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Published in the 1-15 December 2004 print edition of MG; send me the print edition

Who is the terrorist

By Khalid Amayreh

Jerusalem: Since the death of PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat on 11 November, the late Palestinian leader has been the target of a venemous vilification blitz by the pro-Israeli media in North America, particulalry in the United States. This vindictive onslaught is in fact symptomatic of the Islamophobic and anti-Arab currents inundating the US, particulary since the 9/11 events. As such, it contains very little truth and is often devoid of reasonableness and objectivity.

As an outspoken critic (and occasional victim) of Yasser Arafat's rule, I would like to present my honest appraisal of the man who is praised by millions as an outstanding freedom fighter, but reviled by his enemies, especiallu Zionist Jews, as a terrorist. 

True, Yasser Arafat was not an icon of moral excellence. His political exploits, despotism, and nepotistic way of governance largely characterized his long reign. As President of the Palestinian Authority, a police state without a state, he held all the reins, took all the decisions, and controlled all the money. He went too far in trying to appease Israel and the United States, so much so that he often valued the legitimacy that came from foreign acceptance more than that which came from his own people's acceptance.

Non the less, Arafat was a bona fide Palestinian nationalist and true seeker of peace with Israel. He recognized Israel within the 1967 boundaries, revoked the Palestinian National Charter and agreed to share Jerusalem with the Jewish state.

During the so-called Oslo period (1995-2000) he violently repressed and imprisoned opponents of peace with Israel to the point of violating the civil and even human rights of his own people.

Moreover, Arafat always condemned attacks against civilians, Israelis and Palestinians alike. This obviously was not sufficient for Israeli leaders, especially Ariel Sharon and his cohorts, who demanded that Arafat act and behave like a quisling. 

People may thoughtfully and sincerely differ over Arafat. Ultimately, God will judge him as He will all of us. But to compare Yasser Arafat with Adolph Hitler, as some Jewish writers and columnists have done, is, in my opinion, nothing short of a linguistic adultery.

How could any serious person, with any modicum of intellectual honesty, call a helpless and desperate man, who in the last 1000 days of his life was a prisoner in his own living room, an Adolph Hitler?

How could any honest person accuse a nearly decimated people who spend half of their time languishing under sinister military curfews and the other half lining in long queues at ubiquitous Israeli army roadblocks (manned by trigger-happy soldiers) of seeking to finish what Hitler started? 

Even before the inception of the current intifada, Arafat couldn't leave Gaza or the West Bank without an Israeli permit. Indeed, Arafat's every move and action were coordinated with Israel, often in humiliating manner. 

In light, how a man as such be compared to Hitler, the Nazi beast who occupied and destroyed the bulk of Europe and caused the death of tens of millions of people?

To be sure, Arafat was not a Mahatma Ghandi. But, most certainly, he was no more of a terrorist than David Ben Gurion, Golda Meir, Moshe Dayan, Menachem Begin, Yitzhak Rabin, Yitzhak Sharmi, Shimon Peres, Ehud Barak and, not the least, Ariel Sharon? These Israeli leaders lived all their lives as terrorists. 

Wasn't Yitzhak Rabin arrested by the British and imprisoned in the Rafah camp in the early 1940s? Wasn't Yitzhak Shamir arrested as a terrorist and exiled by the British to a prison camp in Eritrea?

Was not Menahem Begin branded as a terrorist, with a prize on his head, after blowing up the King David hotel in Jerusalem with a hundred civilians killed, in 1947? And as we all know, the four became Prime Ministers of Israel.

And Sharon, the "hero" of the Sabra and Shatilla massacres of 1982? Well, it is a great shame that this wild beast remains at large. It is also lamentable that in this age of the internet and satellite television there are people who still are not aware of the man's real nature…and others who would even give him the benefit of the doubt. Doesn't this amount to an indictment of our time?

Two years ago, Gerald Kaufman, a conscientious Jewish member of the British Parliament wrote that "Ariel Sharon has made the Star of David look like the Swastika of Hitler."

Last year, the former Israeli Minister of Education Shulamit Aloni wrote in the Israeli newspaper Yedeot Ahranot that "We, Israelis, have become a barbarian people."

And in 2002, two Israeli Jewish journalists wrote a book titled "the Israeli holocaust against the Palestinians."

It is true, there are no gas chambers in the streets of the West Bank and Gaza.

But thousands of Palestinian civilians are being killed and maimed, using other means, all under the deceptive rubric of fighting "suicide bombings" and "terror."

Under this mendacious rubric, every conceivable crime has been committed against innocent civilians, from demolishing civilian homes right on top of occupants to "hunting" Palestinian school children with M-16 bullets while sitting in their class rooms or on their way to school or from school.

Yes, many Palestinians have been guilty of suicide bombings, which often targeted innocent Israeli civilians. I unhesitatingly condemn these outrageous crimes.

However, it is equally grossly unfair to decontextualize these horrible incidents by utterly ignoring ore overlooking the even more pornographic Israeli crimes which make the bombings inevitable.

In the final analysis, Israel (and the United States) can't push the Palestinian people, already tormented by 37 years of a dehumanizing Nazi-like military occupation, to the brink of physical annihilation, and then nonchalantly shout "suicide bombings! Terror! Hamas.!!

Evil often breeds evil, as the famous American poet, Auden, said:

I and the public know / What all school children learn / Those to whom evil is done / Do evil in return.

Some Israeli supporters might argue that Israeli terror is only a reaction to Palestinian violence. This simply is not true. Israel had more than 32 years to reach a settlement with the Palestinians, to give them hope and at least a semblance of justice.

However, instead of investing in peace, successive Israeli governments, with active American support, spent all these years building Jews-only colonialist outposts, inhabited by racist Talmud-believing Jews who believe that non-Jews are less than full human beings, vermin and dirty animals that ought to be exterminated. I know these facts too well since I live among them and suffer the full effects of their racist ideology.

Like many people around the world, I hope and pray that the death of Arafat will herald a new era of peace and reconciliation between Israelis and the Palestinians.

However, I am afraid that Israel, a country that prefers land over peace, has already killed President's Bush's vision of two states, Israel and Palestine, living peacefully side by side.

The intensive proliferation of Jewish settlements in the West Bank simply has left very little room for the creation of a viable Palestinian state worthy of the name. Hence, I believe the only remaining solution is a unitary democratic and civil state in all of mandatory Palestine (Israel and the occupied territories) in which Jews, Christians and Muslims, can live together as equal citizens, very much like California.

Will the US government be bold enough to push for this most human and moral solution? In any case, the only remaining alternative would be more hatred, violence, terror and war. And all of us, Americans, Arabs, and Jews would continue to suffer.

Khalid Amayreh is an American-educated Journalist living in the West Bank town of Hebron. He obtained a BA degree in journalism from the University of Oklahoma and a Master degree in the same field from the University of Southern Illinois at Carbondale. « 

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