Middle East Volatility Increasing
By Karen Nakamura

So much has been happening in the Middle East, it's hard to keep track.

The Arab-American community is finding its voice and being heard. That babies are dying from sanctions in Iraq is now an established fact. When this paper ran an article on this in the June issue, few Americans were aware of the problem. Thanks to the united efforts of the left wing and its coalition with Arab-Americans and the Arab world in general, wrongs are being acknowledged.

The right-leaning CNN and ABC news staffs actually included those children's suffering as a sub-story to the recent bombing. The overly righteous attitude of the United States, to a lesser degree, is being seen as self-serving. Most important, Palestinians are being given more sympathetic coverage as Americans are exposed to the logical rightness of their cause.

It has become clearly evident the Israeli right-wing coalition has no intention of giving up its occupation of the West Bank. Despite good faith efforts on the part of the Palestinians, such as their parliament's vote to rescind its disavowal of Israel's right to exist, the Israeli government refuses to give an inch and abide by its promises to withdraw from the West Bank and Lebanon.

Americans have also come to realize that same right wing has no intention of giving other Jews legitimacy despite the ruling to allow Conservative and Reform groups on the newly-formed conversion committee.

What isn't being looked into is the political instability of the entire area. Within the next two years, it's very possible governments will be falling everywhere.

It's obvious to most that Yasser Arafat is very sick. He bravely keeps on keeping on, but even he has said he doesn't think he'll last more than two years. However, despite problems inherent in his reported tight-fisted control, he is moving the people towards economic and democratic stability. The Palestinians are closer and better equipped to handle the coming state of Palestine than they were five years ago.

However, he is very ill and the trick will be getting excellent people in there to take over when he steps down. Those people are coming forward in droves and should be in place when the time comes. The physical aspects of nationhood are also moving forward with the opening of the Gaza Airport, repaving of roads, rebuilding of the economy and the increasing, albeit slowly, voting power of the Palestinian Parliament

Netanyahu's recent vote of no-confidence changes the field considerably and only points out the volatility of the area. As political infighting rages, the dates weren't clear about the new elections at this paper's deadline, but rumors were circulating about March or April with Netanyahu trying to push it as close to May as possible. That's close to the Oslo Accords' May deadline for Palestinian statehood.

Will Labor be able to regain control? This could well lead to peace between the two nations and is supported by 80 percent of the Israeli people. In the meantime, the liberal Labor Party has been spending their exile from decision-making by building coalitions with Israeli/Palestinian children's groups and non-profit, mutually-respecting organizations. Rabbi Leonard Beerman of the Leo Baeck Temple in Los Angeles said on CNN that "The way of peace...is the Jewish way," and the unwarranted attack on Iraq was a "form of moral bankruptcy." He also spoke of his sorrow at knowing children are suffering through the sanctions.

The fear is Palestinians will give in to hopelessness and end up hating any Israeli, peaceful or not. That they have been able to hold back at all is a wonder.

Jordan will soon undergo a change. King Hussein is terminally ill with cancer and hasn't conducted business, except for the Wye Accords, for nearly a year. His son is in line to take over and will if tradition remains. His son is young, however, and his mother, Queen Noir, may not be acceptable to rule in his place because of her American birth. What it will do is bring power players to the fore. Jordan's calming influence in the region could well disappear.

Prime Minister Khatomi of Iran is going through his own problems as he moves Iran into the world community with revolutionaries nipping at his heels. In the past year, there have been serious riffs between the Iranians and the Taliban government of Afghanistan. This fall, several Iranian diplomats were kidnapped and slaughtered during a visit to Afghanistan. There's also been the murder of an Iranian reporter, and student demonstrations.

Afghanistan, for its part, is adding to the instability of the area as it pushes and goads its neighbors to the north and west. There was a report in American papers that Osama Bin Laden is buying up opium to convert into heroin. The other side of this is suspicion that Bin Laden, as a reported ex-CIA operative, may be engaged in a Contra-style drug smuggling scheme.

Pakistan has its own problems as secular democracy is being rapidly replaced with religion-based government structures. It's reported to be a given in Pakistan that the U.S. is backing the Taliban in Afghanistan and forcing Pakistan to accept the infringement of religion into its government.

With right-wing governments in place in India and Pakistan, the outlook for peace in the region is not good, despite recent attempts to negotiate settlements to disputes which caused nuclear testing in both countries.

America's leadership is at question. Our decision to be two-faced with Israel's refusal to comply with United Nations resolutions and Oslo/Wye accords while bombing Iraq does not bode well for American interests.