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When Perspective Matters
wo central planks in the framework of
American government are the rights to dissent
and to disagree with those who dissent. These
rights were exercised in a most unusual way last week
A group of local Arab Americans and their support-
ers who are at odds with Shimon Peres' record as an
Israeli military and political leader protested the Dec.
8 dinner where he received the Seeds of Peace John P.
Wallach Peacemaker Award. The annual honor is in
memory of the founder of the camping experience
that teaches coexistence to Israeli and Palestinian teens
as well as youth from other tense regions.
The afternoon of the dinner, the Dearborn-based
American Arab Chamber of Commerce,
which represents more than 1,000 business-
es nationwide, said Peres bears responsibility
for the 1996 Israeli military strike in south
Lebanon that targeted Hezbollah fighters shelling
Israel from behind a U.N. facility where civilians had
taken refuge. Two young Dearborn brothers were
among the more than 100 killed. Peres was prime
minister at the time. .
The Chamber argued that the local Seeds chapter,
made up of Arabs and Jews, had a right to hold the
dinner and present the award, Peres' leadership record
notwithstanding. It said people of Arab descent had a
right to be on the host committee and to attend the
dinner. It said they had a right to protest as well.
Therein is a powerful message.
It wasn't surprising the Chamber took a slap at
Israel's "atrocities and brutality during the 20 years of
occupation in Lebanon," however untruthful that is.
It's in keeping with the Arab worldview of Mideast
The End Of Saddam
he capture of Saddam Hussein is good news
for America. Foremost is the boost that it
gives to the soldiers who are trying to bring a
semblance of order to Iraq.
As long as Iraqis believed that the tyrant who had
ruled them for more than two decades might still be
able to return to power in Baghdad, they had good
reason to hesitate before revealing what terrorists
among them might have been plotting. With Saddam
behind bars, the process of trying to build a stable
government on democratic principles can move
Nabbing Saddam is also good news for Israel. His
Scud missiles fell on Israel in the 1991 Gulf
Warr though with less effect than the ear-
lier Israeli destruction of his nuclear plant.
The Iraqi dictator funneled an estimated
$35 million to the families of Palestinian "victims,"
most notably the suicide bombers that Hamas and
Islamic Jihad trained to murder Jewish soldiers and
civilians. His 24-year reign, with its potential for
inflicting mad violence on neighboring countries as
well as on his own citizens, was always a destabilizing
factor in the Mideast.
But seizing this miserable man, found in a pit
r FoR HAVE
unrest going back to 1948, when Israel
became a state.
What was surprising was the Chamber's
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declaration that Arab Americans had a right
to represent a multicultural organization
embracing Peres and promoting tolerance.
Imagine a business organization based in
the third-largest Arab community outside
the Mideast saying an award recipient it
took issue with shouldn't overshadow the
dinner's purpose: to unite moderate Jews
and Arabs in dialogue in the hopes that it
could bring peace to a region in turmoil.
Supporters and detractors are quick to line
up in response to Seeds' effort to
rIXP6NPING ON 4
AND TO 1-16
give kids from ravaged regions a
meeting place that checks violence
at the gatehouse and urges discus-
sion and tolerance, if not finer traits like
respect and acceptance.
But suddenly, at its major fund-raiser,
Seeds itself wasn't the primary focus of con-
troversy. The top award winner was.
While Arab-American picketers were
hoisting signs that branded Peres a killer,
others from the same Arab American com-
munity were rejecting the demonstration.
The American Arab Chamber of Commerce
wanted no part of a picket line that it felt
could tarnish the reputation of its members
It put the greater good ahead of disdain for any one
participating in the unity dinner.
The Chamber not only called for an end to Mideast
That's a lesson Jews and Arabs alike in metro
bloodshed, but also called on Arab Americans to
Detroit can learn from. I
"work with others to achieve a lasting, just peace."
beside a barn with two assault rifles and three-quarters
of a million dollars in his suitcase, does—h—ot end the
threats either to Israel or to America. Saddam was not
the driving force behind the 9-11 attacks and, based
on evidence gathered so far, he apparently did not
have the weapons of mass destruction that President
George W. Bush feared.
We are going to have to continue to be on guard
against the known others, like AI Qaida, and their
unknown supporters who would do us harm.
Having proved that we can overturn a threatening
government by force of arms, we are going to have to
show the rest of the world that we have other, more
positive ways of dealing with those in the world who
hate the West and what they think it stands for.
There could be no better place to begin
than with Egypt and Saudi Arabia. These
nations, vying to be the leaders of a pan-
Arab world, have fed their substantial
under-classes with a steady diet of contempt for the
West coupled with Islamic fervor and anti-Zionism so
passionate that it can't be distinguished from anti-
That is a recipe for terrorism, and America must
start insisting on internal changes that both tone
down the rhetoric and alter the political system away
from the Saudi princes and Egypt's Hosni Mubarak
AND FoR CENTURIES
WE PLACED THOSE
and his generals.
We need to show the Arab street that we can be on
its side in disdaining oppressive regimes while firmly
rejecting its drive toward theocracy as opposed to
democracy. That means we are going to have to retool
-our use of Saudi oil and redirect the $3 billion in aid
that we give to Egypt annually to make sure that aid
actually helps ordinary citizens.
We don't need to topple statues in Riyadh or Cairo,
but we need to demonstrate to ordinary Saudis and
Egyptians that our style of government can fit their
needs without undercutting what is good in their cul-
tures and beliefs.
Just how far the West, including Israel, has to go
was underlined by the Palestinian reaction to
Saddam's capture. A leader of Hamas, for example,
called it "an insult to all Arabs and an insult to
Muslims"; others said it would lead to more attacks
on Israel because the Jewish state was simply
The capture of Saddam could provide a new spur to
sensible Arabs to work with Israel for a lessening of
Palestinian violence and a permanent settlement, a
step that most Israelis would embrace whole-heartedly.
But they must never forget that far too many people
in the West Bank and Gaza still don't understand that
they, like Saddam Hussein, are on the losing side of