Is it George’s Fault?
Laura Bush Heckled at Wailing Wall over Pollard Affair
And at Temple Mount by Palestinians
I was alarmed at the tenor of the reporting about First Lady Laura Bush’s close brush with both Israeli and Palestinian protesters, at the Wailing Wall and the Dome of the Rock respectively. Suzanne Malveaux, who was with her, clearly sounded shaken from the experience. Things could have been much worse.
I blame her husband George for putting her in this danger. There have been demonstrations and counter-demonstrations at the Jerusalem holy sites for weeks, because of charges by Palestinians that a far rightwing Zionist group planned to demolish the Dome of the Rock. On another level, George W. Bush was the one who said, at his National Security Council meeting on January 30, 2001, that he intended to just “unleash Sharon”, to allow all kinds of trouble between Israel and Palestine, and let conflict “clarify” things. His unconcern with the Israel/Palestine issue, which is key to US global security because of the strong feelings in the Muslim World about Israel’s colonization of the West Bank, contrasts deeply with the strenuous efforts made by his predecessor, Bill Clinton, to resolve the conflict. By January of 2001, the two sides were extremely close to an agreement. Instead of pressuring incoming rightwing Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to continue to negotiate, Bush “unleashed” him. Sharon predictably ran riot, mounting a campaign of murder and assassination against his Palestinian enemies (Sharon was actually once caught on mike planning out such a murder). At one point Sharon had a US-made F-16 fire a missile into a civilian apartment building to get at a Hamas official, killing 15 innocent people, including a little baby. John Bolton, by the way, tampered with the US government memo on the missile strike so as to shield Sharon from criticism.
After Laura Bush visited the Wailing Wall,
‘ Dozens of protesters stood nearby, shouting, “Free [convicted spy Jonathan] Pollard now” . . . The first lady was mobbed by protesters and local reporters, and Secret Service agents and Israeli police had to physically hold back the crowd as she approached the wall. ‘
The First Lady simply should not have been put in that kind of situation, where far-right Zionist fanatics had such physical access to her. The outcome could have been much worse– remember what happened to Israeli Prime Minsiter Yitzhak Rabin.
As for their demand that Jonathan Pollard be freed from US prison, where he is serving a life sentence for delivering mountains of classified information to Israel (and thence to the Soviet Union), it is monstrous. Pollard inflicted incalculable damage on the United States and is one of its most dastardly traitors. High-ranking US officers with an intimate knowledge of the case told Seymour Hersh that there is no doubt that documents he provided to the Israelis ended up in the hands of the Soviets. This happened either because Israeli intelligence peddled them to Moscow or because Israeli intelligence itself was penetrated by the KGB. By sending highly classified material out of the United States (for tens of thousands of dollars in a private account), Pollard initiated its transfer to Moscow as surely as if he had just dropped it off at the Soviet embassy. Pollard should never be released, and anyone who demands his release is no friend of the United States. Giving the signal that it is all right to spy intensively on the United States would be the worst possible move in these parlous times.
This is more especially true since the pro-Israel lobbying organization, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, is under FBI investigation for the passing of classified documents to Israeli embassy official Naor Gilon by two high-level AIPAC officials (recently fired). (Gilon, rumored to be Mossad or Israeli intelligence, is still at his cover post in Washington!) AIPAC should be made to register as an agent of a foreign power, at the very least. Like other unopposed or wealthy and focused single-interest organizations (the Cuban-American community with regard to policy toward Havana e.g., or the oil lobby that has its eyes on Alaska), AIPAC virtually sets policy for Congress in its area of interest. AIPAC is fabled for targeting any US congressmen or women who criticize Israel for un-election, and for generally succeeding. (It may not be as formidable as its reputation, but its reputation makes senators and representatives unwilling to take it on). That its officials are simultaneously spying for Israel is extremely scary. In this context, the demand that Pollard be freed functions as a demand that organizations like AIPAC be held harmless from spying on the United States of America for a foreign government.
It is George W. Bush who has encouraged the Israeli far right, by “unleashing Sharon” and letting the rightwingers know that Washington will support them no matter what. That is how they came to have the chutzpah to try to mob the First Lady. These are people that every US citizen is involuntarily taxed hundreds of dollars a year to support, and this is our thanks? We are spied on and then denounced for jailing the spy? And our First Lady is nearly mobbed?
At the Dome of the Rock, the third holiest shrine in Islam, “40 or 50” angry protesters came toward her, but the US Secret Service whisked her away. CNN says, ‘ As she left the mosque, one heckler yelled, “How dare you come in here?” and “Why do you hassle our Muslims?” ‘
Ironically, Laura Bush has been much more sympathetic to hurt feelings on the Muslim world about abuses at Abu Ghraib and elsewhere than has her husband.
Mrs. Bush said the Newsweek report compounded anti-American sentiment stemming from the abuse of Iraqi detainees at Abu Ghraib. She said that abuse was “not any sort of typical thing from the United States.” “We’ve had terrible happenings that have really, really hurt our image of the United States,” she said. “And people in the United States are sick about it.”
George W. Bush’s policies have pushed approval ratings for the United States in the Muslim world on down to practically zero. It wasn’t always like this. In 1999, 75 percent of Indonesians (the most populous Muslim country) had a favorable view of the US. On Sunday, 7,000 Indonesians protested at the US embassy against reports of Koran desecration by US military interrogators. The International Committee of the Red Cross says that it repeatedly presented to the US military what it felt were “credible” reports of Koran desecration. Passions were further inflamed Friday by a New York Times report on the way US military interrogators at Bagram in Afghanistan tortured two detainees to death. (The Indonesian protest was in part with reference to Bagram.)
It is George W. Bush who has set up the New Gulags, attempting to create political and legal enclaves which are completely beyond the law, where the “quaint” Geneva Conventions do not apply, where detainees do not get to see a lawyer, where they are not owed a speedy trial or basic human dignity, where they can essentially be tortured with impunity. Only low-ranking military personnel are being prosecuted for the abuses, but they were certainly authorized in at least a general way by the tone set in the White House.
We all now live in one world, on one globe. The Arab-Israeli conflict or the struggle within Islam between progressive and reactionary forces affects us all. Therefore, Bush’s policies toward both affect us all. Laura Bush got a small taste of how much they affect us on Sunday.