Some of the coverage of the controversy concerning the nomination of Salam Al-Marayati to the U.S. government's National Commission on Terrorism erroneously implied that the opposition was based on the fact that Mr. Al-Marayati is a Muslim and an Arab American ["Muslim Won't Serve on Terrorism Panel," news story, July 10]. The Zionist Organization of America opposed Mr. Al-Marayati because of his many statements justifying terrorism against Israel and America. The ZOA would have just as vigorously opposed any Jewish or Christian nominee who held the same disturbing views.
Some news accounts mentioned a statement by Mr. Al-Marayati blaming Israel's prime minister for a March 1997 Hamas suicide bombing in which three Israeli women were murdered. The problem was not one isolated remark, but a record of pro-violence statements made by Mr. Al-Marayati and the Muslim Public Affairs Council, of which he is director.
In an April 1997 article, Mr. Al-Marayati justified future Arab terrorism against U.S. targets as the result of Arabs' being "pushed to despair and thrown over the edge of hate, anger and insecurity." In June 1996, he said that Islamic terrorist groups are comparable to "American freedom fighters hundreds of years ago [who] were also regarded as terrorists by the British."
In other troubling statements, Mr. Al-Marayati said that while some people consider Saddam Hussein reckless, "the same can be said about U.S. policy as a result of its reactionary mode." His Muslim Public Affairs Council condemned the U.S. attack on terrorist targets in Afghanistan and Sudan in August 1998 as "illegal, immoral and illogical." He charged that "Jewish unlawfulness is tolerated because powerful brokers can dictate terms to Congress and the Administration" and has compared supporters of Israel with Adolf Hitler. Mr. Al-Marayati also accused Israel of "defaming the Prophet [Mohammed]," an incendiary accusation that easily could have incited anti-Israel violence.
MORTON A. KLEIN
Zionist Organization of America
As an American of Arab descent, I am extremely disturbed by Rep. Richard Gephardt's (D-Mo.) reversal of his nomination of Salam Al-Marayati to serve on the National Commission on Terrorism. The excuse that a security clearance for Mr. Al-Marayati could not be obtained in a timely manner would be laughable if it were not so ludicrous. Rep. Gephardt will lose the support of voting Arab Americans and those who practice Islam, be they of Arab descent or not. He should look at the long-range implications of his decision both in terms of the effectiveness of this commission and of his political aspirations.
I understand the tremendous pressure Mr. Gephardt received from the lobbying efforts of the American Jewish Committee, the Anti-Defamation League, the Zionist Organization of America and the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. This should not be an issue of ethnicity or religious beliefs but of what is best for our country. To be effective and just, the commission needs to include an Arab American or a Muslim American. Mr. Al-Marayati is an excellent choice, as reflected by Rep. Bonior's (D-Mich.) recommendation. I urge Mr. Gephardt to renominate Mr. Al-Marayati or to nominate another Arab American or Muslim American to serve on the commission.
KAREEM W. SHORA
Huntington, W. Va.