Arab-American Activism: Arab Americans Condemn Hebron Massacre
Willford, Catherine M., Washington Report on Middle East Affairs
ARAB-AMERICAN ACTIVISM: Arab Americans Condemn Hebron Massacre
Arab Americans reacted to the news of the Feb. 25 massacre of some 30 Palestinians during prayers at the Ibrahimi mosque in Hebron by an American- Israeli Jewish settler, Dr. Baruch Goldstein, with protests, demonstrations, and meetings with officials of the Clinton White House and the State Department. Khalil Jahshan, executive director of the National Association of Arab Americans (NAAA), characterized attempts by the Israeli government to portray Goldstein's crime as the act of a deranged individual as "untenable and false." Twenty-seven years of Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza have encouraged an atmosphere where Jewish extremists believe they can brutalize Palestinians with impunity, Jahshan said, since lenient sentences consistently have been given to settlers who commit acts of terror.
The Arab American Institute (AAI) called the massacre "reflective of a culture of violence among many Jewish settlers that has not been adequately addressed by the Israeli government."
Albert Mokhiber, president of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committe (ADC), called the tragedy "the ugliest of reminders yet that the true obstacle to peace in the West Bank and Gaza remains the Israeli occupation, and, particularly, its settler population." Mokhiber pointed out that those accused of the 1985 bomb assassination of ADC West Coast regional director Alex Odeh were associated with extremist settler factions, and were given sanctuary at Kiryat Arba, where Baruch Goldstein lived.
"Goldstein was an American-Israeli, the weapon most likely was purchased with American aid money, and the occupation itself violates American policy," Mokhiber declared. "Therefore, American must respond. As we acted to disarm the Serbian and Croat murderers of Bosnian Muslims, we must impose our will to disarm Israeli settlers who likewise are responsible for murdering Palestinians in their mosques."
The executive committee of the Council of Presidents of Arab-American Organizations met Feb. 25 with Undersecretary of State for Middle East Affairs Robert Pelletreau and White House Middle East adviser Martin Indyk. Organizations represented at the meeting included ADC; Arab-American University Graduates; the American Federation of Ramallah, Palestine; NAAA; and the United Holy Land Fund. At the conclusion of the meeting, the Arab-American leaders repeated an earlier request to meet with President Bill Clinton, who, they felt sure, would have met with Jewish-American leaders if the facts of the attack were reversed.
On March 1, Secretary of State Warren Christopher met with Arab-American and Muslim-American leaders, including representatives of the American Muslim Council, ADC, NAAA, AAI, the El-Bireh Society and the Center for Policy Analysis on Palestine, who recommended a five-point plan for U.S. action following the Hebron massacre.
The plan called for the Clinton administration:
--To support measures to guarantee the safety and protection of the civilian Palestinian population in the occupied territories.
--To persuade the Israeli government to disarm all settlers.
--To call upon Israel to take immediate action to bring about an end to all of its settlement activities in the occupied territories.
--To become more actively engaged as a full partner on all four tracks in the peace process.
--To launch a comprehensive investigation by the relevant U.S. government organizations of the membership, fund-raising and training of the followers of Kahane Chai, the U.S-based terrorist group of which Goldstein was a member.
The secretary also was briefed on the danger Arab Americans have faced from radical Zionist terror groups in the U.S., with recent reports of increased acts of militancy by followers of the late Meir Kahane. (In a Feb. 27 interview with Mike Wallace on the CBS program "60 Minutes," investigative reporter Robert Friedman charged that the FBI focuses its terrorist investigations on Arabs, while regarding Kahane Chai and similar groups as "nice Jewish boys with guns. …