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Washington Scene:


 "What has concerned me all along... is the danger that
 [Arafat's] state might quickly be recognized as in effect
 the equivalent of granting the Palestinians the fulfillment
 of their self-determination, perhaps only on paper..."
 "It really doesn't matter whether he declares a Palestinian
 state or not, because he'll have a state without real
 borders -- they're controlled by the Israelis -- no real
 sovereignty, no real country -- it will be cut up into
 cantons and he won't have east Jerusalem.  He won't be
 able to get rid of the settlers and won't have control over
 the water, air or sea. Aside from all that, he'll have a state
 of sorts...  [It's] a sign of both exasperation and weakness.''
   Professor Edward Said
   Columbia University

MID-EAST REALITIES - www.MiddleEast.Org - Washington - 7/23/00:
   Arab-American groups seem like deer caught in the headlights.  They are paralyzed, confused, mislead, and co-opted.  The Palestinian people and indeed the entire Arab world are being screwed over royally this time, but the Arab American groups do nothing serious, wasting the time and energy of those who continue to follow them to nowhere.
   While courageous Palestinians back home are protesting under very difficult circumstances -- see article that follows -- the Arab American groups makes fools of themselves by writing letters to each other and by sending out discredited hacks like Clovis Maksoud, and outright political prostitutes like Jim Zogby and Khalil Jahshan, to speak for them. (Those wanting to know more about the groups and persons can use the new MER search capability at http://www.MiddleEast.Org/search.htm).
   Even many thoughtful and decent Arab-Americans have been twisted into this vortex of paralysis and co-optation by the client Arab-American organizations in Washington.  While occasionally criticism of the U.S. and Israel goes beyond the politically correct slogans of the momment, there is perpetual silence when it comes to pointing out essential basic truths necessary to appreciate what is actually taking place today -- how the client Arab regimes, especially those in Jordan, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia, have helped make what is happening possible working closely with both the U.S. and Israel; how Palestinian philanthropists and businessmen have failed to challenge the corruption and incompetence of the Palestinian Authority they helped bring into being; how Arab American groups are weaker than ever, a whole generation having failed to build any serious and substantial organizations, settling instead for blatant mediocrity and constant pretense.
   Specific examples are everywhere, creating a situation where the Arab American groups lack both following and credibility however much they constantly pretend to have impact.  The recent "Right of Return" conference, for instance, not only failed to focus on many of the crucial issues that prevent the right of return from being implemented, but was badly conceived and organized.  In order to protect Arafat and their own benefactors the conference organizers even failed to invite Dr. Haider Abdel-Shafi, the former head of the Palestinian negotiating team who resigned rather than take part in the Arafat regime, who should in fact have been the main speaker.
    And then there was "The Quilt".  Back a couple of years ago, at the time of the 50th anniversary of the 1948 war and "the Nakba", "the Disaster", the main thing the Arab Americans managed was to send around the country a large quilt with panels representing destroyed Palestinian villages.  Even after organizing for a year, all the Arab Americans organizations together managed to bring out only a few hundred persons to a Sunday Capitol Hill rally.  And even then they couldn't even handle simple arrangements for the promised buses.  The result:  another ridiculous affair attended only by themselves.  Indeed, there were even a few people who drove and flew in for the much-hyped demonstration who never managed to find it and when home demoralized.
   Also at the time of the 50th anniversary, the Arab-American Anti-Discrimination Committee, ADC, held its annual convention -- now actually a kind of disguised social affair sponsored by the Arab fat-cats and manipulated by the Arab client regimes.  Rather than something serious and thoughtful, ADC did its usual pathetic thing.  The one panel that dealt with the 1948 disaster and the "peace process" was comprised of Arab Ambassadors from the very countries that were responsible for it, including the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan without whose collaboration with the new Israeli state things would have turned out differently, both then and now.  Not a single credible analysis, such as Noam Chomsky, or journalist, such as Robert Fisk, was invited.
And then when members of the audience finally got to speak up and ask questions, they were limited to about 15 minutes total and even then the most negative comments were later expunged from the record of the conference!
   Now in the year 2000, after decades of supposed organizing and the expenditure of tens of millions of dollars, and when they should be seriously speaking up, the Arab-American spokesman are instead essentially backing the whole affair and fronting for the notion that the U.S. is at least trying to "bridge" the positions.  Of course the realities are very much contrary, Camp David is in fact a kind of Good Cop/Bad Cop shakedown of the "Arafat authority" that the U.S. and Israel put in place just for this purpose.
   Let's get real about all this.  There are no positions other than those Israel has approved in advance being put forth at Camp David.  American "bridging proposals" come directly from a State Department negotiating team that is nearly totally comprised of persons formerly associated with the Israeli/Jewish lobby, and Bill Clinton himself was bought and paid for by that lobby years ago.  Indeed, the Clinton Administration is so full of Israeli/Jewish lobby personalities, including the State Department team, that Clinton has joked about having a kosher kitchen at the White House.  Moreover its all but been forgotten that when Clinton first ran for the Presidency the President of the Israeli/Jewish lobby was overheard bragging that "we have infiltrated the Little Rock headquarters with many of our people, and when Bill Clinton becomes President he will do what we want him to."
   Now of course the political theatrics being played out at Camp David and dutifully reported by CNN and the other major media portray the situation otherwise.  But the realities of the overall situation are as just outlined; and the pathetic non-response from the usually laughable Arab-American organizations is as well.

