The Bush Administration Declares War on Terrorism, But Ignores Its Causes
Rachelle Marshall is a free-lance editor living in Stanford, CA. A member of the International Jewish Peace Union, she writes frequently on the Middle East.
"In my reading of European and Near East sentiment today, the Israel-Palestine conflict and America's association with Israel are the greatest single source of anti-American sentiment, crossing political, ideological, and national boundaries."--Historian Tony Judt, "America and the War," New York Review, Nov. 15, 2001.
"Undoubtedly, the sore that festers in the Middle East, that taints every aspect of life in the Middle East, is the continuing conflict between Israel and the Palestinians."--Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal, New York Times, Nov. 24.
In a speech to Congress last September, George W. Bush vowed the war on terrorism would not end "until every terrorist group of global reach has been defeated." He repeated that vow at Fort Campbell on Nov. 21 when he told troops on their way to Afghanstan, "There are other terrorists, and there are other nations willing to sponsor them. Across the world and across the years we will fight these evil ones and we will win."
The question of how far to extend the war on terrorism is still being debated at the White House. If Middle East experts are correct, however, as long as lingering grievances go unresolved U.S. forces could turn all of the suspected countries into giant bomb craters and yet still fail to stop terrorism.
Among the deepest of these grievances are Israel's dispossession and expulsion of the Palestinians 53 years ago, and its brutal treatment of those who remain. As Israel's principal benefactor and ally, the United States has become an equal target of resentment. By late November, with the Taliban in retreat and his popularity at an all-time high, President Bush was politically in a position to dispel much of this resentment. By pressuring Israel to lift its blockade of Palestinian towns and villages, abide by U.N. Security Council Resolution 242, and withdraw from all of the territory it occupied in 1967, Bush could have struck at one of the roots of terrorism. Instead he bowed to pressure from Congress and the pro-Israel lobby and backed away.
Secretary of State Colin Powell's long-anticipated speech on U.S. policy in the Middle East on Nov. 19 had raised expectations that the administration would offer a new and more evenhanded approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. When Powell was interviewed on al-Jazeera television in September he mentioned that the conflict had created "a sense of hopelessness" among Palestinians and acknowledged that "terrorism is fueled by these grievances." But his speech at the University of Louisville two months later offered only a warmed-over version of past administration statements.
Although Powell again called on Israel to freeze settlement construction, ease the blockade of Palestinian towns and cities, and end its raids into Palestinian territory, he gave no hint of punitive action if Israel did not comply. He gratified Palestinians by referring to "Palestine," and he identified Israel's occupation as a legitimate source of grievance. But he again left it up to Israel to set the terms for renewing peace talks. Powell had been expected to ask Sharon to give up his unrealistic demand that Palestinians stop all violence for seven days before peace talks could resume, but he never mentioned the subject. Nor did Powell repeat the recommendation of the committee headed by former Sen. George Mitchell (DME) that a cease-fire must be accompanied by concessions on Israel's side. Instead Powell reaffirmed U.S. unwillingness to pressure Israel, saying only that Washington would "push and prod," and "present ideas."
The secretary of state also announced the appointment of Anthony Zinni, a retired Marine general, as special U.S. …