“World, Meet Arafat. Arafat, World.”
Vol: 8 Issue: 31 Friday, May 31, 2002
That the Palestinian people are an oppressed people is a matter of reality. That they are suffering is beyond dispute. Decades of oppression are cited as justifications for suicide bombings, and nobody is exaggerating the oppression or the hopelessness that would drive a sixteen-year old to blow himself up, rather than continuing to live under oppression.
Since Israel captured the West Bank in 1967, global attention [and the global hammer] has fallen on the Israelis to no avail. The Arab attacks continued without respite through the years, as did the Israeli responses.
No matter what the world demanded and no matter what Israel did, even after Oslo, the Palestinians remained an oppressed people.
Surrounded by the relative wealth and luxury of Israel, the Palestinians grew even poorer, more frustrated, more angry, more bitter.
For fifty years, entire families languished in refugee camps set up by the UN inside Greater Israel and by the Arab regimes in Jordan, Lebanon and Syria.
Polls conducted among Palestinians indicate most Palestinians [more than 80% in past polls] support the continuation of the suicide bombing campaigns. A majority are prepared for a war to the death with their oppressors.
But while Arafat was under siege in his compound, the Palestinians [and the rest of the world] were able to step back, take a deep breath, and take a long, hard look at the oppressor of the Palestinians.
His name is Yasser Arafat.
Signs Framework for Constitution
Yesterday, Arafat signed a package of laws granting basic rights to his people and regulating his government, just before world diplomats began arriving to press him for reforms.
Nobody is hailing him for his bold, innovative step. Instead, they are questioning why he took so long to grant the basic freedoms he claims he is attempting to wrest away from the Israelis.
Except that the Israelis have been pushing for a Palestinian constitution and basic rights for Palestinians since Oslo.
Arafat, on the other hand, has steadfastly refused, to this point, to sign the Basic Law, which has been sitting on his desk for five years.
The Basic Law is designed to answer some of the complaints of corruption, nepotism and inefficiency of Arafat s regime.
The Palestinian Legislative Council passed the measure in 1997, but Arafat never signed it, setting off years of complaints by frustrated lawmakers.
What’s Wrong With the Basic Law?
Why would Arafat deny his people basic human rights guarantees years after it was within his power to do so? Here s a hint.
Among its main points are regular elections for president, a ban on censorship or intimidation of news media, an independent judicial system and a separation of powers among the executive, legislative and judicial branches.
While complaining of Israeli oppression Arafat wields absolute, iron-fisted power. He regularly ignores laws passed by the legislature, convenes security courts that sometimes try, convict and sentence Palestinians in a single day. Some Palestinians accused of helping Israeli forces were executed within hours of a one-day trial.
In some cases, trials took less than an hour, in others, executions followed summary judgment without the benefit of trial.
He Had The Power, All Along
Meet the real oppressor. He was elected president of the Palestinian Authority in 1996 in the only election held since the regime was created in 1994. It was part of the framework of interim peace accords with Israel.
Last week a commission appointed to arrange new elections resigned in protest at Arafat’s refusal to set a date.
Arafat’s Cabinet then said that elections were “possible” in December. Then he said no. Then maybe. What is the problem with elections?
First, Arafat knows he ll lose.
Second, [and more importantly] he knows that, once out of power, he is going to be required to answer for why he got richer while his people got poorer.
It has been within Arafat s power to provide his people with self-government, complete autonomy, eventual statehood and a level of peace and prosperity unmatched by any other Arab government.
Had Arafat embraced the Israeli offer of peace, had he worked diligently to create a state that would live side by side in peace with Israel, is there anyone who doubts that Israel would have warmly embraced them in return?
Or that Israel would have welcomed the opportunity to convert the Arab state that risked the most and developed the closest ties to Israel into the most peaceful and prosperous Arab state possible?
What better way to show the Arab world the value of peace with Israel than to prosper the Arabs who did?
Arafat fought for four decades to achieve basic Palestinian rights for all Palestinians and the whole world supported his quest. Who could be against Palestinian rights? Or rights for any people?
There are those cynical few [like this correspondent] who have been asking for years what Arafat was talking about when he blamed Israel for the oppression of his people after Israel gave him the power to do something about it.
When peace was within his grasp, Arafat shunned it.
Peace would mean the end for Abu Amar, the Great Warrior for the Palestinian cause. Warriors are unnecessary without a war and Arafat would lose the grip on power he s held for four decades.
The hundreds, thousands of lives sacrificed by the Palestinian people weren’t to liberate Palestine, they were to keep Abu Amar [Arafat’s non de guerre] in power. Period.
Suddenly, years after it was obvious to anybody who could see past the fact Israel is Jewish, leaders the world over are looking up sharply, narrowing their eyes, and exclaiming, Heeyyy, I think this guy s been putting us on! Duh.
If Israel wanted to lift the so-called oppression it imposed on the Palestinian people right now, how would they go about it? Give that some thought. What could Israel do that would improve their lot? End incursions? Would it end the bombing?
Give up their settlements? How would that improve the life of the average Palestinian family in Hebron, Nablus or Jericho?
Evidently somebody, somewhere in the halls of government must have muttered something about this out loud where somebody else could hear him, who repeated it until Somebody Important exclaimed, Hey! How come nobody told me this before?
Instead of blaming Israel for the fact that Arafat has built brutal Arab dictatorship under the noses of, and with the full support of the Western democracies, they are beginning to ask Arafat why he doesn t want elections.
In hindsight, it is as plain as the nose on Arafat s face. Why didn t anybody notice before?
Because Arafat is locked in a death struggle with Jews over the Holy Land. The Jews base their claim on the Promise of God as written in the Bible.
Accepting that claim as written comes too close to accepting the Author Who wrote it.
The world would prefer to accept a claim based, not on history or even logic, but instead embracing a claim that, in the final analysis, boiled down to a single question.
Who would the world rather see in possession of the Holy Land? The Jews? Or anybody else, no matter how weak the claim or deplorable the methods employed to enforce it.
The world was secretly hoping that Arafat would do the world a favor and rid it of a Jewish state.
But now the secret s out, and the global community is rising in righteous indignation.
“For shame, Yasser! How could you do such a thing?”
The hypocrisy is staggering.