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April 2000 - Return to Complete Index    MiddleEast.Org         4/21/00
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MID=EAST REALITIES - WASHINGTON - 21 April 2000:  Robert Fisk, in this article, compares the main Arab-American Groups to lazy, corrupt Arab Regimes.   Regular readers of MER won't be all that surprised; though many others will be, especially those who misguidedly and in many cases sincerely give their money, support, and most of all their hopes to these pathetic groups.

But actually Fisk gives the well-known Arab-American groups rather too much credit with this approach.  The bitter and tragic reality is that these groups are nearly totally incompetent, impotent, and incestuous.  Long ago we should have started calling them with this apt nickname -- "the three I's."  And the people who work for them, especially those who have been around the longest, definitely qualify for the same adjectives, with very few exceptions.

Those interested to know more about these groups should check the new MER search
Page using such keywords as ADC, Zogby, Maksoud, Sharabi -- go to:

For MER, unique to all other publications, has not overlooked this important aspect of why things are the way they are when it comes to the affairs of Washington relating to the Middle East.  And MER will be further stepping up that focus in the weeks and months ahead.


                                By Robert Fisk

THE INDEPENDENT, 21 April 2000:
Jennifer is Jewish, a member of the liberal - and brave - little Jewish
community in Madison, Wisconsin. She had helped to arrange my lecture on Iraq
and Kosovo. And she mentioned a young Palestinian who always sought her
thoughts and those of her colleagues. Hassan was his name.

He joined us for dinner one night. It began politely enough.There was a plot,
he explained, to create Israeli hegemony over the West Bank. He had read that
Yassir Arafat's father had been involved in land deals in Egypt. "Do you want
to know the truth?" he suddenly asked. "Arafat is a Jew. It is the Israelis
who put him there." Jennifer groaned. Who could blame her?

Two days later, in Boston, I spoke at a conference on Palestinians' "Right of
Return" to the homes they had in pre-Israel Palestine, enshrined - for the
Palestinians - in UN General Assembly Resolution 194. Edward Said, the
greatest and most courageous Arab scholar, spoke for 45 minutes. But he was
ill - his leukaemia is taking dreadful hold - and the organisers hadn't
bothered to put his slides in the right order. I watched Said, obviously in
great pain, angrily demanding to know why his lecture illustrations could not
be shown correctly, his fury tangled up with his denunciations of Jewish
settlement policy.

Noam Chomsky, the Greatest American Liberal of them all, linguist,
philosopher, activist, excoriator of US governments from Kennedy to Clinton -
and thus of course deprived of a regular column in the American press - spoke
with passion of the injustices visited upon the Palestinians, the
worthlessness of the Middle East "peace process" and America's total control
over the region. But many in the audience were talking to each other. When
Jabour Sleiman droned on about the "Bantustan" of the West Bank, the Arabs
read newspapers and pamphlets. When I told the audience I thought they were
out of touch with the realities of the Middle East, that their lobby groups
were self-satisfied and often lazy, there was uproar in the audience. "Don't
be so sarcastic," one young man shouted at me. Arabs cannot - must not - be

A few days before setting off for the United States, I walked again through
the ruins of the Sabra and Chatila Palestinian refugee camp in Beirut in
which up to 2,000 civilians were massacred by Israel's Lebanese Christian
allies in 1982. I've been there perhaps a hundred times since the slaughter.
And the place never ceases to horrify me; the football-size rats that roam
the garbage heaps, the mass grave used as a rubbish tip, the concrete huts
containing the survivors and their memories, the stench of sewers. If I lived
there, I always think, I'd go mad.

But in Boston, the conference organisers saw fit to offer drinks in the
Harvard Faculty Club, a place of fine wines, oil paintings, expensive carpets
and attentive waiters. And it was there that a young, highly educated
Palestinian told me she had never been to Palestine because she had young
children and "travelling with children is not pleasant". And she compared a
journey to Palestine with a recent family expedition to Disney World. "Can
you imagine," she asked me, "travelling to Palestine with children?" So much,
I thought, for the Right of Return.

Lecturing about the Middle East on the American East Coast is always a
bizarre experience; from the heat and danger of Lebanon to the trillion
dollar economy of the world's only superpower with its lobby groups and its
policy analysis institutes and its chic little dinner parties. There are no
end of Wasp do-gooders, anxious to make up for their sins in power. Take the
ex-State Department man who piped up at the end of a Washington talk I gave
on Palestinians in Lebanon. "You shouldn't blame the State Department so
much, Bob," he said. "They don't make policy. The Near East Department's job
is to put a gloss on things." The audience did not gasp with astonishment.
They merely asked safe questions that used the language of the State
Department - about the "peace process", whether it could be put "back on
track", whether US "leverage" - one of the great Middle East myths - might
be applied to, of all countries, Israel. No one asked where this language -
process, track, leverage - comes from. Even Said and Chomsky used it, albeit
with cynicism.

The Boston Globe greeted the Said/Chomsky-led conference with an editorial
that said Palestinian refugees were not refugees at all - they were
"displaced". And I was asked - mercifully in vain - to talk about "Arab
Regional Positions on the Palestinian Right of Return", as if Arab states had
ever formulated a policy on the one issue that lies at the centre of the 3.6
million Palestinian diaspora. In Washington, just before I spoke to an
audience of ex-ambassadors and liberal-left Americans, I found an anonymous
letter on my seat.

It was from an Arab-American who complained bitterly about the lack of
democracy in her lobby group. "The president makes all the decisions, often
without even consulting the board ... the board members are too afraid or
lazy to question the president's words," she wrote. "It is a weakness of
character and a gross deference to those in power." It all sounded to me like
a typical Arab regime - despite the US pressure group's by-laws, which are
supposed to ensure democracy within the lobby.

Is it any wonder, I asked myself, that the Arabs lose the Middle East war of

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