The Morass in the Middle East
Thanks to Richard Falk and The Nation for daring to defy the party line in the American media when it comes to Middle East coverage ["Ending the Death Dance," April 29]. Keep up the good work.
Yusuf A. Nur
Except for its criticism of the Bush Administration, Richard Falk's article contains more sophisticated nonsense than almost anything I've read. Bush is wrong, Sharon is wrong and Arafat stands by as young women prostitute themselves as mass murderers. Meanwhile, Falk and The Nation raise sophistry to new heights.
Even in the Arab press it would be hard to find such distortions, misleading statements and open justification of suicide bombers as are in Richard Falk's article. For example:
(1) Falk justifies suicide bombers as the "only means still available" for the Palestinians. One can only react to such an endorsement of suicide bombers with outrage.
(2) Then he equates the suicide Passover bombing at Netanya with the Israeli incursion in the West Bank. The Israeli incursion may have been wrong, but not all wrongs are moral equivalents. The suicide bombings have no possible justification and are sheer terror.
(3) Falk says Arafat did not opt for terrorism. What a distortion. Arafat's history of terrorism, from hijacking in 1968 to Munich in 1972 and thereafter is documented beyond contradiction. Has Falk forgotten Arafat's financial support for and public tribute to "martyrs"?
There are numerous other distortions in the article, but worst of all is Falk's blatant justification of suicide bombers. Just what is Falk's affinity for terrorists?
Jerome J. Shestack
Richard Falk says, "surely the United States is not primarily responsible for this horrifying spectacle of bloodshed and suffering." Such a view is typical of coverage of the conflict across the spectrum of the US press, from left to right. If we look solely at the actions of the United States, it is clear that this country is backing the occupation of Palestine with great vigor and enthusiasm. Last December, the Defense Department signed off on a sale of fifty-two F-16 fighter jets and 106 million gallons of jet fuel to Israel through the Foreign Military Sales program, earning Lockheed Martin $1.3 billion and Valero Energy $95 million.
If this doesn't constitute a green light to Prime Minister Sharon for the siege of Ramallah, then it certainly enables it. There is some controversy over whether Iran is backing the Palestinian Authority with military aid; it's beyond dispute that Israel is armed to the teeth with US-made weapons. If President Bush is genuine in his call for an Israeli withdrawal, then he should suspend military aid to Israel immediately. Of course the violence is not beyond our control.
Senator Jesse Helms, once head of the Foreign Relations Committee, stated in 1995: "Israel is at least the equivalent of a US aircraft carrier in the Middle East." There is no mystery here. Israel's military aggression guarantees the maintenance of US global domination. As long as we keep silent about the crimes committed in our name, Palestinians and Israelis alike will continue to die.
Richard Falk begins on a false premise and goes downhill from there. He claims simplistically that many analysts fault Arafat and the Palestinians because Ehud Barak at Camp David made an offer Arafat should have accepted. Actually, the argument is not that Arafat should have accepted the offer but that Arafat should have negotiated and made a counteroffer. Any counteroffer at all would have been welcome. Instead, Arafat made a fool of Barak and President Clinton and crushed the hopes that political moderates in Israel would be the driving force for peace. Falk treats the most significant gesture on Israel's part toward peace as rather trivial and similarly downplays Arafat's present attempt to make Israel bargain against itself through targeting innocent women and children. …