Who Is Yasir Arafat?





Mr. Rubin is Director of the Global Research in International Affairs Center (Herzliya, Israel), Editor of the online journal Middle East Review of International Affairs, and a Senior Fellow of the Foreign Policy Research Institute. Ms. Rubin is a veteran correspondent for several newspapers and co-editor, with Barry Rubin, of Anti-American Terrorism and the Middle East. In 2003 they co-authored the book, Yasir Arafat: A Political Biography (Oxford University Press).

In the summer of 1994,Yasir Arafat made a telephone call to Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin with a special request. After months of tortuous secret negotiations that came close to collapse on many occasions, the two leaders had finally signed the detailed deal on how they would implement the peace process.

Arafat was about to return to his ancestral homeland to rule the Gaza Strip and Jericho, starting a transition period that - if all went well - would produce an independent Palestinian state in five years. In addition to thousands of Palestine Liberation Organization officials and soldiers about to move from various Arab states to Gaza, Arafat told Rabin that he had a list of more than 100 "old friends" he wanted to bring with him. Rabin knew Arafat was talking about individuals personally involved in many terrorist acts against Israelis over the years. But to try to make the peace process work by showing his own flexibility, Rabin sent Arafat's list of names to Yakov Peri, head of the Shin Bet, Israel's secret service, urging him to agree that many of the men could be let into Gaza. In the end, Peri approved entry for all but four individuals who had committed the most heinous acts.

On the morning of July 1, 1994, Arafat's motorcade crossed from Egypt into the Gaza Strip. Israeli soldiers at the border were under strict instructions not to touch Arafat's Mercedes or the accompanying cars, which then drove past the Mediterranean coast's sand dunes to Gaza City. Early that evening, Arafat delivered a speech in Gaza City amid tens of thousands of people. Millions more around the world watched on television, including Rabin in his office.

But his viewing was interrupted by an urgent phone call from Peri who had just one thing to tell his boss: "The bastard brought them in the trunk of his Mercedes." Even after Israel accepted the return of thousands of Palestinian terrorists, soldiers and officials who had fought it, Arafat had just smuggled in the four forbidden men. When Rabin demanded that Arafat expel them, the Palestinian leader at first denied they were in Gaza, then sent them to Egypt but soon had them smuggled back.

This small incident is a good metaphor for Yasir Arafat's career. Even at a time when he seemed closest to making peace with Israel, Arafat had shown that his word could not be trusted. Time after time, he begged or demanded concessions from others without ever really giving any himself. In 2003 he was still promoting the same basic ideas, often using the identical phrases, as in 1972. Yet his behavior never seemed to dissuade world leaders and the media from the idea that he had done nothing wrong or that next time he would do better. Finally, and most importantly, the incident suggested what would become clear only too late: Arafat was never interested in making comprehensive peace with Israel, and at heart was a revolutionary determined to destroy his enemy.

The Arafat Paradox

Arafat has spent 55 years as a participant in revolutionary movements, nearly four decades as chief of his own group, 35 years as leader of an entire people, and 10 years as head of a government. During that time he took the Palestinians from the depths of defeat and humiliation to gaining the world's attention and often sympathy. He almost single-handedly created the movement and mobilized Arab support while ensuring its independence. He attained international legitimacy, and made the world forget time after time his previous reprehensible actions.

This was a remarkable work of political art over an incredible length of time. It also helps explain why, despite everything, the Palestinians wanted to keep him as their leader.

But if Arafat often made his people feel proud, he did not make their lives good. During his lifetime, Palestinians gained little, at least in material terms, from following Arafat's leadership for so many years. If their goal was an independent, peaceful, prosperous Palestinian state, he did not attain it, and during the 2000 Camp David summit he threw away the best opportunity to do so. If the goal was to destroy Israel, he failed at that also.

This has made him one of the least understood leaders. But Arafat's life as a leader can be divided into four crisis cycles, each characterized by his ambiguous course of action and each ending in what seemed to be a crushing defeat: in Jordan, 1967 to 1971; in Lebanon, 1971 to 1982; in Tunisia, 1982 to 1993; and in the West Bank and Gaza, from 1993 onward. Each time, Arafat refused to acknowledge mistakes so that he and his movement never really re-examined or amended their doctrine, strategy, goals or leadership. In each case, he destroyed his own position by his refusal to keep his commitments, his mistaken belief that violence would improve his situation, his inability to compromise, and his use of radical groups to conceal his own support for terrorism.

