[Editor's note: The article below is a rebuttal to Joe Kaufman's Frontpage article "The Terror and Crime of the American Task Force on Palestine," which ran on January 29, 2010.]
"The Terror and Crime of the American Task Force on Palestine" posted by Joe Kaufman on January 29 was very wide of the mark. Kaufman takes to task various government officials for participation in ATFP's annual banquet. I regretted having to turn down an invitation to that self-same affair because I was out of town.
Why my regret? Because the ATFP is a breath of fresh air in the Arab-American community. I think it is exactly what I and others in the pro-Israel community have been hoping for: an Arab or Palestinian advocacy group that offers no apologias for terrorists and genuinely wants to meet us half-way.
Kaufman makes much of the name Rashid Khalidi, and I share Kaufman's distaste for the man. But Khalidi's name cannot be found on the ATFP web site. (Whether he was involved in the past I do not know.) I do know Ziad Asali, the president, and Hussein Ibish and Gheith al-Omari, the two staff members of ATFP. I have had long conversations with each. More important, I have been on Arabic satellite network talk shows multiple times with each of them—so I have heard what they had to say to Arab audiences. They were always unequivocal about a two-state solution, and always with rhetorical "body language" that made it abundantly clear that they respected Israel's right to exist and its legitimate security concerns.
Of course, various Arabs and other Palestinians over the years have mouthed the word "peace" quite disingenuously, most importantly and famously, Yassir Arafat. Some Arab-American and Muslim-American groups have decried terrorism but defined the term or hedged it about in such ways as to fill me with skepticism about what they really meant. (Just as the Organization of the Islamic Conference always resorts to a juvenile game of semantics, saying that it opposes "terrorism" but that, of course, blowing up babies and moms in pizzerias is not terrorism if done in the name of "resistance to occupation.")
This disgusting double-talk is not what ATFP does. When they say they oppose terrorism, when they say they want peace, they really mean it, which is apparent if you talk to them long and hard. Of course, they are not Zionists. They are a Palestinian group. They are not on our side, but they sincerely want to make peace with us. If only there were more of their kind! I wish we could help them, but of the embrace from our side would likely not help them build support in their community. We can, however, do the minimum which is not to attack them falsely.