     (Got a comment or question for MER:  Email to MER@MiddleEast.Org)


                               By JAMAL HALABY

BAQAA CAMP, Jordan (AP- 7/22/00) - Latifa Awad sighed as she glanced at a photo of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat on the shabby wall of her living room.

``He can do little for us because the Jews do not want peace,'' said the 62-year-old mother of 11, who fled her home in the West Bank town of Ramallah during the 1967 Middle East war.

``The Jews want us to stay where we are, so what is the use of the talks in America?'' she asked, echoing the feelings of many of the millions of Palestinians living in refugee camps in Jordan and elsewhere in the Middle East.

The question of the refugees' future is one of the most difficult facing Palestinian and Israeli negotiators.

That difficulty was reflected again Saturday when Palestinians held two demonstrations to demand that the refugees be allowed to return to what is now Israel. About 160 demonstrators gathered near the West Bank town of Deir-Sharaf, while about 100 protested at an Israeli checkpoint at A-Ram, between Jerusalem and the West Bank city of Ramallah. There was no violence at either event.

At Camp David, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak has reportedly offered to allow about 60,000 refugees to return to Israel under a family reunification scheme.

The 1.5 million refugees living in 13 U.N.-run camps scattered across Jordan are part of an estimated 3.5 million Palestinians who were displaced, or are descendants of those displaced, by the 1948 and 1967 Mideast wars.

The Jordanian government says the displaced living in Jordan can remain in the kingdom and enjoy full citizenship rights if they wish.

It insists, however, that negotiations between Arafat and Barak on a final peace accord must ensure the right of refugees to return home and be compensated for their agony, lost property and business. Barak has said there will be no blanket ``right of return.''

Calls on refugees to insist on their right of return echoed Friday from a mosque loudspeaker two blocks from Awad's house in Baqaa, home to 120,000 refugees 17 miles northwest of Amman, the Jordanian capital.

``It is treason and religiously forbidden to abandon your right to your homes and the land usurped by the Jews,'' a mosque preacher told worshippers.

``The Jews want no peace, and the Americans are deceiving you because they only care for the Jews and not you, the Arabs or Muslims,'' he shouted.

Some of the most militant opposition to the negotiating path chosen by Arafat can be found in Palestinian refugee camps. But the anger doesn't tend to be directed at Arafat - the bulk of the refugees in Jordan support his mainstream Fatah faction rather than hard-line Palestinian dissidents.

Still, some in the camps were emboldened when they saw Israeli troops withdraw from southern Lebanon in May under pressure from Lebanese guerrillas.

``What was taken by force can only be restored by force,'' said Ahmad Araari, a 67-year-old garment shop owner who hails from Haifa in what is now Israel but lives in Hussein Camp, a small Palestinian community in the heart of Amman.

Standing at his vegetable stand in Baqaa, Mohammed Shaaban expects nothing from the peace negotiations being mediated by U.S. officials.

``If America wanted peace, it would have forced the Israelis to give up all of (traditionally Arab east) Jerusalem, allow all the refugees to return home and end the occupation,'' said Shaaban, 73, who is originally from the West Bank town of Nablus.

``There is no peace and there will never be peace,'' he added. ``We have been talking to them (Israelis) for 10 years. But what happened?   Nothing. It was only talk, talk.''

Sameh Baydoon, 29, a construction worker from Hebron, another West Bank town, was equally skeptical about the talks.

``Camp David is a big lie like the other meetings in Egypt, America and others,'' he said. ``We don't want handshakes and good pictures for television. We want results.''

``Is restoring our rights too much to ask?'' he shouted.

In her run-down brick house in a squalid alley of Baqaa, Awad said tearfully: ``I wish I could see my home again. I dream everyday of my neighborhood, my house and the backyard where I played when I was young.

``But it seems this wish will never come true.''

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