The Unquestioned Leader

What distinguishes Arafat from so many failed revolutionaries was that although he could not achieve the ultimate victory for his people he is still able to stay atop his movement. Part of his success was his ability to carefully remold himself to be a walking, breathing symbol of his cause. This process began with falsifying biographical details of his life. Because the geographic symbol of the Palestinian cause is Jerusalem, Arafat has always insisted he was born there. But birth records clearly indicate that he was born in Cairo, Egypt, 74 years ago and only lived a few years as a youth in Jerusalem. Arafat also has insisted he had ample military experience, beginning with a self- proclaimed heroic role in the 1948 War against Israel, although there is no evidence whatsoever to suggest he ever fired a shot.

Next, Arafat created the proper physical image, dressing in a khaki military uniform so as to be seen as a soldier but, in contrast to grandiose dictators, wearing no medal, gold braid or rank because he is a man of the people. He wears a checkered keffiyeh (headscarf), once the common people's garb to show his devotion to tradition, draped carefully to resemble the shape of a Palestine that includes all of Israel, to show his devotion to the cause.

Arafat skillfully learned how simultaneously to appeal to his people and the Western media by tailoring his language depending on the audience. Facing Westward and speaking in English, he is the pitiable victim who only wants a reasonable peace and has no control over violence. But to Arab or Islamic audiences he is Salah al-Din, the all- conquering warrior.

Experience taught Arafat that militancy and refusal to compromise kept him popular among his own people and in the Arab world. When Arafat initiated violence, it stifled Palestinian criticism of the incompetence and corruption around him, his unfulfilled promises and failed prophesies.

During the last three years he has constantly told the West that he supports cease-fires and opposes terrorist attacks. At the same time, in Arabic speeches - as well as in instructions to his movement, security forces, and the Palestinian media outlets he controlled - Arafat was whipping up fervor to justify, continue and even escalate such attacks.

The strategy worked. As Arafat's own bodyguards carried out terror attacks, Westerners debated whether he had any responsibility for the violence. He rejected reasonable peace offers and many excused him on the grounds that the proposals were insulting. His broken promises of cease-fires were quickly forgotten. No sooner was one of his wild claims of conspiracies or Israeli atrocities disproved then the next would be treated credibly.

In private conversations, Palestinians often make clear their contempt for Arafat and misgivings about his strategy. Yet Palestinians believe they have no alternative leader, which is, of course, a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Palestinians also continue to support Arafat because they fear civil war and largely share both his militant goals and profound misperceptions. But there also is a lack of other candidates with the requisite ambition, skills or charisma. It is clear then that Arafat will remain the unquestioned Palestinian leader until he dies.

Arafat's Legacy

It seems equally clear the kind of legacy Arafat wants to leave. If Arafat's main goal had been to help his people by obtaining an independent state for them, he could have offered Israel full peace in exchange for such an outcome any time within the past 35 years. But Arafat always continued to seek only a Palestinian state in place of Israel and was always reluctant to make any deal that forecloses that goal, no matter what the immediate benefit for the Palestinians.

But he never ceased putting the main priority on his dream of total victory. This was made clear in the year 2000. In July, at the Camp David summit, Arafat rejected as a framework for further negotiations a plan that would have given him an independent state with its capital in east Jerusalem.

At the end of the year, Clinton made an even better offer, his final one, and Arafat turned that down as well.

Arafat has told associates that his worst nightmare is that one day, long after his death, there will be a question on the final examinations of Arab schools asking, "Who was Yasir Arafat?" And the correct answer would be: "The man who sold out Palestine to the Jews." To say that Arafat got part of it back would not be an acceptable response.

But instead of having a nightmare, Arafat could have had a dream for his people. He could have seen a Palestinian state under his leadership. It wouldn't have been a wealthy country, but it could have brought back hundreds of thousands of refugees and given them new, productive lives.

Playing on the guilt and political competition of Arab oil- producing states - as well as the Cold War U.S.-Soviet competition - Arafat could have gathered a lot of money. A whole Palestinian generation could have been educated and an economy built on servicing the needs of wealthy Arab oil- exporting countries and managing the compensation money wisely.

In that case, Arafat could have looked back on his labors with satisfaction, having firmly laid the foundation for a state that had many problems but was relatively peaceful and democratic by Arab standards. Palestine might have become a fair, if modest, success, celebrated as a model for other Arab countries. Arafat would have been a statesman cited as an example of peaceful solutions to deep problems.

