PEOPLE AND INSTITUTIONS CONFRONT ISRAEL'S LOBBY
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Findley, Paul, 1921-
They dare to speak out: people and institutions confront Israel s lobby/ Paul Findley.— 3rd ed. p. ; cm.
Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN 1-55652-482-X
1. United States—Foreign relations—Israel. 2. Israel—Foreign relations— United States. 3. American Israel Public Affairs Committee. 4. Jews—United States—Politics and government. 5. Zionists—United States—Political activity. 6. Arab-Israeli conflict. I. Title. *. # E183.8.I7F56 2003
Cover and interior design by Rattray Design
©1985, 1989, 2003 by Paul Findley All rights reserved Third edition Published by Lawrence Hill Books An imprint of Chicago Review Press, Incorporated 814 North Franklin Street Chicago, Illinois 60610 ISBN 1-55652-482-X Printed in the United States of America 5 4 3 2
To our grandchildren Andrew, Cameron, Henry, and Elizabeth. May they always be able to speak without fear.
1 Rescue and Involvement 1
2 King of the Hill 27
3 Stilling the Still, Small Voices 51
4 The Deliberative Body Fails to Deliberate 81
5 The Lobby and the Oval Office 117
6 Penetrating the Defenses at Defense and State 147
7 The Assault on Assault 187
8 Subverting Academic Freedom 209
9 Paving the Way for the Messiah 249
10 Not All Jews Toe the Line 281
11 Scattering the Seeds of Catastrophe 313
12 What Price Israel? 349
Shortly after World War II, a small band of United States partisans for Israel marshaled self-discipline and commitment so effectively that they succeeded in ending free and open debate in America whenever Middle East issues are considered.
Their primary goal was to assure broad, substantial, unconditional, and ultimately blind support for Israel by the U.S. government. In seeking that goal, these partisans forced a severe anti-Arab and anti-Muslim bias into U.S. Middle East policy that has since raised costly economic, political, and military barriers to the American national interest. The most harmful part of this process was the disappearance of unfettered discussion of the United States' relationship to the Arab-Israeli conflict. These biases and restrictions, though unwritten, are as effective as if they had been carved in stone. Even in the legislative chambers on Capitol Hill, the nation's highest and most hallowed halls of debate, discussion on the Middle East is virtually nonexistent.
In a 1983 interview for the first edition of this book, the late I. F. "Izzy" Stone, a widely respected author, commentator, and self-styled radical, told me why many of his fellow Jews work so aggressively to stifle free speech. He explained that, because Jews in Israel seem constantly at war with Arabs, Jews in America feel that they are in the same war. To them, free speech is a luxury that can be sacrificed where debate might weaken U.S. support for an Israel at war. Stone summed it up, "When people are at war, it is normal for civil liberties to suffer." As long as Israel is at war, most U.S. Jews "feel they have to fight and keep fighting." Nowhere has this been more obvious than in Israel's post-September 11 incursions into the occupied territories.
This reaction is almost instinctive, prompted by deeply felt anxieties, fears, and outrage that arise mainly from the common bond of religion and the knowledge of unspeakable Jewish death and suffering in the Nazi Germany Holocaust during World War II. It is not confined to people of the Jewish faith. To Muslims and many non-Muslims worldwide, the present suffering of Palestinians—to them, a latter-day holocaust—evokes a similar reaction in which free speech and other basic rights are sometimes casualties.
April 2002 provided evidence that strong passions persist on both sides. Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, well known for his bias in favor of Israel, received a lesson in anti-Palestinian fervor when addressing a large crowd of people gathered for a pro-Israel rally at the U.S. Capitol. He tried to tell the crowd, "Innocent Palestinians are suffering and dying as well, and it is critical that we recognize and acknowledge that fact." His words were drowned out by boos and the shouted slogan "No more Arafat."1
A third of the way around the world, U.S. Ambassador Donald Neumann was booed for making a similar plea to a crowd of Bahraini citizens gathered to protest Israel's latest invasion of Palestine. After standing with the protesters for a minute of silence for the victims of the Israeli onslaught, Neumann remained standing and asked for a moment of silence for innocent Israeli victims of Palestinian terrorism. The crowd turned hostile and shouted back its refusal.2
Six weeks later, the scene in Bahrain remained hostile. Neumann issued an advisory, suggesting that U.S. citizens avoid crowds and vary their travel routes when away from home. He reported several beatings of U.S. military personnel, American vehicles being pelted with eggs, and local vehicles swerving near U.S. cyclists and pedestrians.3
Open Season on Palestinians
The Patriot Act brought about many changes in America, but it did not alter Israel's total domination of Capitol Hill. In 2001 Israel quickly endorsed President Bush's war on terrorism and Congress applauded Israel's war on Palestinians, accepting Israeli Prime Minister Sharon's duplicitous argument that eradicating "terrorists" from the occupied territories was an essential part of Bush's worldwide military campaign.
