Regarding Jim Abourezk's Jan. 26 Opinion piece, "The hidden cost of free congressional trips to Israel": I suppose I am one whom Mr. Abourezk would take to task for hosting members of the US Congress in Israel and exposing the members to "only [one] side of the story." As head of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee's Jerusalem office for 15 years, I oversaw the scheduling of congressional missions in Israel.
Members met with Israel's leadership, visited sites holy to Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, and viewed Israel's vulnerable borders. And on every trip, we scheduled meetings with Palestinian leaders such as Mahmoud Abbas, Ahmed Queria, and Sari Nusseibeh.
Congressional support for Israel doesn't come about because of fear or arm-twisting, as Abourezk charges. It derives from the American people's support for Israel. There are polls showing that Americans support Israel over the Palestinians, and Americans have told pollsters that they view Israel as a friend to the US.
The failures of Arab lobbying organizations over the years are not because of some money conspiracy. It's because, in the best democratic tradition, Congress reflects the spirit of the American people.
Although I agree with Jim Abourezk that the pro-Israel lobby groups try their best to indoctrinate members of Congress into their way of thinking, any savvy person should be able to see right through these attempts. As long as we allow other powerful, special-interest groups to pressure our elected officials, there is nothing that can be done.
Our representatives must recognize the consequences of taking a one-sided Middle East stance. In the Iraq war for example, the consistent targeting of American lives and lack of cooperation by the populace are prime examples of deep mistrust and dislike. Things will only start to mend once we are completely out of there.
New Milford, Conn.
With respect to the Jan. 29 article, "How US is putting more heat on Iran": I think it's kind of arrogant for the US to go to Iraq, remove its leader, kill thousands of people, try to set up an American-style democracy, and then have the nerve to say that Iraq's neighbor, Iran, is interfering.
In the Jan. 30 article, "Beirut family struggles with war's legacy," a Lebanese man is quoted as saying, "If these were Americans dying in this massacre, what would they think?" To imagine what Americans would think, we would first have to imagine Americans allowing a militia supported by another nation to launch attacks against a neighboring country from within our own borders.
We'd have to imagine Americans allowing terrorists to install rocket launchers on the roofs of apartment buildings, and letting them fire at Canadian or Mexican civilians for weeks on end without interference from our police or military.
It is indeed hard to imagine that Americans would put themselves, their neighbors, or their children in such a position.
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