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 You are in: Bureaus/Offices Reporting Directly to the Secretary > Policy Planning Staff > Secretary's Open Forum > Proceedings > 2001 - 2002

Arab American Perspectives on the International War Against Terrorism

Dr. James J. Zogby, President, Arab American Institute
Remarks to the Open Forum
Washington, DC
December 5, 2001

Opening Remarks and Introduction: Alan Lang, Chairman of the Open Forum

Photo of Dr. James J. ZogbyThe first time I addressed the Open Forum was in 1978.  I was a wee lad who was very concerned with how my message would be read, whether it would come through.  It's funny, many years later, and after many years of this work, I'm just as concerned as I was the first time I spoke here.  I appreciate this forum; it's an opportunity that I certainly know is a useful and important one.  I hope to communicate to you as best I can the Arab American perspective on the international war on terror. 

I'll begin with a personal note.  September 11 and it's immediate aftermath produced complex emotions in me and I know in many in my community.  First of all was the horror and the shock.  There was something quite unique about what happened on September 11, possibly because of the magnitude, possibly that we saw it in real time, possibly that it happened in New York, as opposed to another American city.  We don't know what it was exactly, but unlike other tragedies, both domestic and international, that we have seen and followed, this was really quite different because we didn't merely watch it, we lived it.  We didn't just suffer for the victims, we suffered with the victims.  It became our tragedy, it affected us all.  There was not only horror and shock, as planes that we were so used to seeing in the sky all of a sudden became weapons of mass destruction.  And the consequences of it, of the attack, left none of us untouched. 

It affected us in very different ways, but we were all affected.  There was grief, of course. Grief, as we watched, in the days after the attack, family members holding pictures of loved ones whom we knew in our heart of hearts they would never find.  We were touched by that, and some of us even felt guilty because we had not lost anyone.  My daughter, I'll never forget, cried one night because she was getting married in two weeks and felt a tremendous sense of guilt because she was feeling joy at a time when she was also really feeling enormous sadness and had just heard a young woman talking about losing her fiancée.  Universes were lost and destroyed and would never be the same, not only those who lost families would never be the same but in a very real sense, none of us will.  I still can't look up, see a plane, and think of it in quite the same way as I did before September 11.   

But for Arab Americans, while all of this was true, something quite different also happened and happened within hours.  I was in my office and we were ordered to evacuate.  Because our office is a block away from the White House, they closed our building down.  I said we couldn't leave because we were receiving phone calls from people around the country and I didn't want to leave.  Then the first death threat came and was followed by others.  By the next morning they had reached a rather frightening pitch.  Actually it had become quite gruesome and frightening.  Even before the perpetrators of the terror attacks were identified as Arabs, we were pulled away from the collective mourning.  This was very similar to what happened to us after Oklahoma City. In effect, we were told that we couldn't suffer with the rest of America because there was an assumption of collective guilt. 

This backlash intensified as it became clear that it was in fact Arabs who perpetrated these acts.  But then as the expected hate came, something quite surprising and extraordinarily gratifying also occurred and that was statements of compassion and concern.  I used the word gratuitous at one point to describe these statements of support.  I used it in a theological sense, as an act of grace, an unearned benefit.  So it was surprising and quite stunning when [Senator Edward] Teddy Kennedy called me within 36 hours of the attack to ask what can he do to help.  And then [Senator Joseph] Joe Leiberman called, then [former Congressman] Jack Kemp called and became quite emotional over the phone and told me if my wife and I needed protection that we could stay with his family.  Then Senator Feingold and Senator Edwards and others called...  By 48 hours after the terrorists attacks more than a dozen members of the U.S. Senate had called.  Governor Jeb Bush of Florida also called and the President issued a very strong message followed by Attorney General Ashcroft and the director of the FBI.   Extraordinary as they were, those statements of protection, those statements of concern, were, in fact, very American.   