In the end, then, Arafat fails the tests that dozens of other nationalist and Third World leaders have met. The terrible irony is that the very man who had made it possible for the Palestinians to revive their cause and pride also is apparently incapable of solving their problems. The only battles he has won are on the public relations' front.

Thus, the conclusion must be that Arafat will remain the Palestinian leader as long as he lives, but this fact will ensure that there will be no peace or Palestinian state.


This piece appears courtesy of the Foreign Policy Research Institute.


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C.R.W. - 1/5/2004


I doubt it. We'll wait with baited breath.


Caleb - 1/5/2004

I have little to say about your opinion of the HNN other than that I respectfully disagree.

As for the crisis in the Middle East, I am more than willing to critisize Israel for legitimate problems, but cannot stay silent when I hear (as I often do) illigitimate compltains about the country (it is a Nazi state, Aparthied, racism, etc.) that bear no evidence and little ratinale other than blind hatred.


Caleb - 1/5/2004

An interesting article, Chicken Little. Do you have a point you would like to make with it?


Chicken Little - 1/5/2004


Before you dive under your beds for cover, C.R.W. and Caleb, take a look at this new terrorist threat:

http://www.nytimes.com/reuters/international/international-mideast.html

Justice Minister Wants Israeli Barrier Re - Routed
By REUTERS

Published: January 4, 2004

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israel's justice minister called on Sunday for the route of a controversial West Bank barrier to be reconsidered, lest it draw sanctions because it cuts into occupied land....

``We must review the fence's routing,'' Lapid said. The barrier deviates from the West Bank boundary and in places cuts deep into occupied land to enclose Jewish settlements.

Israel calls the network of fences and concrete barricades a security precaution that has already thwarted more than two dozen Palestinian suicide bombings. Palestinians call it a land grab prejudicing future borders that should be negotiated.

The project has stirred criticism worldwide -- including in Washington, the chief patron of a peace ``road map'' to Palestinian statehood in the West Bank and Gaza by 2005...

The online edition of the Israeli newspaper Haaretz quoted a security official as saying on Sunday the barrier would appropriate six percent of the West Bank by completion in 2005.

Israeli government officials did not immediately comment on the report nor the remarks by Lapid, whose secularist Shinui party is a main coalition partner to Sharon's hawkish Likud.


C.R.W. - 1/3/2004


It takes either a Hamasnik propagandist or an uni(n)formed dupe thereof to believe that, despite Arafat's lack of any intention to allow for the conflict to be resolved with the advent of 2 independent states, anyone other than the sole Palestinian interlocutor is ultimately responsible for its indefinite continuation.

Read the Trojan Horse comments and then let me know how it is that you think the conflict could be ended while he remains in power.


Peter K. Clarke - 1/3/2004

It takes two to tango or not to. I am not saying Arafat does not bear a good share, maybe even a majority of the blame for the failure of negotiations in 2000. Clinton's frustration with him was made fairly clear, I would agree.

But I think you are mistaken, Caleb, if you believe Barak ever offered all of East Jerusalem with no strings or caveats. That is not what newspapers were reporting at the time, at any rate.

My main gripe is with a website that, for at least the 100th time, serves us up a warped "history" that no self-respecting historian could possibly accept. We are supposed to believe that 100% of the problems in the Mideast are attributable to Arafat and the Palestinians. This defies both common sense and the actual historical facts. Did, for example, Barak's failure to confront the settlers, and his foolish failure to condemn Sharon after the Temple Mount provocation have NOTHING to do with the new “intifada”? Did the assassination of Rabin by Israeli settler-extremists cheered by many in the Likud party, have nothing to do with the derailing of the earlier Oslo process ? Did the recent Geneva deal not garner considerable sympathy in Israel ? Only a Likudnik propagandist or an uniformed dupe thereof, could claim this with a straight face.


C.R.W. - 1/3/2004


Why even respond to a self-proclaimed non "Mideast expert" who yet has the audacity to paint the authors as "clearly biased Likud propogandists?" This guy has spoken out of ignorance more times than I care to count. Maybe that alert sign in his head can could stand to be re-booted, along with an uploaded repair patch of the program informing him of the fact that Arafat has been the SINGLE individual constant in Palestinian politics for FORTY years!

