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Posts For: June 4, 2014

Will Syria Kill the Schengen Zone?

I have been in Warsaw for the last several days for a seminar and to give a lecture for the Polish military. This trip was planned well before President Obama’s visit, to which Poles seem indifferent if not mildly cynical: simply put, with Russia looming large and the U.S. wavering in its leadership, it is hard to look from Warsaw to Washington and see a trustworthy ally.

The Polish army has been a faithful and active partner to the United States for well over a decade. Whatever Americans may think about the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the Poles were by our side, and not simply symbolically: Poles fought alongside Americans and, in some cases, died alongside Americans. When Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld talked about “Old Europe” and “New Europe,” he was thinking about Poland.

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I have been in Warsaw for the last several days for a seminar and to give a lecture for the Polish military. This trip was planned well before President Obama’s visit, to which Poles seem indifferent if not mildly cynical: simply put, with Russia looming large and the U.S. wavering in its leadership, it is hard to look from Warsaw to Washington and see a trustworthy ally.

The Polish army has been a faithful and active partner to the United States for well over a decade. Whatever Americans may think about the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the Poles were by our side, and not simply symbolically: Poles fought alongside Americans and, in some cases, died alongside Americans. When Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld talked about “Old Europe” and “New Europe,” he was thinking about Poland.

Poland, of course, does not stand alone. It is a member of NATO, a member of the European Union, and a member of the Schengen Zone, enabling passport-free travel to all other signatories to the Schengen Agreement. For me, this meant flying into Germany, clearing passport control, before catching my next flight to Poland. But it also means being able to board a train in Spain, transfer in Paris for a train to Rome, and then fly to Helsinki, all without showing a passport.

As the Poles look at potential future threats and sources of regional instability, Syria of course looms large. As the shooting at the Jewish Museum in Brussels demonstrates, the long-awaited backlash from returning Jihadis from the Syrian civil war has begun. While Poland may not seem a likely target for Islamist terror, the Poles are cognizant of the fact that the breakdown of internal borders within Europe means that European Islamists returning from Syria—where more than a thousand are believed to be fighting—could strike soft targets not only in their home countries but also in Poland, the Baltics, Scandinavia—or any of the other 20 odd members.

Just as Europeans now question the euro as theory crashes into reality, when the big terror attack comes—and thanks to Turkey’s willingness to let radical Islamists transit its borders to enter and exit Syria—it most certainly will come, individual European states may begin to question the wisdom of forfeiting their sovereign control over their borders. It has been more than a decade since al-Qaeda struck in Madrid. But with more than 1,000 hardened al-Qaeda sympathizers who may eventually return home carrying passports giving them the right to cross borders with abandon, Schengen may soon have an expiration date. And with it, goes European dreams of a unified continent. The reverberations of the decision to do nothing with regard to Syria will continue to ripple outward, far beyond the Middle East itself.

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The Boycott Movement Loses at the MLA

An anti-Israel resolution put before the full membership of the Modern Language Association failed to muster the approval of the ten percent of the membership that’s required for ratification. The MLA is a big organization, consisting of almost 24,000 scholars and teachers of language and literature. This is an important victory.

The resolution asked “the United States Department of State to contest Israel’s denials of entry to the West Bank by United States academics who have been invited to teach, confer, or do research at Palestinian universities.” But as I have argued here, the resolution was a test of the boycott campaign whose proponents put it forward.

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An anti-Israel resolution put before the full membership of the Modern Language Association failed to muster the approval of the ten percent of the membership that’s required for ratification. The MLA is a big organization, consisting of almost 24,000 scholars and teachers of language and literature. This is an important victory.

The resolution asked “the United States Department of State to contest Israel’s denials of entry to the West Bank by United States academics who have been invited to teach, confer, or do research at Palestinian universities.” But as I have argued here, the resolution was a test of the boycott campaign whose proponents put it forward.

