Blame Arafat or Israel?

Why do Palestinians suffer, year after year, despite the opportunity of the Oslo process, despite massive international financial aid, despite the undeniable Israeli desire for peaceful resolution? Two competing explanations are regularly put forth: blame Israel, or blame Arafat.

One view holds that IDF actions in the West Bank and Gaza create a desperate culture, incapable of positive development. The other, Israeli position has long been that Yassir Arafat’s corrupt regime perpetuates the suffering of his own people by continually deflecting all blame upon Israel and fomenting self-defeating Palestinian terrorism.

Though world media coverage has overwhelmingly adopted the blame-Israel approach, over the past few days the Palestinian people themselves have made it clear that Yassir Arafat’s corrupt regime lies at the heart of their problems. A wave of kidnappings, the resignation of Arafat’s prime minister, and street violence targeting an Arafat crony drove much of the world press (including the Arab press!) to finally point the finger at Arafat:

? Times of London: ‘Arafat’s policy of divide and rule has not only neutralized Palestinian rivals but stymied any political and economic progress…. Mr Arafat’s cynicism has now run its course, and stoked the present conflict.’

Jack Ohman, The Oregonian

? MSNBC: ‘The walls are closing in on Yassir Arafat…never before have so many disparate groups of Palestinians, including those from Arafat’s own Fatah movement, formed such a united front on such a clearly definable issue – end corruption or else.’

? Arab Times (Kuwait): ‘Mr Arafat should quit his position because he is the head of a corrupt authority. There is no point for him to remain in politics… He has destroyed Palestine. He has led it to terrorism, death and a hopeless situation… All Arab leaders know this fact. It won’t be possible for us to gain from the Middle East road map for peace if this man remains in power.’

? BBC quoted a Jenin Martyrs’ Brigade spokesman: ‘With all due respect to President Arafat, the Palestinian Authority cannot continue being monopolised by [Arafat] and his relatives...we have our own ways to show our rejection.’

? Al-Quds Al-Araby (London): ‘What is happening in Gaza is a healthy phenomenon because it is a revolution against corruption and the corrupt… This is a warning not only to Mr Arafat… but to all Arab regimes which subjugate their people by turning a deaf ear to their calls for comprehensive change.’

? Pravda: Under the headline, ‘Nobody trusts Arafat any more,’ stated that ‘Everything Yasser Arafat has been doing can be described as an illusion of reforms.’

? Daily Star (Lebanon): ‘Mr Arafat increasingly lacks credibility and legitimacy… He has brought Palestine to its knees by relying on symbolism rather than bringing about results.’

? And long-time Arafat apologist, United Nations envoy Terje Roed-Larsen, finally broke rank and said that the PA has ‘made no progress on its core obligation to take immediate action on the ground to end violence and combat terror, and to reform and reorganize.’ UN chief Kofi Annan echoed the remarks.

[Hat tip: Tom Gross]

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Curiously, the Washington Post chose this moment to run a lengthy feature by Molly Moore that traces the downward spiral of a group of Palestinian youths. Moore employs the classic ‘desperation narrative,’  describing one terrorist who ‘harbored bitterness toward Israelis’ because Israeli authorities had ? what? ? jailed his brother for killing an Israeli soldier. As for the Palestinian who shot dead four Israeli civilians in Hadera, Moore quotes the forlorn words of the murderer’s mother: ‘He was the most romantic, the most sentimental of all of us.’

The article represents a truly bizarre sense of timing by Post editors. This front-page story, running over 3,000 words with color photograph, makes no mention whatsoever of the top story of the day ? the international acknowledgement that Yassir Arafat is the primary source of Palestinian desperation.

The watchdog group EyeOnThePost hits the nail on the head:

Moore seeks to create a sense of sympathy and tragedy around this clique of killers, but in order to do this she must unfairly (1) ignore the true tragedy, which is the innocent Israeli civilians whose lives were destroyed by this group, and (2) gloss over historical facts to make these characters appear to be not only victims, but also victims of Israel, rather than their own irresponsible Palestinian leadership.

Read the article, the fine EyeOnThePost critique, and send comments to:

? The (UK) Guardian – which claims to have the most online readers of any newspaper in the world – declared in a bold July 17 headline: ‘Don’t Blame Arafat’

>The prominent piece, by former Guardian Mideast correspondent David Hirst, not only exonerates Arafat for the collapse of peace efforts, but goes so far as to 1) accuse Israeli intelligence figures of desiring the intifada, and 2) blaming Israel for the entire US invasion of Iraq.

Even when the Guardian gets around to addressing the anti-Arafat riots, the paper’s editors can’t bring themselves to call for his resignation, stating it would be ‘alarming’ if Arafat falls from power: ‘the already grievous burden imposed on Palestinians will become intolerable if the regime falls apart… Israel must offer more incentives for moderation.’

Comments to:

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With Palestinian rejection of Arafat’s corruption and cronyism placing his regime on the apparent verge of collapse, it is vital that news outlets recognize the broader issue: The sad state of the Palestinian people ? for nearly 40 years ? is due first and foremost to the tragic failure of Arafat’s leadership.

HonestReporting encourages subscribers to write a letter to your local editor, indicating that the anti-Arafat uprising is the most telling development for some time regarding the true source of Palestinian suffering.

And be on the lookout for news outlets continuing to blame Israel for Palestinian ‘desperation,’ even as Palestinians themselves point the finger at Arafat.

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