Of course he could always take the Thomas route, and say that ALL Israeli politicians are deficient, therefore no matter who Arafat negotiates, an outcome will never be reached. What a convenient way to make sure that no blame could ever be layed at the feet of the interlocutor who has single-handedly held the strings of power over Palestinian delegations for so long. But where the authors logically conclude that that the one person on that side is not honestly interested in resolving the conflict, we do mind-bending back flips to entertain the opposing notion espoused by Arafat's apologists that a democracy cannot produce a single leader capable of the same expectation.

Occam's razor might be less entertaining than conspiracy theories. Whether or not you choose to employ it probably depends on whether you value entertainment over the power of a rational explanation.


C.R.W. - 1/3/2004


You can debate historical details of questionable relevance with Thomas all you want. His sunny side up blinders prevent him from realizing that without a brave Arab interlocutor committed to allowing for the reformation of his society, "peace" is an erroneous abstraction, a cease-fire to allow for reloading, and nothing else. If for instance Thomas believes, as I do, that Sadat's willingness to take this route was genuine, what would he say about the decision by Mubarak's government to broadcast the Protocols of the Elders of Zion? Or that of the Syrian government? If we're going to give weight to pieces of paper, how about starting with the textbooks and government-approved media inculcating one's society and educational systems with hatred, absolutism and eliminationism with regard of at least equal value to a treaty.

Ask Thomas what the words "dhimmi," "jizya," "dar al Harb," dar al Islam," "lesser jihad" mean to him. These are mainstream Islamic concepts, yet I would be willing to bet money that he doesn't have a clue as to what these things mean. If he does, I'd love to hear his interpretation.

We are dealing with nothing less than a movement with unopposed social legitimacy in the Muslim world, that doesn't have a problem with wiping out every advance made by Western civilization, and societies that have adopted those advances, over the past 500 years. Thomas can pretend that labeling someone as a "partisan of Israel" is a smear, which if taken to its logical extension, is a smear against freedom, democracy, self-determination, and every ideal upon which this country (and partisans of it) stand. I'm interested in hearing this so-called historian's defense of Arafat and his cause on behalf of every other tyrant whose ideology allows no room for those details, in specifically that light.

I'm also willing to take a non-response on his part as a dismissal of norms advanced by Western civilization as "trivial."


Caleb - 1/2/2004

Mr. Thomas,
1) "The most recent intifada resulted from Sharon's military occupation of the Dome of the Rock, by 200 armed Likudniks, who walked in with guns drawn and boots on, abused and drove out the worshipers there and announced loudly that the Dome would be taken over and the temple rebuilt."

The above claim is simply incorrect. According to the Mitchell report, the visit to the Dome (which was perfectly legal by the way) did not cause the uprising. Chronologically, the violence began before the visit. Sharon did not attempt to enter any mosques and his 34 minute visit was during normal hours when the area is open to non-Muslims. As for the comments about rebuilding the temple, this is simply a fabrication… no such nonsense was ever said by any government minister.

2) "This was a deliberate Sharon provocation."

I will not deny this. I believe that Sharon probably wanted to provoke some kind of reaction. Clearly, he was successful.

3) "Sharon, in Israel's own investigation of his Sabra and Shatila massacres…was termed by the Israeli investigators as "...unfit for government service"

Yet again, history has been allowed to be rewritten to make Israel look as culpable as possible.
Israel had allowed the Phalange to enter the camps as part of a plan to transfer authority to the Lebanese, exactly what the world wanted at that time!! In response to massive Israeli public opinion (over 300,000 Israelis protested), the Kahan Commission of Inquirty was formed, and found that Israel was indirectly responsible for not anticipating the possibility of Phalangist violence. Sharon was dismissed as Defense Minister because of it. To this day, the Phalangists have been immune from international condemnation.

(For the record by the way, few voices were raised in May 1985, when Muslim militiamen attacked 2 Palestinian refugee camps and killed 635 people. During a two-year battle between the Syrian-backed Shiite Amal militia and the PLO, more than 2,000 people, including many civilians, were reportedly killed. No outcry was directed at the PLO or the Syrians and their allies over the slaughter. Similar incidences have also been forgotten, purged from history so that Israel can be concentrated on).


4) "Ben Gurion designed and sold the original plan for ethnic cleansing, understanding that the population would not leave voluntarily."

I do not believe this is at all accurate.

5) "Begin helped to achieve that end by blowing up the King David hotel, which got him on a British wanted poster, and a promotion."