Proponents of the resolution will claim that the vote went their way, and they will be right about the 11 percent of MLA members who voted.  1,560 members voted for it, and 1,063 members voted against it. But to put this vote in perspective, a 2012 resolution supporting Occupy Wall Street’s position on student loans easily passed, with 3,233 yes votes and 207 no votes.

The vote affirms that in spite of a lengthy campaign to commit the MLA to an anti-Israel stand, only a small minority of the membership is prepared to vote for such a commitment, let alone a boycott. The campaign succeeded in producing an anti-Israel resolution in 2008, before the MLA, in 2011, amended its constitution to prevent small minorities from committing members to specific positions on public and professional issues. Whenever you hear the boycott campaign in academia claim that it is gathering momentum, recall that it is farther from success at the MLA, a group that has not shied away from taking political stands, than it was six years ago.

For waging a determined fight against the resolution, we have to thank MLA Members for Scholar’s Rights, which distributed, without any support from the MLA, a fact sheet to balance the one-sided packet of evidence passed on to the membership along with the resolution. In return for their efforts, they were denounced as “Zionist attack dogs.”

In a statement distributed via e-mail, MLA Members for Scholar’s Rights said that the MLA has “wisely voted to . . . return the organization to its core purposes: deepening our understanding of our long, compelling, international literary inheritance; improving our resources for teaching our students; and promoting the role and presence of the humanities here and abroad.” Although that may be too optimistic an assessment of the extent to which the MLA’s rank and file separate teaching and scholarship from partisan politics, it is not an exaggeration to say that there is little support among them for turning the MLA into a propaganda outlet for the boycott campaign. The boycott movement is having a hard time succeeding because it represents not just any partisan political position, or even any leftwing partisan position, but a narrow and radical partisan position adopted by a deservedly unpopular wing of the anti-Israeli left.

That said, the passage or failure of such a resolution at the MLA turns on hundreds, not thousands of votes, and at organizations without the MLA’s wise ten-percent rule, a minority, however small, can succeed in taking over. For that reason, as the MLA Members for Scholar’s Rights statement says, “continued vigilance is essential.”

But let’s at least take a moment to celebrate. The good guys won this round.

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Arab Spring Comes to Polisario Front?

I have written here before about the Polisario Front, a Cold War throw-back and authoritarian cult funded by the Algerian military regime as a tool against Morocco. The Department of Homeland Security classifies the Polisario Front as a terrorist group. Polisario leaders seek to cloak themselves in a shroud of anti-colonial legitimacy saying they are fighting for a Sahrawi state in the Western Sahara, a former Spanish colonial territory now autonomous under Moroccan control. That is enough for many leftist journalists and progressive academics to embrace them, and even President Obama took a photo with the Polisario Front’s autocratic leader, but the reality is their constituency is tiny and growing smaller every day.

While the Polisario imagines themselves leading a state, the sad truth is they reign over little more than a handful of refugee camps in the Tindouf province of Algeria which house not more than 100,000 Sahrawi, of whom perhaps only 40,000 are refugees from the Western Sahara. These refugees live in a political culture as authoritarian and as that of Turkmenistan, Eritrea, North Korea, or the Mujahedin al-Khalq. Here, for example, is a report that the Polisario has forced youth into marriages in order to create new constituents. The Polisario notoriously separated children from their parents and shipped them to Cuba for indoctrination. The Polisario taxes residents to fund the profligate lifestyles of its leaders. Party membership—and blind loyalty to Mohamed Abdelaziz, the Polisario’s dictator—is required for employment and to receive other benefits. The group prevents residents of the Tindouf camps from returning home. While the United Nations facilitates some family visits between Moroccan Tindouf refugees and their families, the Polisario refuses to allow husbands and wives and children to travel together, treating those left behind as hostages in order to guarantee the return of the camp residents. In short, to be born into the Polisario-run camps is to be born into an authoritarian hell.

