What part of Arafat don’t they understand?

Arafat's mausoleum

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas unveiled a $1.75 million mausoleum for Yasser Arafat on Saturday, in a pomp-filled ceremony that helped him draw on the continued popularity of his iconic predecessor as he headed into peace talks with Israel. — YNet

What does it tell us about the Palestinian point of view that they venerate Arafat?

Let’s leave aside the early Arafat — the swaggering terrorist who tried to destabilize Jordan in 1970, was the immediate cause of the First Lebanon War in 1982, who gave the order to push the aged American Leon Klinghoffer’s wheelchair overboard from the hijacked Achille Lauro in 1985, and who was responsible for the deaths of hundreds of Israelis in countless terrorist attacks.

Let’s just consider the Arafat who returned triumphantly to Ramallah from exile in Tunis after the signing of the Oslo Accord, which recognized the PLO as the sole representative of the Palestinian people. The early ’90’s were a historic opportunity for a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. After the Gulf war, Iraq — one of the primary fomenters of conflict — was temporarily out of the picture, Iran was still weak from the long war with Iraq during most of the 1980’s, and Syria was at least pretending to appease the US.

Arafat, as head of the newly-established Palestinian Authority (PA), immediately went to work. Although paying lip service to the idea of little by little building connections and reducing tensions between Israel and the Palestinians that was the Oslo process, he did exactly the opposite. He turned all PA institutions into agencies of incitement against Israel: the religious establishment, the media, the schools. He established summer camps and youth organizations dedicated to training future soldiers in the war against Israel.

While taking money and weapons from the US and Israel intended to build Palestinian ‘security services’ which would ‘fight terrorism’, he actually paid terrorists (many of whom were members of the ‘security services’) to kill Israelis. He transmitted a message of peace in his speeches in English, and one of jihad when he spoke Arabic.

Arafat got an enormous amount of aid from the US and the EU which was intended to build infrastructure for a Palestinian state, deposited much of it in his personal bank account (estimates of his net worth ranged from $300 million to billions), enriched his hangers-on, purchased huge amounts of arms and financed terrorism.

Nevertheless, Israeli and American negotiators convinced themselves that it was just a matter of getting the i’s dotted and the t’s crossed on a peace agreement. So Ehud Barak made an offer including unprecedented concessions on issues such as borders and Jerusalem at Camp David. As everyone knows, Arafat rejected it in July of 2000, without even making a counteroffer. Still not understanding, Israel sweetened the offer at the Taba negotiations in January 2001, after Arafat had already launched the violent second Intifada against Israel.

It was also rejected, and afterwards Arafat claimed that Israel had only offered the Palestinians “Bantustans” in the West Bank. But this was a lie.

So, what does Yasser Arafat represent? Apart from his tactics of duplicity and terrorism, Arafat consistently rejected the idea of a peaceful Palestinian state alongside Israel and did his best to prevent this from coming about, believing that continued ‘resistance’ would ultimately reverse the war of 1948.

What does this tell us about Mahmoud Abbas and the so-called ‘moderates’ who claim to want exactly this peaceful state? Why do they so greatly admire a man who was personally cruel and corrupt, who caused the Palestinian cause to become synonymous with terrorism throughout the world, who caused several mini-wars and whose legacy may yet cause a major one, and who absolutely rejected the idea of a state alongside Israel?

What part of Arafat don’t they understand?

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