Recently, Israeli Finance Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said that Yasser Arafat should be treated like Saddam Hussein. Speaking in Jerusalem, Netanyahu said the guiding principle of both Israel, in its war against Palestinian terror, and the United States in its campaign against Iraq, is "no tolerance for terror and no tolerance for regimes that spawn terror."
Netanyahu stated, "I think what applies in Iraq should apply here as well. What applies in Iraq, that a brutal terrorist should be removed and democratization should be introduced, should be applied in the Palestinian dictatorship as well." Netanyahu said that in order to begin a process of democratization in regimes that foster terrorism, as was done in Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan; the existing terror-supporting regimes must be totally defeated and tossed out. It does no good he said to replace one dictator with another.
But in response to Netanyahu's earlier call for Arafat's expulsion in November 2002, Arafat retorted, "No one has the right to deport me from my homeland." I take issue with the last two words, 'my homeland'. As I recall, his 'official biography' (www.nobel.se/peace/laureates/1994/arafat-bio.htm) states he was born in Cairo, so he's an Egyptian like his father, not a 'Palestinian'. But, on the first part of his statement I couldn't agree with him more.
I ask you, what's all the debate in Israel about expelling or not expelling Arafat? Have we all gone mad? How will expelling him solve the problem (him)?
As I recall, Arafat was in 'exile' till 1993, where he was able to lead a terrorist organization and plan attacks on Jews, Israelis, and others, around the world and in Israel. Don't forget, he managed to ally himself with Syria and its occupation of Lebanon (which continues), creating a 'PLO state' with-in a state, brutalizing Lebanese along the way. He also allied himself with Saddam Hussein in the first Gulf War of 1991. Oh yes, he also managed to hobnob with the rich, famous, and powerful, lobbying for a 'Palestinian State' in his spare time. Can someone tell me what expelling Arafat will accomplish other than turning him into a 'victim' again? A roll he plays so well.
The debate shouldn't be about expelling or not expelling Arafat, either way we're still stuck with his 'leadership' of the Palestinians. Do you really think they're going to pick a new leader? And who would that be, Arafat's second-in-command Mohammed Abbas? Abbas is the head of the Iraqi-supported Palestine Liberation Front faction of the PLO. In 1968, Abbas was in Vietnam fighting alongside the Viet Cong against US forces and learning guerrilla tactics. In 1985 he was directing the take-over of the Achille Lauro. The real debate that has yet to begin in earnest, in Israel, is over trying Yasser Arafat for crimes against humanity, i.e. the Jewish People, Lebanese, Americans, and others.
The only decent question for decent people to debate, is whether he should receive life in prison, or the death penalty?
I believe an Eichmann-like War Crimes Trial in Israel, would educate a generation of Israelis and others world-wide who might still think of Arafat as a 'peacenik' (he won the Nobel Peace Prize didn't he?), about his murderous criminal activities. It would teach the world how to deal lawfully with terrorism and how not to appease it. Some might say that Arafat, as head of state is immune to prosecution. Well, guess what? He's not the head of any state yet!
Let's say for the sake of argument, that since 1993 as head of the Palestinian Authority Arafat wanted peace with Israel, and he just hasn't been able to stop those nasty Hamas, Islamic Jihad, PFLP, Tanzim, and Al-Aksa Brigade terrorists (as head of Fatah, he's officially the leader of the last two groups). Do you really believe that? Well, if so, why should Israel negotiate with him? Either he's in charge, in which case he is culpable for their crimes, or he's not in charge in which case Israel should start discussing who is and talk to them. But if he's not responsible for all those bombings and killings since returning in 1993, on what could Israel try him?
How about for starters, trying him for his involvement in the murder of Americans. For example, Cleo Noel and George Curtis Moore, the two US diplomats killed in Khartoum, Sudan in 1973. He's already admitted publicly to it years ago. And throwing wheel chair bound Leon Klinghoffer off the Italian cruise liner Achille Lauro, at high sea, in 1985. Arafat's henchmen killed them and many more over the years. The world might not care much about Israelis and Jews killed around the world from the 1960's till 1993 (when his 'immunity' began), but Americans care about the murder of their citizens overseas. And, don't forget the PLO's murderous activities in Lebanon. Arafat should be tried for the massacres in Damour, Beit Mullat and elsewhere also (see Mordechai Nissan's "The Palestinian Strategy for Destroying Lebanon and Israel" at FreeLebanon.org). Lebanese also want to see justice done.
Let me tell you, Israel should care about those Jews and Israelis killed even if others don't, and try him for those crimes as well. Bringing their murderer's leader to justice would teach the world a moral lesson for years to come.
In most democracies, there is no statute of limitations on the crime of murder, or accomplice to murder. Not long ago, a Connecticut court found the nephew of the late Ethel Kennedy (RFK's widow); guilty of a murder he committed in 1975 at the age of 15, and gave him 20 years to life, in prison. Connections to the Kennedy family didn't seem to help him escape justice. Why should Arafat, a serial murderer of the worst kind, be allowed to escape justice, just because he's become a 'respectable politician'?
Many of you may now raise the issue of 'world outcry'. Well, Israel seemed to deal with it during the Eichmann trial in 1961 and the Demaniuk trial during the 1980's (for their Nazi past), and the crimes of massacre at Jenin. One lesson to learn is no matter how much the world condemns Israel; in 2 weeks there are new headlines. Israel only needs the political strength to stand up for itself. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and others, showed a glimmer of that during Operation Defensive Shield in April 2002, by resisting the UN desire to investigate the 'Jenin Massacre'. Which turned out to be nothing but PLO propaganda, again.
Besides, fighting terrorism is in, and a strong Israel leading the way, would return its image that others looked up to in the past. "We don't compromise with terrorists," was a phrase that previously earned Israel respect in many quarters. It also set an example that others followed. Israel in the full light of day, through a legitimate judicial process, could try and when found guilty, execute a mass murderer of innocent men, women, children, and babies.
Although I don't feel the Fourth Geneva Convention applies to Judea, Samaria (the West Bank), and Gaza. There is an interesting point to think about for those who prefer expelling Arafat. While Part 3, Section 3, Article 49 forbids individual or mass transfers from occupied territories (and is likely to raise many cries worldwide that we are violating International Law). Articles 64, 66, 67, and 68 (of Section 3), allow the Occupying Power to bring to trial and impose the death penalty on a person guilty of espionage, serious acts of sabotage against the military installations of the Occupying Power, or of intentional offences which have caused the death of one or more persons. Israel would be on firmer legal ground trying Arafat (and any others), than expelling him.
Which leads to the last issue many might bring up. What's after Arafat? Won't Hamas or who knows what take over? Well friends, with over 700 killed and 1,000's injured since Arafat started the 'Oslo War' in September 2001, tell me how it could get worse. Either Arafat is in charge and encouraging the terror, or he's in charge but not doing anything to stop the murder, or he's not really in charge and can't control the terrorist groups. Either way he's politically irrelevant, as the Israeli government has declared. Israel just needs to follow through with the next logical step. Try and execute him! As I said earlier, educationally, he's a great opportunity waiting for us to take.
What many need to begin to understand is that behind Arafat, the PA and its leaders are Sheikh Yassin, Hamas, Islamic Jihad, al-Qaeda and Hizbollah operatives, and others. Maybe Israel should start thinking of negotiating with Sheikh Yassin already. Or, maybe it has other ways to deal with them also.
You see Netanyahu only got it partially right. When referring to the defeat of Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan, Netanyahu (and those in America who have called for Saddam Hussein's expulsion) forget that those wartime leaders weren't 'exiled'; they were tried for war crimes. Many were hung!
At a recent Arab League meeting, the United Arab Emirates' President called on Saddam to leave Iraq in exchange for 'immunity' from prosecution. Why should Yasser Arafat and Saddam Hussein, with personal fortunes estimated by Forbes, at $300 million and $2 billion respectively, be sent into 'exile', immune from prosecution? They should be brought to justice for their crimes. And so should other dictators in the region, such as Bashar Assad of Syria.
Recently, victims of Arafat's terror have filed claims against him and the Palestinian Authority, with courts in Belgium, in Paris, and in Tel Aviv. But why should it be up to individuals to chase after him? Why doesn't the Israeli government itself take the lead? The real debate over what to do with Yasser Arafat hasn't yet begun in Israel. The only decent question for decent people to debate is, whether he should receive life in prison, or the death penalty? If there's a referendum, you know my vote.
Ariel Natan Pasko is an independent analyst & consultant. He has a Master's Degree in International Relations & Policy Analysis. His articles appear regularly on numerous news/views and think-tank websites, in newspapers, and can be read at: www.geocities.com/ariel_natan_pasko