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February 12, 1995

Remarks at a Meeting with Middle Eastern Leaders

Remarks by U.S. President Clinton at a meeting with the Foreign Minsters and representatives of the Middle East Peace Process on February 12, 1995 that reaffirm the U.S. commitment to the process at large. 

November 2021

The ACRS Working Group Oral History Roundtable

On 3-4 November 2021, on the heels of the 30th anniversary of the 1991 Madrid Conference, the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies (CNS) and the Nuclear Proliferation International History Project (NPIHP) at the Wilson Center hosted a virtual roundtable as part of their 1990s Arms Control and Regional Security (ACRS) Working Group oral history project. The event convened around 20 former ACRS delegates from key regional and extra-regional states for an in-depth exchange on their personal recollections from the ACRS process. In four sessions, which were conducted virtually over two days, participants revisited: the genesis of ACRS; the format and process of the ACRS Working Group; fault lines and inflection points during ACRS; and its successes, failures, and lessons learnt from the process.

November 7, 1975

Report of the United Nations Visiting Mission to Spanish Sahara, 1975

Spain first entered the Western Sahara in 1884, but it took its troops five decades to firmly establish control over an area whose borders were drawn by agreements with France between 1886 and 1912. In the 1940s, engineers discovered that the area held important mineral deposits. Early hopes for oil did not quite materialize. Like its northern Moroccan neighbor, however, the West Sahara turned out to be one of the world’s largest sources of phosphate, a key ingredient for fertilizers. Financed by US and French capital, extraction began in the 1950s—the start of a story told in Lino Camprubi’s “Resource Geopolitics: Cold War Technologies, Global Fertilizer, and the Fate of the West Sahara” (2015).

Unlike Morocco, though, the West Sahara did not become independent in the 1950s. At the time, Sahrawis did not quite have a nationalist conscience. They were principally camel-herding nomads organized into fiercely autonomous tribes. It was as such, too, that some fought on Morocco’s side in short clashes with France and Spain in 1956. They were suppressed in 1958 by the Franco-Spanish operation Ouragan. In the selfsame decade, the 1950s, the phosphate mines and the infrastructure around them started affecting the Sahrawis—first socioeconomically. Urbanization began in serious, an industrial labor force grew, and scholarization increased. By the later 1960s, these changes had political knock-on effects, as Tony Hodges has shown in his classic Western Sahara: The Roots of a Desert War (1983). Certain Sahrawis who had progressed to a university degree, some in Morocco, became politically active at home, together with some workers. Sahrawis began to develop a distinct national conscience. While somewhat open to ideas about associating with Mauritania, to the West Sahara’s south, they now sharply turned against Spain. Thus, although Madrid was able to organize some loyalists, in 1973 the Frente Popular para la Liberación de Saguia el-Hamra y Río de Oro (Polisario) was founded, a liberation organization that immediately started a guerilla war backed by Algeria. Sahrawis’ crystallizing national conscience also faced Morocco, which claimed their homeland, arguing it had historically ruled that area. In October 1975, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague rejected this claim as irrelevant, asserting the primacy of self-determination.

This verdict mirrored the UN General Assembly’s (UNGA) stance. From 1966, the UNGA had passed several resolutions asserting that the Spanish colony’s fate had to be settled by a popular referendum. This followed established procedure. Thus, in 1960 UN resolution 1514—which the ICJ would cite in 1975—stated that a decolonized area could be attached to another postcolonial state only after its people had been consulted by referendum. Though delaying the referendum, Spain accepted it in principle, and in May 1975 agreed to a UN mission of inquiry.

This mission, whose report constitutes the text here, turned out to be pivotal. It did not simply document Sahrawis’ demand. Rather, its very presence on the ground affected the political reality: it allowed Sahrawis in town after town to publicly and vociferously assert what they in their overwhelming majority wanted: independence. In November, however, the Spanish government made an about-face, weakened by the protracted moribund state of its head, General Francisco Franco (1892-1975; r. from 1939), and impressed by the force of Moroccan King Hassan II’s (1929-1999; r. from 1961) populist mobilization over the West Sahara, to which the UN reacted hesitantly. In return for a 35% share in the biggest West Saharan phosphate mine, Fosbucraa, Spain transferred power to Morocco and Mauritania. The two states divided the West Sahara, and Polisario continued its war. In 1979 Mauritania sued for peace and withdrew from its territory—of which Morocco rather than the Polisario was able to take control, however.

