Jordan as Palestine - true, or a 'twisted' view of history?
Richard Jacoel of New Hyde Park, Long Island, has a solution to the Middle East problem, and he's paying up to $28,000 a crack for newspaper ads to present it to the American public.
His solution: The Palestinian people don't need a state on the West Bank; they already have their own state - Jordan.
Mr. Jacoel says his solution is based on historic fact. Others say Jacoel's is a selective, ''twisted'' reading of history.
The suggestion that Jordan is Palestine has been stated publicly by high-level Israeli officials, including Foreign Minister Yitzhak Shamir and former Defense Minister Ariel Sharon, and has fed an on-again, off-again debate for the past two years among some Mideast politicians and experts. The idea has been supported by certain members of hard-line Zionist organizations in Israel. It is a suggestion Jordanians find quite offensive.
Last summer the State Department, in reply to statements by Israeli officials , said the United States did not agree with the view that Jordan is Palestine. A spokesman said: ''The US is committed to the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Jordan. . . . We do not agree that Jordan is a Palestinian state.''
The recent controversy is over a series of full-page and opinion-editorial page newspaper ads by a small Jewish group headed by Jacoel. It is called the Jordan is Palestine Committee and consists of 12 people who work on the campaign in their spare time.
The ads have appeared in Sunday editions and three daily editions of the New York Times, with single ad costs ranging from $7,600 to $28,000. The advertisements say that Jordan ''occupies 77 percent of the original Palestine Mandate (of 1922)'' and as such it is a Palestinian country. They conclude: ''Palestinian refugees deserve a home in a land where nearly 2 million Palestinians already have one: Jordan.''
Abdul Hadi Majali, Jordan's ambassador to the US, says the ads contain ''half-truths'' and are ''degrading'' to his country.
''The history is known, the facts are available,'' he says, adding, ''They think that the Americans are ignorant.''
Ambassador Majali wrote to the New York Times in mid-March objecting to the ads. According to an embassy spokesman, the Times decided not to print the letter and referred it instead to the advertising department.
The advertisements are appearing at a time in the US of intense interest about whether Jordan's King Hussein will enter US-sponsored peace talks on the future of the Israeli-occupied West Bank. Some observers say the ads are intended to undercut the King's bargaining position, while others contend the ads are meant to prepare Americans for a move by Israel to expel West Bank Palestinians and annex the occupied lands.
Jacoel says the ads were not ''premedi-tated'' to coincide with any particular period of US-Mideast relations. ''We got money and we just used it - that's all,'' he says.
''My intention is to weaken the demand for the creation of a second Palestinian state - because one already exists,'' says Jacoel, who was born in Egypt, raised in Israel, and who says he has been an American citizen for the past 16 years.
He says the ads have resulted in 14,000 letters - more than 10,000 of them supportive. He estimates 25 percent are ''derogatory.'' He adds, ''But they are written by people who are not in the know . . . they insult, they never write their address, they are jokers, kooks.''
Some of the supportive letters have included money. Jacoel says he doesn't want to say how much - nor will he say where the original funding for the ads came from. Jacoel says he is not a member of a political party in Israel and that his group is not affiliated with any of the major American Jewish organizations or any other group.
Indeed, many of the major Jewish groups - including the largest lobby group, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) - have been trying to find out who Richard Jacoel is and where he is getting his funding. They were some of the same groups he earlier approached to try to get backing.
''On several occasions I approached the larger organizations, but they weren't interested because they felt it was a moot subject. They did not believe wholeheartedly in the idea,'' he says.
According to Fran Wolf of AIPAC, ''Most American Jews believe in Camp David and what that can hold for peace in the Middle East. Something like this (Jordan is Palestine) is a little far out.''
Jacoel says he has been surprised by the response. ''I never thought we would have so much mail.''
He promises: ''We . . . want the American people to know the truth. They don't have to believe us per se, but if they don't, they should at least go and consult books.''
That is the exact advice the Jordanian ambassador is giving to anyone who sees the ad. ''This is documented in the United Nations and in history books,'' he says.
L. Dean Brown, a former US ambassador to Jordan who is now president of the Middle East Institute in Washington, said of the ads: ''This is a very odd way to twist history - drive people out of their home country so they become refugees in another country and then say that since they are there it is now their country.''
Mr. Brown, who prepared a report on the issue for the institute in December, said that Jacoel ''has forgotten that there were a whole series of legal events that center around the creation of the state of Jordan.''
James Zogby of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee says: ''Many people of the Jewish faith live in New York City, but that doesn't make New York City a Jewish state.''
He adds, ''The issue for me is not the factual nature of the argument, it is the intent. This is a pure propaganda attempt to create acceptance for the political thrust of the Begin government, which is to annex the occupied territories and expel the Palestinians into Jordan.''
''My idea is peace - I only mean well,'' stresses Jacoel. ''I think I am doing a service to this country. I am motivating people to read more. I want everyone who can read to read history.''