- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 30, 2001

U.S. exhibits double standard towards Israel

If a U.S. senator was murdered and if our State Department identified both the murderer and the government that had facilitated and encouraged the murder what would be the American response? There can be no doubt that we would wage an all-out war as, indeed, we are doing now against Osama bin Laden. Our purpose would be not only to avenge the murder of one of our leaders, but to send an unambiguous message to the world that we will not tolerate any form of terrorism. Apparently, however, Israel does not have this same right the right of any sovereign nation to protect itself against terrorism and to prevent the coldblooded murder of its citizens and lawmakers.
On Oct. 18, Rehavam Zeevi, a member of Israel's Knesset (Parliament) and Israel's tourism minister, was murdered in his Jerusalem hotel room. Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon demanded that Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat immediately hand over the murderers or face the consequences much as President Bush demanded, and rightfully so, that Afghanistan hand over bin Laden or face American might. Mr. Arafat refused. Consequently, the Israeli army moved into Palestinian-controlled territory and threatened to retain control unless the murderers were handed over.
Israel has acted against terrorism in much the same manner as the United States. In fact, the Israeli response to Palestinian terrorists has been, and remains, far more restrained than our response to Islamic terrorists. Yet, the United States announced last week that Israeli actions in response to Mr. Zeevi's murder are an impediment to peace in the region and demanded that Israeli forces withdraw from the areas it occupied in the West Bank. In other words, the same country that (rightfully) is killing Afghans on a daily basis in its mission to hunt down and destroy terrorists has ordered Israel not to fight its own terrorists.
Before American officials are so quick to judge Israel, they might consider the incredible moral double standard they are perpetuating against their true ally. Israel has the right to fight terrorists who blow up children having lunch in a pizza shop, just as America has the right to fight terrorists who fly airplanes into buildings.

College Park

Bush quells doubts about foreign affairs prowess

About ten months ago, during the presidential campaign, a reporter asked President Bush if he knew the name of Pakistan's president. Mr. Bush did not know the answer. Much was made of this in newspapers and the late night talk shows monologues. Pakistani papers had some fun with it too, saying that the American presidential campaign might be decided by a reporter's question about Pakistan.
After the incident, Mr. Bush's foreign affairs know-how was questioned and his ability to implement an effective foreign policy was doubted. It would be safe to say that today Mr. Bush not only remembers the name of Pakistan's leader (President Pervez Musharraf), by forming an impressive coalition against terrorism, he has also answered many of the questions about his foreign affairs prowess.
Mr. Bush can further solidify his foreign policy by making sure that the military campaign is followed by a sustained diplomatic, political, and cultural campaign, which will help eradicate misunderstandings between different cultures of the world. He would be well-advised to remember the saying: "Every ounce of firepower should be accompanied by a pound of politics and diplomacy."


Put Gen. Franks back in the Army

Please put Gen. Tommy Franks back in the Army. Your Oct. 26 front-page article "Rumsfeld says bin Laden hiding, but U.S. forces 'going to get him'" refers to him as "Marine Corps Gen. Tommy Franks." Gen. Franks has a long and distinguished career in the U.S. Army, and while he does lead troops from all services as CENTCOM Commander, he is still an Army officer.

Ft. Meade, Md.

Syria has outgrown 'rogue nation' label

In the Oct. 26 article "Leaders work to reverse image of terrorist haven," you point out that although Syria is a newly elected member of the U.N. Security Council, the Western perspective remains unyieldingly suspicious of Syria in light of its history. "One Western assessment summarized Syria's recent actions as positioning itself on the side of the anti-terror coalition while continuing to shelter terrorist groups," you report.
Certainly, there are some factions within Syria that Americans can neither identify with nor condone. However, it must be noted that those groups are not state-sponsored terrorist organizations and that their views are not endemic in Syria. Many similar groups are found within the majority of countries in the Middle East.
Although Syria has been on the U.S. State Department's list of states that sponsor terrorism since the list's inception in 1979, there has been no evidence of such terrorism since 1986, when it was thought that Syria was involved in trying to blow up an Israeli airplane. Syria also has proved to be an ally, especially in 1990, when Syria cooperated with the United States as part of the multinational coalition of forces in the Gulf War.
Syria has denounced the Sept. 11 terrorist acts against the United States. Although Westerners often perceive of Syria as a terrorist haven, there are many elements of Syrian life that Americans can identify with and even applaud. The first is religious harmony. The overwhelming majority of Syrians are Muslim, yet Christians are not persecuted or oppressed, as is often thought. Approximately 14 percent of the Syrian population is Christian, and approximately 10 percent of those Christians are Orthodox. The Antiochian Orthodox Patriarchate, which dates back to the apostolic era and is tantamount to the Holy Roman See (with a different jurisdiction), sits in Damascus. Not only are its followers free to express their religion, but, in fact, their faith has fluorished under the rule of the Baath Party, now headed by Bashar al-Assad. In an area of the world that is riddled with religious strife, this is extraordinary. There may be occasional incidents, but these are the exception rather than the rule in Syria.
The second element with which Americans can identify is the status of women. Contrary to popular belief, Syrian women, both Christian and Muslim, are far from being second-class citizens; they are encouraged to become educated and obtain professional positions. Although Muslim women are encouraged to wear the hijab (scarf), they have a choice in wearing only the headscarf with professional garb or the full body covering. Of course, non-Muslim women may dress however they wish. As in the United States, affirmative action is in place in some areas where women's participation in the work force has been lacking.
Although Syria and the United States have a tumultuous history, the seemingly insurmountable obstacles that have precluded relations in the past are eroding slowly. The new Syrian ambassador to the United States, Rostom Zoubi, has made remarkable strides in diplomatic relations and, in accordance with Syria's doctrine of freedom of religion, has maintained strong ties with the Antiochian Church here in Washington.
It seems fair to say that Syria is working to reverse its image. However, Westerners must be amenable to receiving its message. In reality, relations between Syria and the United States will be strained until the Golan Heights issue is resolved. Still, perhaps we, as Americans, can consider the aspects of Syria that have been previously overlooked, instead of sticking Syria with the tired label "rogue nation."


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