I don’t really see how this supports your genocide argument (let’s call it what it is shall we and not insult each other by using modern euphemisms like "ethnic cleansing").

For the record however, the hotel was the site of the British military command and the British Criminal Investigation Division. It was chosen after British troops invaded the Jewish Agency and confiscated large quantities of documents. The information about Jewish Agency operations, including intelligence activities in Arab countries, was taken to the King David Hotel. A week later, news of a massacre of 40 Jews in a pogrom in Poland reminded the Jews of Palestine how Britain's restrictive immigration policy had condemned thousands to death.

The plan was to warn the British so they would evacuate the building before it was blown up. Three telephone calls were placed, one to the hotel, another to the French Consulate, and a third to the Palestine Post, warning that explosives in the King David Hotel would soon be detonated. For decades the British denied they had been warned. In 1979, however, a member of the British Parliament introduced evidence that the Irgun had indeed issued the warning.

6) "Shamir's Irgun unit conducted the 1947 massacre at Quiryat Arba, in which 248 men, women and children, all but 2 inhabitants of that village, were killed without mercy."

I must assume you were referring to the massacre of Deir Yassin, which is as true as it is infamous. There can be no defense for it, nor do I offer one. All I can say is that it ran contrary to official Israeli policy and has been an embarrassing blemish on Israeli history. If you would like a list of Israeli civilians massacred, followed by cheers in the streets of the West Bank, just ask and I would be happy to provide an extensive list.

7) "Finally, look at the body count recently. It sure looks as if there are over 300% more Palestinians reported killed (by every press outlet) than Israelis."

The disproportionate number of Palestinians killed is the inevitable consequence of the fact the Palestinian terrorists have chosen to hide themselves in civilian cities and villages. The body count also ignores the fact that almost all of the Israeli killed have been civilian while many of the Palestinian deaths have been of militants. Israel has tried to minimize civilian casualties by only targeting the terrorists themselves. This plan, while more humane, forgets the reality that Israel can do no right in this conflict so long as a single Jew remains alive in the region.

8) "None of the Arab states attacked. They could not. They had just been formed and were in any case unarmed, and had no "forces" beyond police. The Brits made sure of that. Instead, Israel attacked them, as it later did again in 1967, to expand its territory, which it did."

Mr. Thomas, this is simply wrong. I don’t really know what else to say. The BBC (clearly no friend to Israel) has a simple easy-to-understand timetable of events the says plainly:
"The day after the state of Israel was declared five Arab armies from Jordan, Egypt, Lebanon, Syria and Iraq immediately invaded Israel but were repulsed, and the Israeli army crushed pockets of resistance."
Your analysis of the 6 Day war is similarly erroneous.

9) "This Israeli ethnic cleansing created over a million refugees, according to the UN. A few out of control Israeli units just cannot do that."

There are 2 definitions of a refugee: one for the Palestinians, and one for every other person on the planet. The one for the Palestinians includes descendants and relatives of anyone who once lived in what is now Israel. For, say Cubans however (or anyone else in the world, take your pick), a refugee is only someone who fled the land they were born in for fear of persecution. In other words, great grandchildren are NOT refugees. Question: Did Castro practice genocide against Cubans? How about the Congo? Sri Lanka? Almost the whole of the Middle East? If the creation of refugees signifies genocide, we are going to have to seriously redefine what the term "genocide" means so as to encompass much of the globe.

10) "Do you want to see less (sic) Palestinians die in these military operations? Tell them to stop allowing terrorists safe haven in their mists (sic)."

Are you seriously saying that killing of civilians is justified because they do not follow your policies? Think about that a moment: you just justified the holocaust. Goebbels said exactly the same thing."

A rather unsophisticated attempt to re-create my intention, I must say (although even with your misunderstanding, I don't see how that justifies the Holocaust... in any event). My statement had the following implications:
a) The death of civilians is almost inevitable when military conflict occurs in their presence
b) Military conflict is occurring in their presence because terrorists dwell there
conclusion:
c) If the civilians would not allow terrorists to dwell in their presence, military conflict will not take place where civilians are.

A rather self-evident formula, I should think.

11) "I am just looking for a solution before things get so bad that they can never be fixed"

I too am looking for a solution. However, no solution can ever be reached without an accurate understanding of the history and the reasions for the conflict. As far as I (and the Israeli government) is concerned, all the Palestinians need do is end the terrorism... nothing more. Then, they will have a state and the region will see peace. For some, this is simply too much to ask. I would leave you with the following problem of peace: it takes both sides to want it.


