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July 21, 2002
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European support for Palestinian terrorism should end

The British Spectator (www.spectator.co.uk) has a good article on how Arafat and the Palestinians are loosing the support of the Europeans.

Arafat covered a lot of ground on his way to Geneva, and he has covered a lot more since then. On the road to becoming Mister Palestine and Great Survivor, he brought death and destruction on a vast scale. He provoked two civil wars (in Jordan and Lebanon). He generated chaos in Israel. And ultimately he produced tragedy rather than statehood for his own people.

Today, his cheerleaders in Europe, having silently acquiesced in his corruption, despotism and brutality, stand on the sidelines, weakly crying foul at the reviled George W. Bush, who has effectively brought down the House of Arafat by demanding that the Palestinians clean up their act and elect new and different leaders whom the Israelis can trust.

If all that was humiliation for Arafat’s European champions, it was a black eye for Chris Patten, the EU’s external affairs commissioner. For, while Bush was putting the final touches to his ‘Dump Arafat’ speech, Patten was once again anointing Arafat as the ‘indispensable partner’ (ignoring the incitement to violence on EU-funded Palestinian Television, the anti-Semitic hatred in EU-funded Palestinian schoolbooks, and the diversion of European aid to underwrite terrorist missions).

I copy the full article below.

Massacre of the truth
Arafat is as deceitful and uncompromising as ever, says Douglas Davis. It’s time that Europe’s love-in with him ended.

I am bothered — though not enough to tell my shrink — that whenever I picture Yasser Arafat it is in black-and-white. Perhaps that is because the first images I saw of him in the pre-colour Sixties were on a clapped-out television. But even when I have got up close and personal over the past 15 years, it is the old Arafat I see: a black-and-white Sixties figure hiding behind a pair of cheap plastic sunglasses, exhorting his young soldiers to wring the necks of chickens and drink the blood.

To me, Arafat has always been more comic than killer, an unlikely guerrilla leader. He is certainly not in the heroic mould of the Greats — Mao, Che or even Ho. ‘Yasser’ never sounded right. He wasn’t in the same class, not even when he adopted the nom-de-guerre Abu Amar, affected a permanent stubble, and strapped a holster to his trademark olive-drab. As an exercise in branding it was brilliant, but Arafat was too shifty, too corrupt, too obviously playing to the gallery to be taken seriously. He belonged in a boy band rather than the Pantheon of Dear Leaders.

Was I wrong! My distinguished media colleagues in Europe just lap him up. Arafat, who attracts journalists like a lamp-post attracts dogs, gave the world the Pissoir Syndrome. When he appeared before a special session of the UN General Assembly in Geneva in 1988, I was not surprised that the delegates rose to applaud him. You expect that from diplomats. But that evening, arriving three hours late for a press conference in the UN building, I was shocked that all my colleagues gave him a whooping, standing ovation. Here, surely, was a boy band’s lead singer meeting the fans, rather than a terrorist leader about to renounce terrorism.

Arafat renounced terror again — in writing — in 1993, a precondition set by Israel’s sceptical Yitzhak Rabin before signing the Oslo Accords, which permitted the first shoots of embryonic Palestine. There have been at least half-a-dozen more renunciations since then but, to be honest, I never trusted the first one. I wanted to believe Arafat when he painted a picture of Palestinian and Israeli children growing up in peace; but then I remembered the late King Hussein of Jordan, Arafat’s best friend at the time, publicly branding him a duplicitous liar. And I remembered a Syrian colleague telling me he had overestimated the intelligence of Israelis: ‘Do you really think you can negotiate with a mafia boss?’ he asked incredulously.

Arafat covered a lot of ground on his way to Geneva, and he has covered a lot more since then. On the road to becoming Mister Palestine and Great Survivor, he brought death and destruction on a vast scale. He provoked two civil wars (in Jordan and Lebanon). He generated chaos in Israel. And ultimately he produced tragedy rather than statehood for his own people.

Today, his cheerleaders in Europe, having silently acquiesced in his corruption, despotism and brutality, stand on the sidelines, weakly crying foul at the reviled George W. Bush, who has effectively brought down the House of Arafat by demanding that the Palestinians clean up their act and elect new and different leaders whom the Israelis can trust.

If all that was humiliation for Arafat’s European champions, it was a black eye for Chris Patten, the EU’s external affairs commissioner. For, while Bush was putting the final touches to his ‘Dump Arafat’ speech, Patten was once again anointing Arafat as the ‘indispensable partner’ (ignoring the incitement to violence on EU-funded Palestinian Television, the anti-Semitic hatred in EU-funded Palestinian schoolbooks, and the diversion of European aid to underwrite terrorist missions).

Reality speaks a different language. The human tragedy of the violence can never be quantified, but Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip can measure the material consequences in a single set of statistics: when Arafat and the Palestinian Authority were installed after the Oslo Accords, the average annual income of Palestinians was 40 per cent that of their Israeli neighbours; today, it is just 5 per cent.

The writing was on the wall for Arafat last 11 September. But while his friends in Europe signalled business as usual and continued pouring cash down his throat — still impervious to hard evidence of misuse and corruption — Arafat failed to understand that European posturings are nugatory. Washington is the only game in town, and Washington is at war with terror.