Supporting Israeli wars was normal procedure on Capitol Hill. Thanks to the effectiveness of the pro-Israel lobby, the United States had long been the key, indispensable ally in all of Israel's military victories over Arabs. Despite frequent claims over the years that it sought only policies that were fair to both sides—the "honest broker" role—the U.S. government provided critical support to Israel's expansionist campaigns without interruption since President Lyndon B. Johnson gave clandestine aid to Israel's June 1967 war against the Arabs. The American people remain largely unaware of U.S. complicity in these wars, although it is widely recognized in all countries outside the United States. To this day, Americans are poorly informed about the level of U.S. military and economic aid to Israel, not to mention our government's record of near-perfect support of Israel in critical votes in the United Nations Security Council.4
In April 2002 Sharon ordered the invasion of the territories on the pretext of rooting out the leaders who organized suicide bombings carried out inside Israel by individual Palestinians. The bombings spread fear throughout Israel, not just in areas adjacent to the occupied territories. Even armed Israeli soldiers and police officers did not feel safe. The bombers could rarely be identified in advance, as they were of both sexes and varied ages.
Sharon's counterattack was brutal and massive, utilizing tanks, helicopter gunships, and other arms—all donated to Israel through the U.S. government's military assistance program. It left major cities in the occupied territories heavily damaged and the Palestinian authority headquarters in shambles and isolated. Accurate casualty statistics may never emerge, but the UN Report on Jenin put the Palestinian death toll in Jenin alone at 52. It reported that 497 people had been killed and 1,477 were wounded during the entire military sweep. These figures were compiled from a distance, because the Israeli government, supported by Washington, refused to permit the UN inspection team to visit Jenin.
The invasion did not halt suicide bombings, but it left the Palestinian population more tightly repressed than ever before. It also left Palestinians and their sympathizers outraged at the crucial support provided to the invaders by the U.S. government.
For twelve days following the assault, Israeli forces barred a UN relief mission headed by special envoy Terje Roed-Larsen, from entering the Jenin refugee camp. During this period ambulances were routinely
turned away, and scores of injured Palestinians bled to death. After finally being allowed to enter and tour the camp, Roed-Larsen said, "We have expert people here who have been in war zones and earthquakes, and they say they have never seen anything like it. It is horrifying beyond belief." He told reporters that 300 buildings had been destroyed and 2,000 people were left homeless.5
The Israelis did everything they could to prevent reports of the immense destruction from reaching American eyes and ears. Riad Abdelkarim, a Los Angeles physician who writes commentaries on the Middle East for U.S. newspapers and who served as a relief worker during the assault on Jenin, was arrested and held for several weeks by Israeli authorities after sending an eyewitness report on the devastation in the camp to U.S. newspapers.
Outraged by U.S. complicity in the assault, Palestinian officials in Jenin rejected a U.S. Agency for International Development shipment of tents, food, and children's toys. Their reason: the camp had been destroyed by U.S.-donated weapons.6
"A Special Relationship with Israel"
During Israel's month-long invasion, President Bush publicly demanded that Sharon order the immediate withdrawal of Israeli forces. Given Bush's position as chief executive of the United States, Israel's chief benefactor, one would have expected Sharon to offer at least a touch of conciliation. Instead, with supreme arrogance, he announced simply that his war measures were not finished, and that withdrawal would not occur until they were. Faced with this defiance, Bush unaccountably praised Sharon as a "man of peace" and reminded reporters of the obvious: the United States has "a special relationship with Israel." He failed to explain what this relationship entails: letting Israeli prime ministers defy the demands of U.S. presidents, control Palestinians and their land by force of arms, and violate with impunity international laws and conventions on human rights.
Sharon's 2002 war on Palestinians was in several ways reminiscent of the bloody 1982 massacres he waged on the Palestinian refugee camps at Sabra and Shatila. Sharon called both of them assaults on terrorism. In both wars, the U.S. president—in 1982, Ronald Reagan—demanded that Israel stop the war. In both, the prime minister of Israel—in 1982, Men-achem Begin—defied the presidential demand. In the greatest irony of all,
when both assaults came to an end, Congress promptly appropriated funds to resupply Israels war machine—$150 million in 1982, $200 million in 2002. To free up funds for the bonus to Israel, the House Appropriations Committee, in a curious reordering of priorities, cut $75 million from a project to reinforce cockpit doors to guard against intrusions by hijackers.7 Sharon's war prompted huge anti-Israel and anti-American protests worldwide. One in Rabat, Morocco, drew an estimated 1.5 million people—fully 6 percent of the nation's population. Surprisingly large protests also took place in Washington, D.C., New York, and other major U.S. cities. They received little media attention.