November 13, 1974

United Nations General Assembly Official Records, 29th Session : 2282nd Plenary Meeting, Agenda Item 108, 'Question of Palestine (continued)'

As other documents in this collection on Moroccan nationalists in 1947 and 1950 have exemplified, the United Nations was an important arena in decolonization struggles for Arabs, as it was for Asians and Africans as e.g. Alanna O’Malley’s The Diplomacy of Decolonisation: America, Britain, and the United Nations during the Congo crisis, 1960-1964 (2018) has shown. In this regard, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), which was founded in 1964 and taken over by the Fatah movement in 1969, was no exception.

To be sure, Palestinian organizations including Fatah and the PLO decried key UN actions. One was the UN Palestine partition plan of 1947; another was UN Security Council resolution 242 of November 1967. Calling upon Israel to withdraw “from territories occupied” during the Six-Day War in June and calling for the “acknowledgment of the sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of every State in the area and their right to live in peace,” it did not mention Palestine or the Palestinians. Even so, the PLO sought to get access to the UN and UN recognition. A crucial landmark on this road was the address to the UN in New York in November 1974 by Yassir Arafat (1929-2004), a Fatah co-founder in 1959 and from 1969 PLO chairman.

Arafat did not speak at the Security Council, which was and is dominated by its five veto-carrying permanent members Britain, China, France, the United States, and the USSR/Russia. Rather, he addressed the UN General Assembly (UNGA), where from the 1960s Third World states were in the majority; his speech was the first time that the UNGA allowed a non-state representative to attend its plenary session. The UNGA invited the PLO after having decided, in September, to begin separate hearings on Palestine (rather than making Palestine part of general Middle Eastern hearings), and after the PLO was internationally recognized as the sole representative of the Palestinian people, a landmark accomplishment for the organization. The UNGA president who introduced Arafat, Abdelaziz Bouteflika (1937-2021), was the Foreign Minister of Algeria, which since its independence in 1962 had supported the Palestinian cause organizationally, militarily, and politically. Arafat spoke in Arabic; the below text is the official UN English translation. Arafat did not write the text all by himself; several PLO officials and Palestinians close to the PLO, including Edward Said, assisted, as Timothy Brennan has noted in Places of Mind: A Life of Edward Said (2021). Later in November 1974, the UNGA inter alia decided to give the PLO observer status and affirmed Palestinians’ right to self-determination.

June 1, 1969

False Image of Arabs Challenged

It was following the Six-Day War of 1967 that Arab Americans began to seriously discuss, and be politically active in, questions regarding the Arab World and US government policy and US public mindsets towards it, as Salim Yacub’s Imperfect Strangers: Americans, Arabs, and U.S.-Middle East Relations in the 1970s (2016) has argued.

This document consists of two letters that were reprinted in the June 1969 issue of the newsletter of the Association of Arab-American University Graduates (AAUG), a leading new Arab American organization founded following the 1967 war. The AAUG was directed by Ibrahim Abu-Lughod (1929-2001), a Palestine-born professor of political science at Northwestern University and a foremost critic of mainstream US views of the Arab world, who also edited the above-mentioned edited volume. He also is the author of one of the letters printed, a note sent to the president of Princeton University. The AAUG also printed Princeton’s reply, written by assistant to the president David S. Thompson (1917-2007), a son of Presbyterian missionaries.

March 26, 1965

Palestine Delegation in Peking

Formed in 1964, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) was not the first Palestinian organization after the nakba (catastrophe), the escape from violence and the Israeli expulsion of a good half of Palestinians in 1948. The two most important earlier organizations were Harakat al-Qawmiyyin al-‘Arab (Arab Nationalists Movement [ANM]) and Harakat al-Tahrir al-Watani al-Filastini (Palestinian National Liberation Movement [Fatah]).