I said to myself at one point, only in America does that kind of immediate and almost spontaneous protection and support come at that kind of time.  It actually reminded me of the story that one hears in grade school of the barn that blows down and the neighbors come over with potluck dishes. My office had police protection because of the death threats we received, neighbors in the building started making us lunches.  A woman came by the very first day after the attacks with brownies and said, "I think I burnt them but I hope they are okay."   I was very touched and continued to be touched although I did gain some weight because Ben & Jerry's gave us a party and Mrs. Fields brought over a box of cookies.  As I said it was gratuitous. 

Then after the unexpected kindness and graciousness came the anger, our anger.  We had been brought back into the fold, we were embraced by the President on down, told to come mourn with the rest of the country and it sunk in.  It sunk in just as it became clear to us that the perpetrators were Arab.  We shared not only the national outrage but felt anger in a very special way because they had come from Arab countries and taken advantage of the opportunities and the openness of America, taken advantage of the American people, and murdered our fellow Americans.  In the process they created such enormous pain, such enormous loss, and created fear of Arab Americans.  For that I will never forgive them.  My daughter called me one day to tell me that I was quoted in Newsweek referring to them as 'those bastards who did this.'  She said does that mean that we can say "bastard" now?  I said in certain special instances you can, this is one of them.   

By the time the President launched the war, the attack against al-Qaida we were in the field polling Arab Americans to find and get an accurate measure of their attitudes.  When I give you the results you will see that my personal stories are not just anecdotal but actually are a measure of the way the community felt.  But before I give you those results, let me give you a bit about the Arab American community, its demographics, which I think are important.  It is an emerging community; it is of recent vintage.  Arab Americans have been here for a hundred years but have only recently, within the last three decades, begun to organize on a national level.  It is a very diverse community.  Our members have roots in more than twenty countries.  We are diverse not only based on country of origin, the first waves were Lebanese and Syrian but have been followed in the last fifty years by large groups of Palestinians, Egyptians, Iraqis, Lebanese, and now Gulf Arabs, North Africans and Jordanians, etc.  The fact is that you can't go to a restaurant here in town without finding among the wait staff or valets very recent immigrants. The service trades are stepping-stones for many immigrants.  We're continually being refreshed and revitalized by new immigrants who work their way very quickly into the economic mainstream of the country and have become involved in the activities of the community. 

There is also diversity in political outlook.  We have Democrats and Republicans, we have Social Conservatives and we have Social Liberals.  We have the very assimilated and the not so assimilated.  There are differences based on generation.  Eighty% of Arab Americans are born here but even within the generation born here there are still differences, particularly between the children of very recent immigrants and the children of those who arrived from the 1920's.  There's a difference based on religion.  There are Arab Americans who are Christians and Arab Americans who are Muslim and different Christian denominations and Muslim varieties.   

In polling, we say that if the answer to a question is in the range of 70%, we consider that a consensus, because if the numbers are that high then all the subgroups will also be in a majority.  So what we see in the polling is that that a clear consensus exists on many issues.  There are some issues on which consensus doesn't exist.  For example, on the question of Iraq, there is no consensus among Arab Americans on what our policy should be.  There's a split.  On the question of Palestinian statehood, there is no split; the numbers are well over 90% supporting a state.  It may be surprising to some but support for recognition of the right of Israel to exist is also over 90%.  There is a consensus, in other words, on many key policy issues that shows the emergence of this community.  Despite differences internally within the generations or the countries of origin or religion or political outlook, there are many things on which we agree. Just one day after the war was launched, we asked Arab Americans the question, "do you support an all out war against countries that harbor the terrorists who attacked America," and 69% agreed.  Now, to understand that number, on the same day, the national poll asking the very same question of the country as a whole showed 67% agreed.  So the fact is that Arab Americans were slightly more supportive than the country as a whole.  When asked the question did we support the President's handling of the war on terror, we got 88% support, 11% opposed -- again, identical to the country as a whole.  When we asked if Arab American's were reassured by the President's support for Arab Americans and Muslim Americans, 90% said yes.  When we asked the question, had they experienced personally discrimination since the 11 of September (this was again done on the 10th of October just one month later), 20% said they had, 45% said they knew someone who'd experienced discrimination based on ethnicity since September 11.  Of the 20% who experienced discrimination, 49% were between 18 and 29 and 37% of the Arab Americans were of Muslim faith.  When we asked if they were proud of their Arab heritage, 88% said that they were.  That number is identical to the number that existed before September 11.  What was interesting was that among recent immigrants the number dropped, but what was equally interesting was that among the first and second generation, the number went up and that computed also anecdotally with stories that we had gotten and e-mails we had received after various television news reports.  An Arab American Master Sergeant wrote to me and said, "I'm a first generation Arab American and those terrorists don't represent our culture, I do and I'm going to fight them."  We found that these events actually had an interesting impact on very recent immigrants who felt threatened.  They weren't proud.  They were ashamed. Those who were here and confident of being American also became very proud of their heritage and felt very strongly that they needed to repudiate the actions of those who had killed our fellow citizens.  When asked about the importance of solving the Palestinian issue to aid the war effort against terrorism about 80% said it was vitally important, that number was much higher than the country as a whole, which is a little less than 60%. 