"Laughingstock of the World"
A Time-CNN poll showed that 60 percent of Americans favored reducing or completely eliminating aid to Israel if Sharon failed to withdraw his troops from Palestinian areas. The same poll showed 75 percent favoring Bush's diplomatic initiatives for Middle East peace.8
That sentiment was not represented on Capitol Hill in Washington, where both the House of Representatives and the Senate acted as if they were committees of the Israeli Knesset. During deliberations on Sharon's war, almost all speeches were sympathetic to Israel, echoing Sharon's "war of survival" theme.
On May 2, 2002, both the Senate and the House of Representatives adopted resolutions that praised Sharon's war and pledged full support of Israel. Although the House resolution was slightly more hostile to the Palestinian cause than the Senate version, the Atlanta Constitution columnist Martha Ezzard wrote that "Republican leaders in the House and Democratic leaders in the Senate entered into a schoolyard-like contest to see who could be the best pro-Israel cheerleader, approving resolutions that made Sharon appear as blameless for the loss of any innocent lives as Mother Teresa."9
In the House, Representative Peter DeFazio (D-OR), one of twenty-one who voted "no" on the resolution, declared that it put the House of Representatives on record "to the right of Ariel Sharon and the Likud Party." Representative Nick J. Rahall (D-WV), who also voted against it, predicted that the resolution would make the House "the laughingstock of the world." Earlier, DeFazio had found only thirteen colleagues willing to sign a balanced resolution.
In the end, 352 of the 435 members voted yes. Twenty-one voted no. Twenty-eight others heeded the advice of Representative Marcy Kap-tur (D-OH), by voting "present." During the House debate, Kaptur warned of a "corrosive" effect: "This one-sided resolution will only fan the killing frenzy. ... I fear it represents crass domestic politics in this election year. . . . Let us be a true partner for peace, not just with Israel but as well with the Arab states in the region."10
In the Senate, only Democrats Ernest Hollings (D-SC) and Robert Byrd (D-WV) voted against the resolution. Hollings told his colleagues that Sharon "is making more terrorists than he is getting rid of."11
Nihad Awad, executive director of the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), responded, "It is truly disturbing to see American elected officials falling over themselves in an unseemly attempt to 'pledge allegiance' to a foreign government and its domestic lobby."12
Unprecedented War-Making Authority
What a difference a year can make. Within twelve months, America became, for the first time, the target of a massive, lethal assault by foreign terrorists on its own soil. Congress subsequently granted the president unprecedented authority to make war and police the world. Bush used that authority to launch a costly war in Afghanistan, with a larger one expected to follow against Iraq. Meanwhile, at home, Congress curbed precious civil liberties. All the while, several fundamental questions begged for attention:
• Why America? What, if anything, did the United States do to provoke 9/11?
• Do grievances against America remain? If so, what should America do to redress them?
• Why did almost every other nation reject or ignore President Bush's call for a multinational assault on Iraq?
These are urgent questions. They reach into the heart of the frantic, wrenching ordeal in which America finds itself, and yet, incredibly they are left unanswered—or worse, are largely unasked.
Welcome to my quest for the answers, a search that began unwittingly midway through my congressional career. It continues to this day.
Rescue and Involvement
"How did A congressman from the corn-hog heartland of America get entangled in Middle East politics?" people ask. Like most rural congressmen, I had no ethnic constituencies who lobbied me on their foreign interests. As expected, I joined the Agriculture Committee and worked mainly on issues such as farming, budget, and welfare reform.
Newly appointed in 1972 to the subcommittee on Europe and the Middle East, I had represented the Springfield, Illinois, area for twelve years without attracting much attention at home or abroad.
Eight short years later, my involvement in Middle East politics would bring me infamy among many U.S. Jews, notoriety in Israel, and applause throughout the Arab world. By 1980, in urban centers of pro-Israel activism—far from the local Jews in central Illinois who knew and trusted me—I found myself in the most expensive congressional campaign in state history. Thanks to a flow of hostile dollars from both coasts and nearby Chicago, I became "the number one enemy of Israel" and my re-election campaign the principal target of Israel's lobby.
Prodded by a professor at Illinois College when I first joined the subcommittee, I had already begun to doubt the wisdom of U.S. policy
5 They Dare to Speak Out
in the Middle East. In the early years, I kept these doubts private, but not because I feared the political consequences. In fact, I naively assumed I could question our policy anywhere without getting into trouble. I did not realize how deeply the roots of Israeli interests penetrated U.S. institutions.
