MSNBC’s “Alan Keyes is Making Sense” program from Tuesday, May 14
KEYES: Did you know that since 1999, the United States has given more than $480 million to the Palestinian Authority – more than $200 million slated for this year alone? But if the Palestinian Authority has funded suicide bombers, then Palestinian terrorism could be partly funded with our tax dollars.
Now a proposal is being put forward in Congress to cut off aid to the Palestinian Authority, unless the P.A. publicly renounces and takes action against violence in the West Bank and Gaza, and unless that violence actually subsides. Should Congress pass such a bill?
Joining us now is Congressman Anthony Weiner, the author of the bill. And also with us is Hussein Ibish, the communications director for the Arab-American anti-discrimination committee.
Gentlemen, welcome to MAKING SENSE.
REP. ANTHONY WEINER (D), NEW YORK: Thank you.
HUSSEIN IBISH, ARAB-AMERICAN ANTI-DISCRIMINATION COMMITTEE: I knew you couldn‘t live without me, Alan.
KEYES: Always a pleasure, even though it‘s a challenge, Hussein.
But, Representative Weiner, what has motivated you to put this bill on the table at this juncture?
WEINER: Well, Alan, I‘m a supporter of foreign aid. It‘s relatively pennies in the budget. It‘s also is a way for us to export our democracy, to improve world health and the like. So I should say that I‘m not someone who came to Congress saying we‘ve got to stop foreign aid.
But I think it should do certain things that clearly the money for the Palestinians is not doing. One, it should further peace. Hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars, and we‘ve seen an explosion of violence against civilians.
Secondly, it should further democracy. You can say a lot of things about the administration of the Palestinian Authority, but it‘s certainly not a democracy.
Third, it should mean a country that supports us. No one remembers better than you how, on September 11th, while the world was shedding a tear, the people of Nablus were cheering and distributing candy, celebrating the attacks on our country.
And finally, there should be some accountability attached to it. One of the things seized in the raids in the last few weeks have been documents that show that essentially all money in that region of the world seems to be fungible. Money that the Saudis were giving, claiming it was for humanitarian purposes, was being used to pay suicide bombers.
A better question than why cut off aid, is why should any taxpayer dollars be going to the Palestinians?
KEYES: Hussein Ibish, what do you think of this idea?
IBISH: Well, I think it‘s pandering of the most crude variety. Because really, this aid that we give the Palestinians is totally symbolic. None of it goes directly to any Palestinian group. It all goes to U.S. NGOs, who then use it for dedicated projects. It‘s not as if we‘re handing the P.A., you know, what is in foreign aid terms, a paltry few million dollars here and there. We‘re not doing that, even.
What we do is we give it to American nongovernmental organizations who do some various different projects that the State Department has already approved of. So there‘s no possibility that this money has been used for any purposes that the P.A. wants to use it for, other than what it‘s given for. I think this is all just purely symbolic aid and cutting it would be purely symbolic. And we‘d only be harming ourselves, frankly.
KEYES: Representative Weiner, is that a correct justification? Because it seems to me, money is fungible, right? At the end of the day, you help people do one thing. Then they can use money they might have employed for that purpose for something else.
But is Hussein making a god point, do you think?
WEINER: Well, listen, one of the things that we learned from some of the documents seized by the Israeli military during their raids, is that, frankly, Yasser Arafat has control of many more pots of money than we thought that he did.
And you can make the same argument, that it‘s NGOs funding it, it‘s for humanitarian purposes. We make decisions as the American taxpayer, do we want to help fund these NGOs in Iraq, let‘s say, or Iran, or any other country that we find to be contemptible? We usually say no to those things.
Give me a reason why we should support the Palestinian Authority, even indirectly? I mean, frankly, we have learned that the Saudi Arabians who claim they were giving money for humanitarian purposes as well, we learn that those dollars were being approved by Yasser Arafat for homicide bombings.
I think a good thing for us to be asking now is where should we be spending our money? And I don‘t think anyone can make a compelling argument that our goals are being furthered by providing, literally, $232 million last year to the Palestinians.
IBISH: You know, you can go ahead and cut it off, really. I don‘t think any Palestinian is going to lose any sleep, any Palestinian is going to shed any tear. It‘s purely symbolic as it is.
The effect of this very small amount of aid spread among 3.5 million people is really not felt. So you can cut it off, go right ahead. The only thing you‘ll be doing, really, is making the United States look even worse in the eyes of the world, taking sides even more with Israel, and cutting off this very limited amount of humanitarian aid we give to American NGOs to help Palestinians.
