Confined to two rooms in his Ramallah compound by Israeli tanks, Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat has attempted to get his message out via several interviews with Arab media representatives.

The Middle East Media Research Institute, or MEMRI, an independent, non-profit organization that translates and analyzes the media of the Middle East, distributed English excerpts from Arafat’s interviews.

Arafat discussed martyrdom with Al-Jazeera TV.

“They decided to take me as a prisoner, a deportee, or to kill me. No. I say to them [that I will be] a martyr, a martyr, a martyr, and a martyr,” Arafat said. “Allah, give me martyrdom in … [Jerusalem], the place from which the Prophet Muhammad ascended to the heavens and the place our lord Jesus was born. … I may be martyred, but certainly one of our boys or one of our girls will wave the flag of Palestine over the walls of Jerusalem, over the minarets of Jerusalem, and over the churches of Jerusalem. … This is the path I have chosen. … Allah, give me martyrdom. …”

In the interview, Arafat was adamantly opposed to surrender.

“Let those far and near understand: None among the Palestinian people or the Arab nation will be willing to bow and surrender. But we ask Allah to grant us martyrdom, to grant us martyrdom. To Jerusalem we march – martyrs by the millions. To Jerusalem we march – martyrs by the millions. To Jerusalem we march – martyrs by the millions. To Jerusalem we march – martyrs by the millions.”

The Palestinian leader also portrayed his people as the defenders of the Holy Land.

“This is a call to the Arab and Islamic nations and to all the Christians in the world,” he said. “This is the sacred land called in the West ‘Terra Sancta,’ Holy Land. We defend these holy places. …

“We said to the Americans: You must act. Where are you going? Don’t you know this will shake the Middle East? …”


Arafat responded to a reporter’s question about Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s comment that Ramallah had become a den of terrorism.

“Isn’t he [Sharon] a den of terrorism?” Arafat shot back. “The occupation is not a den of terrorism? The F-15 and F-16 warplanes are not a den of terrorism? The tanks that place me under siege are not a den of terrorism? Bombing civilians is not a den of terrorism? Forty-seven thousand Palestinian martyrs and wounded in this intifada are not a den of terrorism? Destroying the institutions of the Palestinian people is not a den of terrorism? Destroying all the farms of the Palestinian people is not a den of terrorism? …”

The Al-Jazeera correspondent asked, “Is it possible that the Israeli forces will try to assassinate you?”

“They are more than welcome. I seek martyrdom,” Arafat said. “Allah, grant it to me. Am I better than that heroic youth Fares Odeh? We are seekers of martyrdom. We are all seekers of martyrdom. The entire Palestinian people is a seeker of martyrdom. …”

“[The current action in Ramallah] is a response to the Arab summit in Beirut … to Crown Prince Abdullah’s initiative. … This is an Israeli response to all the peace attempts because they do not want peace. They do not want peace! We must remember these things. These extremist elements murdered my partner Yitzhak Rabin. Why did they murder him? Because they do not want peace.

“They are the plunderers, the murderers, the real terrorists in the entire world, in the entire world. …”


Egyptian TV channel 5 also interviewed Arafat.

“… Don’t talk to me about terrorism in Kandahar; don’t talk to me about Taliban terrorism; and don’t talk to me about terrorism anywhere. The most important and most dangerous terrorism is the terrorism going on in the sacred land. …” he told the Egyptian television station.

The Arab reporter told Arafat, “Mr. President, we are following [events] with you and we see the Israeli tanks approaching. … We are with you in our hearts and souls and we pray for your safety and the safety of the Palestinian people.”

Arafat responded, “Man, don’t wish me safety! Pray for me to attain martyrdom! Is there anything better than being martyred on this holy land? We are all seekers of martyrdom. …”

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