Mendacity Alert 1
In the coming days the media will be filled with puff pieces soft pedaling Yasser Arafat. I hope to have time to do an ongoing series.
We'll lead off with "A Terrorist Leads his People to Disaster." Whoops, I mean "A Dreamer Who Forced His Cause Onto World Stage" by long time Israel correspondent of the Washington Post, Lee Hockstader. There are a number of items that can't go unmentioned. For example:
Mohammed Abdel Raouf Arafat al-Qudwa al-Husseini was born Aug. 4, 1929, the sixth of seven children of a moderately successful merchant from Gaza and his wife, a descendant of a prominent Jerusalem family. He adopted the name Yasser -- Arabic for "easygoing" -- as a college student.
According to his college record, and most of his biographers, Arafat was born in Cairo, two years after his parents had moved there from Jerusalem. Arafat generally insisted he was born in Jerusalem's Old City, though occasionally he said he was born in Gaza -- assertions that underscored his solidarity with the Palestinian cause.
"Assertions that underscored his solidarity with the Palestinian cause?" How about "lies to give himself an aura of a romantic revolutionary that was easily swallowed by many a gullible journalist?" If Arafat couldn't keep his place of birth straight it was a sign of his dishonesty. The paragraph should have been written more like this: According to all available evidence Arafat was born in Cairo. Despite this evidence Arafat liked to claim that he was born in Jerusalem or alternatively, in Gaza. This claim was likely false.
Next to ponder is:
The following March, Palestinian gunmen murdered two senior U.S. diplomats in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum; some American officials believed Arafat ordered the killings, although the evidence was inconclusive.
How does Hockstader know that the evidence was inconclusive? This is from an unofficial website about Arlington Cemetery:
Cleo A. Noel Jr. and George Curtis Moore were among a group of men seized by Black September terrorists during a reception held at the Saudi Arabian Embassy in Khartoum [Sudan]. The terrorists demanded the release of Sirhan Sirhan, the Palestinian assassin of Robert Kennedy, as well as terrorists being held in Israeli and European prisons. President Nixon refused to negotiate. The tape was of conversations between Arafat in Beirut and his thugs in Khartoum. Execute the diplomats, ordered Arafat. The terrorists obeyed, machine gunning the unarmed, hapless Noel and Moore. They also killed a Belgium diplomat. The authenticity of the tape was verified in U.S. laboratories by both the State Department and the White House.Then there's the testimony of James Welsh an NSA officer who heard the tapes and of Ion Mihai Pacepa a fomer high ranking Rumanian intelligence. Inconclusive? Sounds like a whitewash to me.
The Beirut idyll came to an end in June 1982 when Israeli forces, directed by Ariel Sharon, then the defense minister, launched a full-scale invasion of Lebanon, sweeping north and subjecting Beirut to a three-month siege. The aim, said Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin, was to rid Lebanon once and for all of the "malevolent criminal terrorists," as he referred to the PLO."[I]dyll?" Arafat and the PLO created a state within a state in Lebanon, fatally destabilizing the country and embroiling it in a civil war. But Hockstader isn't interested in the damage Arafat did, just in undermining the Israeli claims against him. Scare quotes around "malevolent criminal terrorists?" It was apt description of the PLO.
Do we learn about the amount of weaponry Israel recovered (I read one report that put the value of materiel captured by Israel at $1 billion) when Israel chased the PLO out of Southern Lebanon or the cross border shelling by the PLO? Nope. Or the assassination attempt against Shlomo Argov? Nope.
The uprising caught Arafat and the PLO in Tunis by surprise, but gradually they were able to harness it somewhat and use it to reassert their leadership. As the street battles raged, the Israelis, convinced the uprising was organized by the PLO, sent a commando team to Tunis to assassinate Arafat's military commander and closest aide, Khalil Wazir, known as Abu Jihad.What convinced the Israelis that the PLO had organized the intifada? If I remember correctly Israel found a briefcase with documents showing that the intifada was not spontaneous but controlled out of Tunis. Why no mention?
When Arafat set foot in Gaza on July 1, 1994 -- his first return in 27 years to what had been Israeli-occupied territory -- he knelt and kissed the ground. Hundreds of thousands of delirious Palestinians wept and danced in the streets, greeting him as a conquering hero.
His relations with the United States warmed for a time, and some Israelis began to view him as a pragmatist. In 1994, the man once regarded in the West as a master terrorist -- widely photographed in the early 1970s with his thick mustache, dark glasses, AK-47 assault rifle and pearl-handled pistol -- shared the Nobel Peace Prize with Rabin and Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres.
I wish that he'd included the less romantic view that Michael Kelly (who was there) recounted about Arafat's return to Gaza:
Arafat's entry into Gaza was an object lesson: a purposely uncaring display of brute power. He arrived from the Sinai in a long caravan of Chevrolet Blazers and Mercedes-Benzes and BMWs, 70 or 80 cars packed to the rooflines with men with guns. The caravan roared up the thronged roads and down the mobbed streets, with the overfed, leather-jacketed, sunglassed thugs of Arafat's bodyguard detail all the time screaming and shooting off their Kalashnikovs to make their beloved people scurry out of their beloved leader's way.
Nor is there any mention of why some Israelis might have been skeptical of Arafat's change. Hockstader could have bothered to mention Arafat's infamous "Koraish" speech in Johannesburg in 1994. But again Arafat's outrages don't seem to concern Hockstader.
