Will the passing of this mass murderer and master propagandist have an immediate impact on the Palestinians? interest and ability to reach an agreement with Israel? Can his death bring about the end of the Palestinian terror war against Israel and perhaps usher in a period of peace in the Middle East?
In his press conference Thursday, President George W. Bush said that people who don?t believe in the applicability of democracy to the Arab world cannot really believe in a two-state solution to the Palestinian conflict with Israel. That is, as long as the Palestinians remain governed by terrorists, there is no way that they will be willing to live at peace with Israel.
Is Arafat?s retreat from this world all that is required for the Palestinians to achieve a democratic transformation that will enable them to live at peace with Israel?
In answering this question, we should take an example from one of Arafat?s guiding lights throughout his career: Adolf Hitler.
Hitler?s suicide in his bunker in Berlin in May 1945 was not what enabled Konrad Adenauer to lead a democratic West Germany. Adenauer could not have led, and certainly would never have been a democrat, if all he did was take over the reins of power from Hitler in May 1945. Aside from Hitler dying, the Nazi regime he created was necessarily militarily vanquished to the point of unconditional surrender. As well, Nazi leaders -- both political and military -- were brought before war crimes tribunals and hung or sentenced to long prison terms.
Adenauer also presided over a German democracy whose borders were determined by the Allies; where the Allied Occupation Forces expunged Nazi propaganda from the schoolbooks; barred Nazis from positions of power and influence in all walks of life; forced the Germans to teach their schoolchildren the evil they had wrought in the war; and outlawed Nazis or anyone espousing a similar racist ideology from entering politics in Germany. That is, Adenauer?s ascension to power was only enabled as a result of the total destruction of the Nazi power apparatus.
This historical precedent for the death of a dictator is pertinent in the case of Arafat not merely because of his ideological affinity with Hitler, but because Arafat, like Hitler, has built an entire apparatus of power in Palestinian society in his own murderous image. All of Arafat?s presumed heirs ? from Mahmud Abbas to Ahmed Qurei to Muhammed Dahlan to Jibril Rajoub are terrorists.
Abbas and Qurei owe their prominence to the fact that they co-founded the Fatah terror group with Arafat. Abbas, who has been upheld by the US and Israel alike as a ?reformer,? wrote his PhD dissertation and later a bestselling book explaining why the Holocaust is a hoax. Abbas has overseen and facilitated terrorist attacks for the past several decades including in the now four year old Palestinian terror war.
Qurei, who also has a rich history of terror involvement and apologetics, has bee the PLO?s chief money man for the past three decades. From Tunis to Lebanon to the Gulf States to the West Bank and Gaza Strip, Qurei has overseen a confidence operation that puts the Sicilian mafia to shame. He has managed to simultaneously shakedown Palestinian businessmen for hundreds of millions of dollars and to blackmail the international community into contributing billions of dollars in aid to the PLO. Qurei continues to overtly support and applaud terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians and as recently as September has made open calls for terrorists to murder Israeli civilians.
Muhammed Dahlan, who with his Pierre Cardin suits and his flashing smile easily won the hearts of Israeli and American policymakers alike, is one of the architects of the current terror war. In 1994, Arafat placed him in charge of coordinating activities with Hamas. Dahlan?s militia in Gaza has taken an active role in carrying out attacks against Israeli civilians including the infamous bombing of an Israeli school bus in November 2000 in which three people were murdered and a half dozen school children lost their legs and arms. Since then Dahlan?s forces have retained their leadership role in terror attacks, as well as in the weapons smuggling and development in Gaza. For their part, Gazans hate and fear Dahlan for his strong arm tactics against businessmen and day laborers in Israel.
Jibril Rajoub, Dahlan?s counterpart and rival in the West Bank was responsible for setting up the PLO?s terror infrastructure in the West Bank from 1994-2000. Since the Palestinian terror war against Israel began in September 2000, Rajoub?s men have taken an active role in carrying out terror attacks in Israel while still retaining their salaries from his militia. Like Dahlan in Gaza, Rajoub is despised by Palestinians on the West Bank for his extortion of businessmen; confiscation of farmland; and raping of Palestinian girls.
And so on, down the line. There is today not one Palestinian political party that is not a terrorist organization. Of the twelve militias that Arafat formed in the West Bank and Gaza since arriving on the scene in 1994, there is not a single one that is not deeply involved in terror activities. Documents seized by the Israeli army during major combat operations in the West Bank have shown Arafat?s generals ordering the carrying out of suicide bombings and authorizing the payment of terrorist cell members.
Under Arafat?s leadership, Palestinian society in the West Bank and Gaza Strip has been indoctrinated to jihad in a way that is unmatched throughout the Arab world, perhaps with the exception of Al Qaeda training camps. Children have been brainwashed to believe that they should see their lives fulfilled by carrying out acts of genocidal mass murder of Jews. Women have been inculcated with the inhuman belief that rather than being the sources of life, their wombs are bomb factories.
Through the Palestinian media, the school system, the religious institutions, the sports teams and the iconographers in art studios and on city streets, Palestinian society over the past decade has been brought to believe that their sole purpose as a people is to liquidate the Jewish people. Suicide bombings in Israel are greeted with carnival-like celebrations in the West Bank and Gaza. There is no remorse, nor regret, no shame and no guilt in the face of the wanton brutality and barbarity of suicide bombings.
And so, in light of the current state of derangement of Palestinian society, does Arafat?s passing bear any significance for policymakers?
On the one hand, the death of an evil man, of a mass murderer is always a cause for celebration and hope. Yet on the other hand, Arafat?s death will only constitute an opportunity for building a better future if the Bush administration uses his disappearance as a catalyst for a true overhaul of Palestinian society. And this requires more than just applying pressure on Israel to meet with and make concessions to a new PLO warlord who was raised on Arafat?s knee.
There is no doubt that there are Palestinians alive today who have the potential to be Palestinian Adenauers. But for these leaders to come forward the apparatus of genocide and terror that Arafat has wrought over the past four decades must first be dismantled. Arafat?s heirs have no more chance of bringing peace and democracy to the Palestinians than Hitler?s heirs could have brought to Germany. For peace to arise, Palestinians must make a clean break from their past.
Caroline Glick was a member of Israel's negotiating team with the PLO from 1994-1996. She is currently the Deputy Managing Editor of The Jerusalem Post and the Senior Middle East Fellow at the Center for Security Policy in Washington, DC.