Let me describe, if I could the current situation.  The hate crimes have pretty much been tamped down.  I think that the effort made by not only the President and the members of the Administration but also the Senate and the House, efforts like the one that Alan read to you from the Ad Council, and frankly, literally the entire industry in Hollywood that did a remarkable job sending repeated messages of that sort, contributed to that. The fact is that we are now reporting about one or two incidents a day as opposed to 40 or 50 a day.  The intensity of the attacks has also dropped but there's still a kind of vigilantism that concerns us.  You've heard the stories, for example, of airplanes pilots asking [persons named] Mohammed off the plane. Those kinds of events still occur, and are of course troubling, but I have to tell you that with regard to that particular issue, the Department of Transportation has been extraordinarily responsive and very supportive and very clear in the directions they have sent out to deal with these concerns.  It's also true that civil liberties organizations, the American Civil Liberties Union, among others, have also been extraordinarily helpful in reaching out and providing assistance to the Arab American community.   

On a disturbing note, however, I will tell you that for some hate is right below the surface and it hasn't disappeared completely.  And I know that because whenever I get into a television debate where I appear to be even remotely adversarial on the questioning of the 5,000 young men or Middle Eastern origin, wanting to know the names and details, or on the debate I did recently on CNN, on whether or not profiling should be used in airports, the hate starts up again and the phone calls and the e-mails are quite frightening. 

We have had problems with the conduct of the investigation and that should not be surprising.  While Arab American citizens are secure, the most vulnerable in our community are very frightened and this is troubling to us.  So, this morning, at 10:00 a.m., we met at my request, with senior officials at the Department of Justice, with the Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights, representatives of the FBI and others in the Department, to develop a new strategic approach.  I want to talk about that because the civil rights issues resulting from both the hate crimes and the FBI investigation have a foreign policy consequence.  I just came back from two trips to the Middle East, one earlier last month and one just yesterday and I know these are matters of great concern to many Arabs and Arab Americans.  I have spoken to two U.S. ambassadors in the region, and read the various opinion editorial articles that are appearing along side those of prominent Arab Americans.  It frightens me that the messages are being read so wrongly.  The articles appearing have titles reading "Arabs and Muslims at risk in America," "Arabs and Muslims not Welcome in America," and "Clash of Civilization Because America's Treating its Muslims so Badly."  My message is very clear.  In my articles, on my television show, on the programs that I have done for Voice for America, I have said that these things are simply not true.   

