George S. Hishmeh
Gulf News
October 4, 2007 - 2:51pm

It should be stressed, time and again, that the galloping anti-American feeling in the Middle East, if not elsewhere, stems not from the attitude towards the American people or their culture but the short-sighted policies of most US administrations in recent decades towards that region.

Furthermore, the actions of a few Americans, whether academicians or media representatives, be they reporters or commentators, that are often mediocre, self-serving or shallow add oil to the fire.

Take two recent examples. The case of the Columbia University President, Lee Bollinger, whose shameful behaviour last week in hurling insults and rebuke at his guest of honour, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has hurt the American image world-wide. Bollinger, who reportedly was fearful of his Jewish donors, deserved all the scorn he has received because of his inelegant remarks and lack of understanding of the region's culture. If all this seems incomprehensible to the Columbia University president he ought to ask his Mideast specialists or his staff about the Arabic saying which says that if one has murdered someone from your family and then comes to your house, you should welcome him.

In turn, the Iranian leader would have fared much better had he been well prepared for this golden opportunity to explain his policies directly to the American people - a chance that may not be repeated again! Neither Bollinger nor Ahmadinejad have won new friends as a result of their shocking face-to-face encounter.

Likewise Leslie Gelb, president emeritus of the prestigious Council on Foreign Affairs, fell short in his slanted review in The New York Times of The Israeli Lobby and US Foreign Policy, authored by John J. Mearsheimer and Stephen M. Walt, respected scholars at the University of Chicago and Harvard University respectively. The Times must have felt embarrassed by Gelb's one-sided analysis, titled "Dual Loyalties", so in order to appear fair-minded it carried on its website an excerpt from the book but it failed to announce its action.

Gelb, born into a Jewish family, had astonishingly alternated his previous senior State and Defence Departments positions (where he directed the infamous Pentagon Papers on the Vietnam War) with his long career at the Times.

Nowhere in his 3,000-word review did Gelb once criticise Israeli policy, nor take issue with the US stance vis-a-vis the Arab-Israeli conflict. The space allotted to me in this column does not allow me to detail his outrageous and biased views. For example, he found the authors of being "mostly wrong, as well as dangerously misleading" because they believe "the lobby has made United States policy so lopsidedly pro-Israel that it fuels Islamist terrorism against the United States, fosters the spread of nuclear weapons in Arab states and puts at added risk America's critical energy supplies from the Arabian Gulf."

However, he acknowledged that former president Jimmy Carter made similar points, "if rather hotly and self-righteously", in his recent book, 'Palestine Peace Not Apartheid. The two professors, as well as Carter and their "phalanx of backers at universities and research institutes", Gelb agrees are raising the "very same fundamental, gut-check issues about American security and who controls policy that many Middle East experts talk about mostly in private". He takes issue with "the way they make their arguments, by their puzzlingly shoddy scholarship, by what they emphasise and de-emphasise, by what they leave out and by writing on this sensitive topic without doing extensive interviews with the lobbyists and the lobbied."

Yet in the same breath, Gelb admits that the Israeli lobby has made "America's longstanding $3 billion annual aid programme to Israel untouchable and indiscussible" and equates the sale of "first-rate modern weapons" to Arab states, claiming that "these arms have represented genuine security risks to Israel". To cite but one example, and one would think that Gelb would know better, that Saudi Arabia is not allowed to place any of these weapons in its northwestern regions which is closest to Israel.

Israeli lobby

Without batting an eye, Gelb concedes that the Israeli lobby "also gives hives and hesitation to any administration thinking about criticising Israel publicly". But, he wants us all to believe that "unhesitatingly and without being lobbied, American presidents don't want to gang up on Israel, since virtually every other state does so. While most countries hammer Israel for crackdowns on the Palestinians, they hardly ever criticise Palestinian militants or other Arab militants and say little about the Arab and Muslim rulers. As for the American government, the record clearly shows that when Israel crosses certain important lines, as when it expanded Jewish colonies into Palestinian areas like the West Bank and Gaza, Washington usually expresses its displeasure in public and, even more so, in private. Mearsheimer and Walt just don't mention that."

Gelb ignores the fact that the United States has failed to threaten to cut US military assistance to Israel - in fact, it has just been boosted to $30 billion a year - if it does not evacuate its over 200 colonies in occupied Palestine, or at least stop expanding these colonies.

Yet, he unbelievably maintains, that "on the policy issue that has counted most to Israel and the lobby - preventing the United States from accepting a Palestinian state prior to a negotiated deal between Israel and the Palestinians - it's fair to say Washington has quietly sided with the Palestinians for a long time". Why the Palestinians did not know that is indeed a mystery to me and all those Arab leaders coming to Annapolis next month for the trumpeted Middle East "meeting".

Gelb argues that every administration since 1967, when Israel occupied the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, has "privately favoured returning almost all of that territory to the Palestinians for the purposes of creating a separate Palestinian state".

It is obvious that this former assistant secretary of state does not subscribe to the UN resolutions that have called for Israeli evacuation of all occupied Palestinian lands, or the International Court of Justice which has condemned Israel's "apartheid wall".

And this invective continues (by Bollinger and Gelb) at the expense of all good-thinking Americans.


American Task Force on Palestine - 1634 Eye St. NW, Suite 725, Washington DC 20006 - Telephone: 202-262-0017