Menu JTA Search

State Department Opponents to Israel Say Term Arabist Originated by JTA

Arabists in the State Department feel that the term ” Arabist ” is slightly polemical. Rodger Davies, now a Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs, says; ” It originated with the Jewish Telegraphic Agency back in 1946 and 1947. Now it is used whenever there’s a crisis to try to finger us, to peg us as pro-Arab in order to discredit our views.” Rodgers was quoted by Joseph Kraft in an article titled ” Those State Department Arabists” in the Sunday New York Times Magazine. According to Kraft, Arabists do exist in the State Department but have been bureaucratized and departmentalized to a point where they do not exert the influence of their predecessors in the pre-World war II and immediate post-war years.

” In any confrontation with the President or the Secretary of State, Arabists are losers” says Kraft, the journalist to whom the Egyptian authorities leaked the famous ” phantom memo ” of Donald Bergus, America’s unofficial ambassador to Cairo. He identifies Bergus as among the latter day Arabists, Others, according to Kraft, are Heywood Stackhouse, who now heads the State Department’s Israeli desk; Michael Sterner, head of the Egyptian Desk designated to succeed Bergus in Cairo; Richard Murphy, currently responsible for the Red Sea states; Talcott Seelye, head of the Lebanon-Syria-Jordan desk; Alfred Atherton, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs, and two retired assistant secretaries of state. Raymond Hare and Parker Hart.

Kraft describes Assistant Secretary Joseph J. Sisco as anathema to the Arabists. The Arabists, he says, consider themselves spokesmen for the point of view opposite to the pro-Israeli point of view which they believe has dominated the White House and Congress for political reasons. How ever, Kraft sees in the present thrust of US Mideast policy a drift toward Arabist views.