Judging from the fulsome praise in much of the world’s media, the Palestinian leader buried in Ramallah last Friday was a combination of Gandhi and Mother Theresa, and not an unrepentant terrorist responsible for more murders than Osama bin Laden.
While the royal heads of state of only Jordan and Saudi Arabia took part earlier in Yasser Arafat’s Cairo funeral, some 60 other countries sent representatives to what was truly a world-class spectacle of hypocrisy. How could The Guardian compare Arafat to “Moses” or CNN depict him as a “revolutionary romantic figure comparable to Ho Chi Minh and Nelson Mandela”?
Was this not the same Arafat who scorned an offer of Palestinian statehood at Camp David in 2000 and instead launched a four-year intifada, during which his minions slaughtered more than 1,000 Israeli civilians and thereby became responsible for the deaths of thousands of their fellow Palestinians?
In New York, we were informed, the UN flag was lowered to half-mast to mark what Secretary-General Kofi Annan called "this grave day for the world." Grave day? Where was the outrage at this godfather of world terrorism, the man who took us from airplane hijacking and hostage-taking to the indiscriminate mass murder of suicide bombings? If the maxim of not speaking ill of the dead does not apply to a Hitler or Stalin, it should not apply to their ideological Palestinian successor. At least they took pains to hide their crimes against humanity, while Arafat boasted of his relentless pursuit of the goal of eliminating the State of Israel.
In all the bizarre eulogies of Arafat as a leader who somehow “embodied the peace of the brave,” one central focus of his activities for more than 40 years was conspicuously absent: terrorism. Where was mention of the 12 children and teachers slaughtered on a school bus in Avivim in northern Israel in 1970? Or the 26 passengers murdered in an attack on Lod Airport in 1972? Or the 11 Israeli athletes slain at the 1972 Munich Olympics by the “freedom fighters” he commanded? Or the massacre of 26 schoolchildren and teachers at a high school in Ma’alot in 1974? Or what about the eight hostages murdered in the attack on Tel Aviv’s Savoy Hotel in 1975? Or the 35 Israelis slain along the country’s Coastal Highway in the 1978 massacre? Or the 29 killed in the bombing of the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires in 1992? Or the 86 killed in the bombing of the Buenos Aires Jewish Community Center in 1994? Since September 2000, Arafat’s snipers and suicide bombers have murdered 1,032 Israelis and more than 100 foreign nationals. Why was it suddenly politically incorrect to recall his victims?
This was a man who did not hesitate to send Palestinian children to their deaths as suicide bombers, while making sure his own wife and child were safely ensconced in Paris – not to mention providing her with a $100,000 monthly stipend from Palestinian Authority aid donations. Where was the outrage?
This was the man described by South Africa's City Press as a leader who “marshaled freedom fighters” – and stood by in October 2000 while those same “freedom fighters” murdered two Israeli reservists who had taken a wrong turn, throwing them from a window to a mob below that literally ripped their bodies apart.
The spectacle of Arafat’s funeral and burial took place in an international theater of the absurd during a world festival of hypocrisy. How can we have moral clarity when the godfather of world terrorism is celebrated and mourned? Where is the outrage at this total denial of responsibility?
It was as if an Israeli minister of tourism had not been slain in his hotel at Arafat's command, or an American ambassador and a Jordanian prime minister had never been murdered, or a wheelchair-bound American Jewish pensioner had never been shot and dumped into the Mediterranean from his cruise ship. Or an Israeli mother, Tali Hatuel, eight months pregnant, had not been shot in the head at point blank range by a Fatah killer just last May – along with her four young children.
In the midst of the war in Iraq, how could any American media outlet find words to praise the man who embraced Saddam Hussein during the first Gulf War and willingly accepted financial support from him for the families of suicide bombers, in order to encourage more suicide bombers? In the current absence of a Palestinian civil war that is sure to fill the vacuum of his “leadership,” there is perhaps no clearer indication of the chaos that is likely to be Arafat’s legacy than the frenzied mob scene at his burial. The occasion offered the Palestinian Authority its first great chance to display dignity and the rule of law as the entire world watched. Instead, the world saw a mob of thousands clamoring in such disorder at the doors of Arafat’s helicopter that his coffin could not be unloaded for long moments, while terrorists throughout the crowd fired endless submachine-gun rounds into the air.
The masses he misled and looted continued to shout, “We will sacrifice our blood and souls to redeem you, Yasser.” But the world’s media did not notice that all the blood Arafat spilled had placed him beyond redemption and already cost his people its soul.
And finally, Arafat’s long-standing connection to Saddam Hussein became even more concrete with the report on Wednesday from The House Committee on International Relations. The Committee revealed during a hearing on corruption in the Iraqi relief program that funds from the United Nations Oil-for-Food program was given to the families of Palestinian homicide bombers. According to investigators working for Henry Hyde (R, Illinois), chairman of the panel, said funds had been traced from former Saddam Hussein through a Jordanian bank and into the hands of families of bombers who attacked Israeli citizens.
It has long been known that Saddam paid bounties of $15,000 to $25,000 to the Palestinian families of the murderers. According to Hyde's committee, some of the reward money was deposited from illegal profits Saddam made by demanding 10 percent kickbacks on all the contracts of companies that did business with the U.N.'s Oil-for-Food program. Those funds were then deposited in Bank of Iraq account at the Rafidain Bank in Amman, Jordan, along with other Iraqi money, such as Jordanian Oil-for-Food oil payments. The funds were then transferred to another account in the bank controlled by Iraq's ambassador to Jordan Sabah Yaseen. Saddam’s officials would draw checks on Yaseen's account and hand out checks to the homicide bombers' families, Hyde's investigators revealed.
Mike Evans is the author of The American Prophecies, and the founder of the Jerusalem Prayer Team.