STATEMENT OF CAIR EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR NIHAD AWAD AT THE 'ISRAEL LOBBY' PANEL DISCUSSION
Good afternoon. My name is Nihad Awad and I am the executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, or CAIR.
CAIR is the America's largest Islamic civil liberties and advocacy group, with 32 offices across the United States and Canada.
Our vision is to be a leading advocate for justice and mutual understanding. CAIR's mission is to enhance understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American
Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.
On behalf of CAIR, I would like to welcome you to today's important and timely panel with two distinguished professors and experts on international affairs.
With the recent war in the Middle East, we believe that there is no more timely and relevant discussion than the one that we have sponsored today with professors Mearsheimer and Walt.
The tragic conflict that recently transpired in Lebanon, and continues in Gaza, has become a catastrophe for innocent civilians in the region and for America's credibility.
More than 1,000 civilians were killed on both sides, with the vast majority of deaths occurring in Lebanon. Hundreds of thousands of Lebanese civilians were made homeless, and that nation's civilian infrastructure was devastated by a systematic bombing campaign using American taxpayer-supplied weapons.
Even today, civilians, mainly children, are being killed and injured by cluster bombs dropped on civilian areas in Lebanon, in apparent violation of agreements with the United States.
A report by Human Rights Watch issued during the conflict stated: "The Israeli government claims it is taking all possible measures to minimize civilian harm, but the cases documented here reveal a systematic failure by the IDF to distinguish between combatants and civilians."
The executive deputy secretary general of Amnesty International stated recently: "Israel's assertion that the attacks on the infrastructure were lawful is manifestly wrong. Many of the violations identified in our report are war crimes."
In order to understand the totality of the American foreign policy response to the conflict, we feel that it is important to analyze the impact of the Israeli lobby on our political process and response to the war.
People all over the Muslim world, from Palestine and Lebanon, to Indonesia and Morocco, question why the American government offers unconditional support for Israel and its occupation and humiliation of its neighbors. They ask why there is an automatic and uncritical defense of Israel, even when it defies international and American laws.
Our one-sided support for Israel is a liability in the war on terror. It has turned much of the world, including our European allies against us. It is time for our Mideast policy to reflect views held by the majority of Americans who desire a just and peaceful resolution that preserves the rights, security and dignity of Christians, Muslims and Jews living in the Middle East.
Our polling indicates that nearly two-thirds (63 percent) of those surveyed favor American neutrality or disengagement from the Middle East conflict.
We believe that only through an honest dialogue on the influence of the strongest foreign lobby our country has ever seen can we help to formulate a more just and fair foreign policy for all people in the world.
American's Middle East policy should be based on our nation's interests, not on those of a powerful domestic lobby for a foreign government.
It is possible for people in the Middle East and the larger Muslim world to regain their respect for America and to view as credible our nation's call for democracy and human rights.
It is also possible to build a Middle East in which all people, Muslims, Christians and Jews, coexist in an atmosphere of mutual respect.
To achieve that noble goal, we should have the courage to assess and change our policies toward the region and to maintain one standard for defining terrorism and the value of human life.
Before we begin the panel discussion, allow me to recognize a pioneer in promoting America's interests in the Middle East. Former Congressman Paul Findley, who served this nation for 22 years.
For a long time, Congressman Findley supported our uncritical stance in favor Israel, that is until he went to the region and saw with his own eyes the level of suffering resulting from that policy.
He ultimately wrote two groundbreaking books on the subject, "They Dare to Speak Out and Deliberate Deception." I would urge everyone to read these books.
Now I will turn the discussion back to Corey Saylor, CAIR's government affairs director.