Ziad Asali’s favorite night of the year is here again. On October 19 the American Task Force on Palestine (ATFP), the Washington public relations front for the Israeli-sponsored, Western-funded, American-supervised Palestinian (illusory) Authority (PA) will hold its annual gala. The black-tie event brings out the dapper and debonair version of Ziad as he dons his black-tie tuxedo and prounces around a Washington hotel ballroom bowing before US and/or Arab officials. Ziad must be thrilled Salam Fayyad will be the gala’s keynote speaker this year. The last time Fayyad attended the ATFP’s annual event Ziad’s tuxedo wasn’t draped around him as tight as he was around the American-appointed Prime Minister of the PA. Hussein Ibish will also attend the gala in his own tailored tuxedo, feigning intellectual honesty and wearing urbanity like cheap makeup.
The ATFP’s gala program this year will include all one would expect from the “moderate”, “peace-loving”, establishment Arabs. An American puppet from the Arab world (although not an oil-Sheikh this time around) is the keynote speaker, and two of the rapidly multiplying Arab-American “comedians” will be in attendance. Maysoon Zayid who performed a very silly, unfunny routine at last year’s gala which she interrupted in the middle only to endorse “Ziad” and the ATFP (see this video at: 5:30 mark) will return this year as the recipient of, and this really is funny, “An Excellence In Performing Arts” award. Dean Obeidallah, who is now identified as a Palestinian-American, will thankfully take a night off from his campaign to “build bridges” and “humanize” Arabs and Muslims through his own brand of very lame comedy to MC the gala.
War criminal Madeline Albright tops the list of names on the “Honorary Host Committee” which includes other war criminals like Gen James Jones and Brent Scowcroft. Rabidly anti-Arab, pro Israel members of congress that vote yearly to finance the Zionist colonization of Palestine, and fund US wars on the Arab world such as Carl Levin, John Kerry, and Gary Ackerman are also on the list. The equally anti-Arab Phalangist Congressional Caucus is represented on the list by Nick Rahall, Darell Issa, and Charles Boustany. Yankee-Doodle Arab and Palestinian-American Likudnik Justin Amash also made the list. Of course, it’s not a Washington Arab gala unless officials from American-approved Arab dictatorships are involved. The committee includes a prince and princes from the Hashemite Zionist regime in Jordan, and the Ambassadors of Morocco, Oman, Qatar, Egypt, Algeria, the UAE, and others. The Ambassador of that lovely regime in Bahrain is also included on the list of names as well as Marwan Muasher, an “elegant” Arab in his own right. The “civilized” Hisham Melhem, a right-wing, Lebanese journalist on the Saudi family payroll is also named as a member of the “host committee.”
Now in its eighth year, the ATFP has demonstrated it has much more in common with the pro-Israel lobby than the constituent group of Americans it claims to represent and includes in its name. The group doesn’t even pretend to have any support among Palestinian-Americans or Arab-Americans. In contrast with the other Arab-American outfits in Washington like the ADC or James Zogby’s one-man shop, which attempt to appear to be defending Arab-Americans and Palestinian rights, the ATFP openly shuns these communities and has allied itself with the pro-Israel lobby under the slogan of “cooperation towards peace.” This has given the ATFP the freedom to adopt the most extreme anti-Palestinian positions while simultaneously claiming to be an “independent voice for Palestinian-Americans.” It also considers itself to be promoting the “American national interest” although the folks at the ATFP never tell us why it’s in America’s national interest (assuming, for arguments sake only, this ill-defined, vague concept should be taken into consideration when discussing Palestinian rights) to oppose Palestinian liberation and the Palestinians’ inalienable right of return to their homes, land, and property in occupied Palestine. That the ATFP is willing to pursue such bizarre behavior betrays a self-awareness, and implied admission, of its own irrelevance.
Other than organizing their annual gala, attending pro-Israel lobby functions, and writing fawning op-eds about Fayyad and his economic achievements (reading Ibish one would think the GDP of the occupied West Bank economy under Fayyad’s leadership is about to surpass that of the People’s Republic of China) there is not much the ATFP really does in Washington.
The ATFP is truly unique in the history of what passes for Arab-American “activism.” It’s the only Arab-American organization ever formed solely for the purpose of undermining Palestinian rights in the US. It’s also the only component of the mythical Arab lobby that openly bashes grassroots Palestinian-American activists while expressing pride in its exclusively Washington-centered “advocacy.” The group is made up of three people, the empty-tuxedo President, Ibish, who writes the speeches and press releases, and Ghaith Al-Omari who represents the ATFP at various Washington cocktail hours or gatherings such as the “Iftar” dinner at the Israeli embassy this past Ramadan.
The ATFP has been on the defensive since it was formed, most recently in this press release Ibish wrote to once again explain the ATFP’s “raison d’etre.” There isn’t anyone familiar with this shop, including Palestinian-Americans, members of the pro-Israel lobby that have befriended the ATFP, or the US officials that attend its galas, that has any illusions it represents any constituency within the US. In fact, that’s what allows the ATFP to continue to function as it has. Its lack of community support or any grassroots accountability permits the ATFP to serve its dual purpose of providing a Palestinian fig leaf for pro-Israel US policies and acting as a diplomatic front for the PA. For now the ATFP remains open in Washington so if you’re not one of those “fanatics” and “extremists” it’s that time of year when you can pick up a tuxedo and prepare to go gala.