Arab countries deserve better treatment from Congress and maybe even better weapon systems from America, Rep. Jim Hansen, R-Utah, said Wednesday after returning from an 11-day trip to the Middle East.
Hansen, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, said the reason Arab nations fare poorly in Congress is that they "have not learned how to play the game" of lobbying Congress, while Israel is probably the nation's most effective lobby - giving huge campaign contributions.He said a member of his tour pointed out, "No sooner is the ink dry on your certificate of election than has one of the Israeli groups invited you to Israel. He said of 435 members of Congress, 370 have probably been to Israel. He said you can't probably count 30 or 40 who have been to an Arab country . . . so we only see one culture; we only see one side."
Hansen added, "I have tremendous concerns about the balance between the two."
The National Association of Arab Americans paid for Hansen's trip to Jordan, Israel, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. Hansen said Arab Americans - especially former Utahn Omar Kader, a Palestinian activist - had asked him for eight years to visit Arab nations. "I was finally able to find a break when I could do it."
He said one of the major messages he had for Jordan's King Hussein - whom he met - and the ministers of other countries he visited, was "they don't understand the Madison Avenue principle of lobbying that the Israelis understand," he said.
Hansen said Arabs' culture makes them embarrassed to have Congress debate whether it should give them arms. Arabs also often do not send delegations to explain why such weapons are needed, he said. "But the Israeli lobby has people climbing all over the place."
He said Arabs have also offended some congressmen by expecting them to meet limousines at the curb to listen to an Arab official. "That's OK over there. We'll play by their rules there. But when they're in America, they need to play by our rules."
Because of such problems, Hansen said, Congress refused to sell a requested 100 F-14 fighter planes to Saudi Arabia recently - largely because of stiff opposition from the Israeli lobby.
Ironically, Hansen said the Saudis ended up buying British "Tornado" planes instead, which would be better suited to a long-range attack on Israel. Also, the United States missed out on a $100 billion sale of planes and parts to the Saudis, Hansen said.
Hansen said he also found that some restrictions the United States has put on sales to Arabs do not make sense. For example, it insists that Hawk missiles sold to Jordan be cemented in such a way that they cannot be aimed at Israel.
He said that leaves the missiles easily vulnerable to an air attack from the direction of Israel, and makes them worthless to Jordan.