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I have written here before about the Polisario Front, a Cold War throw-back and authoritarian cult funded by the Algerian military regime as a tool against Morocco. The Department of Homeland Security classifies the Polisario Front as a terrorist group. Polisario leaders seek to cloak themselves in a shroud of anti-colonial legitimacy saying they are fighting for a Sahrawi state in the Western Sahara, a former Spanish colonial territory now autonomous under Moroccan control. That is enough for many leftist journalists and progressive academics to embrace them, and even President Obama took a photo with the Polisario Front’s autocratic leader, but the reality is their constituency is tiny and growing smaller every day.

While the Polisario imagines themselves leading a state, the sad truth is they reign over little more than a handful of refugee camps in the Tindouf province of Algeria which house not more than 100,000 Sahrawi, of whom perhaps only 40,000 are refugees from the Western Sahara. These refugees live in a political culture as authoritarian and as that of Turkmenistan, Eritrea, North Korea, or the Mujahedin al-Khalq. Here, for example, is a report that the Polisario has forced youth into marriages in order to create new constituents. The Polisario notoriously separated children from their parents and shipped them to Cuba for indoctrination. The Polisario taxes residents to fund the profligate lifestyles of its leaders. Party membership—and blind loyalty to Mohamed Abdelaziz, the Polisario’s dictator—is required for employment and to receive other benefits. The group prevents residents of the Tindouf camps from returning home. While the United Nations facilitates some family visits between Moroccan Tindouf refugees and their families, the Polisario refuses to allow husbands and wives and children to travel together, treating those left behind as hostages in order to guarantee the return of the camp residents. In short, to be born into the Polisario-run camps is to be born into an authoritarian hell.

Just as the White House remained largely silent when Iranians rose up for freedom in 2009, and remains muted on similar anti-authoritarian protests in Venezuela today, so too is it now silent on a nascent freedom movement in the Polisario-run camps. According to al-Arabiya:

The so-called “Youth Movement for Change” released a video accusing the Polisario Front’s leadership of corruption and called for improving the conditions of Sahrawi refugees in Tindouf. The movement also demanded the departure of the Front’s aging figures, including its 66-year-old leader Mohammad Abdelaziz who has been in control since 1976. The youth group, which was founded in February this year, accused Abdelaziz and his associates of “trading in the suffering of the Sahrawi refugees.” “We have suffered from injustice for more than 40 years. We demand the departure of this corrupt leadership, which is the oldest, most corrupt leadership in the world,” Mohammad Lamine, a spokesman for the nascent group, told Al Arabiya News Channel from the Tindouf refugee camp. “They have been stealing humanitarian aid provided by international organizations to the refugee camps and whenever we raise our voices against [this] they accuse us of being agents of Morocco,” he added.

Susan Rice, currently Obama’s national security advisor, has twice during the Obama administration promoted policies which would impose a politically-charged ‘human rights monitoring’ regime in the Western Sahara, a move that would effectively undercut Morocco’s security and empower Polisario Front propaganda in the Western Sahara. She did so supposedly in the name of the interests of the Sahrawi population (most of whom, it seems, prefer to reintegrate into Morocco or into the Western Sahara to which Morocco granted autonomy). But when she and President Obama have the opportunity truly to support liberty, freedom, and human rights for Sahrawis, they remain silent. That silence simply makes the Polisario’s oppression easier. How sad. And how telling.

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Human Rights Watch Doesn’t Understand Terrorism

Kenneth Roth, the executive director of Human Rights Watch, is a prolific tweeter. And as with most policymakers, analysts, and activists who expound on Twitter, often their tweets can provide windows into their minds more illuminating than carefully edited essays.

Alas, from this recent tweet, it appears that Roth doesn’t really understand terrorism. He opines, in twitterese, “Abusive #Nigeria army is big part of why we have Boko Haram. Leahy Law key to ensure US aid doesn’t reinforce abuse.” Now, don’t get me wrong: Nigeria is an extraordinarily corrupt country and its army is often dysfunctional. Nor is the Nigerian army by any means a paradigm of human rights.

