He Still Dares to Speak [Archives:1997/50/Law & Diplomacy]

December 15 1997

The author of the famous They Dare to Speak Out, Mr. Paul Findley has recently visited Yemen to receive an honorary doctorate from the University of Sanaa. A former member of Congress during 1961 to 1983, Mr. Findley has been involved in Middle Eastern issues for a long time now.
Q: Is this your first visit to Yemen? A: No, this is my fifth visit to this beautiful country. My first visit was in March of 1974 when I traveled alone to Aden. I went on behalf of a constituent who was imprisoned on some charge. I was received with great hospitality and my rescue mission had a story-book ending. President Salim Rubayia Ali placed the prisoner under my custody and let me take him home, a free man. My life has been so closely entwined with Yemen that I feel like a Yemeni myself. It is a good feeling.
Q: How many books have you authored? A: I have written 4 books, two of them on the Arab Israel conflict. The first of my books which is about the Arab-Israeli conflict is entitled “They Dare to Speak Out.”
Q: How do you see the process of democratization in Yemen? A: I think it is astounding. It is one of the most remarkable, progressive, positive and hopeful developments in the Middle East that I have seen. Yemen has emerged as an example for other Arab states. It has a freer press than any other Arab state.
Q: Can Yemen be included within the Middle East peace process? A: Sure, because in my view every body on earth has important status. In a just settlement of the dispute between Israel and its Arab neighbors, unless there is the element of justice, it will remain a frustrating problem that could cause great difficulties for the Arab states.
Q: What sort of a just element? A: It is Justice in a broader term, justice for human beings is what I am most interested in. Justice for human beings depends upon the behavior or the state within which they reside. Palestinians certainly have had no justice and no real opportunity for nearly 30 years now.
Q: As an observer how do you evaluate the level of human rights in Yemen or in the Middle East in general? A: I do not pretend to be an expert on any country and I had not fully followed the annual report of the US State Department or Amnesty International. But I know there are episodes of human rights violations in every country, including USA. I also know there are some cases listed here in Yemen but I do not pretend to have facts about them. I am impressed, however, by the fact that the press and the news media here are able to publish the facts. To a great degree, the government’s reactions to those disclosures have been quite normal. That sort of system does not exist in the other Arab states. There is a great variation from one to the other, but Yemen is leading the way in that respect.
Q: Do you want to add anything ? A: I have come to the conclusion that the false stereotypes about Islam are a major road block to a just peace in the region. I have come to this conclusion because I believe that the US government has a capacity to bring about change in policy in the state of Israel. It does not do that for a variety of reasons, but one of the reasons is the false image that Islam has in the USA. Most Americans equate Muslims with terrorism and pointless violence. As long as they hold that view of Islam they can easily rationalize about Israeli aggression against the Palestinians who are mostly Muslims. That is why I think the modification of the image that Islam has in the USA is very important.