This weekend in the mail, I got the latest issue of The Washington Report on Middle East Affairs. It includes a piece first published in the Gulf News last fall: “The shocking exclusion of Arab-Americans [by the U.S. State Department]” by George Hishmeh, a Washington-based columnist:
The unexpected, if not surprising, appointment of David Makovsky as a senior member of the State Department’s Palestinian-Israeli peace team, led by former US ambassador to Israel, Martin Indyk, has triggered a wide-ranging discussion on the internet …
Arab-Americans were privately shocked that no attempt had been made by leading members of the Barack Obama administration to engage Arab-Americans — be they politicians, academicians, journalists or members of various think-tanks for this all-important undertaking. On the other hand, many American-Jewish personalities have held several important positions to help tackle this crucial issue that has been troubling all US administrations since the middle of the last century. Among the previous officials were Dennis Ross, Aaron David Miller, Eliot Cohen, Paul Wolfowitz…
I called the State Department and was told that Hishmeh is wrong. A State Department official said:
“Reports that there are no Arab-Americans or American Muslims on the team working on Israeli-Palestinian negotiations are entirely inaccurate. Without getting into the specifics of our personnel, I can say we have a diverse team of highly experienced professionals who provide a wide range of advice and perspective to senior officials and undertake key assignments.”
It’s not like it’s just some giant coincidence that there are so many Jews on this beat, or that we know their names. Three years ago, a Jewish official in Washington was quoted in the Jerusalem Post saying that Obama picked Dan Shapiro as US Ambassador to Jerusalem for the same reason Bush chose Elliott Abrams for national security: “Their being Jewish and Jewishly active and known commodities within the Jewish community played a role in their selection.” It’s the same reason Obama kept Bush’s man Stuart Levey on at Treasury on the Iran beat– a protege of Marty Peretz who believed in the “Zionist dream”– and later replaced him with his protege David Cohen, to applause from a leading neocon. It’s the same reason Obama had Dennis Ross on the team — a man Abe Foxman has described as an “advocate” for Israel. All these folks are there to placate the lobby (just as the NYT bends over backwards for pro-Israel propagandists).
Two weeks ago, Adam and I jumped into the question of the privileging of Jewish voices at The Nation, saying The Nation should run more Palestinian writers. We say this although we ourselves have been privileged as Jews. This isn’t just about optics. It’s about communities and perspectives, and the necessity of inclusion. So how high are the Arab-Americans on the Israel/Palestine desk? And where are they coming from?
Update: Laura Rozen had the Hady Amr news a while ago. Along with some other names:
[Julie] Sawyer joins a team that already includes deputy envoy and longtime Kerry confidante Frank Lowenstein. Ilan Goldenberg, a former Middle East advisor at the Pentagon and Senate Foreign Relations Committee staff, has joined the office as chief of staff.
USAID deputy assistant Middle East administrator Hady Amr has joined the envoy’s team as an economics advisor.
Michael Yaffe, a career foreign service officer specializing in Middle East and arms control issues, has joined the envoy’s office to do international outreach with organizations such as the Arab League and the Quartet.