F.H. Thomas - 1/2/2004


Thank you for your comments, which by their tone are sincere and engaging. That is not always what one encounters when essaying on this subject. I understand very well that many partisans of Israel will never admit to any evil done in Israel's name, but sense that is not so in your case. As to your points:

"You don’t offer any evidence to support such claims and yet you say that funding the targeted slaughter of innocent men, women, and children (Arafat) are nothing compared to killing civilians as an unfortunate result of legitimate military activity (Israeli leaders)."

The most recent intifada resulted from Sharon's military occupation of the Dome of the Rock, by 200 armed Likudniks, who walked in with guns drawn and boots on, abused and drove out the worshipers there and announced loudly that the Dome would be taken over and the temple rebuilt. This was well described in detail by Prof Dresner in an earlier post, and, as always, was much better covered in the Israeli press than it was here.

This was a deliberate Sharon provocation which led to stone throwing, Israeli shootings of stone throwers, incursions, bombings on both sides, and the resurrection of Sharon's moribund political life. It was designed to cause that deadly reaction.

Sharon, in Israel's own investigation of his Sabra and Shatila massacres, also well documented by the UN, was termed by the Israeli investigators as "...unfit for government service". Indeed.

Ben Gurion designed and sold the original plan for ethnic cleansing, understanding that the population would not leave voluntarily. He announced this in a speech to his fellow Zionists, in 1935. This meant killing a significant number to terrorize the others into leaving their land. Ben Gurion said this was "...regrettable but necessary".

Begin helped to achieve that end by blowing up the King David hotel, which got him on a British wanted poster, and a promotion.

Shamir's Irgun unit conducted the 1947 massacre at Quiryat Arba, in which 248 men, women and children, all but 2 inhabitants of that village, were killed without mercy, to terrorize the other 12 villages in that valley, over 3000 people, into fleeing eastward for their lives. It worked, and got him his own British wanted poster, and a promotion. He was involved in many such assignments.

Finally, look at the body count recently. It sure looks as if there are over 300% more Palestinians reported killed (by every press outlet) than Israelis. I know that you would not assert that because they are not Israelis, that their lives do not count, and that we both share concern for all victims.

"Actually, Israel was based on the accepted agreement from the UN, which was rejected by the Arabs, who then attacked Israel with the intend on finishing Hitler’s Holocaust."

This is straight out of Leon Uris and the Peters hoax. None of the arab states attacked. They could not. They had just been formed and were in any case unarmed, and had no "forces" beyond police. The Brits made sure of that. Instead, Israel attacked them, as it later did again in 1967, to expand its territory, which it did.

This was simple military aggression, supported by a propaganda campaign of which Abba Eban said "...diplomacy is the art of convincing others of facts of which one is himself convinced". Dr. Eban is referring to systematic lying, which he did well.

I suggest that you take a look at the territory of modern Israel which the UN actually approved in 1947, and which Israel immediately violated, along with all other UN resolutions on this subject since.

"During the war, it is true that crimes were committed by the Israeli military, just as they were committed during the American military intervention in Vietnam. However, this was neither government policy..."

If you are saying that the policy of mass murder to stimulate flight by the population, which was followed all over Israel, was simply made up independently by a few Israeli "Lt. Calleys", then I would say that is not a credible proposition. This Israeli ethnic cleansing created over a million refugees, according to the UN. A few out of control Israeli units just cannot do that.

"Also, if you researched the Sabra and Shatila episode a little better, you would see that it was not committed by Sharon or Israelis. The real culprits, who apparently are immune from ANY culpability, were in fact Lebanese Christians."

No doubt the Phalange can be a miserable lot, certainly not representing Lebanese Christians. But who planned, armed, supported logistically, and performed perimiter security while this butchery was going on? I am satisfied with the Israeli government report on Sharon, which held him personally responsible, also excoriating him for his careless use of artillery and air strikes against civilian targets such as occupied apartment buildings. (Sound familiar? It's going on today in Gaza.)

"Do you want to see less (sic) Palestinians die in these military operations? Tell them to stop allowing terrorists safe haven in their mists (sic)."

Are you seriously saying that killing of civilians is justified because they do not follow your policies? Think about that a moment: you just justified the holocaust. Goebbels said exactly the same thing.

"If Palestinian terrorism is justifiable, as you clearly imply in your message..."

