The Coastal Post - December, 1997

Another Viewpoint—The U.S. And The Mideast

By Karen Nakamura

Despite a deluge of news, most of the world has no voice in the media, even though they hold important perspectives. Present conditions in the Middle East make the case. On TV, C-SPAN, CNN and PBS have done a credible job of presenting diverse views. The big three networks still presented trite, one-sided perspectives, determined to beat the wardrums. The public rarely hears Arab viewpoints not processed through a filter of American politicos infusing their spin on history.

We decided to return to Middle East Marinites to gain insight and to make up for the Coastal Post's error in cutting off half of last month's article concerning Arab discrimination on radio talk shows. It got on the Post's internet site intact.

As stated last month, the majority of Marinites, and that includes most Jews, are supporters of the Oslo Accords and the Madrid Conference, the Middle East peace plan of Yezak Rabin and Yassar Arafat.

As we supporters are far too painfully aware, that process has all but been destroyed by the machinations of right-wring Israelis, led by Benjamin Netanyahu, and the equally right-wing Palestinian Hamas. No one can say children, both Israeli and Palestinian, are any safer since the Israeli right wing killed Rabin and took power and Hamas resumed boomings.

Significance is added when considering, as widely broadcast, that during the brief flowering of peace, the Likud Party funded Hamas schools and food distribution centers, by-passing the legitimate Palestinian government and weakening its power base.

Hamas says it's defending itself against wrongs already committed by Israel. No one can expect Palestinians to tolerate the constant barrage of indignities and attempts at genocide perpetrated by the right wing faction currently in control of the Israeli government. However, Israeli incitements and Hamas bombings play right into the machinations of both factions of fanatics. It's a win-win situation for them both. There's no room for democracy at the war table. Hands reaching out to build prosperity and security for their children are shot off by those who see life as a game of acquisition.

In Israel, things are so bad Labor has absolutely no say and the issue of who's a Jew has gotten to the crisis point. Orthodox Jews, demanding complete control, are attempting to deny claims of the more peace-loving Reform and Conservative Jews to their religion, and because they're so intertwined, their cherished heritage as Jews.

Radical settlers have been beaten Reform Jews to get them to move because they weren't pure enough. As a Reform member said, "I wish the rabbis would have informed Hitler we weren't Jews before he gassed half my family at Auschwitz."

Americans are ill-informed about long-festering issues that cause many in the Middle East to support the dangerous antics of Saddam Hussein. Americans delude themselves into thinking no one likes Saddam. An Iraqi woman put things in perspective, "There are lots of kids named Saddam all over the Arab world."

Let's examine Iraqi's claims. The lifting of sanctions is basic, despite Washington's attempts to make it seem otherwise. Yes, Saddam is probably making chemicals weapons and yes, the CIA has a m.o. of infiltrating fact-finding teams, commissions, embassies and the like.

Tariq Aziz, Deputy Prime Minister of Iraq, repeatedly stated during his recent visit that Iraqis feel they've complied with requirements, and sanctions should be lifted, that Iraqis are suffering.

Reports from Bagdad support this. Malnutrition is prevalent. The highly-respected former Attorney General Ramsey Clark found 10,000 children a month are dying from starvation and lack of necessities. That's over 300 a day.

Opponents say Saddam is jacking the UN around so he can make chemical weapons, that he has billions stashed away and can use it to feed his people. Maybe he does, maybe he doesn't. Maybe he's a mad man or the liberator of the Arab people. The point is, babies are dying while the only ones profiting are politicians, military and arms dealers.

The Post talked to Wafa Darwazeh, who had a program on KQED-FM for 10 years. Presently a financial investor, Darwazeh, a devote Muslim, immigrated from Palestine as a student and wasn't able to return because of the political climate. He's lived in Marin for 29 years. "Let's face it. The man on the street in the Arab world worships Saddam. He stood up to the United States. The U.S. says it's neutral, a moderating force. But it has a double standard. It buys influence with the Palestinians for $75 million, Jordan $225 million and Israel $3.5 billion. It's so pro-Israeli it can't be considered neutral."

It should be pointed out Egypt also gets $3 billion. The funding was appropriate during the Carter Administration as part of the peace treaty between Egypt and Israel. Mr. Darwazeh went on, "The US not only doesn't support democracy in the Middle East, it promotes dictatorships. It supports both Saudi Arabia and the Kuwaitis. America doesn't give a damn about democracy for Arabs. How can Arabs think the U.S. is trying to help them? A lot of countries don't believe the U.S. anymore. Look at France and Russia-they don't believe sanctions are necessary."

It's true, the U.S. couldn't get anyone except England and Micronesia to go along with nuking Saddam. We also have a reputation for slapping on sanctions and leaving them beyond any gain. Even Canada defies our sanctions on Cuba.

It's also true we promulgate confusion. An example is leaving Saddam in control because "he's the only leader capable of holding the area together," then imposing devastating sanctions until Saddam is out of office. Supporting liberation movements, then backing out at the last moment to leave them to the mercy of our mutual enemy. We did this to the Kurds and Shiites in Southern Iraq. For Saddam, with enemies like us, who needs friends?

Darwazeh says, "Along comes Saddam and suddenly the U.S. and Saudi Arabia have a defense treaty. Americans are all over Saudi Arabia protecting the Saudis claims to the oil. The trip is about oil. The Saudis have spent billions to keep a U.S. military presence. OPEC wants to raise prices another 60 cents or so. If sanctions are lifted, Iraq will flood the world market and drive prices down."

Oil stocks have been fluctuating in anticipation of Iraq's re-entry into the market. "With sanctions, Saudi Arabia's exports have almost doubled. It's the difference between five million barrels a day and eight million. If Iraq takes a piece of the market, the Saudis will have less. So they're pressuring the U.S. to keep sanctions in place. Anyone interfering with the Saudis' ability to make money gets killed by American soldiers.

"An example is what Clinton's doing right now by pressuring the UN to keep the sanctions on Iraq. There's collaboration between Saudi Arabia and the U.S. America is sharing the money, the profits. Tariq Aziz said the same thing on the Larry King show, November 13."

C-SPAN broadcast an excellent panel discussion on America's role in the peace process. Mohammad Chatah, the Lebanese ambassador to the UN, asked about Israeli-occupied southern Lebanon. UN Resolution 425 states Israel should remove its presence. Ambassador Chatah wondered why the US is so selective that it doesn't' seek to enforce this resolution, and instead concentrates on the Iraqis.

The Syrian ambassador wondered the same thing about the Golan Heights and the UN resolution for Israel to vacate. He scoffawed at those who think Syria is going to hand over its right to the land because Israel wants it. But he was willing to discuss the problem in an atmosphere of dignity and mutual respect.

One of the best signs in this whole mess was the recent gathering at the White House for the Rabin-Peres humanitarian award given President Clinton. The Oslo Accords were spoken of in many ways. Most importantly, the Arab position was represented, somewhat. The tragedy is that room at the table of democracy isn't automatic.