The American Task Force On Palestine policy statement first released on its website, and brought to our attention through a tweet on Hussein Ibish’s blog was published in the Huffington Post a couple of days later with a short introduction by Ziad Asali. It’s unlikely that Asali, with his poor written, verbal, and interpersonal communications skills, wrote the policy statement. It’s more likely to be the work of Ibish, who was hired for the abilities which Asali, and the handful of others at the ATFP nobody has heard of, or from, lack, and he can provide. Adopting a defensive posture and tone, the ATFP attempts to fend off criticism of its relationships with a variety of racist, Zionist organizations and its role as a Washington public relations firm for the Israeli-sponsored, Western-funded, and American-supervised Palestinian National Authority (PNA).
The recently released policy statement insists the “ATFP was not founded to represent any group other than itself, has faithfully stuck to its founding mission, and does not adhere to the policies or agenda of any other entity, including the United States government, any other government…” The ATFP’s disassociation and disavowal of any government or government agenda lacks plausible deniability. It is a transparently disingenuous defense belied not only by the policy statements, media appearances, and activities of the ATFP, but also by the very definition of its mission which is to advocate on behalf of an American-Israeli-PNA vision of a future settlement between the Zionist entity and the Palestinians. And when the ATFP states it “relies on its own independent evaluation of what policies, programs and activities will best promote peace and the American national interest”, are we really being asked to believe that after each of their independent evaluations they coincidentally reached the same conclusions as the US government (at the rhetorical level only), Mahmoud Abbas, Salam Fayyad, Mouhamed Dahlan, and now maybe even AIPAC?
The ATFP’s claim it does not endorse “any other organization, constituency or ideological camp” is also laughable. If the ATFP is an independent organization that does not endorse any group or political program, why does it insert itself into internal Palestinian politics by allocating its time and energy between promoting the PNA, and attacking all Palestinian opposition to the collaborating authority both in occupied Palestine and in the U.S?
The ATFP also attempts to defend its relationship with various racist, Zionist organizations by stating it has “long advocated the formation of a national coalition for a two-state solution...”, and has therefore, “built ties to and engaged in dialogue with numerous Arab-American, Jewish-American…institutions and organizations, keeping its doors open to all and refusing to foreclose any potential area for cooperation towards peace.” What stands out in this statement is the ATFP’s claims to have ties with “numerous Arab-American institutions and organizations”, but can only list Zionist organizations. This comes as no surprise from an organization which, like most Arab outfits in Washington, DC, has virtually no grassroots support within the Palestinian and Arab communities in the U.S.
The ATFP does not hesitate to admit that “its officials have spoken at events hosted by APN, J Street, the Israel Project, AIPAC and the American Jewish Committee.” One of these events was a recent meeting between Salam Fayyad and members of the Israel Project which was organized by Ibish himself. As meetings between PNA officials and members of the Zionist lobby become a recurring feature in the peace process show, and with the ATFP acting as facilitator and organizer, Hussein Ibish has adopted the role of Washington concierge to the PNA.
That anyone would describe a relationship with such rabid racists and Israeli propagandists as those at the Israel Project or AIPAC as “cooperation towards peace” is simply the latest of many absurdities that swirl around the peace process charade. The suggestion that anti-Arab, Zionist fanatics and Likudniks are part of a Jewish constituency for peace is yet another example of the deceptive and hollow nature that has come to define the so called peace process. The ATFP’s outreach to racist, Zionist groups is analogous to African-American groups within the Civil Rights movement in the 50s and 60s reaching out to the KKK or representatives of the European Jewish and Roma minorities reaching out to the Nazi regime during World War 2. It’s one of the more ridiculous attempts at normalizing with Zionism and making collaboration with the Zionist state appear natural and normal.
We could easily provide a mountain of evidence for the assertion that the ATFP, although not an official government agency, operates as the Washington lobbying arm for the PNA. However, because of the patently obvious role the ATFP plays and the implausibility of its denials, we decided not to waste our time. We urge the readers to ask themselves why the Palestinian-American, activist community is not involved with (and has even condemned) the ATFP. Then please visit the ATFP website, read their political program, review their statements, observe their media appearances, and follow their activities and advocacy and make up your own mind.
It will quickly become clear the ATFP is the unofficial lobbying arm of the PNA, and its burgeoning relationship with AIPAC and other members of the pro-Israel lobby can only be understood within the context of the PNA’s own collaboration with the right-wing government of the Israeli occupation, which is what members of these groups have themselves stated about their willingness to meet with the ATFP.
In the same statement the ATFP “reiterates its prerogative to enter into dialogue and build relationships with any and all organizations and individuals that declare their support for a two-state solution to the conflict. The Task Force strongly rejects efforts by anyone to dictate which groups and individuals ATFP may converse or meet with, or any other external efforts to impose litmus tests and limitations on its activities.” We certainly recognize the right of Asali, Ibish, and the others at the ATFP to build relationships with Zionist organizations and advocate on behalf of the PNA. They also have a right to join AIPAC. And if they choose to do so their activities would actually make more sense, and for the first time, they can legitimately claim to be members of an authentic grassroots effort. But we also reserve the right to judge their political advocacy, make it clear they have no support among the pro-Palestinian activist community, and draw our own conclusions about the role they play in Washington. We also have a right to ask them to Ikhras, and if that’s not possible, maybe they can stop insulting our intelligence with their continuing denials and phony platitudes about cooperation and peace.
How are preparations for that Gala coming along?