At the same time, we‘re giving Israel $5 billion a year and all of the military hardware they need, to maintain tens of thousands of troops in someone else‘s country, steal their land and destroy their cities. We‘re really going to be doing a great damage to ourselves, to no benefit whatsoever for the American people, in my view.
KEYES: One of the problems, though, that I see with that reaction – I can understand it, OK, take your money, be done with you and so on. I had that reaction today when somebody told me that they were proposing – I think, the Kuwaitis or somebody – they were pushing the idea that they were going to boycott American tourism, and so forth and so on.
And I said, fine, stay home. You know, the folks with Saudi passports flying planes into buildings, not a recommendation for their tourist trade. But, leave that aside. I can understand the cavalier attitude.
But there‘s one problem. A lot of folks have come forward, now, and I think with some goodwill, saying that they acknowledge and recognize the problems with the Palestinian Authority. It‘s tyrannical nature, its arbitrariness, its lack of, you know, sort of the real characteristics of a representative, democratic kind of government that respects human rights and so forth and so on.
Isn‘t it actually helpful if the world starts to put some pressure on, to move that authority in a direction that‘s more serviceable for the Palestinian people, instead of wasting money on suicide bombings and murder?
IBISH: Well, look, what you need to recognize is that the P.A. only makes sense as an institution as a transitional body, which is what it was set up to be back in 1993. And its term was supposed to expire in 1998, and it was supposed to be part of a transition from direct Israeli military rule to real Palestinian independence.
What‘s happened is, the P.A. has become a quasi-permanent or permanent structure. And now we‘re talking about reforming it, as if it made any sense as a permanent institution. Any governing agency that rules an area under foreign military occupation, in collaboration with the occupier, is by definition a Vichy regime. Of course it‘s going to be corrupt.
Of course it can‘t be a representative democracy, or representative government of a sovereign state, because it‘s not a sovereign state. This is a very odd institution, with limited powers in a very small area. Of course it cannot be what we want it to be.
KEYES: I frankly don‘t understand your reasoning, though, Hussein. Because you just reasoned that because it‘s not this and not that, it therefore must be corrupt and nasty and despotic, and run about killing people.
IBISH: I’ve said no such thing.
KEYES: There are lots of independent governments. All the state governments in America don‘t have absolute sovereignty. But they don‘t spend their time killing the citizens.
IBISH: None of them live under foreign military occupation, of course.
KEYES: The point I‘m making, though, is that dependent governments aren‘t necessarily committed to terrorism and murder. That seems to be a function of personalities, of the actual individuals staffing those governments.
And wouldn‘t something like Representative Weiner‘s approach be aimed at – maybe symbolically – but getting a point across to Yasser Arafat and his cohorts, that they must be serious about rejecting terror?
IBISH: The only point that‘s going to be made here is that we side even further with Israel than we already do, and members of Congress are not willing to stop at any level to pander to the pro-Israel lobbies, to search for votes and funding and money.
And we‘re willing to debase ourselves continually, in order to hug Israel and identify with its colonial occupation. I don‘t think it‘s in the national interest or the interests of the American people at all.
KEYES: Let him respond.
WEINER: Let me just say to that, I think we have to make decisions about where we spend our foreign aid money. It‘s not infinite. I can tell you that, when we send foreign aid to Israel, what we get. We get a military ally. We get an intelligence ally, someone who‘s working closely with us in the war on terrorism.
And we get support for democracy in a sea of tyrannical regimes all around her. That, to me, makes a lot of sense. Now, you can say it‘s pandering because they take away the funds from the Palestinians. I frankly see none of our foreign policy objectives being met by that $232 million.
And you say, fine, take it back, it‘s symbolic. So be it. Very often the money we spend in foreign policy is to give symbolic support or symbolic opposition to regimes we either think are worthy of support or worthy of opposition.
WEINER: You know, we put the money on the table during the Wye River process. We increased the amount of funding. It was asked for by they Israelis, asked for by President Clinton. Frankly, many of us in Congress who never thought we‘d be going to Congress to vote for aid for the Palestinians, voted for it and helped rally support for it.
WEINER: But part of what was supposed to come from that was peace.
KEYES: Just a second, gentlemen. We are going to have to take a break, here.
We will come back with more of our guests after this.