There are problems; we know that there are problems.  We're concerned with how the investigation is being carried out, not because we oppose the investigation but because it's not good policing. We believe community policing is the most effective way to do this and we are supported by police departments around the country who have not only agreed with us but also called us and offered to work with us to send the message that this investigation must be done differently.  Police departments have worked hard to build trust in the community as they have in Detroit.  They don't want to go knocking on doors.  They want to build and maintain good working relationships with Arab Americans.  This is simply not the way to do this investigation.  Good people have differences.  We have differences on this issue. Although I'm pleased to say that after today's meeting at the Department of Justice, we are beginning to develop a new strategic approach, more of a partnership on how we will approach this matter together.  This is our investigation as well.  It was in fact Arabs who did this; there is no question about that.  We feel a special responsibility to assist in this investigation and we want to make it work.  We want to find anyone who is responsible. Those who conducted the attacks on September 11 not only killed our people, they have not only brought sadness and terror to my country, but they have put my community at risk.  They are not welcome here, and we want to make it clear. 

We want to play a role and we want to find a way to overcome the obstacles that are in front of us.  We feel that even in the arena of foreign policy and public diplomacy Arab Americans have a role to play.  We very much want to play that role.  It would be wrong to ignore us. I can tell you that as I look at the success of some of our ambassadors of Arab descent, I'm not one who comes to you and says that people who are of Arab descent somehow have some superior qualities.  That's not true.  Actually my children have superior qualities [LAUGHTER], there's no question about that at all, and that is, of course, attributable to the genes of my mother who made us all superior people.   

Arab Americans can play a bridging role and that's the message that we want to bring to you.  Not only can we help this investigation, ensure that it is done right and protect civil liberties as we make the nation more secure, we also can play a bridging role in the Middle East.  We can be messengers conveying both the reality of America and its experience for our community and the reality of the opportunities available to us in a way that many of you cannot because we're listened to in a different way. 

We also have ideas.  We understand the reality of the region.  We also want to have input in the discussions about how we approach the Middle East.  Palestinian Americans who travel back and forth and Lebanese Americans who do business in Lebanon and Arab Americans elsewhere who have experiences and feelings about the people in the Gulf and North Africa want to help.   

I want to tell you that because we were very hopeful after the Secretary's initiative was announced on my birthday [November 19].  It was a nice present because we've been hoping to hear that speech and it touched all the right buttons.  We're disturbed now that the initiative is unraveled, disturbed not only because peace is so critical but because of the terrible loss of life and the terrible loss of hope and, we hope, it's not true but the terrible loss of an initiative that we felt held some promise.  We feel very strongly about what is happening to the Palestinians today.  We felt strongly about what has been happening to Palestinians for two and a half decades.  We've been coming to this building raising these issues with many of you for years.  There are consequences to the failure to solve the issue of Palestine.  There are consequences being felt throughout the entire region and when I came and I talked and I warned in the past about the Arab street, people said there is no Arab street, don't worry about the Arab street.  Where are they now?  The pain and the anger have been internalized and you are seeing it everyday.  The injustice that has been visited upon that people must be taken seriously.  Palestinians need to have hope and a new life. 

The Secretary of State got us off to another start and we should not lose that initiative. And yes, there is no doubt that terrorist bombs that exploded in Israel were designed to sabotage that initiative but so too were the assassinations of Palestinians and so too were the destruction of homes in Gaza and so too was the announcement of new settlements to be built in Hebron.  These acts were also designed to sabotage that initiative.   

We must be fair as a country.  We cannot lose the role that we play as honest brokers.  We have cost ourselves too much credibility in the past and it's not just credibility among Palestinians but it is lost credibility throughout the entire region.  If we are building a coalition this is not a question of rewarding terrorists, it is a question of rewarding friends.  It is a question of developing the strongest possible base for a coalition that we can use together with our friends to root out terrorism and root out enemies of cooperation between the United States and countries in the Middle East. 

So I propose to you, as I proposed to the Department of Justice this morning, to recognize the value that Arab Americans bring to the effort, the effort to root out terror, the effort to make America more secure at home and more secure in its relationships abroad by protecting its interests in the Middle East.  Value our ideas.  Value the contribution that we can make to America.  Value the role that we can play cooperatively in this effort to build a more secure future for our people.  See us as full partners; we want to participate.  We've asked before, we ask again. We want to be included because this struggle is ours as Americans. It's ours as well as anyone else's and we want to be full participants in it.  Thank you very much.  [Applause] 

Question and Answer Segment

Alan Lang:  Dr. Zogby, on behalf of the Open Forum I'd like to thank you for that insightful presentation.  At this time I'd like to open the floor to your comments and questions.  As you collect your thoughts I will begin this segment by posing the first question.  Dr. Zogby, what further advice would you have for the President, the Secretary of State, and other key leaders as we seek to engage foreign publics in a dialogue about our objectives in this campaign, about what is really at stake for us and for the world?

