NEW YORK- A new State Department report has revealed what may be the most outrageous position the State Department has yet taken with regard to Palestinian Arab killers of Americans: it will refrain from ever publicly mentioning the names of the suspects in such killings. In other cases of terrorism against Americans overseas, the State Department routinely publicizes the names and photographs of the suspectsyet in the cases of Palestinian Arab killers, it is conspicuously refusing to do so.
Although the names of many of the suspects were repeatedly mentioned publicly in the past by the media, Congress, the Israeli government, the U.S. ambassador to Israel, and even President Clinton himself, the State Department now says that in cases of Palestinian Arab killings of Americans, it will publish the names of the victims of terrorism rather than the perpetrators. It was decided that publication focusing on the victims of terrorism, rather than the perpetrators would be most prudent.
In cases of terrorism against Americans elsewhere around the world, the State Department publishes the names and photographs of the suspects on its RewardsForJustice.com web site, and offers rewards for information leading to their capture. Only in cases involving Palestinian Arab murders of Americans in Israel does the State Department refuse to identify the suspects. Publishing their names would undoubtedly help potential informers identify the suspectsbut it would also focus embarrassing attention on the fact that many of the suspects are PA officials, Arafat confidantes, or members of Arafats security forces.
ZOA National President Morton A. Klein said: This is just the latest example of the State Departments appeasement policy of bending over backwards to avoid embarrassing Yasir Arafat. The State Department knows that publicly mentioning the names of the suspects in these cases would mean drawing attention to the fact that the suspects include two long-time confidantes of Arafat; three officials of Arafats Palestinian Authority; three members of Arafats Force 17 presidential guard,; and five members of Arafats security forces. Imagine if the FBIs Most Wanted List included only the names of the victims, yet failed to include the names or photographs of the suspectsit would make their capture nearly impossible.
The State Departments new policy is revealed on page 17 of its just-released report to Congress on U.S. efforts to capture Palestinian Arab terrorists who have murdered or injured American citizens. The report which was delivered to Congress more than eight months late is required by the terms of the Ashcroft-Salmon bill, passed by Congress in November 1999. The law actually requires the State Department to provide Congress with two such reports each year, but, in violation of the law, the State Departments has submitted just one report in the past year, covering the entire 12-month period.
The law also requires the State Department to provide Congress with a list of all American citizens killed or injured by Palestinian Arab terrorists since 1950. In a previous report (July 2000), the State Department said it was still working on the list and will provide it to the Congress as soon as it can reasonably be made available. Yet the State Department has still failed to do so, even though more than two years have passed since Congress first passed the law requiring the compiling of the list, and even though the ZOA has provided the State Department with a detailed list of 64 Americans murdered, and more than 75 injured, by Palestinian Arab terrorists prior to 1993.
As was the case with the State Departments previous reports to Congress on this issue, the latest report includes numerous distortions, errors, and omissions. The report fails to mention one American citizen who was murdered by Palestinian Arab terrorists in 1998 (Dov Dribben, great-grandson of a legendary U.S. war hero from Teaxas) and 16 American citizens who were wounded in attacks between 1993-2001. These omissions are all the more remarkable because information about these victims has been provided by the ZOA to State Department official Barbara Larkin on three separate occasions during the past two years.
With regard to the State Departments new policy of refusing to publicly mention the names of the perpetrators, this policy is particularly astonishing in view of the fact that the names have already been mentioned publicly by so many sources:
* President Bill Clinton and U.S.Ambassador Martin Indyk: During a March 14, 1996 visit to the grave of one of the victims, Nachshon Wachsman, President Clinton announced that America would make it a top priority to capture Mohammed Dief, a primary suspect in the murder. (Jerusalem Post, July 9, 1998) The U.S. Ambassador to Israel, Martin Indyk, wrote to the Wachsman family on March 26, 1997 that the arrest of Muhammed Dief remains a high priority for the U.S. Government. President Clinton repeated this pledge to American Jewish leaders, again mentioning Dief by name, in August 2000. (Haaretz, Aug.25, 2000) Diefs photograph was even published in the Washington Post on December 8, 2000.
* Three of the suspects are PA officials:
Amin el-Hindi, chief of the PAs General Intelligence Service, has been identified by the New York Times (Oct.14, 1993) as one of the masterminds of the 1972 Munich Olympics massacre, in which David Berger, a member of the Israeli athletic team who was also an American citizen, was murdered, along with eleven others.
Ziad Abu Eain, who is the PAs Comptroller, was convicted of carrying out a 1979 bombing which seriously harmed two American citizens, Chaim and Haya Mark of Connecticut. Mrs. Mark was permanently crippled in the bombing. Eains role in the bombing has been widely reported, because he fled to the U.S., was extradited back to Israel, and then convicted and jailed there before being released in a prisoner swap.
Rashid Abu Shabak, second-in-command to the head of the PA Preventive Security Forces in Gaza, Mohammed Dahlan, has been identified by the Israeli daily Haaretz (Nov.23, 2000) as having personally supervised preparations for the bombing attack near Kfar Darom on November 20,2000, in which U.S. citizen Rachel Asraf was seriously wounded.
* Two of the suspects are long-time confidantes of Yasir Arafat: Veteran PLO official and Arafat confidante Mohammed Oudeh (aka Abu Daoud)has admitted in his autobiography that he was one of the masterminds of the 1972 Munich Olympics massacre, in which David Berger, a member of the Israeli athletic team who was also an American citizen, was murdered, along with eleven others. Mohammed Abbas (aka Abu Abbas), who was described by then-Senator John Ashcroft as a close associate of Yasir Arafat (Boston Jewish Advocate, July 9-15, 1999) has publicly admitted that he masterminded the 1985 hijacking of the cruise liner Achille Lauro, in which an elderly, wheelchair-bound American, Leon Klinghoffer, was murdered. (For example, see Abbass statements in the Boston Globe, June 26, 1998)
* Three of the suspects are members of Arafats Force 17 presidential guard: According to the confessions of their captured co-conspirators, Force 17 members Muhanad Abu Halawah was involved in the murders of U.S. citizens Esh-Kodesh Gilmore (on October 30, 2000) and Talia and Binyamin Kahane (on December 31, 2000); Force 17 member Khaled Shawish was involved in the murders of the Kahanes; and Force 17 member Bashir Al-Hatib was involved in the murder of Gilmore. This information has been made public and has appeared in the media.
* At least five of the suspects are serving in Arafats security forces: According to the Israeli Justice Ministry, the following suspects in murders of Americans are now serving in the PA security forces: Nafez Sabih, Kamal Khalifa, Yasser Yusef Mustafa Khasin, and Mahmad Sanwar, who were involved in a February 25, 1996 Jerusalem bus bombing, in which three U.S. citizens were murdered; and Bassam Issa, who was involved in an October 9, 1994 bombing in Jerusalem in which two U.S. citizens were injured, a December 25, 1994 bombing in Jerusalem which one U.S. citizen, was injured, and the above-mentioned February 1996 bombing in which three U.S. citizens were killed. This information has been made public and has appeared in the media.
* The Israeli government has already publicly identified 24 of the suspects, and in six of the cases has indicted them and requested their extradition from the Palestinian Authority (which the PA has refused); their names have appeared widely in the Israeli media and beyond.