In matters pertaining to Middle East policy, members of Congress generally paid attention only to what Israel wanted. Arab American lobbies, fledgling forces even today, were nonexistent. Muslim organizations were in their infancy. Arab embassies showed little interest in lobbying. Even if a congressman wanted to hear the Arab viewpoint, he would have had difficulty finding a spokesman to explain it.
My personal involvement with Middle East politics started with a situation that had no direct connection to the Arab-Israeli conflict. It began in the spring of 1973 when a letter arrived from Mrs. Evans Franklin, a constituent who wrote neighborhood news for a weekly newspaper I had once edited. In this letter, she pleaded for my help in securing the release of her son, Ed, from a faraway prison. He had been convicted of espionage and sentenced to five years' solitary imprisonment in Aden, the capital of the Marxist People's Democratic Republic of [South] Yemen. After reading her plea, I had to consult a map. I knew only that Aden had once been a major British base.
Had it not been for a series of canceled airline flights, his mother told me, Franklin would never have set foot in Aden. Returning from Ethiopia to his teaching post in Kuwait, he was rerouted through Aden and then delayed there by the cancelation of his departing flight. His luck worsened. Unaware of local restrictions, he photographed a prohibited area. The Adenese were still nervous about blonde-haired visitors, remembering the commando raid the British had conducted shortly after they left Aden six years earlier. When Franklin snapped the pictures, he was immediately arrested. After being kept in an interrogation center for months, he was finally brought to trial, where he was convicted and sentenced. My efforts to secure his release proceeded for the most part without aid from the State Department. Our government had had no relations, diplomatic or otherwise, with Aden since a 1969 coup moved the country's regime dramatically to the left. This meant that the State Department could do nothing directly. I asked a friend in the Egyptian embassy in Washington, D.C., to help. Franklins parents, people of
Rescue and Involvement 5
modest means living in a rural crossroads village, sent a request to Salim Rubyai Ali, South Yemen's president, seeking executive clemency. I sent a similar request. Our government asked Britain to intervene through its embassy in Aden. There was no response to any of these initiatives.
In December 1973 I visited Abdallah Ashtal, Aden's ambassador to the United Nations in New York, to ask if I could go personally to Aden and make a plea for Franklin's release. Ashtal, a short, handsome, youthful diplomat who was taking evening graduate courses at New York University, promised a prompt answer. A message came back two weeks later that I would be welcome.
If I decided to go, I would have to travel alone. I would be the first congressman—in either the House or the Senate—to visit Aden since the republic was established in 1967, and the first U.S. official to visit there since diplomatic relations were severed in the wake of the coup two years later. Although this was an exciting prospect, it caused me some foreboding. Moreover, I had no authority as an envoy. South Yemen, sometimes called "the Cuba of the Arab world," was regarded by our State Department as the most radical of the Arab states. A State Department friend did nothing to relieve my concern when he told me that Aden's foreign minister got his job "because he killed more opponents than any other candidate."
Troubling questions came to mind. How would I be received? I discussed the trip with Alfred L. Atherton, Jr., assistant secretary of state for Near East and South Asia affairs. I asked him, "If they lock me up, what will you do first?" He smiled and said, "Look for another congressman to come get you out!"
Still, I was probably the only person able to help. Franklin's mother told me, "I doubt if Ed can survive five years in a Yemen jail." My wife, Lucille, expressed deep concern over the prospects of the trip but agreed that I had little choice but to go.
I also thought the trip might be an opportunity to open the door to better relations with a vital but little-known part of the world. With the imminent reopening of the Suez Canal, better relations with Aden could be important to U.S. interests in the Indian Ocean. After all, Aden, along with French-held Djibouti, was a guardian of a world-famous and vitally important strait, the gateway to the Suez Canal. If the Soviets, already present with aid missions and military advisers, succeeded in
5 They Dare to Speak Out
dominating the Aden government, they could effectively control the canal from the south. It was obvious that, Franklin's potential release aside, the United States needed good relations with Aden.
I decided that I must go. The trip was set for late March 1974.
From Middle East scholars, I learned that Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, who was soon to begin shuttle negotiations between Israel and Egypt, was held in high esteem in Aden. I asked him for a letter that I could take with me which would be as explicit as possible about United States-Aden relations. A personal letter arrived three days before I left. In it, Kissinger said he welcomed my "humanitarian mission" to Aden and added, "Should the occasion arise, you may wish to inform those officials whom you meet of our continuing commitment to work for an equitable and lasting Middle East peace and of our desire to strengthen our ties with the Arab world."
