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Facts and Logic About
the Middle East
P.O. Box 590359
San Francisco, CA 94159
(415) 356-7801


November 9, 2004

Dear Friend of FLAME:

Yasser Arafat's departure from his ramshackle headquarters in Ramallah for medical care in Paris brought mixed reactions from most Middle East observers. On the one hand, one feels morally conflicted wishing ill health on anyone, even a known murderer. On the other hand, what misfortune could befall Arafat that the world's longest practicing and most famous terrorist doesn't deserve? At least we know Arafat will be receiving the best medical care France has to offer, since the French have always had a love affair with him and since Arafat has hundreds of millions of dollars in assets stashed there, thanks to misappropriated funds provided to benefit the Palestinian people by the European Union. What most people don't realize is that Arafat's departure marks the end of just one more chapter — perhaps the last — in a horror story filled with deception, death and destruction, and ultimately, betrayal and rejection (usually by fellow Arabs). Barry Rubin's article, below, outlines this pathetic pattern and leaves hope that God will do the right thing by Yasser. Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center; editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal; and editor of Turkish Studies.

Jim Sinkinson
Director, FLAME

Strike four, you're out!
by Barry Rubin
Jerusalem Post, November 2, 2004

An Arab journalist asked a leading Arab liberal about Yasser Arafat's physical breakdown, adding, "I am sure you pray for Arafat to return to Ramallah in good health."

Replied the liberal: "I have a better idea. Why should we not all pray that God does in this respect what is good for the future of the Palestinian people?"

It was the perfect answer. Officially, publicly, and ideologically, all Arabs are supposed to love Arafat. But it's all nonsense, of course. When Arabs – including Palestinians – talk about Arafat in private, they do not seek to hide their contempt.

Truly fascinating, though, is the perfect symmetry of his career. For while Arafat's life is not yet over, the fourth and final cycle in his disastrous career has ended, identically to the earlier stages.

At each stage he arrived to a warm reception and was given a big chance to build his movement and help his people. Yet every time, he wore out his welcome by insulting his hosts, breaking his commitments, fomenting violence, and letting his own forces run wild. Eventually he got thrown out on his ear.

First, there was Jordan. King Hussein let Arafat build his own state-within-a-state, attack Israel, and have his own army. The king knew powerful Arab states, and his own considerable Palestinian population supported Arafat and he didn't want any trouble.

But Arafat forced the king to fight him. He and his men called for Hussein's overthrow, flouted his authority, threatened to drag him into war with Israel, and insulted his soldiers.

Having no choice, the king struck back, in September 1970. Arafat proclaimed he would fight to the end and be a martyr. Instead, the PLO was kicked out of the country.

Next came Lebanon. Some Lebanese welcomed Arafat; others bowed to Egyptian pressure. There were some clashes at first, but the Lebanese didn't want any trouble with Arafat, either.

You can attack Israel across the border, they said, but follow a few simple rules to ensure that Israel does not retaliate against Lebanon. Above all, don't interfere in Lebanese politics.

Once again, Arafat alienated his hosts. His men bullied the Lebanese and treated them like subjects, turning the south into a PLO fiefdom. Swaggering through the streets, the PLO forces acted as if they owned Beirut, too.

Arafat's maneuvers helped destabilize Lebanese politics and contributed to the civil war. In part, the Lebanese called in the Syrian army to save them from Arafat.

Then some of them made a deal with Israel in 1982. The PLO forces ran from the IDF. And Lebanon's leaders demanded that he leave the country.

Arafat proclaimed he would fight to the end and be a martyr. Instead, he sailed off to Tunisia.

True, he did not get into a direct confrontation with his Tunisian hosts. But he and his entourage became very unpopular there, too. He violated a pledge that he would not run terrorist operations directly from Tunisian soil. The Tunisians were angry but too weak to do anything.

But this time the ones Arafat antagonized were the Saudis and the Kuwaitis. By supporting Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein in his 1990 invasion of Kuwait, Arafat directly threatened the sovereignty and survival of two countries that had bankrolled him over the years.

They cut off the money, driving the PLO toward bankruptcy. Because of Arafat, tens of thousands of Palestinians were expelled as traitors from Kuwait and other Persian Gulf monarchies.

The PLO was at its lowest point. If Israel or the US had wanted – had they been evil, as Arafat and his supporters claimed – they would have destroyed him and his movement. But, seeking real peace, they thought Arafat's weakness would make him more moderate.

They took him at his word. OK, they said, you want a state; let's make a deal that can satisfy everyone's needs and aspirations. Ironically, Arafat treated Israel much the same as he treated the Arabs. In 2000 he rejected a compromise peace and launched a war of terrorism. Once again, he fomented anarchy, violence, and extremism.

This time, though, he was confined rather than expelled. Israel said he could come and go from his besieged Ramallah headquarters if he stopped the terrorism he was inciting and financing. Once again Arafat evaded his responsibilities.

His illness bought him a ticket to Paris, funded by French taxpayers, with an unconditional promise that he could return. Now he is in Europe. No one in the Middle East will take him. He is welcome only where people don't understand his lifetime behavior pattern.

While ill-informed politicians, would-be humanitarians, and romantic voyeurs of revolution are always willing to give him another chance, Arafat has run out of places to befoul. Strike four, you're out!

If the deity is cognizant of what is good for the future of the Palestinian people – and the Israelis and just about everyone else – he will never come back.

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