And later, my “Outrage of the Day.” The tape of Pearl‘s murder is being used to recruit terrorists. Think about that. You‘re watching America‘s news channel, MSNBC.
KEYES: Still with us, Democratic Congressman Anthony Weiner of New York and Hussein Ibish of the Arab-American Anti-discrimination Committee. Now, Hussein, if the aid is just symbolic, if it doesn‘t matter, and so forth and so on, they you think the congressman is right in cutting it off, right? I mean, something that doesn‘t matter, nobody really cares for it anyway. So if we stop giving it, we will no longer be complicit in any respect in possible terrorist activities? Isn‘t that a plus for America?
IBISH: We‘re not complicit in any way in any terrorism through this aid. As I say, the only thing we‘ll accomplish is in further stigmatizing ourselves and making our role in the region much more difficult, causing needless problems for ourselves to no benefit.
But let me challenge the congressman on what we get for our $5 billion a year in aid to Israel. We have gotten not a military ally, but a military albatross that we have to worry about every time we get into any kind of conflict, about them not doing anything. They are of no help at all.
We have had the largest hostile intelligence operations in the United States, including not only Jonathan Pollard, who everyone agrees was the tip of the iceberg in a massive Israeli, anti-American intelligence operations, which are ongoing, I have no doubt.
We have gotten the reputation of funding the only foreign military occupation in the world today. And our weapons, which we send Israel, have killed over 1,400 Palestinians, most of them unarmed civilians. Many of them, you know, killed by American weapons, our Apache helicopters, our Black Hawk helicopters, tank shells made in the United States and other things.
This constant giving of aid to Israel when our money is being used to slaughter people living under occupation has really destroyed our reputation in the Middle East. That‘s what we‘ve gotten for all our money to Israel.
WEINER: We have also gotten a military that took out an Iraqi nuclear reactor in 1982, a nation that is the foremost practitioner of the Bush doctrine right now in the Middle East, doing, frankly, a lot of the dirty work for us in the United States by fighting terrorism on the ground right there.
And they‘ve also done something that you dismiss. They set up a democracy in a sea, an oasis, of despotic, totalitarianism regimes. They‘re a beachhead for democracy, and hopefully that will extend to your friends, the Palestinians.
IBISH: The Palestinian territories under Israeli occupation are the least democratic place in the world, I‘m sorry.
WEINER: The fact of the matter is, that we use foreign aid to export our values. And frankly, the democracy that exists in Israel, not to mention the intelligence connections that we have with that country, they‘re an ally. No one accused the Saudi Arabians of being our ally. Fifteen of the 19 suicide bombers attacked my neighborhood.
I happen to believe that it‘s obvious that Israel, we get a great bang for our buck. We get an ally in that part of the world. You can‘t say that about the Palestinians. Frankly, even you are having trouble defending the aid to the Palestinians.
IBISH: It does not reflect our values or promote our interests to support a foreign military dictatorship which steals people’s land and denies them their freedom.
KEYES: I have a word to put in here, because I think that it is important, from my point of view, to reinforce the truth as well. We‘re supposed to be (UNINTELLIGIBLE) with the Saudi Arabians, who have been doing everything in their power to reinforce the hatred and resentment against America, using moneys that fund schools in which this hatred is taught and supporting activities in which people are encouraged to become the very kind of terrorists that killed thousands of people in America.
IBISH: That‘s completely unfair.
KEYES: It is totally fair and totally proven now. And the simple fact of the matter is…
KEYES: Let me finish, now. I didn‘t interrupt you.
KEYES: The simple fact of the matter is, I think, that we‘re looking at a situation with Israel where, as far as this war on terrorism is concerned, the only reliable ally we have in the Middle East, the only one who hasn‘t been dancing in the street at terrorist suicide bombers and people killing Americans. The only ally that doesn‘t show evidence of that is Israel.
And right now I think you ought to realize, the rest of the Arab world you seem to think we ought to care about so much? A big question mark is behind all of those countries, with respect to their attitude in the war on terror. And that‘s a problem.
IBISH: Look, the last thing we‘ve seen from the Saudi Arabians is them, the Egyptians and the Syrians, once again committing themselves to peace with Israel, once again stretching their hand out and saying the world Arab would have peace with the Israelis if they would only bring their troops back inside their own country, and this outstretched hand is being rebuffed by Israel.
KEYES: Thank you. I really appreciate both of you being on tonight. Thank you for coming on.