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Daniel Pipes to Testify to Congress on Middle East Peace - Action/Activism
Feb 12, 2007
By Daniel Levy
This Wednesday the Middle East Subcommittee of the House Foreign Affairs Committee will hold an open hearing on “next steps in the Israeli-Palestinian Peace Process.” It’s a kind of important issue. The Baker-Hamilton Iraq Study Group Report convincingly and firmly asserted that US credibility and leadership in the region, ability to build and lead alliances, and reducing the mobilizing capacity of extremists, are all integrally linked to a re-launched Israeli Palestinian peace process. These are also the first Middle East Subcommittee hearings of the 110th Congress and come at a critical time – with a new Palestinian government in the making and a trilateral Israeli-Palestinian-US summit planned for February 19th. So whose fountain of wisdom on these issues have the Subcommittee chosen to sip from? None other than neocon wing-nut Daniel Pipes – head of the McCarthyite “Campus Watch,” carrier of the bizarre honor of having become a US Institute for Peace Board Member as a recess appointment in the face of Senate opposition (which places him in the same category as John Bolton), and leader of the apocalyptic war-mongering school of so-called pro-Israelism. For him even the most right-wing of Israeli parties in the last election were not hard-line enough. What are we to make of this?
I have it on good authority from Democrat and Republican sources that Pipes’ inclusion in the panel at this hearing came at the insistence of the Republicans on the Committee (others speaking are Ambassador Martin Indyk of Brookings and David Makovsky from WINEP). Dem Subcommitte Chair Gary Ackerman (D-NY) could apparently not prevent this invitation to Pipes, but he can at least give this anti-peace lunatic rightie a good grilling on Wednesday. Ackerman should be encouraged to do so by TPM readers. Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN) is the GOP ranking member responsible, but the real inspiration apparently came from Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) (Cuba sanctions, Palestinian sanctions, regime-change warrior…etc). Americans for Peace Now’s Lara Friedman – the unsung hero of Washington Middle East peace advocacy – tells me that no alert mail she can remember sending out, received the volume of exasperated responses as the Pipes note. Pipes himself has proudly informed his own listserv of his upcoming moment of glory on the Hill and this will no doubt enhance his fundraising credentials, amongst other things.
What can the Middle East Subcommittee members, eager to be informed by the real experts, expect to hear from Pipes? His Middle East Foundation is closely linked to the AEI and the same stable of characters who brought you the war in Iraq, are beating the drums for a war with Iran, and have stubbornly sought to block any efforts at resuming Israeli-Arab peace making. During the summer conflict in Lebanon in a New York Sun piece entitled “Hold Damascus Responsible,” Pipes called for a military attack on Syria and came out against the strengthened UN force that Israel eagerly encouraged and embraced as part of Security Council Resolution 1701. Just before the Israeli elections, in a now infamous piece, “Israel Avoids Victory,” from his home thousands of miles away from the bloody conflict and suffering on both sides, Pipes suggested that “as Israelis go to the polls, not one of the leading parties offers the option of winning the war against the Palestinian Arabs” ( Iraq watchers: sounds familiar?). Pipes goes on to reject unilateralism, territorial compromise, peace through economic rehabilitation, peace through democracy, and even transfer (!) as all being insufficiently conclusive Israeli victories for his liking. Pipes supported a lone Likud guy who was so low on their Knesset list that he never made it in to Parliament (Uzi Landau). This is really the guy you want commenting on the peace process!!
Pipes once unforgettably referred to Muslim immigrants as “brown skinned peoples cooking strange foods and not exactly maintaining Germanic standards of hygiene,” and even if we take his later attempts to contextualize this quote at face value (and that would demand an intellectual openness on our part that Pipes seems incapable of), then he at least enjoys a good flirt with Islamo-phobia. Pipes submitted a proposal to establish an Anti-Islamist Institute, the exposure of which by Jim Lobe of the Inter-Press Service, probably made sure it never got off the ground. Nevertheless, in 2002 Pipes did launch Campus Watch, a particularly nasty variant of contemporary McCarthyite tactics, encouraging students to report on Professors and stifling open academic teachings and research on Middle East issues. A Foreign Service officer who has spent his career training young diplomats before overseas postings recently confided to me that the effects of efforts such as Campus Watch could already be seen from the somewhat distorted appreciation of the region held by MidEast studies graduates who became diplomatic trainees. The list goes on and if you want to read more start here (it’s endless).
Pipes is a no good-nik, but what’s the big deal? It’s only a Subcommittee hearing that is unlikely to change the course of Middle East events. The trouble with inviting Pipes is the contemptuous and arrogant approach it displays to Congressional oversight and the hearings process. It feeds into the self-marginalization of Congress when it comes to checking the policy options on offer and of failing to contribute in an informed way to intelligent debate – and all this in the very same part of the world that America finds itself so embroiled today, namely the Middle East. Since the start of the 110th Congress the Dems have tried to hold serious committee hearings, certainly on foreign policy. Whoever did invite Pipes, and someone should be made to publicly own up, clearly favors a further dumbing down of Congressional debate. Members of the Subcommittee (List here) should know what people, TPM readers among them, think of this invitation to Pipes.
Better yet, members should be encouraged to do something constructive during the 10 minutes of the Pipes’ testimony. Here’s one idea: Rep. Susan Davis (D-CA) has introduced House Resolution 143 urging the President to appoint a Special Envoy for Middle East Peace. H. Res. 143 has already attracted a number of co-sponsors, including Jewish members and Congress’ only Muslim member. (Co-sponsors include Blumenauer (D-OR), Ellison (D-MN), Klein (D-FL), McCollum (D-MN), Schiff (D-CA)). H. Res. 143 includes a lot of sensible language such as “it is directly in the national interest of the US to reengage both sides…a lasting peace…will reduce tension in the region…help repair America’s image in the international community…and help reduce Iranian influence in the region” (Read the full resolution here and for the APN campaign see here). Committee members could use the time of Pipes’ testimony to sign up to Resolution 143 and encourage colleagues to do the same.
This issue does matter. America’s preeminent foreign policy challenge is to stabilize the Middle East - Iraq and troop draw-downs included. That stabilization can’t happen while leaders continue to look for policy guidance from and give legitimacy to the gutter-rat brand of war-mongers that Daniel Pipes represents.
Daniel Levy was an advisor in the Prime Minister's Office, a member of the official Israel negotiating team at the Oslo B and Taba talks, and the lead Israeli drafter of the Geneva Initiative.