The Clinton administration had another great idea recently. U.S. deputy special Mideast envoy Aaron Miller got a brainstorm. To demonstrate what a nice, sensitive human being he is, why not convince Yasser Arafat to visit Washington’s Holocaust Memorial Museum when he’s in town this week?
It would be groundbreaking, they thought. It would be symbolic. It would show the world that Arafat is truly a peacemaker, not a Jew-hater.
The reality is, it would be a charade. It would be a publicity stunt. It would be symbolism, all right — symbolism over substance.
I’m glad the museum director Walter Reich had the good sense to inform Arafat that he was no more welcome in the facility than any other person — no special security provisions, no special protocol. He could wait on line like everyone else. Of course, Arafat, who thinks he’s a head of state, would never allow himself to be treated like just anybody. (Unfortunately, now he’s backtracking.)
His initial reaction was right. Arafat isn’t just anybody. He is a cunning politician who is selling himself to the world as a freedom fighter, when, in fact, he bears some striking resemblances to the very people responsible for the Holocaust.
That’s a strong statement, I know. But look at the facts. Even after entering the peace process with Israel — even after signing the Oslo Accords — Arafat has continued making speeches, usually in Arabic, praising terrorists and encouraging them to attack innocent Jewish civilians in Israel.
While distancing himself from the terrorists of Hamas for the benefit of the western media, he praises them as heroes before Arab audiences. When the Hamas bomb-maker Yihya Ayyash, responsible for the deaths of 70 Israelis and the wounding of 340, was assassinated, he was given an official Palestine Liberation Organization funeral, including a 21-gun salute. Arafat’s Palestinian Authority even named a public square in Jericho after him.
In a speech to the Islamic Women’s Association in Gaza, Arafat praised Dalal Magribi, who led the 1978 Coastal Road massacre of 37 Israeli bus passengers, and Abir Wahaydi, who murdered an Israeli civilian in 1991, as “heroes” and “stars.” Israelis recall that when one of the desperate passengers tried to save her infant by throwing him from the burning bus, it was Magribi who grabbed the child and hurled him back into the flames.
In another speech Aug. 6, 1996, Arafat publicly called Israel a “demon” that “swallows up everything, including the peace process.” He called on Arabs to fight against Israel using “all means” at their disposal.
Only eight months after signing a peace treaty with Yitzhak Rabin, Arafat told Muslims in South Africa “to come and to fight and to start the jihad to liberate Jerusalem. … We are in need of you as Muslims, as warriors of jihad.”
In Stockholm, after signing Oslo II, he promised to “make life unbearable for Jews (so that) Jews won’t want to live among us Arabs.”
Arafat also defended a Palestinian Arab periodical that characterized Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as “more Nazi than Hitler.”
Arafat is no different than the more blatant terrorists of Hamas. He may negotiate with the Israelis while the Hamas terrorists would not. But that is part of a strategy as old as Hegel and Marx. It’s the old dialectic — the good cop, bad cop routine. In the end, these so-called rivals are on the same team. They share a common goal — the elimination of the state of Israel and its Jewish inhabitants. Nothing short of that goal will ever please either brand of terrorist.
Is it any wonder that Israelis, in particular, and Jews, in general, would be offended — even sickened — by the sight of Arafat paying an official visit to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum? I’m an Arab-American and it turns my stomach to think about it.
So, you have to wonder how their minds work over there at Foggy Bottom. If this is their idea of how to make peace, the Middle East is in a lot of trouble.