The letter was addressed to me, not to the Aden government. It was a diplomatic "feeler." I hoped it would convince any officials I met that the United States wanted to establish normal relations with Aden.
A good traveler always brings gifts. At the suggestion of an Egyptian friend, I secured scholarships from three colleges in Illinois to present to South Yemeni students. I also located and had specially bound two Arabic language translations of The Prairie Years, Carl Sandburg's biography of Abraham Lincoln. In addition, I carried two small busts of Lincoln—my state's most celebrated leader—hoping he would be known even in Aden.
I left Washington, D.C., early enough to visit Syria before heading south to Aden. Syria had not had normal diplomatic relations with the United States since the 1967 war with Israel, and despite its growing importance, no member of the House of Representatives had visited there for five years. To my surprise, President Hafez Assad of Syria agreed to receive me without advance appointment. Perhaps he was intrigued by the presence of a U.S. congressman who said he had an open mind about Middle East issues.
Assad received me in the spacious second-floor reception room of his offices. A tall, thickset man with a prominent forehead and a warm, quiet manner, Assad made his points forcefully but without a hint of hostility. While sipping small cups of rich Syrian coffee, he voiced his pain over the United States' support of Israel's actions: "We are bitter
Rescue and Involvement 5
about the guns and ammunition you provide to Israel, and why not? But bitterness is not hostility. In fact, we have very warm feelings about the American people. Despite the war, the Syrian people like Americans and have for years."
While sympathizing, I took the initiative, urging him to restore full diplomatic relations and to take a page from the public relations book of the Israelis. I suggested that he come to the United States and take his case directly to the American people via television.
Assad responded, "Perhaps we have made some mistakes. We should have better public relations. I agree with what you say and recommend, but I don't know when I can come to the United States."
As I rose to leave, Assad said, "You have my mandate to invite members of your Congress to visit Syria as soon as possible. They will be most welcome. We want those who are critical as well as those who are friends to come."
While I later personally extended Assad's invitation to many of my colleagues and then, in a detailed official report, to all of them, few accepted. The first congressional group did not arrive until 1978, four years later.
After my interview with Assad, I was driven late at night from Damascus to Beirut for the flight to Aden. As our car approached the Syria-Lebanon border, I could hear the sound of Israel's shelling of Lebanon's Mt. Hermon. It was a sobering reminder that, seven years after the 1967 war, the fighting still continued.
In 1974 Beirut was still the "Paris of the Middle East," a westernlike city with a lively nightlife and bustling commerce. A new Holiday Inn had just opened near the harbor. Every street seemed to boast two international banks, at least three bookstores, and a dozen restaurants. A year later the Holiday Inn became a battleground between Phalangist militia, backed by Israel, and the Lebanese left coalition, including Palestinians, which were helped by various Arab governments and by Moscow. Its walls were ripped open by shells, its rooftop pavilion littered with the bodies of fallen snipers. The vicious civil war, which began in 1975, had turned Beirut into a city of rubble.
But even in 1974, the Palestinians in the refugee camps did not share the prosperity of the city. I passed the hovels of Sabra and Shatila, where, nine years later, the massacre of hundreds of Palestinian civilians would
5 They Dare to Speak Out
shock the world. My embassy escort said, "These miserable camps haven't improved in twenty years."
I also passed the Tel Zaatar refugee camp, whose wretched inhabitants would soon suffer a fate even more cruel. A year later, it was under seige for forty-five days by rightist "Christian" militias, armed and advised by Israel's Labor government. Fifteen thousand Palestinians were killed, many of them after the camp surrendered. Virtually every adult male survivor was executed. That slaughter was barely noted by the world press. Today hardly anyone, save the Palestinians, remembers it.
At that time, the spring of 1974, however, I had no premonition of the tragedies to come. I boarded the Aden-bound plane at Beirut with just one person's tragedy on my mind—that of Ed Franklin.
Mission in Aden
In Aden, to my surprise and pleasure, I was met by a delegation of five youthful officials, three of them cabinet ministers. Mine was the only gray hair in sight that night. The group had stayed up until 2:00 a.m. to meet the plane. "Welcome. We have your quarters ready," said the government's chief of protocol. Good news! This meant, I felt, that I would not be stuck off in a hotel room. My quarters turned out to be a rambling old building which, in imperial days, was the residence of the British air commander. A tree-shaded terrace—a rarity in Aden—looked over the great harbor, a strategic prize ever since white men first rounded the Cape of Good Hope in the sixteenth century. Blackbirds chattered overhead.
I received permission to visit Franklin at 7:15 that first night. I found him under guard in an apartment on the second floor of a small modern building. When I entered, he was standing by a couch in the living room. We had never seen each other before.
