WASHINGTON (Oct. 25)
The Defense Department is disregarding democratic values by barring U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia from making pro-Israel or anti-Arab remarks, Jewish groups are charging.
The American Jewish Committee and the Simon Wiesenthal Center wrote letters Thursday to Defense Secretary Dick Cheney, in response to a report in the November issue of Harper’s magazine. Harper’s” reprinted a chapter from “Customs and Culture,” a troop-information pamphlet distributed by the U.S. Central Command to all U.S. armed forces in Saudi Arabia.
A Pentagon spokesman confirmed the pamphlet’s existence, but had no immediate response to objections from Jewish circles.
First among the “sensitive subjects” listed that “should be avoided or handled carefully” are “articles and stories showing U.S.-Israeli ties and friendship.”
Other taboo subjects are “anti-Arab demonstrations or sentiments in the United States,” “the Jewish lobby” and “U.S. intelligence given to Israel.”
U.S. personnel are also instructed to not show “films or news clips featuring pro-Zionist actors and actresses (e.g. Barbra Streisand, Liz Taylor).”
“Quite frankly, we are shocked at many of the references in the published list,” charged Sholom Comay, AJCommittee president, and David Harris, its new executive vice president.
“No one can be under the illusion that our presence in Saudi Arabia is intended to protect a fellow democracy,” Comay and Harris wrote, dismissing the kingdom and its neighbors as “current allies” of the United States.
But “surely, we ought not to ask our soldiers to submerge entirely those values of tolerance, pluralism and open-mindedness that have made the U.S. a unique democratic society,” the letter read.
The Wiesenthal Center wrote Cheney, “It is one thing for the Saudis to have rules governing their own citizens. It is quite another thing for the United States to violate its own principles and beliefs just to kowtow to a racist Saudi policy.
“If this is what the administration means by a new world order, then perhaps we were better off with the old one,” wrote Rabbi Marvin Hier, dean of the center, and Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean.