Letters Show Depth of Anti-Palestinian Sentiment in Congress

By McArthur, Shirl | Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, May 2002 | Go to article overview

Letters Show Depth of Anti-Palestinian Sentiment in Congress


McArthur, Shirl, Washington Report on Middle East Affairs


Shirl McArthur, a retired foreign service officer, is a consultant in the Washington, DC area.

More than half the members of both the House and the Senate signed letters to President George W. Bush during March that show that most members of Congress hold the Palestinians solely responsible for the violence and terrorism in the West Bank, Gaza and Israel, and are prepared to ignore the acts of violence and terrorism committed by the Israel Defense Force (IDF). The House letter, sent on March 14, was initiated by Reps. Henry Waxman (D-CA) and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) and was signed by 235 of the 435 House members (see box on facing page). It commends Bush for his strong criticism of PA Chairman Yasser Arafat and urges that he "take even stronger action by adding the Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigade, the Tanzim, and Force 17 to the U.S. list of foreign terrorist organizations." The letter describes at length each organization's evil deeds against Israeli civilians, but makes no mention of the terrorism inflicted upon Palestinian civilians by the IDF, nor does it suggest that the IDF be added to the list of terrorist organizations.

The list of foreign terrorist organizations is maintained by the State Department, and groups can be added at any time. Subsequently, on March 21, Secretary of State Colin Powell announced that he was adding the Al-Aqsa Brigade to the list. Being on the list means that it is illegal for individuals or groups in the U.S. to financially support the group, and banks are required to freeze the group's assets in the U.S., which likely will not have any practical effect on the Al-Aqsa Brigade.

The Senate letter, signed by 52 senators, was initiated by Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Mitch McConnell (R-KY), and was sent March 21, during Vice President Richard Cheney's visit to the Middle East. It expresses "profound concern and dismay" at Arafat's failure "to do what is necessary to help bring peace to Israel and his people." The letter urges Cheney to reconsider his offer to meet with Arafat "until Mr. Arafat and the Palestinian Authority demonstrate their commitment to end the violence."

Those who signed the letter to Bush, in addition to Feinstein and McConnell, were Sens. Wayne Allard (R-CO), George Allen (R-VA), Evan Bayh (D-IN), Robert Bennett (R-UT), Christopher Bond (R-MO), John Breaux (D-LA), Jim Bunning (R-KY), Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-CO), Max Cleland (D-GA), Hillary Clinton (D-NY), Susan Collins (R-ME), Kent Conrad (D-ND), Jon Corzine (D-NJ), Mike Crapo (R-ID), Tom Daschle (D-SD), Christopher Dodd (D-CT), Richard Durbin (D-IL), John Edwards (D-NC), Russell Feingold (D-WI), Bob Graham (D-FL), Charles Grassley (R-IA), Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Jesse Helms (R-NC), Fritz Hollings (D-SC), Tim Hutchinson (R-AR), Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX), James Inhofe (R-OK), Daniel Inouye (D-HI), Jim Jeffords (I-VT), Timothy Johnson (D-SD), John Kerry (D-MA), Herb Kohl (D-WI), Jon Kyl (R-AZ), Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Carl Levin (D-MI), Joseph Lieberman (D-CT), Blanche Lincoln (D-AR), Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Frank Murkowski (R-AK), Bill Nelson (D-FL), Harry Reid (D-NV), John D. Rockefeller IV (D-WV), Charles Schumer (D-NY), Richard Shelby (R-AL), Bob Smith (R-NH), Arlen Specter (R-PA), Robert Torricelli (D-NJ), John Warner (R-VA), Paul Wellstone (D-MN), and Ron Wyden (D-OR).

New "Afghan Freedom Support Act" Introduced in House

There has been very little recent congressional activity regarding the previously described bills and resolutions affecting the Middle East. However, on March 19, House International Relations Committee Chairman Henry Hyde (R-IL), along with ranking Democrat Tom Lantos (D-CA), Middle East subcommittee Chairman Benjamin Gilman (R-NY) and subcommittee ranking Democrat Gary Ackerman (D-NY) as co-sponsors, introduced H.R. 3994, the "Afghan Freedom Support Act" to authorize economic and military development assistance for Afghanistan. This is a long, comprehensive bill that presumably supercedes the previously introduced Afghanistan reconstruction bills. …

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