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Kenneth Roth, the executive director of Human Rights Watch, is a prolific tweeter. And as with most policymakers, analysts, and activists who expound on Twitter, often their tweets can provide windows into their minds more illuminating than carefully edited essays.

Alas, from this recent tweet, it appears that Roth doesn’t really understand terrorism. He opines, in twitterese, “Abusive #Nigeria army is big part of why we have Boko Haram. Leahy Law key to ensure US aid doesn’t reinforce abuse.” Now, don’t get me wrong: Nigeria is an extraordinarily corrupt country and its army is often dysfunctional. Nor is the Nigerian army by any means a paradigm of human rights.

But even if the Nigerian army is complicit in human rights abuses, Boko Haram doesn’t exist as a protest against the army. It exists because of the influence of Saudi-funded preachers who have for decades sought to introduce radical theological interpretations into Western Africa and elsewhere in the world, some of which have taken root. The speech by Boko Haram leader Abubakr Shekau, which I have previously written about and in which he justified his kidnapping of the still-missing Nigerian school girls, is quite illuminating. It is at once a rant against Christianity, a call for the re-institution of slavery and what in Shekau’s mind would be a perfect Islamist order, and finally a general condemnation of both democracy and the West.

Too many academics and diplomats—and it seems organizations like Human Rights Watch—prefer to ignore the ideology which underpins Islamist-inspired terrorism and instead see the world through the prism of grievance: That’s comforting, because it deludes its adherents into believing that they can resolve problems like Boko Haram simply by addressing concrete grievances. But it is also foolish and deluded because men like Abubakr Shekau, Ayman al-Zawahiri, Hassan Nasrallah, Ismail Haniyeh, and Ali Khamenei put their own narrow, extreme, and radical religious ideology above all else. They welcome concessions or incentives simply because it makes their fight easier, but they will never embrace their hateful doctrines. When it comes to Boko Haram and other Islamist terrorist groups, it is disappointing that men like Kenneth Roth and Human Rights Watch, the organization he represents, still ignore ideology and seem to believe that the fault lies more with the men and women putting their lives on the line to fight terrorism.   

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Obama’s Syria Policy Rebuked From the Inside

Robert Ford is one of the outstanding Arabists of his generation—a diplomat who has capably represented American interests in Iraq, Algeria, Syria, and other countries. The New York Times had reported earlier this year that he was next in line to become ambassador to Egypt, yet on February 28 he announced he was stepping down as envoy to Syria and leaving the government.

He did not reveal at the time why he quit—but now he has. In an interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour he said:

Christiane, I was no longer in a position where I felt I could defend the American policy. We have been unable to address either the root causes of the conflict in terms of the fighting on the ground and the balance on the ground and we have a growing extremism threat.

And there really is nothing we can point to that’s been very successful in our policy except the removal of about 93 percent of some of Assad’s chemical materials. But now he’s using chlorine gas against his opponents in contravention of the Syrian government’s agreement in 2013 to abide by the chemical weapons convention. The regime simply has no credibility and our policy is not addressing the Syrian crisis as it needs to, frankly speaking.

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Robert Ford is one of the outstanding Arabists of his generation—a diplomat who has capably represented American interests in Iraq, Algeria, Syria, and other countries. The New York Times had reported earlier this year that he was next in line to become ambassador to Egypt, yet on February 28 he announced he was stepping down as envoy to Syria and leaving the government.

He did not reveal at the time why he quit—but now he has. In an interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour he said:

Christiane, I was no longer in a position where I felt I could defend the American policy. We have been unable to address either the root causes of the conflict in terms of the fighting on the ground and the balance on the ground and we have a growing extremism threat.

And there really is nothing we can point to that’s been very successful in our policy except the removal of about 93 percent of some of Assad’s chemical materials. But now he’s using chlorine gas against his opponents in contravention of the Syrian government’s agreement in 2013 to abide by the chemical weapons convention. The regime simply has no credibility and our policy is not addressing the Syrian crisis as it needs to, frankly speaking.