Founded in 1951 in Beirut, ANM became committed to Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser (1918-1970) and his version of pan-Arab nationalism, which it saw as the means to liberate Palestine, opening a separate Palestinian branch in 1959. (In 1967, it would give rise to the leftist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), which split in 1968, one wing forming the Popular Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PDFLP)).

Rejecting Arab states’ tutelage, Fatah was officially born in 1959, though organizational activities began in 1956 and though it built on military cells operating from Egyptian-ruled Gaza from the early 1950s. After Arab armies’ crushing loss against Israel in the Six-Day War of 1967 killed any remaining hopes, weakened since the early 1960s, that Arab armies would liberate Palestine, Fatah grew in strength. In 1969, it took command of the PLO. The latter had been founded in 1964 for several reasons. Nasser hoped to weaken Fatah and Syria, a state then in competition with him. Also, the PLO served (upper) middle class Palestinians some of whom—like Ahmad al-Shuqayri (1908-1908), Palestine’s representative to the Arab League and the PLO’s founder and first chairman—had played a Palestinian political role until 1948 and wished to do so again. And these men and women believed Palestinians needed their own statist entity, as Yezid Sayigh’s monumental Armed Struggle and the Search for State: The Palestinian National Movement, 1949-1993 (1997) notes.

In 1965, PLO delegates led by Shuqayri for the first time visited the People’s Republic of China (PRC), as reported in the English issue of the multi-language international organ Peking Review. Already in 1964 a small Fatah delegation led by Yassir Arafat (1929-2004) had accepted an invitation to visit Beijing, founding an office there. Sure, upon its establishment in 1949 the PRC had de jure recognized Israel, following the lead of the Soviet Union that acted as its older brother in the communist camp. (Israel in turn was the first Middle Eastern state to recognize the PRC, in 1950.) But after the PRC and the USSR split in 1960, Beijing amplified its anti-imperialist rhetoric and policies versus the Soviet Union and the United States, as Gregg Brazinksy’s Winning the Third World: Sino-American Rivalry during the Cold War (2017) has shown. It was in this context that it from the mid-1960s delivered arms especially to Fatah and the PLO—it soon also would train fighters—and that it politically embraced the Palestinian cause. The PRC framed this policy as that of one “revolutionary people” helping another one, a story strand in Paul Chamberlin’s The Global Offensive: The United States, the Palestine Liberation Organization, and the Making of the Post-Cold War Order (2012). By the early 1970s, however, Chinese support became more lukewarm. Moreover, after the death of Chairman Mao Zedong (1893-1976), relations with Israel cautiously warmed, though remaining surreptitious until the establishment of full diplomatic ties in 1992.

July 1963

D.B., 'To the New Comer'

While in 1947 the Indian organizers of the First Asian Relations Conference invited a Yishuvi delegation, eight years later the Bandung Conference organizers did not invite Israel. At the same time, the second half of the 1950s signaled the start of Israel’s long “African Decade,” which would end only when many African states cut their diplomatic ties with the Jewish State after the 1973 October War. The first two countries to establish diplomatic ties with Israel were Ethiopia, in 1956, and Liberia, in 1957; in the 1960s, many others followed, including Benin, Burkina Faso, Congo, Ghana, the Ivory Coast, Madagascar, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Uganda, and Tanzania.

Thousands of Africans studied in Israel, as illustrated by this document, an anonymous article published in 1963 in the Hebrew University of Jerusalem’ African Students journal that provides a glimpse of experiences Africans had, including racism but also feelings of superiority. Moreover, thousands of Israeli engineers, agronomists, architects, geologists and others who had participated in nation-state building in Israel worked often for years in development projects in Africa and also, though less so, in Asia and Latin America. And as Ronen Bergman’s 2007 PhD thesis “Israel and Africa: Military and Intelligence Liaisons” shows, Israel exported weaponry and Israeli officers shared with the militaries of recently decolonized African countries their expertise in warfare and in controlling civilians. After all, Israel blitzed through the Egyptian Sinai in 1956, had won its first war back in 1948-1949, and from then until 1966 kept its own Palestinian citizens under military rule.

