Remembering Arafat

Yassir Arafat, frequently cited as the father of modern-day terror, died one year ago. One would think that in describing this man and his dark legacy, the mainstream media would reflect the reality that marked his rule. Instead, the media ignore the real impact this man and his disastrous choices have had on the region.

Arafat said “No” to peace and “Yes” to more terror

Reuters states that Arafat failed “to realize his dream of a Palestinian state.” Yet Arafat was offered his “dream” and rejected it. The article, heavy on the official commemorations of Arafat, does not even mention the historic Camp David Summit in which Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak offered Arafat Gaza, a Jerusalem capital, and a sizeable percentage of the West Bank. As former American President Bill Clinton said this week, Arafat made a “colossal, historical blunder” in not accepting Israel’s offer. Former U.S. envoy Dennis Ross offered this explanation at the time, “Arafat could not accept Camp David… because when the conflict ends, the cause that defines Arafat also ends.”

A LEGACY OF VIOLENCE

Not only did Arafat reject Barak’s offer, he launched a war of terror that has since claimed the lives of over 1,000 Israelis and even more of his own people. Typical of Reuters’ assessment:

Arafat, a former guerrilla leader who won a Nobel Peace Prize and the deep admiration of his people only to sink into renewed conflict with Israel, left a complicated legacy.

But Arafat did not passively “sink” into violence. He consciously rejected the offer of a state and chose violence. His legacy, as documented by HonestReporting here, is far from complicated. Under his “leadership,” the PLO pioneered the hallmarks of modern terrorism:

  • hostage taking — The Munich Olympics set a deadly modern precedent
  • airplane high-jacking — Long before September 11, the PLO had hijacked dozens of passenger jets;
  • school massacres — The horrific massacre in Chechenya had its precedent in Israel
  • suicide bombing — Bombings in Iraq, Spain, London, Kenya, Jordan and many places around the world today were one the PLO’s main weapons.

A LEGACY OF CORRUPTION

Meanwhile, Arafat stole hundreds of millions of dollars that were supposed to help the people he claimed to champion. The Palestinian Authority today is trying unsuccessfully to deal with the rampant corruption that he institutionalized. According to Issam Abu Issa, the former chairman of the Palestine International Bank:

Rather than use donor funds for their intended purposes, Arafat regularly diverted money to his own accounts. It is amazing that some U.S. officials still see the Palestinian Authority as a partner even after U.S. congressional records revealed authenticated PLO papers signed by Arafat in which he instructed his staff to divert donors’ money to projects benefiting himself, his family, and his associates. (Middle East Quarterly)

What’s so complicated about that legacy?

Comments to Reuters: editor@reuters.com

The New York Times referred to the official Palestinian commemorations in the Muqata,  Arafat’s headquarters, in this manner:

Israel confined Mr. Arafat to the compound for most of the last three years of his life, though he was treated at a French military hospital for two weeks before his death on Nov. 11, 2004. His funeral the next day at the Muqata was a chaotic affair attended by tens of thousands of anguished mourners.

After the Oslo Accords, Arafat was free to travel both within the disputed territories and abroad. It was only after repeated terrorist attacks, which were shown to be supported directly by Arafat, that Israel told him if he left his headquarters in Ramallah, he might not be allowed to return.

Comments to The New York Times: letters@nytimes.com

The Washington Post also removes personal responsibility from Arafat by noting that “Israel stopped regarding Arafat as a partner after Israeli-Palestinian peace talks broke down in late 2000 and a second Palestinian uprising erupted.”

Both the breakdown in talks and the spontaneous “eruption” of violence were direct choices of Arafat. It is astonishing that the media have chosen not to point out these basic facts.

Comments to The Washington Post: letters@washpost.com

Perhaps The Arab Times, hardly an unbiased source, said it best several years ago when they wrote:

He (Arafat) 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.

MISPLACED HERO

This week, three sui
cide bombers blew up three hotels in Amman, Jordan, killing 57 people, including many Palestinians. Newsweek ran a story accompanied by the following picture. Look carefully at the wall behind the family in mourning. An HonestReporting subscriber wrote to us:

I can’t help but notice the irony of these Palestinians mourning the deaths of their relatives caused by the Jordanian suicide bombers with a picture of the father of all suicide bombers proudly displayed on the wall behind them.

We agree. Strange that the reporter didn’t find it appropriate to mention this irony.

Palestinian members of the Al-Akhras clan gather in a mourning room in the West Bank village of Silet-Al-Thaher to grieve over the loss of 17 relatives in the Amman bombing.

Comments to Newsweek: Letters@newsweek.com

Not all the media are guilty of misinformation by omission. The Guardian ran a column by former PLO Representative Karma Nabulsi in which he takes the media to task for portraying Arafat in a Negative light. According to Nabulsi:

Arafat, for all his flaws and mistakes, stood for a just peace, based on a historic compromise. He believed in international law, in a two-state solution based on implementing UN resolution 242, and for a just settlement for refugees, the main victims of this conflict. His legitimacy came from more than the fact that he was democratically elected: he performed a historic purpose in the life of Palestinians, a purpose as yet unfulfilled. By representing his people’s general will and collective spirit, he symbolized the absent state’s sovereign institutions.

Comments to the Guardian: letters@guardian.co.uk

It is not enough for the media to simply say that Arafat was unsuccessful in his goal of establishing a Palestinian State.  Any reflection on his life that does not mention the terror that he facilitated or the corruption that characterized his rule is a gross mischaracterization of the man and his dubious legacy.

Did your local paper gloss over the anniversary of Arafat’s death? Let them know of their obligation for reporting that give all the facts.

Thank you for your ongoing involvement in the battle against media bias.

HonestReporting

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