Caleb, I hate all terrorists, whether Itzak Shamir or Abu Abbas. I hate all civilian bombers, whether IDF or the suicide variety. All civilian violence is evil, as many good souls in Israel and the West bank still fully agree. I only hope that they can now assert themselves, and prevent what may be an enormous disaster.

As I said, I am just looking for a solution before things get so bad that they can never be fixed.


Caleb - 1/1/2004

Mr. Clarke,
I must dispute your chronology of events. In 2000, Barak offered Arafat 95-97% of the West Bank, 100% of the Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem as the new Palestinian capital. Offers were also made regarding some kind of compensation fund for refugees, with final negociations to be taken once a Palestinian State was in existance. Arafat not only refused this amazing offer... he walked out on negociations! He did not present a counter offer of any kind or anything else. President Clinton himself puts blame on the problem on Arafat, as do I. This is completely independent of any problems Sharon might have, as he would never have been elected had the deal not fell through.


Peter K. Clarke - 1/1/2004


Any time a real historian reads an analysis which puts 100% of the blame for a longstanding international dispute on one leader of one side, an alert sign flashes in his mind.

This article, or at least the excerpt here reproduced, contributes little to any understanding of the Palestinian leadership problem because the authors are clearly biased Likud propagandists. Will it be followed by “Who is Ariel Sharon ?” written from the viewpoint of Hamas ? If past practices are any guide, HNN is too selective in its choices of propaganda to ever present any such counter-propaganda.

I am not a Mideast expert, but I can remember what I read in the newspapers three summers ago. Barak and Arafat both went out on limbs to try to strike a deal, but neither was willing to really face down the fanatics (settlers, and terrorist groups respectively) on his side who were and remain dedicated to sabotaging any form of peace except annihilation of the opponent. The Camp David talks deadlocked on who was to get how much of Jerusalem. The myth that failure to reach agreement was solely Arafat’s fault will not be taken seriously by any real historian with an open mind.

The lower level negotiators, realizing that with a little more compromise from both sides a deal was still possible, kept talking and eventually produced last month’s Geneva agreement which has been greeted by widespread applause internationally and in Israel and Palestine, and with pigheaded denial by Likudniks on HNN.


Caleb - 12/31/2003

Mr. Thomas,

1) "They predictably ignore the fact that the human rights abuses of Mr. Sharon make Mr. Arafat look like a piker by comparison, something which might also be said of former leaders of Israel such as Ben Gurion, Begin, Shamir, and even Rabin, at times. All but Rabin were noted for their mass murders and war crimes, and Shamir and Begin even had their faces on "wanted posters."

You don’t offer any evidence to support such claims and yet you say that funding the targeted slaughter of innocent men, women, and children (Arafat) are nothing compared to killing civilians as an unfortunate result of legitimate military activity (Israeli leaders). Your notation that these men were on wanted posters means nothing since you fail to note the country that put them there.

2) "Israel was founded based upon ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from the country (protectorate) of Palestine, which was promoted by mass murders at Dier Yassim, and Quiryat Arba, among many others, and furthered by Sharon's 1980's atrocities at Sabra and Shatila."

Actually, Israel was based on the accepted agreement from the UN, which was rejected by the Arabs, who then attacked Israel with the intend on finishing Hitler’s Holocaust. During the war, it is true that crimes were committed by the Israeli military, just as they were committed during the American military intervention in Vietnam. However, this was neither government policy, nor was the event signaled by Israelis dancing in the streets, firing guns in the air.
Also, if you researched the Sabra and Shatila episode a little better, you would see that it was not committed by Sharon or Israelis. The real culprits, who apparently are immune from ANY culpability, were in fact Lebanese Christians.

3) "Today, every time a "targeted asassination" takes out 30 civilian bystanders, in Gaza, or a 5 year old is shot, and described by media as a "terrorist", the litany is continued."

"The presence or movements of the civilian population or individual civilians shall not be used to render certain points or areas immune from military operations, in particular attempts to shield military objects from attacks or to shield, favor or impede military operations."
-- Article 51 of the 1977 amendment to the 1949 Geneva Conventions

Do you want to see less Palestinians die in these military operations? Tell them to stop allowing terrorists safe haven in their mists. That would solve the problem, agreed? Ask the Taliban what happens to innocent people when they shield terrorists who want to murder innocent people.

