Misplaced Praise For A Traitor To Peace

arafat
I’ll admit that it’s not easy to post about the Middle East, which is why I generally stay away from it, but I felt compelled to say something based on this story, which in part tells us the following…

Thousands of Palestinians turned out Wednesday for a rally here to commemorate the fifth anniversary of the death of the Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and to show support for his successor, President Mahmoud Abbas, who recently expressed an intention to retire.

The rally took place in the grounds of the Mukata, the presidential headquarters in this West Bank city where Arafat took ill in 2004. He died in a Paris hospital, but his body was flown back and buried in the compound amid frenzied scenes of adoration and chaos.

I don’t have an issue with Abbas, who will never escape Arafat’s shadow largely because the founder of the Palestine Liberation Organization allowed terrorism to flourish on his watch, to the point where Hamas basically calls the shots in that area of the world. And yes, I’m completely aware of the fact that Israeli intransigence on the Palestinians had a lot to do with Arafat’s ascent.

However, Arafat was, at best, a flawed deliverer of legitimacy (one of the few times I actually agreed with Dubya on anything was when he said Arafat had “failed as a leader” in 2004, though that was hypocritical considering our slavish subservience to Israel under Dubya’s “administration”). And the only reason he won the Nobel Prize along with the late Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres of Israel was because it would have been bad manners to exclude him.

And I think the following is noteworthy about Arafat (from here)…

In August 2002, the Israeli Military Intelligence Chief alleged that Arafat’s personal wealth was in the range of USD $1.3 billion,[92]. In 2003 the International Monetary Fund (IMF) conducted an audit of the PNA and stated that Arafat diverted $900 million in public funds to a special bank account controlled by Arafat and the PNA Chief Economic Financial adviser. However, the IMF did not claim that there were any improprieties, and it specifically stated that most of the funds had been used to invest in Palestinian assets, both internally and abroad.[93][94]

However in 2003, a team of American accountants–hired by Arafat’s own finance ministry–began examining Arafat’s finances; this team reached a different conclusion. The team claimed that part of the Palestinian leader’s wealth was in a secret portfolio worth close to $1 billion, with investments in companies like a Coca-Cola bottling plant in Ramallah, a Tunisian cell phone company and venture capital funds in the US and the Cayman Islands. The head of the investigation stated that “although the money for the portfolio came from public funds like Palestinian taxes, virtually none of it was used for the Palestinian people; it was all controlled by Arafat. And none of these dealings were made public.”[95]

Although Arafat lived a modest lifestyle, Dennis Ross, former Middle East negotiator for Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton, stated that Arafat’s “walking-around money” financed a vast patronage system known as neopatrimonialism. According to Salam Fayyad—a former World Bank official whom Arafat appointed Finance Minister of the PNA in 2002—Arafat’s commodity monopolies could accurately be seen as gouging his own people, “especially in Gaza which is poorer, which is something that is totally unacceptable and immoral.” Fayyad claims that Arafat used $20 million from public funds to pay the leadership of the PNA security forces (the Preventive Security Service) alone.[95]

Fuad Shubaki, former financial aide to Arafat, told the Israeli security service Shin Bet that Arafat used several million dollars of aid money to buy weapons and support militant groups.[96] An investigation by the European Union into claims that their funds were misused by the Palestinian Authority found no evidence that funds were diverted to finance terrorist activities.[97]

Also, as noted here…

Arafat, too, must take his share of the blame for the failure of the peace process. Time and again, he failed to make the bold moves that might have broken the logjam. It was never a viable option for the PLO to confront the rejectionists Hamas and Islamic Jihad militarily — that would have meant a full-scale civil war — but he could have marginalized them if he had been a better leader. Unwilling to either rule out the military option or embrace it, he was a master tactician who seemed never capable of delivering the bold strategic stroke. (In that sense, he resembled his ancient nemesis, Ariel Sharon, a brilliant field general who lacks a larger vision.) Danny Rubinstein, the Haaretz correspondent who has covered the Palestinians for years, noted on Thursday that Arafat could not resist the siren song of the Palestinian street: If it called for violence, he delivered violence. “This was his weak side. This is how it came out,” Rubinstein says. “He always felt it necessary to speak to his people such that they would continue to embrace him, to esteem him, to idolize him, and, most importantly, to obey him.”

And Gary Kamiya of Salon.com also tells us the following…

At the end of his life, although he still held all effective Palestinian power in his hands, Arafat had come to serve a purely symbolic function. That function was sentimentally useful: Arafat represented the last hope for the hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees around the world, still holding their yellowing deeds and keys to houses in Jaffa, Haifa and Jerusalem to which they will never return. But practically, it was an encumbrance. He was a statue, a myth, and his larger-than-life stature blocked a new, more pragmatic generation of Palestinian leaders from emerging. Those leaders will make the same demands Arafat did — a contiguous state in most of the West Bank, a Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem, shared sovereignty over the holy sites, some fair resolution of the refugee question that does not spell the end of Israel. But perhaps they will actually be able to achieve them.

I must tell you that I can think of better tributes.

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