Dr. Zogby:  I think there are a number of issues here.  Yes, we need a dialogue; yes we need public diplomacy.  We also need to look at the issues that divide us.  This is not a question about Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida.  This is a question about addressing concerns that exist in a real way in the Gulf, in North Africa, and elsewhere.  If we are unwilling to address the concerns of Palestinians, for example, we will have a difficult time in waging an effective campaign of public diplomacy in the Arab world because while we are riveted on Afghanistan, Arabs are riveted on the West Bank and Gaza.  That is the pain they feel everyday.  Those are the children whom they worry about.  Those are the families whose homes are lost and whose lives are crushed that they worry about.  It is right that they do so.  What we see on the back page of the B-section of the New York Times is repeated in the Arab World in a different way.  It's often about those who lose their lives in the West Bank and Gaza or those in the past who lost their lives because of bombardments in Lebanon.  They see their victims just as we see our own. It is a fact of life.   

The narrative of Palestinians existentially defines the narrative of people in the Arab World. Understand that if the Holocaust defines the narrative of American Jews, many who went through it, many did not, many who are survivors who went are here but most who are not, still it defines all of their lives.  We have to understand that.  Similarly, the plight of Palestinians for over 50 years has defined the narrative of the Arabic experience for many people around the world.  They've lived it, they've seen it, and they've gone through it.  It defines their pain.  They live it, they see it.  It's theirs.  You can't side-step it.  You can't dismiss it.  You can't throw it aside and say it doesn't exist.  It has to be addressed and we will not have the relationship or earn the respect or have the partnership in this struggle that we want to have until we take it seriously, bottom line. 

Secondly, I think Arab Americans have a role to play in helping to shape both the message but also the messenger.  What Arabs know about the United States they know partly from television.  They watched "Dallas" for quite sometime, and now they watch "Bay Watch" even though these programs do not necessarily reflect the best of America.  But Arabs know something about our culture.  They also know about Arab Americans as a community.  We are, after all, their children. If American workers in Dhahran were being somehow persecuted by hate crimes, it would be a front-page story everyday in the American papers and it ought to be because they're our people and they're being hurt.  Understand, Arab Americans and Muslim Americans are the front-page story in the Middle East. We should take that very seriously and we need to make sure those stories are accurate.  We don't want them inflating or exaggerating them but understand that we are conveyors of the message by our very existence here.   

The President said it's not a war against Islam; it's a war against terror.   But that wasn't the question people were asking there.  It worked here.  It tamped down hate crimes here.  It wasn't responsive to the questions that were being asked in the region.  It was almost as if we were speaking and not hearing.  Our message was not demand-driven; it was driven by what we thought we needed to say not by what they needed to hear. I would propose, a little more listening, as I've proposed actually to the last several administrations.  Conduct a public listening tour in the Middle East.  Go out and talk to the public and do the call-in shows on television.  This isn't a promotion for my show, although you are all welcome to come on, as many have in the past.  The fact is, to be available to talk and not to limit the dialogue to one channel, but use them all. 

If you understand the Arab world, you will know that Arab listeners, Arab viewers are as discerning or lacking in discernment as American viewers.  Arabs think everybody in America watches CNN.  We and the executives of CNN know that's not true, unfortunately, but it's a reality.  If you want to address women during the political campaign, you know you sometimes advertise on Lifetime.  If you want to get young people, you go to MTV.  You want to reach people you don't go to CNN; you go to ABC, NBC, and CBS and try to find the Super Bowl as a venue to do it.   

