topic could be more urgent and worthy of your close
attention than the Israel/Palestinian conflict. It is a
dreadful foreign struggle with frightening implications
for much of humankind. It is also a domestic issue of
colossal impact that has already shaken this giant oak
called America to its very roots, and the worst may be
yet to come.
It threatens the future well-being of all U.S. citizens, especially
college students who one day will be
called into military service.
I choose my words carefully. I am a Republican, but I am
gravely alarmed at the direction George W.
Bush has taken us.
We have lost our bearings. In our panic, we overlook the
relationship of 9/11 to the
Congress overreacts, yielding absolute authority to make war to one
man, the President. Still worse, the
President announces frightening new
doctrines: He asserts his right to order
acts of war against any nation he alone
deems necessary, and he proclaims America
policeman of the world.
The United Nations and other international institutions must follow
the U.S. lead or become irrelevant. In a
loosely-defined and poorly-designed war on
terrorism, the President decides what
foreign regimes must go.
His orders brought down two regimes-the Taliban in Afghanistan,
Saddam Hussein in Iraq-- amid thunderous
bombardment that left thousands of people
dead, some of them Americans, along with
many thousands of local civilians killed
or maimed for life. Lives were plighted,
homes destroyed, infrastructure wrecked,
and local inhabitants outraged against
At home, the overreaction to 9/11 brings misery, embarrassment,
fear and even unwarranted imprisonment
upon many law abiding citizens. Hundreds,
even thousands of people, are rounded up
arbitrarily for questioning by the FBI on
flimsy charges or no charges at all.
Many are jailed for weeks, months, even longer-all because of their
religion, color of their skin or country
of origin. At a convention on the East
coast, I met a Canadian who was detained
for questioning at the U.S. border. He and
his young son were kept in the broiling
sun for more than two hours for only one
reason. The border guard found on the
man's passport that his first name was
Mohammed. That was enough to order him out
of line for a long wait before eventually
being waved through.
Indignities, inconveniences like that are repeated hundreds of
times all over America.
Think of the indelible impression these experiences make on
people, young and old, who once believed
that America was unmatched as a land of
liberty and personal freedom.
At presidential request, Congress approves unprecedented levels of
wiretapping. Consequently, Big Brother is
prying into private lives without court
order, impinging on constitutionally
guaranteed liberties as never before. An
enormous computer data base is being
established at the Pentagon in Washington,
where intimate information about any and
all of us may be entered.
The intrusions continue, and our attorney-general, not satisfied
with the extreme powers he has already
received from Congress, seeks even greater
The main brunt is felt by people called
Muslims, followers of the Islamic faith.
Before World War II, they were almost
non-existent in America. Today, they
number seven million and are the second
largest and fastest-growing religious
community in America.
I was 51 years old and a Member of Congress for 11 years before I
knowingly met a Muslim. I nurtured false
images of Islam from early years in
Presbyterian Sunday School and did not
dismiss them until middle age. From my
personal experience, I am not surprised
that false images of Islam flourish
everywhere in America. They are strangers
in our midst.
Most Americans are suspicious of Muslims, linking them falsely with
violence, wickedness, abuse of women, and
Mrs. Findley and I reside in Jacksonville, Illinois, a college town
of about 30,000 population, home to only
three very quiet Muslim families. I
estimate that 90 percent of my neighbors
even today have never met a person they
knew to be Muslim. They are nervous, to
say the least, about the growing role of
Muslims in American life.
Many headlines and news broadcasts link the words Islam and Muslim
with acts of terrible violence, but few
Muslims deserve to be called terrorists.
Some professed Muslims, like the
perpetrators of 9/11, of course are
terrible human beings. They sin grievously
against Islamic teachings by killing
innocent people and committing suicide.
Christianity has its own killers. The Rev.
Jim Jones comes to mind.
Some governments call themselves Islamic states even though, as
monarchies or military dictatorships, they
violate principles of governance set forth
clearly in the Quran.
Muslims actually already make great contributions to the betterment
of America. One recently received the
Nobel Prize in physics. Muslims are
leaders in every worthy profession.
Beginning in the 1970s, Mrs. Findley and I have become personally
acquainted with many Muslims in a number
of countries. We would gladly welcome any
of them as next door neighbors, but the
false images are widely prevalent and
growing in magnitude and severity as our
military involvement in Muslim countries
Long ago I became convinced that the false images are an albatross
burdening the well-being of every
American. I wanted to spread the truth
Three years before 9/11, I began to write a book about U.S.
Muslims. It appeared on the market two
months before 9/11. In appendix A is a
brief text, called a "Friendly Note from
Your Muslim Neighbor." It tells in clear,
concise sentences that the Islamic faith
is actually closely interrelated with
Judaism and Christianity. Fundamental
doctrines have marked similarities. All
adherents to the monotheistic faiths are
spiritual descendants of Abraham.
I mention this appendix, because I have enough copies of the
Friendly Note to distribute to all of you.
All Muslims of my acquaintance, as well as
Christians and Jews, accept this little
document as a fair and accurate
presentation of the truth about Islam.