Coming from a soft-spoken diplomat such as Robert Ford, that’s a bombshell. Elsewhere in the interview he made plain that—like David Petraeus, Leon Panetta, Hillary Clinton, and other senior members of the administration—he favored providing more support to the non-jihadist opposition at the beginning of the conflict. He said:

Had there been more military assistance and logistical assistance—and even things like cash—two things would have happened differently. Number one, the opposition would have probably been able to gain more ground a couple of years ago more quickly and been able to go to a negotiating table in a much stronger position; the regime would have been much weaker.

And the second thing is—and this is really important, Christiane—the ability of al-Qaeda and Islamist extremist groups to recruit away from the moderates would have been less. And we would have less of an extremism problem in Syria now. Had there been more systems provided to the moderate forces even a year or two ago, it would have made a big difference.

Alas President Obama failed to follow his advisers’ policy on Syria and is still equivocating about what to do even as the situation goes from bad to worse. Ambassador Ford has delivered a much-needed rebuke from the inside to the president’s scandalous failure to address the worst human-rights and strategic disaster of the past decade. The only wonder is that more administration officials who have staked their careers on the cause of humanitarian intervention are not resigning in protest.

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Haaretz Goes Full-Blown Conspiracy

Jeffrey Goldberg, a self-reverential and prolific pundit who often writes on Israel-Palestinian issues, set off a mini-firestorm yesterday when he criticized the left-wing Israel daily Haaretz for a commentary headlined, “Why all Israelis are Cowards.” But lost in that controversy was an equally significant Haaretz book review entitled, “Was the Iranian threat fabricated by Israel and the U.S.?” The recent review and interview—written and conducted by Haaretz staff blogger and academic Shemuel Meir—treats with great credulity  Gareth Porter’s recent book Manufactured Crisis: The Untold Story of the Nuclear Scare. Porter weaves together his narrative with questionable sources, fuzzy interpretation of sources, and cherry-picked data. The result is a forgettable tale easily refuted by legitimate sources and data Porter chose to ignore.

More curious is what Meir and Haaretz omitted. While Porter’s scholarship should be judged on its own terms, it is also fair to consider the context of Porter’s work. Previous work—and the reason why Porter remains an ‘independent’ scholar—shows a disturbing willingness to subvert scholarly integrity to politics and to give the benefit of the doubt to radical causes. In 1976, he published Cambodia: Starvation and Revolution which treated Khmer Rouge sources uncritically. He proceeded to testify in Congress denying the genocide perpetrated by the Khmer Rouge and took to the pages of the New York Review of Books to defend murderous dictator Pol Pot. Now, the reality of the Khmer Rouge was well-known at the time and evidence of its atrocities were public and accessible to anyone who wished to put evidence and truth above radical politics.

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Jeffrey Goldberg, a self-reverential and prolific pundit who often writes on Israel-Palestinian issues, set off a mini-firestorm yesterday when he criticized the left-wing Israel daily Haaretz for a commentary headlined, “Why all Israelis are Cowards.” But lost in that controversy was an equally significant Haaretz book review entitled, “Was the Iranian threat fabricated by Israel and the U.S.?” The recent review and interview—written and conducted by Haaretz staff blogger and academic Shemuel Meir—treats with great credulity  Gareth Porter’s recent book Manufactured Crisis: The Untold Story of the Nuclear Scare. Porter weaves together his narrative with questionable sources, fuzzy interpretation of sources, and cherry-picked data. The result is a forgettable tale easily refuted by legitimate sources and data Porter chose to ignore.

More curious is what Meir and Haaretz omitted. While Porter’s scholarship should be judged on its own terms, it is also fair to consider the context of Porter’s work. Previous work—and the reason why Porter remains an ‘independent’ scholar—shows a disturbing willingness to subvert scholarly integrity to politics and to give the benefit of the doubt to radical causes. In 1976, he published Cambodia: Starvation and Revolution which treated Khmer Rouge sources uncritically. He proceeded to testify in Congress denying the genocide perpetrated by the Khmer Rouge and took to the pages of the New York Review of Books to defend murderous dictator Pol Pot. Now, the reality of the Khmer Rouge was well-known at the time and evidence of its atrocities were public and accessible to anyone who wished to put evidence and truth above radical politics.

