The argument against Arafat

Jonah Goldberg

4/8/2002 12:00:00 AM - Jonah Goldberg
Yasser Arafat insists that he cannot stop suicide bombers and other terrorists while he is being held a virtual prisoner in his offices in Ramallah. This assertion has been greeted with remarkable sympathy in Europe and America. In fact, it seems to be the official "tough question" on every cable news show. "How can you expect Yasser Arafat to stop suicide bombers when he can't even use his cell phone?" ask one interviewer after another of any Israeli official they can find. I find this bizarre. When we put Mafia bosses in jail, we rarely pay them much heed when they complain that incarceration will make it difficult for them to stop their hit men from committing more crimes. When we catch Osama bin Laden, will the peaceniks who look so adoringly upon Arafat also nod sagely when bin Laden declares, "How can I stop more terrorist attacks from inside my prison cell?" And yet, for some reason, Western diplomats, activists and journalists seem to believe that Arafat cannot be held accountable for anything he's done. He can only be supported because "Israel has to negotiate with somebody." That he did nothing to stop suicide bombers when he could, means nothing. Ultimately, this is just a tiny slice of the bizarre and often unfathomable logic used to defend Arafat. The evening news broadcasts have made a great deal about how Israeli forces are not making it easy for journalists to do their work in the occupied Palestinian areas. Fair enough. Journalists are supposed to complain about such things even when they're wrong. But have you heard any complaints about the Reuters camera crew which was forced at gunpoint to hand over footage of Arafat's goons executing alleged collaborators? In fact, have you heard anything about the shooting of so-called collaborators at all? Not much if you're watching the same news I am. It turns out that before Arafat's armed men sought refuge in various churches, they were ordered to kill anyone believed to have been sympathetic or helpful to the Israelis. Many of these men had been held in Palestinian jails - while terrorists went free - for months without trial or charges. During the last intifada, Arafat was complicit in the executions of more than 800 "collaborators," according to the London Guardian. "In the besieged Palestinian territories even suspicion of collaboration carries the death sentence," the Guardian reported. When asked about two men in Qalqilya who'd been killed, Arafat's Palestinian security forces nonchalantly confirmed they'd been "executed" by their guards. Right now many of the so-called "peace activists" trying their best to be "human shields" for Arafat are Israeli citizens. If Israel were to execute these people, imagine how quickly the "international community" would call for war crimes tribunals. Speaking of these "peace activists," who says they're for peace? One of them, a Frenchman named Jose Bove, is most famous for being a rabid America-hater who led a mob in the destruction of a McDonald's in France. Regardless, if in the name of peace I place my body in the way of Osama bin Laden - or an imprisoned mob boss - does that make me a "peace activist" or just a fool? In 1942, George Orwell writing about pacifists in Britain declared, "Pacifism is objectively pro-Fascist. This is elementary common sense. If you hamper the war effort of one side you automatically help out that of the other." Similarly, if you are pro-Arafat, you are by definition anti-Israeli and pro-terrorism. However, such brutal logic need not and must not be the case in the conflict between the Palestinians and Israelis. Just as one can be pro-Israel without being pro-Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, one can and should be pro-Palestinian without being pro-Arafat. These two peoples can and should live in peace, in side-by-side states. Israel went through a painful process to come to grips with this realization (even if Sharon may not have). Indeed, Israel spent much of the last decade preparing its citizens for peace. It revised its history books to give a more balanced treatment to the early days of Zionism. It unilaterally pulled out of Lebanon without demanding concessions from Syria or the Lebanese. And, most telling, it offered Arafat a deal that exceeded what even the most dovish experts deemed conceivable. During the same period, Arafat ordered that Palestinian children be taught to hate Jews, and he killed collaborators who, for all we know, were probably the real peace activists. It's time for Arafat to go.