"I presume you are Congressman Findley," he said.
Despite the emotion of the occasion, I smiled, sensing how Dr. Livingston must have felt years before in Africa.
After sixteen months of confinement, Franklin was thin, almost gaunt. His trousers were several sizes too big, but his blonde hair was neatly combed, his face was cleanly shaved, and he was surprisingly well tanned. He looked much older than his thirty-four years.
Rescue and Involvement 5
We were able to talk alone. I said, "You're thin, but you look well." He answered, "I'm very glad you came, and I feel pretty well. Much better now that you're here. A few days ago when I used a mirror for the first time in months, I was shocked at how I look." He said he developed the tan from daily exercise in the prison yard, adding that he had been transferred to the flat two days before, obviously because authorities did not want me to see the prison.
"Here is a box of food items your family asked me to deliver." When I said that, his face, which until then had displayed no emotion, fell. "I guess this means I am not going home with you."
I said, "I don't know."
Franklin changed the subject. "I had to leave my Bible at the prison. I hated to, because I like to read it every day."
I said, "Many people have been praying for you."
He responded, "Yes, I knew at once, even before I got word in letters from home. I could feel it."
Franklin told me he had not been physically abused but said the food was terrible and some of the rules bothered him. "I am not allowed to have a pen and paper. I like to write. I once wrote poetry on a sack, but then my pencil was discovered and taken from me. Still, I like the Arab world. Maybe someday when the American embassy is reopened, I could even get a job here."
I assured him: "I'll do my very best to secure your release, or at least shorten your term. That's why I'm here, and I'll try to see you again before I leave. I'll also try to get approval for you to have a pencil and paper."
On the way back to my quarters, I passed on Franklin's request for writing materials to my escort officer, who answered simply, "I will report your request." I spent Friday, a Muslim day of worship, touring the nearby desolate countryside. The main tourist attraction was an ancient, massive stone that was used to store the area's scarce rainfall. That evening the British consul, a compassionate man who had occasionally delivered reading material to Franklin, joined me for dinner. The British had long ago understood the importance of maintaining diplomatic relations even with hostile regimes and, shortly after their stormy departure from Aden, they established an embassy there.
On Saturday morning Foreign Minister M. J. Motie came to my quarters for a long discussion of United States-Yemen relations. The
5 They Dare to Speak Out
plight of the Palestinians under Israeli occupation was at the top of his agenda, Franklin at the top of mine. He complained, "The United States is helping Saudi Arabia foment subversion along Yemen's borders." I told him I was troubled by this charge, was unaware of such activity, and hoped to help improve relations. Motie responded, "While the past is not good, the present looks better, but we need a substantial sign of friendship. For example, we need aid in buying wheat."
After the discussion, I spent a long and fruitless afternoon trying to fill a shopping list my family had sent with me. The bazaar had little but cheap Japanese radios and a few trinkets. It had even fewer shoppers. I returned to the guest house empty-handed, only to find an assortment of gifts, each neatly wrapped. Among them was zjambia, the traditional curved Yemeni dagger, and a large ceremonial pipe. The gifts were accompanied by a card bearing the words: "With the compliments of the president."
Were these gifts merely sweeteners to take the place of Franklin on my homeward journey? Or were they a harbinger of success? I dared not believe the latter. I had received no hint that the government would even shorten Franklin's sentence. At least it had acceded to his request for paper and pencil.
My second visit with Franklin was more relaxed than the first. He accepted the pencils and paper I brought him with the comment, "I hope I won't need them except for tonight." I responded that I had no reason to hope he would be able to leave with me, but that, strictly on my own hunch, I felt that he would be released soon.
I met with President Ali the night before my scheduled departure inside the heavily guarded compound where the president both lived and had his offices. I was ushered into a long reception hall adorned with blue flowered carpeting and gold drapes that covered three walls. The fourth side opened into a large courtyard. Two rows of ceiling fans whirred overhead. In the center of this large hall was a lonely group of gold upholstered sofas and chairs.
By the time I reached the circle of furniture, President Ali, the foreign minister of Aden, and an interpreter were walking through the same door I had entered. The president needed no introduction. I had seen Ali's picture in many places around Aden, but frankly it did him little justice. He was a tall, well-built man of forty. His black hair had a touch
Rescue and Involvement 5
of gray. His skin was dark, his bearing dignified. He was soft-spoken, and two gold teeth glistened when he smiled. After we exchanged greetings, I thanked him for his hospitality and for the gifts. Then I launched into my own presentation of gifts: first the book and bust, then the scholarships.
