The death of Yasser Arafat is about to be followed by his true legacy to the Palestinian people: chaos leading to civil war. This will be the unavoidable consequence of his years of misrule, during which he scorned the opportunity to create a Palestinian state alongside Israel by igniting a terrorist war, stole billions of dollars in international aid intended for his people, and inculcated an entire generation of Palestinian youth with so much hatred for Israel that hundreds of them became suicide bombers.
As early as March 1, 2004, the Washington Post reported, under the headline “Palestinian Authority Broke and in Disarray: Collapse is Real Possibility”:
The Palestinian Authority is broke, politically fractured, riddled with corruption, unable to provide security for its own people, and seemingly unwilling to crack down on terrorist attacks against Israel …
Three weeks ago, a gunfight erupted inside the Gaza City police headquarters between officers under Arafat’s appointed police chief and security forces aligned with former Palestinian security chief Muhammad Dahlan, now an Arafat rival. One police officer was killed and 11 others were wounded.
A week later, the Cox News Service reported that some Palestinian intellectuals and politicians were overlooking the usual scapegoat, Israel, and admitting they bear at least part of the responsibility for the situation. “People are reverting to tribal laws,” said Hassan Khreisheh, a Palestinian legislator. “This is not a good situation, because in civilized countries, all things should be carried out by courts, not by returning to families and revenge.”
“What has begun to be more visible is the beginning of the breakdown of law and order,” said Karen Abu Zayd, deputy commissioner general for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency in the Gaza Strip. “All the groups have their own militias, and they are very organized. It’s factions trying to exercise their powers.”
On Feb. 9, 2004, National Public Radio quoted several unnamed Palestinians on this point:
National security does not really exist in [Gaza], because the Authority is not really in charge of the order of the law here. There is a big increase in the level of the crimes like killing and stealing and raping and kidnapping …
I would say that the Palestinian Authority is also in trouble with the Palestinian people because of such incidents, because many people are being killed or kidnapped or robbed, you know, and we all are asking for security. We are all accusing the government of not doing anything.
One thing Arafat was doing was getting rich off of his people. He was ranked sixth on the Forbes list of the richest kings, queens and despots, with an estimated worth of at least $300 million. However, Jaweed al-Ghussein, a former PA finance minister, said in an interview that Arafat was “worth $3 billion to $5 billion when he quit in 1996.” The top leaders of the PLO are now fighting over this money; millions of which have been promised to Arafat’s widow, Suha, who until now has had to scrape along in Paris on a monthly budget of only $100,000.
In July, U.N. Middle East envoy Terje Roed-Larsen briefed the Security Council, as quoted by the Associated Press: “Clashes and showdowns between branches of Palestinian security forces are now common in the Gaza Strip, where Palestinian Authority legal authority is receding fast in the face of the mounting power of arms, money and intimidation. The perceived Palestinian Authority abdication of responsibility” has led many residents of Rafah in southern Gaza to take matters into their own hands, including establishing a checkpoint to prevent Palestinian officials from entering the city or crossing into Egypt.
This trend continued unabated through the summer, as Agence France Presse reported on Aug. 2: “Unprecedented chaos” is now spreading to the West Bank, after supporters of the Aqsa Martyrs Brigades torched the local offices of the Palestinian Authority security services in Jenin and the district governor over the weekend, after which some 5,000 demonstrators took to the streets in solidarity.
“PA Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei said he hopes West Bankers would prevent the chaos seen last month in Gaza from spreading to the West Bank: ‘If this chaos reaches the West Bank, then we will be on the verge of an unprecedented and unacceptable disaster.’”
Under Arafat’s virtual dictatorship, a 4-year-long intifada brought death and destruction to the region, leaving over a thousand Israelis murdered by terrorists and thousands of Palestinians killed in response. But while Israel as a stable democracy could withstand this onslaught, Arafat’s own people could only suffer its terrible consequences, led by the disintegration of Palestinian civil society.
Law and order has all but disappeared from Palestinian cities since the violence began four years ago. The subsequent reoccupation of much of the West Bank and Gaza Strip by Israel has led to a fragmentation of the Palestinian security forces. This power vacuum has been filled by numerous armed groups, from simple gangsters to terrorist affiliates of Arafat’s Fatah organization – some preying on Israelis and some battling fellow Palestinians for primacy.
Arafat was notoriously reluctant to concede any power, playing his rivals against one another – or simply eliminating them – and never prepared a successor. He left his people living in a virtual state of lawlessness due to the internal rifts he had cultivated. Rival security agencies, terrorist groups, and even some powerful clans have been clashing with one another in an as yet underground struggle for supremacy. Without Arafat to lay down the law, these groups will be free to attack each other as they must to survive, but this time the violence will be in the open and many innocents will suffer.
“Hundreds of Palestinians demonstrated in the north West Bank city of Tulkarm Monday [Oct. 18, 2004] to demand that the Palestinian Authority put an end to armed gangs roaming the streets and terrorizing the population,” the Jerusalem Post reported. “The protest came following a shooting attack on the home of Tulkarm Mayor Mahmoud Jallad and the killing of two young men by armed gangsters.”
The man being eulogized as the “father of his people” was really its abortionist.