In fact, the Israeli Defense Forces and the foreign intelligence agency Mossad were central to Israel’s involvement in Africa. The core reason for Israel’s interest in Africa was political and strategic. Israel needed allies in the United Nations, where postcolonial Asian countries were turning against it. And it wished to minimize the dangers of postcolonial Arab-African alliances and to extend to parts of Africa its “periphery doctrine” of honing relations with Middle Eastern countries that neighbor Arab states, like Iran and Turkey. As it did so, Israel at times shared some contacts and information with the US government; becoming a US asset was a boon to the Israeli government, though it remained fiercely independent-minded.

2018

Elaine Mokhtefi, 'Algiers: Third World Capital. Freedom Fighters, Revolutionaries, Black Panthers' (Excerpts)

The author of the book from which the below excerpts are taken, Elaine Mokhtefi née Klein, is a US American of Jewish origin born in 1928 in New York. She became politically involved there in the late 1940s. In 1951, she moved to Paris, where she worked as a translator for various anti-racist and anti-colonial movements. It was in the French capital that she met Algerian independence activists and became involved with the Front de Libération Nationale (FLN), which was founded in November 1954 and started Algeria’s independence war. She participated in the 1958 All-African People’s Conference in Ghana (for which see also the entry on Frantz Fanon’s FLN speech). In 1960-1962, she worked in New York for the FLN. FLN representatives stationed in the United States sought to contact US politicians and officials, and in New York successfully lobbied at the United Nations headquarters during its war against France, as Matthew Connelly showed inA Diplomatic Revolution: Algeria’s Fight for Independence and the Origins of the Post-Cold War Era (2002). Moreover, already at this time the FLN was deeply involved with various other anticolonial liberation movements, as Mokhtefi’s fascinating book illustrates. When Algeria became independent, in 1962, she moved there. She worked in various official capacities, inter alia for the Algeria Press Service. And due to her New York experience and command of English, she often was asked to work with representatives of foreign independence movements, including the US Black Panther Party (BPP), whose presence in Algeria in 1969 and its effect on the BPP’s take on the Arab-Israeli conflict has been studied in Michael Fischbach’s Black Power and Palestine: Transnational Countries of Color (2018). Many such movements were assisted by the Algerian government, which saw itself as a player in multiple overlapping anticolonial and postcolonial frameworks, including African unity, Arab unity, Afro-Asianism, and Third Worldism, as Jeffrey Byrnes has shown in his Mecca of Revolution: Algeria, Decolonization, and the Third World Order (2016). Mokhtefi was for political reasons forced to leave Algeria in 1974, accompanied by her Algerian husband, the former FLN member Mokhtar Mokhtefi. They settled in Paris, and in 1994 moved to New York.

July 11, 1957

Letter, Jacques F. [illegible] to John Kennedy

On July 2, 1957, US senator John F. Kennedy made his perhaps best-known senatorial speech—on Algeria.

Home to about 8 million Muslims, 1.2 million European settlers, and 130,000 Jews, it was from October 1954 embroiled in what France dubbed “events”—domestic events, to be precise. Virtually all settlers and most metropolitan French saw Algeria as an indivisible part of France. Algeria had been integrated into metropolitan administrative structures in 1847, towards the end of a structurally if not intentionally genocidal pacification campaign; Algeria’s population dropped by half between 1830, when France invaded, and the early 1870s. Eighty years and many political turns later (see e.g. Messali Hadj’s 1927 speech in this collection), in 1954, the Front de Libération Nationale (FLN) launched a war for independence. Kennedy did not quite see eye to eye with the FLN.

As Kennedy's speech shows, he did not want France entirely out of North Africa. However, he had criticized French action already in early 1950s Indochina. And in 1957 he met with Abdelkader Chanderli (1915-1993), an unaccredited representative of the FLN at the United Nations in New York and in Washington, DC, and a linchpin of the FLN’s successful international offensive described in Matthew Connelly’s A Diplomatic Revolution: Algeria’s Fight for Independence and the Origins of the Post-Cold War Era (2002). Thus, Kennedy supported the FLN’s demand for independence, which explains its very positive reaction to his speech.

