It is embarrassing to be an American
Forwarded message: From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Betsy Barlow)
Date: 97-06-20 20:52:21
I enclose a letter which Don Wagner sent to his Congressman, which I think is a masterpiece that some of you may wish to know about when planning a message to your Senators or Congressman. Betsy
Congressman Sidney Yates
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, D.C. 20515 Dear Mr. Yates: I telephoned your office yesterday and learned, much to my chagrin, that you were among those who supported a vote in the House on June 10, 1997, to move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. I would ask that you review this vote based upon the disastrous political fallout that is now growing throughout the Arab and Islamic world toward the United States.
Further, the vote preempts negotiations on the status of Jerusalem, and it violates existing U.S. policy. By sending a signal to the Government of Israel and to all of the Arab governments that the United States supports not only Israeli sovereignty over all of Jerusalem, but in fact the U.S. policy has now shifted to support that of the Likud Party in Israel, will thoroughly undermine any prospects a future role for the United States in Middle East peace negotiations, or a chance of reviving what now seems to be a dead Middle East peace process.
Perhaps you are well aware of the strong condemnation of the June 10th vote in the House by Jordan's King Hussein and Crown Prince Hassan, and by Saudi Arabia's King Fahd and other Arab leaders. These messages to Defense Secretary Cohen should be read by all who voted for this ill-advised legislation.
To bring this matter to the personal level, let me mention that I was in Jerusalem, Israel, and the West Bank in January, 1997, and again in late March, 1997. I either participated in or led delegations of clergy, business, and academic professionals. The climate in the Palestinian and Israeli communities during the late January period was cynical of the peace process but still hopeful of something being salvaged. By late March the climate had shifted to anger, primarily at the United States, as a result of the disastrous veto in the United Nations (on two occassions), followed by the bull-dozing of Palestinian land at the Abu Ghnaim (Har Homa) area near Bethlehem. Palestinians were rightly outraged at the role of the United States in this situation. I felt the anger in the West Bank and again in Egypt.
It is embarrassing to be an American when our elected officials and government make these ill-advised decisions that appear to have more to do with domestic politics and securing pro-Israeli PAC funds than with informed decisionmaking.
Soon it will become dangerous for Americans to travel in these regions which until recently looked up to us as honorable, just, and peace-loving people. These days are over and the decisions of successive Administrations and the U.S. Congress have helped make it so.
I would urge you to review the "Hearings and Markup" of the Subcommittee on Europe and the Middle East (House Foreign Affairs Committee) of the ninety-eighth Congress on H.R. 4877 and H. CON. Res. 352. The same legislation came before Congress concerning the moving of the Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in 1984.
While the Israeli lobby advocated the move, most U.S. officials who had previously served in the Middle East or who were then serving in the region, vigorously opposed it. Many argued on the basis of U.S. interests, and were clear to note that the moving of the Embassy was not a litmus test of one's loyalty to Israel, and such a shift was potentially explosive in the Arab and Islamic world.
In particular, please study the statements of the Hon. Joseph SIsco, Former Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, and that of the Hon. Harold Saunders, former Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs. Their wisdom and that of others in this period should be weighed and heeded, as that all too familiar statement of Santayana warns: "Those who neglect the past are conedemned to repeat it." Please do not neglect the wisdom of previous administrations, U.S. political analysts, Arab Heads of State, the Heads of Churches in Jerusalem, over 500 Christian leaders in the United States, and the advise of specialists on Jerusalem and Middle East affairs.
As you review these proceedings and the enclosed material on Jerusalem, I would urge you and your staff to watch a video titled "Jerusalem: An Occupation Set in Stone." In it you will witness the decision to build on Jabal Abu-Ghnaim and how that strategy alienates local Palestinian Arabs and undermines the peace process.
Finally, I would like to set a meeting time with you during the summer recess when you are in the Evanston area. I will assemble clergy from several of Evanston's leading churches (and >other cities in your district) who share these concerns about your voting record on the Middle East and feel that this vote was not only ill-advised, but that it may have dire consequences in the already volatile Middle East. I will be contacting the Evanston office and look forward to how we can pursue the return to a more viable climate for peace with justice in the Middle East.
Rev. Dr. Donald E. Wagner
Rev.Dr. Donald E.Wagner, Director Center for Middle Eastern Studies North Park College, Caroline Hall 3225 W. Foster Avenue, Chicago, IL 60625
Elizabeth D. Barlow Program Coordinator,
Center for Middle Eastern & North African Studies 144 Lane Hall,
University of Michigan Ann Arbor,
phone: 313 764-0350; fax: 313 764-8523;