The most watched television programs in the Middle East are "Who Wants to be a Millionaire?," soccer and LBC -- because they feature a lot of pretty women.  Everyone in Egypt watches Egyptian television because satellite penetration does not exist in Egypt.  These are just little things that we could tell people, if somebody called us and asked.  But the fact is, they don't.  We have lots of ideas about how to improve the message, how to improve the messenger, and also how to make sure that the message is heard, that is goes to the venues where people are actually listening.  That is why we want to offer our support and participation in the effort.

Question:  One often hears the mantra that you repeated that concerns of the Palestinians must be addressed but I rarely hear anybody talk about how we ought to address it.  What are your thoughts on that issue? 

Dr. Zogby: I think that the Secretary made a good start.  He used language that reflected for me, a kind of evolving political discourse in this country about Palestinians.  I was with [former President] Clinton in Gaza when he addressed the Palestine Legislative Council; these are people I have known for more than twenty years.  They include hardened men who have struggled, who have been victims, who are angry.  And I looked over and I teared up, because I saw them tear up when he used the expression, "You have been displaced and you have been dispossessed."  No one in America had ever used that language about Palestinians before. He talked of legitimate rights, and put a human face on the story. 

Secretary Powell did that too. He further elaborated the story of Palestinians, fleshing out the narrative.  The more we talk about Palestinians as real people, as part of a real story that not only gives hope to Palestinians, but also gives broader hope to the Arab world.  Understand -- they listen to us very closely.  They hear all of our words as we hear all of theirs.  I like to put it this way -- there is an asymmetry of power in the Middle East. Israel has got it, the Palestinians don't.  But here in America we have an asymmetry of compassion and an asymmetry of pressure.  Israel gets the compassion and the Palestinians get the pressure.  And they understand it.  

If you treated two children in your own family, called one of them Israel and one of them Palestine, and you treated them that way, you would not want to see what they looked like by the time they reached adulthood. And we are living with that right now.  One has gotten everything, and the other has been slapped around silly. And we are paying a price for it, as parents, as people who have indulged in this behavior. A little more compassion for Palestinians would go a long way; a little more pressure on Israel would go a long way, too.  And, frankly, I think it would help to create the kind of internal debate in both societies that is so needed for peace.

At the present time there is no longer a debate on either front.  And we can help generate that because we still have the credibility and it is amazing that we do. It is amazing that they have not given up on us. We still have the ability to speak and be heard. But at some point, the dialogue must go beyond merely making an effort. It must achieve results. One can throw that back at us. It cannot be merely that the rhetoric gets better, but we must start doing some things.   

There is no reason why F-16s should be used right now.  There is no reason helicopter gunships should be used right now.  There is no reason for Palestinians to live in 52 little isolated cantons where they cannot even get out.  And this has been going on for over a year.  You have a society, Israel, with a gross domestic product (GDP) of $18,000 per person, up from $13,000 when the peace agreement was signed, next-door to a society where the GDP is $600 a year, down from $800 when the peace agreement was signed.  If you had that in an American city, you would have riots everyday. And we would understand it. And we would have a Kerner Commission try to figure out how to deal with it.  We would pass legislation to expand jobs and opportunities and give hope to people, and we would use powerful rhetoric to support our actions. You can't have people on the one side with $18,000 and on the other with $600 with no hope, with despair, with anger, and not expect this kind of suicide cult to develop.

Someday, anthropologists will look at it and understand it like the Great Ghost Dance or understand it like Geronimo or understand it like all of the enormous tragedies that have befallen Native Americans when they lost hope, when they were so depressed, when they were so dispossessed, when they similarly indulged in these fantastic and deadly pursuits.  It is wrong.  We have to condemn it.  But we also have to deal with the reality of it.  The West Bank and Gaza are not Afghanistan.  And America is not Israel.  Israel cannot claim our mantle.  It is not the same thing.  We need to be much more forthright in the way that we addressed these issues.  

Question: Please tell us more about the peace proposal offered at Camp David, whether it has been characterized accurately that Chairman Arafat really turned down a golden opportunity. 