Haaretz, of course, did not see fit to consider any of this. It and Meir’s actions are akin to reviewing a new book by notorious Holocaust denier David Irving but choosing only to describe him as a “British historian.” Perhaps it is time for Mr. Meir and the editors of Haaretz to explain such omissions and to enunciate whether Haaretz is simply sloppy or has consciously sought to transform itself into a flagship for peddlers of hate.

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Not First Time Palestinian Aid Violated the Law

Jonathan Tobin noted yesterday that the Obama administration’s decision to continue funding the Palestinian Authority despite its inclusion of Hamas is a clear violation of U.S. law. He is absolutely right. President Obama and Secretary of State Kerry’s decision, alas, was entirely predictable. In my recent book on the history of U.S. diplomacy with rogue regimes and terrorist groups, I chronicle CIA, State Department, and White House efforts across decades to subvert U.S. law and engage with the worst, most extreme Palestinian elements.

In July 1979, for example, Andrew Young, a civil rights hero whom Carter had appointed to be the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, met secretly with Zehdi Terzi, the PLO’s representative at the UN. True, Young had not cleared his meeting with the State Department. Like many diplomats, he found freelancing with rogues to be cool. When the matter became public, Carter reprimanded Young, and Young resigned. He remained defiant, however, and chided U.S. refusal to talk to the PLO. That much was public. What was not aired publicly at the time, but became clear from both letters, declassified documents, and memoirs, is that Carter blamed not Young but rather the Israelis for forcing the matter to come to a head.

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Jonathan Tobin noted yesterday that the Obama administration’s decision to continue funding the Palestinian Authority despite its inclusion of Hamas is a clear violation of U.S. law. He is absolutely right. President Obama and Secretary of State Kerry’s decision, alas, was entirely predictable. In my recent book on the history of U.S. diplomacy with rogue regimes and terrorist groups, I chronicle CIA, State Department, and White House efforts across decades to subvert U.S. law and engage with the worst, most extreme Palestinian elements.

In July 1979, for example, Andrew Young, a civil rights hero whom Carter had appointed to be the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, met secretly with Zehdi Terzi, the PLO’s representative at the UN. True, Young had not cleared his meeting with the State Department. Like many diplomats, he found freelancing with rogues to be cool. When the matter became public, Carter reprimanded Young, and Young resigned. He remained defiant, however, and chided U.S. refusal to talk to the PLO. That much was public. What was not aired publicly at the time, but became clear from both letters, declassified documents, and memoirs, is that Carter blamed not Young but rather the Israelis for forcing the matter to come to a head.

No doubt, Carter had a soft spot for the PLO. After Iranian revolutionaries seized the U.S. embassy in Tehran in November 1979, Carter used the PLO as an intermediary with the hostage-takers. When the Iranian hostage-takers released black and female hostages, the State Department credited the PLO. Diplomats didn’t realize that this was a gesture the Iranians would have made anyway, because the revolutionary leadership had internalized third world propaganda on American society and wanted to show that they were supporters of ‘social justice.’ Regardless, by accepting the PLO as an intermediary, Carter and the State Department granted the PLO legitimacy at a time when it refused to abandon terrorism. Congress was less willing simply to criticize and posture, and instead moved to constrain Carter’s outreach: It opposed both the UN Special Committee on Palestinian Rights and American participation in the International Monetary Fund if the PLO joined.

