arafat portrait 298.
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Yasser Arafat was the godfather of international terrorism who dashed his people's hope for statehood, stole billions of dollars intended for the relief of their suffering, and indoctrinated their children with so much hatred that they willingly turned themselves into human bombs.
He did manage to leapfrog the Palestinian cause over equally or more deserving causes - such as Tibetan freedom, Kurdish independence, and Basque statehood - by wielding three immoral weapons: first, international terrorism on a scale previously unknown to the world; second, an alliance with oil-rich states willing to extort support for his cause by energy blackmail; and third, exploitation of international anti-Semitism against the Jewish state.
Arafat was personally responsible for the murders of thousands of innocent Israelis, hundreds of innocent Americans, and countless others. Like other ethnically motivated butchers before him, he delighted in killing Jewish children, as he did in several well-planned attacks on Israeli schools and nurseries. He also personally ordered the murder of hundreds of his own people who disagreed with him or collaborated with Israel. Never a man to tolerate dissent, he employed bullets rather than arguments to respond to his critics.
Arafat was the inspiration for Osama bin Laden, because he proved to his eager student that terrorism works and that terrorists can be praised and rewarded by a craven world, as Arafat was by so many for so long.
Arafat was not one of those leaders who could, a la Nelson Mandela, make the transition from terrorist to peacemaker. He never learned how to take 'yes' for an answer and he never missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity.
According to former president Bill Clinton and his chief adviser, Dennis Ross, Arafat was personally responsible for the failure of Camp David and Taba to produce statehood for the Palestinians in 2000-2001. Instead of now celebrating their third anniversary of statehood, the Palestinians have suffered thousands of casualties and years of self-inflicted pain, while inflicting death and suffering on the Israelis as well.
Arafat's legacy is one of bloodshed and war, yet tears are being shed over his peaceful passing, not only by Palestinians but by many Europeans as well. Had Arafat accepted the offer of statehood, his body could have been buried in the part of Jerusalem that would have been the capital of the Palestinian state instead of in the rubble of Ramallah.
The world made a terrible mistake by not treating Arafat as a criminal.
He should have been indicted for ordering the murder of American diplomats, Israeli athletes, and international travelers instead of being praised for his 'courage.' It takes no courage to kill the helpless and much courage to risk one's own life in pursuit of peace. It was such courage that Arafat lacked.
The Nobel Peace Prize was cheapened by being awarded to this hater of peace. The Vatican was tarnished by its frequent welcoming of a man who violated every teaching of the Church. The United Nations was trivialized by its lionization of this coward. And terrorism was encouraged by the rewards Arafat received for his murders.
In the end, Arafat was a lucky man, lucky because his perceived enemy was the Jewish state. Had his enemy been a Christian or Muslim or communist state, he would never have received a pass for his mass murder. He understood the world's lingering anti-Semitism better than most, and he exploited it for all it was worth.Those grandchildren of Europeans who supported or welcomed Hitler and who willingly allowed their lingering bigotry to be exploited were complicit in his evil.
Eventually, the Palestinians will have their state, when they finally reject the legacy of their failed leader Yasser Arafat. When Palestinian statehood is declared, Arafat will posthumously receive much of the credit. He will not deserve it. A more farsighted leader would have done more for his people, less for his own pocketbook, and better for the world than did Hitler's failed successor and bin Laden's successful predecessor - Yasser Arafat.
The writer is a professor at Harvard University Law School. The article was originally published November 12, 2004
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