Dr. Zogby:  I spoke with the President after the Camp David talks.  He called me in and gave me a briefing. I found some aspects of it promising.  It was an opening offer. I think that the Palestinians should have engaged more than they did.  I understood that they did not. And, to some degree, they have been criticized for that. But the offer was not a compelling one. From what I have seen and understood of it, it was more artful than extraordinary.  It did not provide viability. It did not provide the numbers 90% or 95% before one excluded the Jordan Valley, the settlement ring jutting out from the Green Line, and the belt around Jerusalem.  This was not a viable Palestinian state. 

This reminds me of a rhetorical question recently posed by a Jewish speaker: "If Maryland were bombing Virginia, would Virginia have the right to respond?"  My response would be, "Yes, but if Virginia were occupying Maryland, we might look at things differently."  To find the exact description of the situation that parallels the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it would be Virginia occupying Washington, DC, and deciding that, as a security precaution, it needed the whole Beltway.  It therefore built settlements, and declared everything within the ring to be theirs. This would effectively cut off suburban Maryland from its urban center, thereby denying viability to Maryland.

Jerusalem was, for a long time, the urban center for Palestine...It is where the hospitals were built, schools were constructed, and businesses established.  It was the center of their lives -- the Metropol. And now it is gone. They can't get in and the people in Jerusalem can't get out. Unemployment among young people in Jerusalem is extraordinarily high, in part because they have come back so as not to lose their identity as Jerusalemites and lose their right to live there in the future. But also because you cut off the commercial center from those who did business there, they are gone. Therefore, even though autonomy was being given to Palestinians in their neighborhoods, the ring around Jerusalem remains.  

Israel wants peace but wants settlements, too. They want peace but they want the Jordan Valley, too. They want peace but they want control of the borders with Jordan and Egypt, too. And the result is what South Africans rejected a decade or more ago.  The best deal Israel has offered to the Palestinians is a Bantustan.  It is even less than a Bantustan because physically it would be divided, not just in two, but into four, because the settlement branches that jut out from the Green Line separate the West Bank and would make internal commerce difficult.  Having been involved in Builders for Peace, a project that Vice President Gore launched to promote business and investment in the West Bank, I can tell you that there is no internal market there. It is too small. Internal markets are important -- they support economies of scale. If you have an aspirin factory in Hebron, one in Ramallah, and one in Nablus because you cannot travel during occupation from one to the other, requiring each place to have its own shop industries, that is one thing, but even with peace, no economies of scale would be possible because internal commerce is difficult. And I said to the President, if there is one checkpoint left, there is no peace.  The reason is not only because of the difficulty of internal movement, but because the checkpoints are flashpoints-all the time.

I recall being there during the best days of the peace process -- in 1994 and 1995.  I remember standing at Eretz checkpoint and watching. I wrote an article after that experience entitled "Anger and Fear" because there were young boys, Israelis, holding guns and shouting.  What they shouted was intriguing to me.  It was, "Don't look at me -- put your head down -- don't look at me!" 

And Arabs were told to hold their identity cards over their heads.  Palestinians were in long lines like cattle, holding up their cards.  If you looked at the Palestinian men, one saw that their heads were down, but their eyes were looking up. I said to myself, "It is classic, the young boys were displaying anger, but felt terrible fear.  The Palestinian men were displaying fear, heads down like "good boys", but inside they were seething in anger. 

I concluded by noting that if anyone had signed a peace agreement, they must have forgotten to tell the people at Eretz checkpoint, Hebron, and all along the Jerusalem checkpoints.  The checkpoints are places where the master-slave dialectic continues to play out. And they don't work.  If it is real peace that we hope to achieve, people must have total independence and viability.  You cannot end the headlock by continuing to hold on just a little bit. And Israel doesn't seem willing to let go. And I understand the strategy of Hamas. It is to create a situation where Israel won't let go.  Because, as afraid as some Israelis are of peace, Hamas is afraid, too.  