What he was waiting for, of course, was the letter from Kissinger, which would indicate the weight the United States gave my mission. When I handed it to him, I tried to broaden its importance.
"Perhaps Your Excellency will permit me to explain," I said. This letter formally presents the desire of the United States to reestablish diplomatic relations. This is important. Our government needs these relations in order to understand Aden's policies and problems. The president of the United States and the secretary of state are limited in foreign policy. They can do only whatever the Congress will support, so it is also important for congressmen to gain a better understanding of Aden's situation and of the Arab world in general."
Ali responded: "Aden is the shining example of the republic. Other areas of our country are quite different. The people are much poorer." I gulped. I had seen only Aden, Ali's "shining example," which struck me as very poor, so I could only guess at conditions elsewhere.
While I took notes, Ali told me that the antipoverty efforts of his government were handicapped by "subversion" from neighboring states. He said, bluntly, "The belief is held by the people of our country that all suffering, all damage caused by subversives, is really the work of the United States government. All military equipment we capture is United States equipment." Some of it, he said, was outside this building, placed there for me to examine.
I interjected that this information was not known in the United States, and I underscored the need for diplomatic relations so this sort of injury would stop. He nodded. "I favor relations with the United States, but they must relate to grievances now seen by my people." He added, "Aden does not wish to be isolated from the United States."
Ali thanked me for the gifts, indicating the interview was over. I sensed this was my long-awaited opportunity, my chance to launch into an appeal for Franklin.
It was not needed. Ali interrupted by saying simply, "Regarding the prisoner, as soon as I heard of your interest in him, I saw to it that he
5 They Dare to Speak Out
received preferential treatment. I have carefully considered your request and your desire that he be released. I have decided to grant your request. When you want him, you may have him."
I could scarcely believe what I had heard. "When you want him, you may have him." I was so overcome with joy I half-stumbled leaving the room. Franklin was free. In fact, he was waiting at my quarters when I returned. We were on the plane at 6:00 the next morning, headed for Beirut, and then to New York and finally St. Louis, where a joyous family welcomed Franklin home.
I am convinced that the main reason for Franklins release was the decision by our government to probe ever so cautiously for better relations with Yemen. Caution was necessary, because there were those in both nations who did not wish to see relations improved. Ali was the least Marxist of a three-man ruling junta. In the State Department, even some "Arabists," still resentful over Yemen's expulsion of the United States presence years before, rejected Aden as nothing but a "training ground for PLO terrorists." Others, such as Kissinger, felt differently. Ed Franklin had provided the opportunity to begin the probing.
But the U.S. government fiddled, hedged, and stalled for three years. Jimmy Carter replaced Gerald Ford in the White House, and Cyrus Vance became secretary of state. Our government turned down Aden's request to buy wheat on credit, then refused to consider a bid to buy three used airliners. The United States kept putting off even preliminary talks. At a second meeting with me in September 1977—this time in New York, where he addressed the United Nations—Ali restated his desire for renewed relations with the United States and suggested that I report our discussion to Secretary of State Vance. I did so, and after my report, Vance and Foreign Minister Motie of South Yemen agreed to exploratory talks. To me, this appeared like a momentous breakthrough. The talks were to begin in Aden in just a few weeks, shortly after New Year's Day. Sadly, procrastination took over.
No precise date for the meetings had been set when I returned to the Middle East with a number of other congressmen in January 1978. I altered my own itinerary to include a side trip to Aden. Before I left the group, we met with Secretary of State Vance, whose travels happened to cross ours, and with Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Fahd, a large, impressive man who spoke eloquent English and who would soon become the
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Saudi monarch. Fahd spoke approvingly of my efforts in Aden and asked me to tell officials there that Saudi Arabia was ready to resume sending them economic aid.
"It's a Good Omen"
As I saw when I arrived, the scene in Aden had improved. South Yemen had already exchanged ambassadors with former enemy Saudi Arabia, even though the two nations still had disputes over territory. Aden had also just agreed to diplomatic relations with Jordan. The local radio station no longer harangued American and Saudi "imperialists." This time my wife, Lucille, accompanied me. We were assigned to the same guest house I had used before, where the principal change was the presence of a well-stocked refrigerator.
President Ali received us, this time with an honor guard, in the same spacious hall we had used before. Although he avoided comment on Saudi Arabia's offer of aid, Ali spoke of Crown Prince Fahd with great warmth.
Then he added, "We are looking forward to the expected arrival of the diplomatic delegation from the United States before the end of the month." I am sure my face fell. I knew the delegation was not coming that month. In fact, the mission had been delayed indefinitely. A few days before, Vance had told me the bad news but had not explained why. When I expressed the hope that Ali had been notified of the delay, Vance had replied, "We will take care of it." Unfortunately, no one had.
