Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Palestinians:?Victims of an Unjust U.S. Law

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Palestinians:?Victims of an Unjust U.S. Law

Article excerpt

IMAGINE THAT YOU are a victim of a violent crime or theftbut are forbidden from reporting it because Congress has passed a law that not only prohibits you from reporting the crime, but threatens punishment if you dare to do it. This is the situation in which the Palestinians recently found themselves.

The Palestinians were told that the U.S. government was on the verge of decertifying their right to maintain an office in Washington because they had the audacity to complain to the International Criminal Court (ICC) about Israel's land theftand settlement activity in the occupied territories.

The story behind this nightmarish situation began in 1987, when Congress passed a law prohibiting the Palestine Liberation Organization from operating an office in the United States. This legislation, which was pushed by AIPAC, the pro-Israel lobby, was designed to ensure that the Palestinians would have no presence or voice in either Washington or at the United Nations. It was an effort to put into law a secret commitment Secretary of State Henry Kissinger had made to the Israelis a decade earlier that the U.S. would not recognize or dialogue with the PLO. The Israelis had insisted on this "no-talk" policy for the simple reason described by Israeli Labor Party leader Yitzhak Rabin: "Whoever agrees to talk to the PLO means he accepts in principle the creation of a Palestinian state between Israel and Jordan, and this we can never accept."

In 1993, after Israel and the PLO signed the Oslo accords, in which both sides recognized each other's national rights, Congress met to reassess their 1987 legislation. Instead of doing the right thing and simply canceling it, once again pressed by AIPAC Congress chose to keep the law in place. The one concession found in the new bill gave the president the right to waive the anti-Palestinian provision every six months on the condition that the State Department could certify to Congress that the Palestinians were adhering to the provisions of the Oslo accords.

This legislation, termed the Middle East Peace Facilitation Act (MEPFA), imposed a series of requirements on the Palestinians. Among them were: renouncing the Arab boycott, nullifying the PLO Charter, not opening offices in Jerusalem, ending terrorism, and taking no steps to change the status of Jerusalem, the West Bank or Gaza pending the outcome of negotiations with the Israelis.

Because Congress chose to only impose these conditions on U.S. aid to the Palestinians and their right to operate an office in the U.S., while placing no such requirements on Israel's adherence to the terms of Oslo, it was clear from the very beginning of the so-called "Oslo process" that the U.S. could not play the role of "honest broker" in the search for peace.

Every six months, Israel's lobby would raise the issue of Palestinian compliance, documenting alleged Palestinian infractions and then protesting when the State Department would certify them. All the while, Israel, operating with complete impunity, continued: expanding Jewish-only settlements, roads and infrastructure in the West Bank and what they called "Greater Jerusalem," creating new "facts on the ground"; imposing new humiliating conditions on Palestinian life in the occupied lands; and repeatedly violating their obligations under Oslo and the follow-up Cairo and Paris economic accords.

While Israel had recourse to go to the U.S. Congress to complain about allegations of Palestinian non-compliance, the Palestinians could not. …

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