And thus, unlike the 1952-1960 Republican administration of Dwight Eisenhower (1890-1969) that officially backed the views of NATO ally France and kept delivering arms, the Democratic senator diagnosed a “war” by “Western imperialism” that, together with if different from “Soviet imperialism,” is “the great enemy of … the most powerful single force in the world today: ... man's eternal desire to be free and independent.” (In fact, Kennedy’s speech on the Algerian example of Western imperialism was the first of two, the second concerning the Polish example of Sovietimperialism. On another, domestic note, to support African Algeria’s independence was an attempt to woe civil-rights-movement-era African Americans without enraging white voters.) To be sure, Kennedy saw France as an ally, too. But France’s war was tainting Washington too much, which helped Moscow. In Kennedy’s eyes, to support the US Cold War against the Soviet Union meant granting Algeria independence. The official French line was the exact opposite: only continued French presence in Algeria could keep Moscow and its Egyptian puppet, President Gamal Abdel Nasser, from controlling the Mediterranean and encroaching on Africa

French officials’ responses to Kennedy were correspondingly harsh. So were most French newspapers. Regular French citizens reacted, too, writing Kennedy mostly critical letters, as the text printed here exemplifies. But about a quarter of these letters, which are kept at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston, were supportive, for a slowly growing minority of metropolitan French criticized its government, mainly due to published accounts, by 1957 still mostly by Frenchmen, about the French army’s systematic use of torture in Algeria.

July 2, 1957

Remarks of Senator John F. Kennedy in the Senate, Washington, D.C., July 2, 1957

On July 2, 1957, US senator John F. Kennedy made his perhaps best-known senatorial speech—on Algeria.

Home to about 8 million Muslims, 1.2 million European settlers, and 130,000 Jews, it was from October 1954 embroiled in what France dubbed “events”—domestic events, to be precise. Virtually all settlers and most metropolitan French saw Algeria as an indivisible part of France. Algeria had been integrated into metropolitan administrative structures in 1847, towards the end of a structurally if not intentionally genocidal pacification campaign; Algeria’s population dropped by half between 1830, when France invaded, and the early 1870s. Eighty years and many political turns later (see e.g. Messali Hadj’s 1927 speech in this collection), in 1954, the Front de Libération Nationale (FLN) launched a war for independence. Kennedy did not quite see eye to eye with the FLN.

As Kennedy's speech shows, he did not want France entirely out of North Africa. However, he had criticized French action already in early 1950s Indochina. And in 1957 he met with Abdelkader Chanderli (1915-1993), an unaccredited representative of the FLN at the United Nations in New York and in Washington, DC, and a linchpin of the FLN’s successful international offensive described in Matthew Connelly’s A Diplomatic Revolution: Algeria’s Fight for Independence and the Origins of the Post-Cold War Era (2002). Thus, Kennedy supported the FLN’s demand for independence, which explains its very positive reaction to his speech.

And thus, unlike the 1952-1960 Republican administration of Dwight Eisenhower (1890-1969) that officially backed the views of NATO ally France and kept delivering arms, the Democratic senator diagnosed a “war” by “Western imperialism” that, together with if different from “Soviet imperialism,” is “the great enemy of … the most powerful single force in the world today: ... man's eternal desire to be free and independent.” (In fact, Kennedy’s speech on the Algerian example of Western imperialism was the first of two, the second concerning the Polish example of Sovietimperialism. On another, domestic note, to support African Algeria’s independence was an attempt to woe civil-rights-movement-era African Americans without enraging white voters.) To be sure, Kennedy saw France as an ally, too. But France’s war was tainting Washington too much, which helped Moscow. In Kennedy’s eyes, to support the US Cold War against the Soviet Union meant granting Algeria independence. The official French line was the exact opposite: only continued French presence in Algeria could keep Moscow and its Egyptian puppet, President Gamal Abdel Nasser, from controlling the Mediterranean and encroaching on Africa.

Pagination