blocking Bush appointments, the same way they are filibustering Bush’s judicial nominees.
The biggest leap in anti-American sentiment in the Muslim world occurred during the Clinton years, even though it has progressed as no doubt predicted by crafters of the US Middle East policy, many of whom are perhaps attempting to spoil US friendships with Arab and other Muslim countries, and Muslim people’s. We should not help them. This now prevalent anti-American sentiment began, arguably in response to Clinton’s statement of “unconditional support” for Israel, his public yamaka wearing, and statements made by his Secretary of State that deviated from the United State’s past position on illegal Israeli settlements. It was during the Clinton administration that Islamism was branded “terrorism” and that the war against “terrorism” began. It began, according to the media reporting at the time, against Palestinians when Sharon marched to al-Aqsa under protection of 1000 Israeli soldiers, and the outbreak of the current intifada. This, while Al-! Qadea was pretty much ignored. It was the Clinton administration that sought to justify and protect illegal settlement building in the territories, saying that these facts on the ground would not be easily dismantled, or some other term implying their permanence. No doubt the war in Iraq, and the war against terror has increased anger and resentment in the Muslim world over the short term, but over the long term, most Muslims will see that President Bush, who has been President for only 21/2 years is not the cause of anti-Americanism, nor the formulator of the policies that have led to this widely held sentiment, and that he more so than any recent US President has sought to balance US policy, as he promised in the 2000 campaign.
As we prepare for the upcoming election season, I guess that we can expect all types of opinions and attitudes to surface, and that’s a good thing. As Muslims we should be particularly eager to encourage and embrace freedom, and to voice our opinions, but perhaps we should also seek to avoid the traditional sort of political bantering that is very divisive, and keep to the truth, while avoiding polarizing our own community, or fomenting hate in our overseas communities, over issues that do not serve our long term interests as a community very interested in enjoying its freedoms, but also a community that will not allow US politics to diminish our Islamic values, and commitment to brotherhood and balance, and to the criteria for judgment revealed in the Qur’an that cautions us to be fair. No doubt, we must continue to impress upon Bush that changes in US foreign are needed if the US is to garner the admiration and respect required of any successful leader. We can make the case without pointing fingers, or laying blame, since until now, most of us don’t actually know who is really to blame for the historic failures in our foreign policy.
The writer is the Founder and President of the National Association of Muslim American Women and host a weekly internet radio program at IBN.Net, named “A Civilizational Dialogue.” (1-2 PM each Wednesday). The author is also head of the International Assoc. for Muslim Women and Children, an accredited NGO with the UN Division on the Rights of the Palestinians.