It was in the rubble of the Jenin refugee camp that Arafat played his final hand, and it was there that Europe was eventually shamed by its condescending acquiescence (a genuine hallmark of racism) towards the Palestinians. This time a global television audience, augmented by the UN Security Council, national governments and human-rights organisations, was on the spot to witness Arafat in full, fantastic flight — and Europe’s enthusiastic complicity.

When Israeli troops broke up the terrorist infrastructure in Jenin which had produced at least half of the suicide bombers, European politicians, journalists and human-rights campaigners joined in a chorus of ‘Massacre’. Saeb Erekat, one of Arafat’s top aides, provided the justification when he spoke of at least 3,000 dead. Abu Ali added the local colour when he led willing journalists to the ruins of what had been his home and where, he said, nine of his children now lay dead. The media’s rush to judgment turned into a stampede. As further proof of the ‘massacre’, the good people of Jenin staged a series of highly emotive funeral processions (the parades ended only when a ‘body’ was twice tipped out of its stretcher on the way to the cemetery, at which point the ‘martyr’ stood up and walked off in disgust).

With barely a glance at the cautionary Israeli officials, Phil Reeves wrote in the Independent of ‘hundreds of corpses entombed beneath the dust’, the London Evening Standard’s Sam Kiley reported ‘staggering brutality and callous murder’, the Times’s Janine di Giovanni accused Israel of using terrorism as an excuse to attack children, while the Guardian’s award-winning Suzanne Goldenberg added breathlessly that the destruction ‘is almost beyond imagination’.

When the thousands of bodies failed to materialise, the Palestinians revised the numbers downwards and the journalists realised the game was up. Some simply cut their losses and moved on to fresh pastures. But among those who could not bear to abandon a winning storyline was a British television reporter who perched in the midst of the rubble to intone solemnly, ‘No one knows what happened here, but it is certain war crimes were committed.’ Oh really?

Within days of Israel’s departure, talk of a massacre ceased and Saeb Erekat’s 3,000 dead was reduced to 52 (all nine of Abu Ali’s children, bless them, are fighting fit). There have been no retractions by the papers and television stations which published the original, unsubstantiated nonsense. But there is evidence that a sobering-up process has started. Last week, almost two years after the start of the current convulsions, Amnesty International, exemplar of political correctness, finally produced a report that condemned the ‘widespread, systematic’ Palestinian attacks on civilians as ‘crimes against humanity under international law’.

Israel was no doubt responsible for much of the physical destruction of the Jenin refugee camp, whose home-grown suicide bombers had claimed the lives of 93 Israeli civilians and wounded a further 640 during the previous 18 months. But the destruction was not wanton, as one Palestinian bomb-maker, Omar, made clear to the Egyptian daily al-Ahram: ‘We had more than 50 houses booby-trapped around the camp. We chose old and empty buildings, and the houses of men who were wanted by Israel because we knew the soldiers would search for them....’

Of course there was no massacre and no cover-up. If the European politicians and journalists had given the matter two minutes’ thought, they would have grasped the point even before they sped to the scene. Israel’s civilian-soldiers in Jenin, like those in any other Israeli military operation, cover the waterfront of political opinion, and no doubt include a share of journalists and jurists, doctors and dustmen, university professors and human-rights activists, each one carrying a mobile phone. A massacre is as unthinkable as a cover-up is unimaginable.

The head of Israel’s military planning branch, Brigadier-General Eival Giladi, dismissed the ‘massacre’ charges with contempt. Unlike other armies which might have been tempted to use artillery, he said, Israel refrained, even though it cost the lives of 23 soldiers. Nor was the restraint a consequence of outside pressure or public opinion, ‘but because of Israel’s norms and standards. The Israel Defense Forces will never put themselves in the position of doing something that Israeli society will not accept.’

If Bush is helping the Europeans to sober up in the aftermath of Jenin, he is also persuading the Palestinians to think again. Many are still thinking in private, but a group of intellectuals recently signed a petition opposing suicide bombings, and a Palestinian legislator, Hossam Khadar, was emboldened to tell Israel Radio recently that Arafat is still hoodwinking the world with reforms that he hastily patched together after the Bush speech. True, he said, Arafat has shrunk his bloated cabinet from 34 to 23, but he has made sure to retain all his corrupt ministers. It is, said Khadar, ‘a catastrophe that will lead the Palestinian people to hell’.

Given Israeli goodwill and the largesse of the international donor community — about £6 billion over the past eight years — the Palestinians should today be looking to a bright economic future in their shiny new state. Instead, Arafat’s stewardship has left them looking for humanitarian assistance.

Many Palestinians regard the Bush prescription as a bitter pill, but one that must eventually be taken if they are to be made well again. Few, however, are likely to swallow it without a fuss. It is a bitter pill, too, for the Europeans, who must finally dispel their post-colonial guilt and learn to treat the Palestinians as sentient adults. If they had demanded decent standards of governance from Arafat at the outset, their money would have been well spent and much of the subsequent trauma might have been avoided.

On reflection, though, my shrink would probably tell me that the persistent black-and-white images indicate that I do not believe that Arafat has really changed over the past three-and-some decades; that he might speak of compromise and conciliation, but that he still plans a Palestine on the ashes of Israel.

Douglas Davis is the London correspondent of the Jerusalem Post.

Posted by David Melle at July 21, 2002 10:22 AM
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