Compared to Carter, Ronald Reagan was a breath of fresh air. During his campaign, Reagan swore he would not negotiate with terrorists. The State Department had come to a different conclusion. In the early 1980s, the PLO was on the ropes. Israel’s 1982 Lebanon invasion soundly defeated the PLO and forced its leadership into exile. The PLO remained as committed to terrorism as ever, most famously hijacking the cruise ship Achille Lauro in 1985. The execution, reportedly on Arafat’s orders, of an elderly, wheelchair-bound American Jew reinforced the PLO’s pariah status. Rather than gear policy to undermine the weakened PLO further, the State Department engaged the group.

In one of the closest parallels to what is occurring today, U.S. diplomats in 1985 were willing to accept the fiction of a joint Jordanian-PLO delegation in order to sit down with the PLO. Arafat’s refusal to even rhetorically foreswear terrorism, however, led to the cancellation of talks. In the aftermath of the Achille Lauro hijacking, Congress passed the Anti-Terrorism Act of 1987, which formally declared the PLO to be a terrorist organization for purposes of U.S. law, and reinforced the prohibition on U.S. dialogue with the group. This act forced the State Department to close the PLO’s offices in Washington, against American diplomats’ wishes, although the United Nations treaty protected the PLO offices in New York.

The PLO got a new lease on life with the outbreak of the first intifada in December 1987. In February 1988, in the midst of almost daily violence, Mohamed Rabie, a Palestinian academic close to the PLO leadership, approached William Quandt, a Carter-era National Security Council aide and sought Quandt’s help with an introduction to NSC officials to explore U.S. interest for dialogue with the PLO. Two diplomats serving on the NSC—Robert Oakley and Dennis Ross—were happy to oblige. Talking to terrorists makes careers. In the book, I go into considerable detail into that dialogue. The PLO gained a great deal of legitimacy and that late Reagan-era dialogue actually set the stage for the full embrace of the PLO five years later.

It is one thing for the Congress to make laws in order to constrain the State Department and protect against diplomats’ worst instincts. It is another thing to enforce the law. During the Clinton administration, efforts to subvert Congress in order to keep dialogue with the PLO alive became even more nefarious.

In 1989, noting that the PLO continued its terrorism with Arafat’s cognizance, Congress passed the PLO Commitments Compliance Act (PLOCCA), which required the State Department to affirm every 120 days that the PLO was abiding by its commitment to abandon terrorism and recognize Israel’s right to exist. If the PLO did not meet its commitments, then dialogue should cease. That happened once. On May 30, 1990, terrorists attacked a Tel Aviv beach. When Arafat refused to discipline Abul Abbas, the PLO executive committee member who planned the attack, the State Department suspended dialogue for a few weeks.

After Oslo, and after Arafat returned to Gaza, he was dismissive of commitments both to ensure security and revoke portions of the PLO’s charter that called for Israel’s destruction. Because the State Department ignored Arafat’s backpedaling, the Senate tried to rein in engagement. On July 15, 1994, the Senate prohibited release of taxpayer funds to the PLO unless the PLO complied with its commitments to renounce and control terrorism. Congressional action did not filter down to diplomats on the ground, though. “I took every opportunity I could to see Arafat,” recounted Edward Abington Jr., the U.S. consul general in Jerusalem. “I just felt it was important to be seen as very active, as understanding Palestinian positions, showing sympathy and empathy.” In retirement, Arafat rewarded Abington with a golden parachute.

Throughout the later Clinton administration, the State Department actively buried information that it had at its disposal proving Arafat’s complicity in terrorism in order to avoid triggering an automatic U.S. aid cut-off. Documents captured from Arafat’s Ramallah compound showed the depth of Arafat’s personal involvement in financing and directing terror attacks. A comparison of declassified intelligence with the timing of Congressional testimony by senior American diplomats shows unequivocally that senior State Department officials—many of whom subsequently joined the Obama administration—had simply lied to Congress in order to keep the taxpayer money flowing and keep shuttle diplomacy alive.

Jonathan is absolutely correct that “Congress must restrict his ability to funnel money to Palestinian terrorists in the future. Let us hope they have the will. But until Congress holds senior American officials accountable for demonstrably lying to Congress, there is no disincentive for flagrantly breaking the law.

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