Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Congressmember Weiner Gets It Wrong On Palestinian Group He Tried To Bar From U.S.

AMY GOODMAN: After I spoke with [Congressmember John Murtha], I talked to New York Democratic Congressmember Anthony Weiner. In May, Weiner successfully added an amendment to a House bill banning aid to the Palestinian Authority. The amendment would outlaw the Palestinian delegation at the United Nations and kick them out of the United States.

    AMY GOODMAN: You called for the Palestinian delegation to the UN to pack their bags, or more specifically, to pack their “little Palestinian terrorist bags.”

    REP. ANTHONY WEINER: Right, yes.


    REP. ANTHONY WEINER: Well, for the longest time, the Palestinian -- the PLO Mission -- PLO hasn’t been an accepted voice of the Palestinians for the longest time. Congress has said very clearly back in the 1980s, as recently as the middle of the 1990s, that they were not welcome here in the United States. And frankly, the PLO is an organization that, frankly, no longer seems to represent anyone, but they're still considered a terrorist organization by the U.S. government.

    AMY GOODMAN: So would you call the Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas a terrorist?


    AMY GOODMAN: And yet, the people who are at the UN --

    REP. ANTHONY WEINER: Not the Mission of the Palestinian Authority. This is the PLO Mission. Mahmoud Abbas does not represent -- I hope he doesn't represent the PLO. He certainly doesn't say he does. He represents the Palestinian Authority. The PLO is a terrorist organization. It’s acknowledged it’s a terrorist organization by the U.S. State Department. And the only reason that they're still there is because a court ruled that they were an adjunct of the United Nations, and thus there were two conflicting laws that are in place about -- one that says the PLO has to leave the United States and the other that says that missions to the United Nations may stay. And so, frankly, I think that what I tried to do with the amendment you're referring to is just clarify the PLO is not welcome in the United States, nor should they be.

    AMY GOODMAN: They represent the Palestinian government. The Palestinian government is led -- the president is Mahmoud Abbas.

    REP. ANTHONY WEINER: Not true. The PLO Mission, the PLO Mission. The Palestinian Liberation Organization is a terrorist organization and is acknowledged that by the United States government. The Palestinian Authority, which is headed by Mahmoud Abbas -- arguably that doesn't represent the Palestinian people anymore since the election either, but that’s a whole different story. But the PLO is a terrorist organization, and I believe that they should lose their quasi-diplomatic status, as they no longer represent anyone -- any of the Palestinians, and they are considered a terrorist organization.

AMY GOODMAN: Congressmember Anthony Weiner. He called for kicking the Palestinian delegation out of the United States. But is his information accurate? Not his point of view, just the facts. Norman Finkelstein joins us in our Firehouse studio, professor of political science at DePaul University in Chicago. His latest book is called Beyond Chutzpah: On the Misuse of Anti-Semitism and the Abuse of History. The facts, Professor Finkelstein?

NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: The facts can become a little technical, because there are multiple organizations now operating in the Occupied Territories, but Mahmoud Abbas was the successor to Yasser Arafat, when Arafat passed away and he became the chairman of the Palestinian -- PLO chief -- chairman of the PLO Executive. So he's clearly a member of the PLO. That, I don't think, is a matter of dispute.

AMY GOODMAN: And the issue of the PLO being on the list of terrorist organizations of the Justice Department?

NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: My recollection is -- I don't want to be -- I’ll be as precise as I can. The PLO was on the State Department's list of terrorist organizations until 1988. In 1988, there were these famous words that George Shultz had made Arafat recite in public.

AMY GOODMAN: The Secretary of State under Reagan.

NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: Yeah, Secretary of State George Shultz. And at that point, he was -- the PLO was removed from the list of terrorist organizations, and the United States openly had diplomatic relations or ultimately was able to meet with the PLO. I’m sure your listeners will recall, before then there was the incident with Andrew Young having met with the PLO when it was a terrorist organization -- officially a terrorist organization. But afterwards, it was removed from the list.

AMY GOODMAN: So, for almost 20 years, it's been removed and the PLO has had a mission to the United Nations.

NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: Well, the PLO Mission to the United Nations began, if my memory serves, in 1974. The PLO Observer Mission began at the UN. Some of your older listeners will recall that's when Arafat gave that famous speech at the United Nations, “The Gun or the Olive Branch.” So the Mission, I think, began in 1974, and right now the PLO is pretty much considered an ally of the United States against Hamas. So it's kind of peculiar that Mr. Weiner should be venting his ire at the PLO. Mahmoud Abbas, the PLO are considered U.S. allies. We work with Dahlan, who’s the main PLO representative in Gaza. He heads up their security forces, works with the CIA, works with Israel. These are our people.

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