Yasser Arafat has more blood on his hands – this time Muslim blood.

About six weeks ago, one of Arafat’s chief critics, Zohair Hamdan, the muktar of the Jerusalem neighborhood of Sur Bahir, was gunned down by would-be assassins who fired nine rounds, hitting the Arab peace crusader with five.

When Jerusalem’s Arab neighborhoods were scheduled to fall under Palestinian Authority control under the peace plan of former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, Hamdan protested, saying he would prefer to remain under Israeli sovereignty rather than Arafat’s.

Courageously, Hamdan did something that is without precedent in the world of Arab politics. He launched a petition campaign, collecting more than 10,000 signatures of Jerusalem Arabs opposing Arafat’s rule.

Understand the risks involved. Not only did Hamdan put his life on the line with that petition, every single one of those 10,000 signators did as well. That is the nature of the kind of no-opposition-tolerated “Palestinian politics” officially supported by the U.S. government in its continued embrace of Arafat.

Sure enough, immediately after the petition drive was completed, the Palestinian Authority began threatening Hamdan. His name was placed on the PA’s wanted list. Hamdan was declared an enemy on Hezbollah television. His effigy was placed on an electric pole by Marwan Barghouti, a leader of Arafat’s Fatah organization.

“I knew the risks, I took them into account, but I knew I was doing the right thing,” Hamdan later told an interviewer from the Jerusalem Post.

Hamdan didn’t back down a bit following the threats. He began visiting Israelis wounded in terrorist attacks and condemning violence on both sides. Last November, he led a delegation of Jerusalem muktars to Gilo to condemn the shooting in that Jewish neighborhood. Last January, he visited a 12-year-old Jewish boy wounded in a shooting attack in a Jerusalem suburb.

Then, at 5:45 p.m. Oct. 5, as Hamdan strolled in the courtyard of his home in southeastern Jerusalem, the nine shots rang out. Hit by five shots in the abdomen, shoulder and leg, Hamdan was able to call the police and ambulance and shout for help before collapsing.

Topping the suspect list in the attempted assassination is Arafat’s own Fatah organization.

It’s not the exception for Arafat to gun down political opponents in his own Muslim community. It’s the rule. This is how Arafat has remained the undisputed “leader of the Palestinian people” without the benefit of an election in the last 35 years.

Meanwhile, Hamdan says the attack has only strengthened his resolve to fight for peace and co-existence with the Jews.

In December, he plans to create a Muslim, Christian and Jewish forum against violence. He wants to direct a joint message opposing more bloodshed to Arafat.

“Any little boy can see through Arafat’s failed leadership,” Hamdan says. “It is in Arafat’s interest that the bloodshed continue, for without violence and bloodshed, he cannot survive.”

Let me suggest that Hamdan, not Arafat, is the kind of man with whom peace negotiations can be conducted in good faith. Why doesn’t the U.S. recognize this kind of enlightened opposition leadership? Why does Washington continue to place all of its bets on the broken-down horse named Arafat?

Hamdan says he believes Arafat’s grasp on power is more tenuous than the West understands. He believes he will soon fall from power due to internal Palestinian strife. And he believes that will represent Arafat’s just desserts.

“He has done nothing but bring bloodshed and death to his people,” he says of Arafat. “The Palestinians have had enough of him, but they are just afraid.”

It’s time for U.S. officials to stop lending credibility to murderers like Arafat and start searching for alternative leadership among the Arabs in Israel. It’s time for the U.S. to stop the unconscionable transfers of U.S. taxpayer wealth to this criminal – who, like some demented version of the Energizer bunny, just keeps on killing. It’s time for the U.S. to make good on its pledge to fight terrorism wherever it is found. It’s time to take that war right into Arafat’s home turf.

Often, I am asked what alternatives Israel and the U.S. have to negotiations with Arafat. You’ve just met one. His name is Zohair Hamdan.

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