4) "The awful truth of Israel's racial cleansing policies, which are still practiced today…"

Hate to dwell on this, but again, what evidence do you have of this? Where does Israel keep the death camps? Where are the crematorium? Why does Israel simply not carpet bomb all Palestinians, as they have the power to do? How does Israel dispose of the millions of bodies that they collect?

A few final questions for you Mr. Thomas: If Palestinian terrorism is justifiable, as you clearly imply in your message, why is Israeli terrorism (assuming it exists for the sake of argument) not equally justifiable? Couldn’t you use the same "eye-for-an-eye" logic to justify both sides equally and indefinitely? How can you make a moral judgment on one but not the other?


Ryan - 12/24/2003

There are over 1,000,000 Arab citizens in the State of Israel, 20 percent of the population. If the Israeli's did/are ethnically cleansing the 'poor' Palestinians what a pathetic job. May be they should get some advice from the Arab countries they seem to be doing a better job:

COUNTRY JEWISH POPULATION 1948 1976
Egypt 75,000 100
Iraq 135,000 400
Lebanon 5,000 500
Libya 38,000 20
Syria 30,000 4,350
Yemen 55,000 1,000
Aden 8,000 0
Morocco 265,000 17,000
Algeria 140,000 500
Tunisia 105,000 2,000
Total: 856,000 25,870


Dan - 12/23/2003

Arafat's career of mass murder--and indoctrinating a generation with the ideas of "Mein Kampf" and the like--are "pecadilloes." Another attempt to equate Sharon's indirect responsibility (if that) for Sabra and Shatila with Arafat's direct responsibility for the promotion of true ethnic cleansing--of Jews. Also, did it ever occur to you that Arafat and others who use Palestinians as human shields for professional murderers may be partly responsible (and eager) for the civilian deaths that serfe them so well?


C.R.W. - 12/23/2003


I mean, after all, from the last paragraph, it would appear that his Inquisition-style condemnation, a 180 degree diversion from the authors' legitimate critique of the mass-murdering self-serving recidivist liar Arafat, is motivated out of a sincere sense of concern for the future of a free and democratic nation.

If you believe that, I've got some land south of Florida to sell you.

No wonder the Palestinians keep going nowhere. Even their self-styled defenders serve as nothing more than apologists for dictatorship and destruction. Before bashing the founding fathers, Thomas might want to familiarize himself with the Bill of Rights.


David - 12/23/2003


Piker Schmiker. All you did was repeat the same tired slogans which you can't back up with facts and nobody believes anyway. Why do you even bother? "Sharon", "mass murder", blah blah blah. You're an idiot.


zrs - 12/23/2003

I agree with C.R.W. Now that you've coughed up your hairball of hatred and lies, do you feel better?


C.R.W. - 12/22/2003


Do you feel better now?


F.H. Thomas - 12/22/2003


In this article, two Israeli journalists castigate the principal leader of the Palestinians in harsh and uncompromising terms. They predictably ignore the fact that the human rights abuses of Mr. Sharon make Mr. Arafat look like a piker by comparison, something which might also be said of former leaders of Israel such as Ben Gurion, Begin, Shamir, and even Rabin, at times. All but Rabin were noted for their mass murders and war crimes, and Shamir and Begin even had their faces on "wanted posters". No Jeffersons, Hamiltons, or Madisons in this lot.

Israel was founded based upon ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from the country (protectorate) of Palestine, which was promoted by mass murders at Dier Yassim, and Quiryat Arba, among many others, and furthered by Sharon's 1980's atrocities at Sabra and Shatila. Today, every time a "targeted asassination" takes out 30 civilian bystanders, in Gaza, or a 5 year old is shot, and described by media as a "terrorist", the litany is continued.

The awful truth of Israel's racial cleansing policies, which are still practiced today, is such that there is by necessity a market for such writers as these, who use Mr. Arafat's peccadillos as whitewash for the truth which few can talk about or face, with the exception of a few intrepid Israeli souls.

As the authors themselves say, "...this fact will ensure that there will be no peace or Palestinian state." Indeed, it becomes more clear each day that no peace will ever be forthcoming from Israel, perhaps until a terrorist gets his hands on a nuke, as journalist Tom Friedman has warned. To stop it before that happens will take an Israeli political miracle, which I hope against hope will take place, however unlikely it appears today. Even then, the hate systematically produced by over 5 decades of horrific behavior may make such an awful denoument inevitable.

I would respectfully suggest that these two writers do not serve Israel, but rather gravely endanger its long-term security.

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