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Jewish World Review May 13, 2002 /2 Sivan, 5762

Jonathan Tobin

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Does the truth even matter?

Why does the world ignore proof of Saudi and Arafat links to terror? | When I visited a class of high school students recently, one of them asked me a rather pointed question.

"Is there such a thing as a story that is objectively the truth," he inquired.

"The obituaries," I replied.

The answer got a laugh, but he deserved a more in-depth answer than the limited time permitted.

Indeed, observing the diplomatic minuet currently being danced between Israel, the United States and our principal Arab "ally," Saudi Arabia, I can’t help but think about how little impact that student’s principle concern — the quest for truth — is having on American foreign policy these days.

Case in point is the proof presented by Israel of Palestinian Authority leader Yasser Arafat’s direct involvement in terrorism.

Of course, those who are surprised by these revelations can go directly to the back of the class.

Arafat has always been a terrorist.

His Palestine Liberation Organization — founded in 1964 (three years before the "occupation" that supposedly provided the pretext for anti-Israel terrorism) — had terror as its raison d’être from its first day. He pioneered the hijacking of planes and the deliberate targeting of innocent civilians, especially women and children.

But once he signed the Oslo peace accords in 1993, all that was supposedly in the past. Since that day, Arafat has been treated like a statesman by the world press.

The following 81/2 years provided plenty of reasons to question that status, but nothing seems to have shaken that mindset on the part of most of the world’s diplomatic and press corps.

But unlike some of its recent predecessors, the current government of Israel has had the bad manners to compile a dossier of damning evidence that shows Palestinian terrorism is not the work of a few extremists, as we have been told.


Instead, the systematic terror campaign that has taken the lives of hundreds of Israelis in the last 19 months can be traced directly back to Yasser Arafat. He is not just the one who has incited violence with hateful speech or fomented it by encouraging "jihad" and mourning the loss of "martyrs" who murdered Israelis.

The vast store of documents uncovered by Israel in the course of its recent sweep of terrorist offices in the territories show that Arafat is also the paymaster and coordinator of terrorism.

Unfortunately, the truth is also considered irrelevant when it comes to our Saudi "allies." The same treasure trove of Palestinian records revealed that the Saudi royal family and government has been funneling millions of dollars to the terrorist infrastructure, specifically funding the families of suicide bombers, whom the Saudis prefer to call "martyrs."

This evidence is also ignored by Washington, which has deluded itself into imagining that it can enlist the funders of terrorism as their allies in a war against its perpetrators.

The documents also show that the Palestinian Authority, like the Saudis, is directly linked with the Islamic fundamentalist groups — Hamas and Islamic Jihad — that Western leaders have been entreating Arafat to suppress. The P.A. is itself an infrastructure of terror whose full resources were directed toward terror.

But Washington’s response to this air-tight case against Arafat has been a shrug and a yawn.

A "senior American official" quoted in The New York Times on May 5 said that he didn’t know quite what to make of the evidence presented by Israel. Even if it was true, and they conceded that "some of it" was, they were unimpressed.

"At the end of the day, Israel cannot choose the Palestinians leaders, and it must deal with the Palestinian Authority."

While the first part of that statement is undeniably true, the second doesn’t necessarily follow.

That is because if the P.A. is dedicated to terrorism — and a raft of incidents, such as the Karine A arms-smuggling ship and nine years worth of terrorism, do objectively prove this — then what will such dealings with the P.A. accomplish?

After all, hadn’t Arafat renounced terror every time he signed a peace agreement with Israel. But as Israeli concessions were transformed into more power for him, his violations of the ban on terror only grew more and more brazen.

Every time he was caught in these lies, he was rewarded with more pressure from the international community on Israel, not him. Everything that has happened since 1993 has convinced him that terror pays handsomely.


What motivates this international indifference to the truth about Arafat? An inflammatory cartoon by the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Tony Auth on May 7 goes along way toward providing an explanation.

Auth portrayed bloated Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon complaining to President Bush that "You don’t have to negotiate with the terrorist bin Laden, how come I have to negotiate with this skunk? as he gestures toward Arafat, who is literally drawn as an odiferous skunk. Auth has Bush reply, "For starters, his cause is just."

Auth (who will, no doubt, get complaints from Arab readers who will object to Arafat being shown as a smelly animal) is apparently under the impression that the goal of Arafat’s terror is an appropriate, even a "just" cause that rationalizes his vile behavior. Will rewarding him with concessions that the cartoonist and the "senior" U.S. official think will satisfy him would create a more just world?

To understand this mindset is to reveal the malevolence of those who tell us Arafat’s criminal behavior is irrelevant.

Because if the original Oslo agreements and Ehud Barak’s offer of a state comprising virtually all of the territory Israel gained in 1967 didn’t satisfy Arafat or deter him from terror, then the inescapable conclusion is that his goal is the elimination of the Jewish state, no matter how constricted its borders might be.

Thus, Israel’s greatest problem may not be in convincing the world to see Arafat as a terrorist but in asking it to think seriously about what his goals really are, whether he pursues them fair means or foul.

Ignoring the truth about Arafat isn’t just a diplomatic courtesy. It is a statement that murder of Jews, like the bad smell emanating from Auth’s cartoon Arafat, is nothing more than international bad manners — and no crime.

For the "senior officials" patrolling the corridors of the State Department and the White House — not to mention the United Nations — giving Arafat a "Get Out of Jail Free Card" in spite of the Jewish blood that is plainly visible on his hands is just the business of statecraft as they try to eliminate an irritant to their plans for war on Iraq.

But Americans should realize that the cost of this madness won’t be born by Israelis alone.

As momentum for the next round of "peace" negotiations builds, we are increasingly told that American peacekeeping troops, or "monitors," will be necessary to seal the deal. In the future, it may well be Americans whose lives will be forfeited as Arafat and his criminal band violate their next treaty. Nor can we be sure that future Palestinian or Saudi "martyrs" won’t again target American cities as they push us toward new rounds of appeasement.

As I should have told my young friend, the truth is more than merely an aesthetic value. Sometimes, ignoring it requires us to pay a very high price. Although it will be no consolation to Arafat’s future victims, let it not be said that we weren’t warned.

JWR contributor Jonathan S. Tobin is executive editor of the Philadelphia Jewish Exponent. Let him know what you think by clicking here.

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