Please pick up a copy as you leave the
Whether you are a Jew, Christian, Muslim or an adherent of another
faith, it is in your interest to help
spread the truth about Islam. The ugly
stereotypes about Islam are deep seated
and getting deeper. They are like a
contagious disease, spreading discord and
hate throughout our nation.
According to a recent poll, 25 percent of the American people
believe Muslims are anti-American-a seven
percent increase over the previous year.
Forty-four percent believe Muslims
encourage violence-nearly double the
percentage of a year ago.
No matter what your religious affiliation,
each of you can help correct these
corrosive false images. By doing so, you
will help create a happier, more
You will also be helping to bring closer the day when a just peace
will come to the Holy Land, as well as to
America. The false images constitute a
major barrier to the reform of U.S. Middle
East policies. As long as the stereotypes
prevail widely, supporters of Israeli
Prime Minister Sharon will argue
persuasively that Israel, surrounded by
Muslim "terrorists," has no choice but to
deal roughly with them.
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is
inextricably linked to 9/11 and to the
U.S. wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
The trouble began thirty-five years ago, when the Washington lobby
for the state of Israel began to control
all legislation and public policy related
to the Middle East.
Shortly after World War II, a small band
of U.S. partisans for Israel marshaled
self-discipline and commitment so
effectively that they succeeded in ending
free and open debate on Capitol Hill and
throughout most of America whenever Middle
East issues are considered. They had no
thought, I am sure, of setting in motion a
sequence of events that would be
calamitous in the Middle East and later in
America. Their goal was to assure the
unconditional support of Israel by the
U.S. government. The horrible consequences
that lay ahead were unintended and
In seeking gains for Israel they rigorously stifle dissent and
intimidate the entire Congress. They
defeat legislators who criticize Israel. I
know. I was there for 22 years.
They have forced severe anti-Arab and anti-Muslim bias into U.S.
Middle East policy for the past
thirty-five years, bias that grows worse
year after year.
The most harmful part of this process was
the disappearance of unfettered discussion
of the U.S. relationship to the
As a result, the anti-Palestinian bias has
been getting worse. This bias yields
enormous flows of aid in various forms to
the state of Israel, and little or none to
the hapless Palestinians.
It enables Israeli leaders to impose discrimination and severe
hardship on Palestinians, most of them
Muslims. The outside world, including over
a billion Muslims, watches with dismay and
anger as the U.S. government supports the
subjugation of innocent human beings year
In recent years, this bias has led to the humiliation and
devastation of an entire people,
radicalizing behavior on both sides of the
conflict. but its gross imbalance in power
causes the Palestinians to accept by far
the greater suffering.
During the past l8 months, while giving lip service to Palestinian
statehood, the U.S. government has helped
Israel visit new devastation, curfews, and
bloodshed on Palestinians. Israeli forces
confine them within 20-foot high wire
cages, separating them from each other and
from sources of income-- consigning
children to malnourishment and denying
them childhood itself. The U.S. government
has been complicit in all of this, a
responsibility that is well and painfully
known to all the world except the American
For all its platitudes about freedom, democracy and human rights,
the U.S. government, year after year, has
supported the imposition of cruel,
unspeakable suffering on a proud and once
dignified and self-reliant people. We help
consign Palestinians to bleak days and
give them no hope to expect better ones
We spend billions in an inconclusive
struggle in Afghanistan, and now one of
even greater expanse, duration and
complexity in Iraq. We spend a billion
dollars a day for military purposes-in
addition to the awesome outlays in Iraq
In our panic, we believe we can curb violence and protest with the
sword. We ignore the grievances against
America's ugly partnership with Israel,
grievances that are voiced angrily by over
a billion Muslims and millions of other
people here in America and throughout the
world. We pursue an Israel-centric foreign
policy, as Condeleeza Rice, the
Presiident's national security adviser,
once described it. We must disenthrall
ourselves, liberate ourselves from Israel.
I long for the day when the U.S. government will be led by a
President who will have the decency and
wisdom to suspend all aid until Israel
withdraws from the Palestinian land it
seized in the 1967 war. When that happens,
suicide bombings will cease, and Israelis
and Palestinians will rejoice, inspired
for the first time in a generation by the
clear prospect of a just peace.
Let us dream of the day when human rights will prevail over the
sword, when the American people can abide
by the wisdom expressed by Abraham Lincoln
when he urged that respect for law become
the political religion of the land, and
when he said, on another occasion: "Our
defense is the preservation of the spirit
that prizes liberty as the heritage of all
people in all lands everywhere," warning,
"Destroy that spirit and you have planted
the seeds of despotism at our door."
Let us all obey the order God gave Moses: "Seek justice, only
Remarks of PAUL FINDLEY at the conference on Israeli/Palestinian
issues at St. Louis Community College, Meramec, on Tuesday, October 28, 2003. He
is a former Member of Congress, 1961-83,
lecturer on the Middle East conflict, and
author of the bestseller, They Dare to
Speak Out: People and Institutions
Confront Israel's Lobby. He resides in
Jacksonville, Illinois. Phone 217
243-8444. E-mail: email@example.com