Yasser Arafat, whose real name is Muhammad Abdel-Raouf Qudwa al-Husseini, and was also known as Abu Amar, is dead. He died in Paris of an undisclosed illness. Arafat was born on August 24, 1929 in Cairo, Egypt.
Arafat was always great at rewriting history, and not just his own. When Israel turned Bethlehem over to him as part of the Camp David Accords, he sought to change its history. He referred to it as the Muslim town where the “first Palestinian Christian,” Jesus Christ, was born. I debated Palestinian spokeswoman Hanan Ashrawi over this myth at the 1991 Middle East Peace Conference in Madrid and even she – a supposedly educated woman – insisted it was a myth that Jesus was born a Jew.
Arafat came on the world scene as a full-fledged terrorist in 1958, when he founded the terrorist organization Fatah. Six years later, the Arab League founded the Palestine Liberation Organization, bringing together a number of Palestinian terrorist organizations. At the fifth meeting of the Palestine National Council in February 1969, Fatah gained control of the majority of seats and has remained in control ever since.
It was after the Arabs’ disastrous defeat after attacking Israel once again in 1967 that they drew up a document called the Palestine National Covenant. Despite US insistence, the PLO Covenant still does not recognize Israel’s right to exist.
Arafat made a dramatic appearance at the United Nations in 1974, when he addressed the General Assembly wearing his familiar military-style uniform, carrying an olive branch and with a pistol on his hip. In his infamous speech, the arch terrorist proclaimed: “Don’t let this olive branch drop to the ground.”
He attempted to address the UN again in 1988, but then-president Ronald Reagan would not give him a visa. Never failing to go out of its way to accommodate terrorists bent on destroying Israel, the UN convened a special session in Geneva for him. It was there that Arafat tried to achieve legitimacy by promising to renounce terrorism in exchange for the support of the United States. But he failed to do so in so many words, even during a specially convened press conference when I challenged him to renounce the PLO Covenant’s negation of Israel. To this day, Arafat has not permitted the schoolbooks issued by the Palestinian Authority to contain a map of Israel, whose territory is referred to as “Palestine.”
Arafat never considered himself a terrorist, but a “freedom fighter,” despite the fact that the people his minions attacked and murdered over the past several decades were innocent Jewish civilians, many of them children. Although he liked to portray himself as a kind of “Palestinian George Washington,” he was actually the inspiration for Osama bin Laden, who was 12 years old when Arafat took over the PLO.
Without question Arafat is the godfather of world terrorism, from the first airplane hijackings he inspired in the 1960s to the hundreds of suicide bombings his agents have carried out in Israel to this day. Many believe that Osama bin Laden developed his terrorist network, al-Qaida (The Base), by patterning it after Arafat’s Fatah cells, which have been murdering people throughout the world for 40 years.
Arafat’s PLO at first limited its terrorist attacks to Israel, but soon began attacking Israeli targets throughout the world, most infamously at the Munich Olympics in 1972. The PLO has perfected the art of using terror as a political tool, ultimately opening offices in more than 70 capitals around the world.
Arafat was a life-long anti-Semite who kept an Arabic translation of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion – Hitler’s favorite book – on his desk. He was one of the first people to endorse Mel Gibson’s movie, The Passion of the Christ, insisting it was not anti-Semitic. Arafat, who watched the film on a small TV set in his Ramallah office, said the movie was "historic and impressive."
After Arafat viewed the film, a top aide compared Jesus's pain during the Crucifixion to the suffering of the Palestinians in the conflict with Israel. Nabil Abu Rudeineh, one of Arafat's closest advisers, watched the film along with Arafat and a group of American and European Christians and Palestinian Muslim clerics.
"The Palestinians are still daily being exposed to the kind of pain Jesus was exposed to during his Crucifixion," Abu Rudeineh said in a statement.
The Palestinian Authority’s Mufti of Jerusalem, Ikrema Sabri, said Friday it was Arafat's wish to be buried in Jerusalem, the city he sought as the capital of an independent state. Arafat wished to be laid to rest on Jerusalem’s Temple Mount, the third holiest site in the world to Muslims, but the holiest site to Jews. This is not likely to happen, as Israeli Justice Minister Yosef Lapid told the Associated Press: “Jerusalem is the city where Jewish kings are buried, not Arab terrorists.”
It is not known whether Arafat has a will, but his personal wealth – skimmed over the years from international aid to his suffering people – was estimated by Israeli Military Intelligence in 2002 at $1.3 billion. Arafat, the so-called “George Washington of the Palestinians,” became a billionaire by stealing money given for the humanitarian help of his people.
In response to the news about Arafat, White House spokesman Scott McClellan said: “We have a new opportunity before us to move forward on the Road Map and get to the two-state vision that the president outlined. We will remain actively engaged working with the parties to accomplish that goal."
But despite this desire to restart the peace process between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, Arafat's funeral places the Bush administration in a dilemma. The Arab League and UN will organize a state funeral in Cairo. If President George W. Bush – who never permitted Arafat to meet with him, because he rightly considered him a terrorist – sends a representative, he will be violating his own doctrine on terrorism, showing respect for an enemy of the United States.
There are two very important questions whose answers will speak volumes concerning the Bush doctrine on terrorism. What position will the United States take on Arafat's desire to be buried in Jerusalem? And, will the US send a key diplomat or even a former president, such as Jimmy Carter, to the state funeral in Cairo?
As he begins his second term, Bush will no doubt be pressured by bigots throughout the world to send a diplomatic delegation to Arafat’s funeral. He should just say that, even though Arafat succeeded during his lifetime in proving to the world that crime pays, he must not be allowed to do so after his death.
(Mike Evans is the author of the New York Times bestseller, The American Prophecies, and the founder of America’s largest Christian coalition, the Jerusalem Prayer Team.)
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