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Perhaps it is because I just read a brother's beautiful memoir about one of the Pan Am 103 victims (The Boy Who Fell Out of the Sky: A True Story by Ken Dornstein), but I am not overly impressed with the decision to welcome Libya and its leader, Muammar Gaddafi, back into the family of nations.
That book tells the story of a young Jewish American, David Dornstein, who was 25 when Libyan agents blew up the plane on which he was returning from Israel (by way of London). He died along with 269 other passengers, including 189 Americans. Many of the latter were college kids coming home following a semester abroad - 35 from Syracuse University alone - four days before Christmas.
But now we are told that all is forgiven. It has, after all, been 18 years since those students, tourists and business travelers were blown out of that fuselage. Many survived the explosion and the two-minute plunge, only to die on impact. Imagine.
Nevertheless, the administration argues that because Libya has abandoned its nuclear weapons program, it is a worthy US partner.
It is, no doubt, a good thing that Libya has decided not to develop weapons of mass destruction, and especially not nuclear weapons.
And it is certainly good news if the Libyans are actually helping in the anti-terrorism struggle.
But there is some debate about how advanced Libya's WMD program was to begin with while there is no debate about the fact that Libya's human rights record is abysmal. In 2003, the State Department said it was "unconscionable" that Libya was chairing the UN Human Rights Commission and used its presence, quite rightly, as an argument for abolishing the commission.
As for terrorism, House International Relations Committee chairman Henry Hyde has it exactly right. "Libya's continued failure to resolve outstanding claims for past acts of terrorist aggressionâ€¦will serve as a stumbling block in the path toward" normalization of relations. Hyde did not mention, but could have, Gaddafi's instigation of a plot to kill King (then Prince) Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, in 2003.
THEN THERE is Gaddafi's anti-Semitism. When he came to power in 1969, Gaddafi confiscated all Jewish property and canceled all debts owed to Jews. For almost 40 years, Libya has been at the forefront of nations which traffic in both terrorism and virulent anti-Semitism.
But, supposedly, that has now changed. Tom Lantos, ranking Democrat on Henry Hyde's House International Relations Committee, who calls himself "the leading voice in Congress for normalizing relations with Libya," thinks so. As early as 2003, he said "I am working on opening up American universities for Libyan studentsâ€¦. And I am encouraging American investment in Libya."
Welcoming the Bush administration's Libyan policy, Lantos, who proclaims in a press release that he has met with Gaddafi four times, said that he "commends the Libyan government" for its new moderation. He said, "The world is a far safer place as a result of these actions. I hope that rogue states such as Syria and Iran will learn the lesson: responsible behavior means much better relations with the United States."
Lantos conceded that there are still problems with Libya but "establishing full diplomatic relations" as a first step will "open up more avenues for action on these mattersâ€¦."
Wait a minute. The United States, and particularly Congress, never applies that kind of commonsense logic to the Palestinians. Even when Mahmoud Abbas was in power, he was told that before we even considered addressing his needs, he would first have to implement a laundry list of reforms reaching into every aspect of Palestinian affairs - and then US auditors would certify that he actually did what he promised.
Lantos was one of the leading members of Congress demanding that Palestine evolve into a veritable Vermont before he would even consider allowing the president to ask Israel to ease the burdens of the occupation. Libya, on the other hand, gets what it wants first as an incentive for further good behavior.
What is going on?
WHY IS it that oil-rich Libya is forgiven for committing one of the worst crimes ever perpetrated against Americans while the Palestinians - even after the PLO recognized Israel and Mahmoud Abbas ended the intifada - are repeatedly given a list of hoops they must jump through if they are to achieve any semblance of normalization of relations with the United States, let alone an independent state?
I am not referring to Hamas. I am referring to the Palestinian Authority when it was run by President Mahmoud Abbas. Every time some imam in Hebron gave a nasty anti-Semitic speech, legions of representatives and senators issued statements of denunciation of Abbas for not controlling the clergy.
If Abbas's enemies planted a bomb, Abbas was blamed for not successfully disarming enemies who had more firepower than Abbas had. After Abbas cleaned up Palestinian textbooks to delete anti-Semitic references, he was told that his efforts were not good enough; there were still maps in social studies texts that didn't show Israel.
During the year between Abbas's election and the predictable Hamas win (predictable because you didn't have to be Metternich or Kissinger to understand that if Abbas could not "deliver" he would be displaced by Hamas), neither the US nor Israel did very much at all to help him succeed. Abbas was the recipient of demands, and of little else. Prime minister Sharon, though proclaiming him a "partner," refused to negotiate with him.
THE BUSH administration is moving away from the "axis of evil" concept and toward a policy of engagement with North Korea while Henry Kissinger and Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Richard Lugar favor direct talks with Iran.
We are reopening relations with Libya. How about adopting similar openness to the Palestinians rather than devising a rules as immoral as they are counterproductive?
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