It is critical that we end the violence.  But the only way to do it is to strengthen the hand of those in responsible positions enough so that they can crack down on the perpetrators.  Even in the best days, Palestinians had little internal control in the West Bank and Gaza.  And the line we heard over and over again was, "They control 95% of their own people."  That is saying very little.  They didn't control land, they didn't control movement, and they didn't control access and egress.  They were given charge without authority to exercise it. And they never signed on to be the High Sheriff of Hell. They signed on to be an independent people. And they didn't get it. I can fault them for a lot of abuses. I can fault them for human rights violations, corruption, and other things. 

One story illustrates this point. Three days after the signing in Oslo, Nabil Shaath appeared on my television program, and I asked him, "What are you going to do when the violence starts?  What are you going to do with the first bomber?" He said, "I hope this works. I think it will work. I think a year from now our young people are going to have jobs, I think our farmers will be back on their land, farming their fields, people in the cities will be building the infrastructure of the country, creating the future of a Palestinian state, and so when the first bomb comes, the people will turn to us and say, 'They threaten everything we have won, get them.' And we will have the legitimacy to do it."  

He returned to my show 2 years later to the day. A bomb had gone off and killed dozens of Israelis, and there was a photograph in the New York Times of 20,000 young men, with fists in the air supporting the bomber. I asked Nabil about these developments and he said, "Those are the guys we should have found jobs for and we didn't. Unemployment today is 30% higher than when we signed the agreement.  We have less control over our land because more settlements have been built over the last 2 years than in any previous 2-year period. With closure, the one place we had jobs -- day jobs in Israel -- we lost them and over 140,000 more have joined the ranks of the unemployed."  Nabil said, "We didn't get anything for them, they don't look at us as a legitimate Authority.  And so it is hard for us to do this job."  What do we say to them today?  What has changed?  And this happened during the best days. during the era of Rabin.  Things have deteriorated rapidly since that time.

Question:  Do you think that Arafat can control the street, that he can do what Israelis are insisting in arresting large numbers of people responsible for inciting terrorist incidents?  How will this play out in the streets of Cairo and Amman? How will those governments react? 

Dr. Zogby:  I say this because of who you are, and because you'll understand it in these terms -- when people look at the demise of the Democratic Party or the Republican Party, or of political parties in American cities, many attribute it to the loss of patronage. When the party boss can't give out the jobs, he can't get out the vote. It is a tough situation.

We don't have that infrastructure anymore.  It is similar to the problems confronting Palestinian leaders; they have nothing to offer, and all they can do is crack down. Arafat has resolved to do it. He did it at one earlier time and felt he had been upended as a consequence.  He made the point crystal-clear: there can be only one Authority. He hoped that there would be deliverance at the end of the day; it didn't come.  And I think right now that he is committed to doing it.  

But I don't think it helps when his police stations are bombed...He is losing control but can he get it back?  I think he can.  But what has to be placed on the table is a promise and a hope that is real to people that will enable Palestinian leaders to say, "If we do this, here is what we will get."  Even the best incentives Sharon seems willing to offer are not sufficient under these circumstances.  It is a difficult situation compounded by the fact that there is more than one player in this picture.  There are many including the Palestinian Authority, the Israelis, the United States, and extremists on both sides.  The one player who can make an enormous difference is our side.  We can restrain the hand of the Israelis, strengthen the hand of the Palestinians, and I think we can provide the hope that will allow people to see that this is doesn't have to be a total dead end.  At the present time, I don't think we are playing our hand as strongly as we should...

Mr. Lang:  Dr. Zogby, on behalf of the Open Forum, I would like to thank you for your thought-provoking and timely presentation. And I want to commend you for all that you have done -- all that you are doing -- to build bridges of understanding and cooperation among people of all races and faiths.  I am pleased to present the Open Forum's Distinguished Public Service Award to you in recognition of outstanding contributions to national and international affairs in grateful appreciation for your participation in the Forum's Distinguished Lecture Series.  [Applause]



Released on December 19, 2001

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