Still, some Palestinians, including some of Arafat's oldest comrades-in-arms, viewed the accord as a sellout that did nothing to recover what had been Palestinian homes, villages and towns before Israel's founding in 1948. Others, hopeful at first, soured over time as the promise of the peace agreement was only partly fulfilled.
Israeli troops did pull back from additional, disconnected chunks of the West Bank, including large Palestinian population centers. But in many ways the Jewish state continued to control the daily lives of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, whose travel, work and movements were still subject to Israeli permission. The fate of a couple of million Palestinian refugees, and the ultimate disposition of Jerusalem, which both sides claimed as their rightful capital, remained uncertain.
Here Hockstader toes the PA line. The peace process didn't work because the Israeli occupation persisted.
In the Palestinian-controlled territories, an ascendant group called the Islamic Resistance Movement, or Hamas, denounced the peace deal and carried out terror attacks and suicide bombings against Israelis. In Israel, a right-wing Israeli fanatic opposed to the peace accord assassinated Rabin. And the election of a new, hard-line Israeli prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, ushered in a period of stagnation in the peace process.
No word of what Arafat did to prevent the ascendancy of Hamas. Of course it was nothing. But part of Arafat's obligation was to fight terror and he rarely did. After arguing that the peace process was badly off because Israel controlled too much of the Palestinians' lives, Hockstader writes that there was "stagnation" of the peace process with "hardliner" Binyamin Netanyahu in the Prime Minister's office.
What stagnation? Netanyahu ceded most of Judaism's second holiest city, Hebron to the PA and demanded that the PA adhere to some of its commitments. That's stagnation? The stagnation resulted from the PA's refusal to abide by the terms of any of the treaties it signed.
And it's interesting to note this press release from Netanyahu's goverment in 1998:
The number of Palestinians working in Israel is steadily growing. Lawfully employed Palestinians in Israel today number about 60,000, of whom some 13,000 work in industrial zones and in the settlements. All told, more than 100,000 Palestinians are estimated to be employed in Israel approaching the record number employed in 1992.
So under Netanyahu Israel surrendered a significant city to the PA and the Palesitnians had the greatest freedom of movement since 1992 and that's stagnation? Give me a break. It is this sort of dishonesty that allowed Arafat and the PA to break every single agreement they signed with impunity. There was no accountability.
Finally we get to the latest violence:
Even as the negotiations sputtered on after Camp David, in September 2000 a bloody new Palestinian insurrection erupted at the very site that had been central to the talks -- the Temple Mount -- following a visit there by Arafat's longtime nemesis, Sharon, then the Israeli opposition leader. The new intifada spread, with Arafat's blessing or consent, and in the process it destroyed his dreams of self-determination in the near term for his people.
As I've pointed out several times before, the violence started prior to opposition leader Sharon's visit to the Temple Mount. Here's an excerpt from a letter from then Ambassador to the UN, Yehuda Lancry to Kofi Annan:
The events in these areas represent the latest and most severe developments in a wave of violence that has been building over the past few weeks. The attacks began with the throwing of stones and Molotov cocktails in the vicinity of the Netzarim Junction on 13 September. This was followed by the killing of an Israeli soldier by a roadside bomb on 27 September, and the murder of an Israeli police officer by a Palestinian policeman in a joint patrol on 29 September.
Finally, I'd like to comment on a two paragraph summary of Arafat's later years from the beginning of the article:
In his late sixties, Arafat attempted to transform himself from an archetypal revolutionary figure into a statesman and chief executive of the first self-ruled Palestinian territories. His handshake on the White House South Lawn with Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin on Sept. 13, 1993, was one of the indelible images of the late 20th century, and the peace agreement they signed -- and for which they won the Nobel Prize -- seemed to hold the promise of a new future for the Middle East.Note the peace making Arafat made an "indelible image" but the contrary views are qualified by "Many concluded" (that Arafat hadn't reconciled himeself to Israel's existence) and (his government was) "said by many" (to be corrupt.)
But his transformation was ultimately incomplete, and in U.S.-brokered negotiations at Camp David and in the Middle East in 2000 he was unwilling or unable to close a deal with Israel to put an end to the two sides' century-long conflict. Many concluded that Arafat had never truly reconciled himself to Israel's existence or the permanent exile of Palestinian refugees expelled from their ancestral homes by Israel. Under his rule, the Palestinian Authority was said by many to be riddled with corruption. When a bloody new Palestinian insurrection erupted in September 2000 -- if not led by Arafat then with his acquiescence -- he became a pariah to Israel and the United States.
It's astonishing the contortions that Hockstader went through to provide a sanitized portrait of an unrepentant terrorist. (A cursory look at the NY Times puff piece revealed that the Times didn't even mention the killing Noel and Curtis; so I guess there's one point in favor of Hockstader.)
My eighth grade teacher, Mrs. Freed (obm) would tell us that Kurt Waldheim was a "deodorized Nazi." This was still about a decade before the full extent of Waldheim's wartime activities became known. We didn't know what to make of it. It turned that she was right, though I am uncertain how she knew.
Yasser Arafat was a deodorized terrorist. He was cleaned up by politicians, diplomats and journalists (like Hockstader) who took care to excuse the violence because of the nobility of the cause. Evidence suggesting that Arafat was nothing more than a thug who received lots of foreign aid under false pretenses was routinely ignored by these enablers.
We have to make sure that Arafat is remembered for his evil. Let's not let him be deodorized any longer. This is one dead guy about whom we should speak ill.