Ali was left waiting, day by day, for a group that would not arrive. I did not feel free to tell him of the change, so I listened and tried to look hopeful. I knew the delay would strengthen his local critics, who opposed reconciliation with the United States.
I changed the subject. "Some of our strategists say you have let the Soviets establish a naval base here. Do you have a comment?"
He strongly protested. "That is not true. We do not allow the Soviets, or any foreign nation, to have a military base in our territory. But we do cooperate with the Soviets because they help us." Ali concluded our discussion by giving me a message to Washington:
Please extend my warm greetings to President Carter. Kindly inform him that we are eager to maintain smooth and friendly relations between
5 They Dare to Speak Out
Democratic Yemen and the United States. We recognize that President Carter is concerned about maintaining friendly relations with all countries. We feel that is a positive policy. We believe our relations should be further strengthened.
As we parted, I gave Ali a pottery vase our daughter Diane had made for him. He said, "That's very nice. Please thank your daughter. I admire it." Then he stepped to the door to admire something else—rain, which is a rarity in Aden.
"Its a good omen," he said.
I left Aden more convinced than ever that diplomatic relations would help the United States and our friends in the region. The United States and Saudi Arabia had a common interest in minimizing the Soviet presence in South Yemen. We needed a diplomatic mission there. Back in Washington, I missed no opportunity to press this recommendation on Secretary Vance and the White House staff.
At the White House a month later, I was able to make a personal appeal to President Jimmy Carter. Carter said he was "surprised and pleased" by Ali s message: "His words are surprisingly warm. We've been hoping to improve our situation there." I urged that there be no further delays. "Another cancellation would be baffling to President Ali, to say the least," I cautioned. Carter thanked me and assured me that he would "take care of the matter."
Carter was true to his word. Five months after my last meeting with Ali, a team of State Department officials arranged to visit Aden on June 26, 1978, for "exploratory talks" to discuss, "in a noncommittal way," the resumption of diplomatic negotiations. Ali was to meet them on the day of their arrival.
It was too late. Aden's Marxist hard-liners had decided to act. Concerned by Ali's initiatives for improved relations with the United States and Saudi Arabia, radicals seized fighter planes, strafed the presidential quarters, took control of the government, and, on the day the U.S. delegation was scheduled to arrive, arrested Ali. He was executed by a firing squad. Ambassador Ashtal called from New York to tell me the delegation would still be welcome, but that the U.S. mission was scrubbed. After traveling as far as Sana'a, the capital of North Yemen, the State Department officials returned to Washington.
Rescue and Involvement 5
Distressed over the execution of Ali, I asked Ashtal for an explanation. He replied, "Its an internal matter of no concern to the outside world." Still, Alis fate troubled me. It still does. I have often wondered whether my goodwill visit and Ali s decision to release Franklin contributed to the president s downfall and death.
My journeys to Aden had broad personal implications. After years on Capitol Hill, I heard for the first time the Arab perspective, particularly the plight of the Palestinians. I began to read about the Middle East, talk with experts, and try to understand the region. Arabs emerged as human beings.
Reports of my experiences made the rounds, and soon my office became a stopping place for people going to and from the Middle East— scholars, business people, clerics, government officials. It was unusual for anyone in Congress to visit Arab countries and take an interest in their problems. I began to speak out in Congress. I argued from what I considered to be a U.S. viewpoint—neither pro-Israel nor pro-Arab. I declared that our unwillingness to talk directly to the political leaders of the Palestinians, like our reluctance to talk to President Ali in Yemen, handicapped our search for peace. Diplomatic communication with other parties, however alien, however small, is a convenience to our government. It does not need to be viewed as an endorsement. Thus, I asked, why not talk directly to PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat, the acknowledged political voice of the Palestinians? One reason, I discovered, was that Henry Kissinger, who had provided help on my road to Aden, had agreed to an Israeli request, under which the U.S. government would not communicate formally with the PLO until the organization recognized the right of Israel to exist. It was a tough demand, especially in light of Israels flat refusal to accept a Palestinian state as its neighbor, but Kissinger had agreed to it.
To help break the ice, I decided to communicate with Arafat myself, not to negotiate anything but to serve, as best I could, as a bridge of information between the U.S. government and an important Arab community. I met the PLO leader for the first time in January 1978 in Damascus, just before meeting with Ali in Aden for what would be the last time. Before the meeting with Arafat, I had the same misgivings that I felt before going to Aden four years earlier. Meeting Arafat crossed the line that Kissinger, at Israels demand, had drawn.
5 They Dare to Speak Out
"I Stand Behind the Words"