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Puppets, Puppeteers And Israel

Saturday, August 21, 2004; Page A17

An Aug. 14 editorial's juxtaposition of my words, taken from a statement that was rooted in advocacy for an Israeli-Palestinian peace, was shameful and unsavory. (Readers can judge for themselves by seeing the full statement at www.votenader.org.) Your objection to my description of the need to replace the Washington puppet show with the Washington peace show reinforces the censorious climate against open and free discussion about this conflict. When Israelis joke about the United States being "the second state of Israel," it sounds like they are describing a puppeteer-puppet relationship. Or, would your paper prefer using the descriptor "dominant-subordinate?"

New York Times columnist Tom Friedman used stronger words than "puppet" when on Feb. 5 he wrote: "Mr. Sharon has the Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat under house arrest in his office in Ramallah, and he's had George Bush under house arrest in the Oval Office. Mr. Sharon has Mr. Arafat surrounded by tanks, and Mr. Bush surrounded by Jewish and Christian pro-Israel lobbyists, by a vice president, Dick Cheney, who's ready to do whatever Mr. Sharon dictates . . . all conspiring to make sure the president does nothing."

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That many other Israeli and U.S. peace advocates with impressive political, business, academic, military and intelligence experience receive no hearing in official Washington is further indication of bias inside both political parties.

When the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) works to obtain a recent 407 to 9 vote for a House resolution supporting the latest Sharon strategy and rejecting any mention of an independent Palestinian state, how would you describe such a surrender of the privately held positions of House members who favor a two-state solution?

Half of the Israeli people and more than two-thirds of Jewish Americans believe the conflict can be settled only by allowing an independent Palestinian state together with a secure Israel.

Why does your paper object to a description of AIPAC as an awesome lobby on Capitol Hill, labeling it "poisonous stuff"? AIPAC has worked hard over the years to enlist the support of both Christians and Jews. Its organizing skills are the envy of the National Rifle Association and other citizen groups. Muslim Americans are trying to learn from its lobbying skills to produce a more balanced congressional debate on Middle Eastern policies. How does acknowledging such an achievement play on age-old stereotypes? The bias may be in your editors' minds.

-- Ralph Nader

Washington

The writer is an independent candidate for president.

Your Aug. 14 editorial criticizes Ralph Nader for describing the relationship between Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and the Bush administration and Congress as one of puppeteer and puppets. But instead of picking apart Nader's speech, perhaps your editorial board could tell us how providing billions of dollars of U.S. military and economic aid to Israel, which supports a 37-year military occupation of Palestine, is consistent with U.S. principles and interests. The Arab and Muslim world resents U.S. support for that oppression. This fuels support for terrorism. Is this sufficient reason to reassess the United States' uncritical support for Israel?

-- John P. Salzberg

Washington

The writer is a member of the Washington Interfaith Alliance for Middle East Peace.


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