Avnery writes as a Jew who was not only an eye-witness to Arafat’s entire career but was also his personal friend. He understood and admired the man, and this comes out clearly in the article below.
What is most confronting, in my view, in Avnery’s analysis, is why Arafat was killed. Why kill this Palestinian leader after he had renounced violence and seemed to be a genuine partner for peace with Israel? Avnery suggests that this was exactly why he was killed! The Israeli government of the day had no desire for peace, and so Arafat, who seemed to make peace look inevitable, was an impediment!
Sadly, the current Israeli government seems no more committed to peace than its predecessors. Dave
FOR ME, there was no surprise. From the very first day, I was convinced that Yasser Arafat had been poisoned by Ariel Sharon. I even wrote about it several times.
It was a simple logical conclusion.
First, a thorough medical examination in the French military hospital where he died did not find any cause for his sudden collapse and death. No traces of any life-threatening disease were found.
The rumors distributed by the Israeli propaganda machine that Arafat had AIDS were blatant lies. They were a continuation of the rumors spread by the same machine that he was gay – all part of the relentless demonization of the Palestinian leader, which went on daily for decades.
When there is no obvious cause of death, there must be a less obvious one.
Second, we know by now that several secret services possess poisons that leave no routinely detectable trace. These include the CIA, the Russian FSB (successor of the KGB), and the Mossad.
Third, opportunities were plentiful. Arafat’s security arrangements were decidedly lax. He would embrace perfect strangers who presented themselves as sympathizers of the Palestinian cause and often seated them next to himself at meals.
Fourth, there were plenty of people who aimed at killing him and had the means to do so. The most obvious one was our prime minister, Ariel Sharon. He had even talked about Arafat having “no insurance policy” in 2004.
WHAT WAS previously a logical probability has now become a certainty.
An examination of his belongings commissioned by Aljazeera TV and conducted by a highly respected Swiss scientific institute has confirmed that Arafat was poisoned with Polonium, a deadly radioactive substance that avoids detection unless one specifically looks for it.
Two years after Arafat’s death, the Russian dissident and former KGB/FSB officer Alexander Litvinenko was murdered in London by Russian agents using this poison. The cause was discovered by his doctors by accident. It took him three weeks to die.
Closer to home, in Amman, Hamas leader Khaled Mash’al was almost killed in 1997 by the Mossad, on orders of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. The means was a poison that kills within days after coming into contact with the skin. The assassination was bungled and the victim’s life was saved when the Mossad was compelled, after an ultimatum from King Hussein, to provide an antidote in time.
If Arafat’s widow, Suha, succeeds in getting his body exhumed from the mausoleum in the Mukata’a in Ramallah, where it has become a national symbol, the poison will undoubtably be found in his body.
ARAFAT’S LACK of proper security arrangements always astonished me. Israeli Prime Ministers are tenfold better protected.
I remonstrated with him several times. He shrugged it off. In this respect, he was a fatalist. After his life was miraculously preserved when his airplane made a crash landing in the Libyan Desert and the people around him were killed, he was convinced that Allah was protecting him.
(Though the head of a secular movement with a clear secular program, he himself was an observant Sunni Muslim, praying at the proper times and abstaining from alcohol. He did not impose his piety on his assistants.)
Once he was interviewed in my presence in Ramallah. The journalists asked him if he expected to see the creation of the Palestinian state in his lifetime. His answer: “Both I and Uri Avnery will see it in our life.” He was quite sure of this.
ARIEL SHARON’S determination to kill Arafat was well known. Already during the siege of Beirut in Lebanon War I, it was no secret that agents were combing West Beirut for his whereabouts. To Sharon’s great frustration, they did not find him.
Even after Oslo, when Arafat came back to Palestine, Sharon did not let up. When he became Prime Minister, my fear for Arafat’s life became acute. When our army attacked Ramallah during “Operation Defensive Shield” they broke into Arafat’s compound (Mukata’a is Arabic for compound) and came within 10 meters of his rooms. I saw them with my own eyes.
Twice during the siege of many months my friends and I went to stay at the Mukata’a for several days to serve as a human shield. When Sharon was asked why he did not kill Arafat, he answered that the presence of Israelis there made it impossible.
However, I believe that this was only a pretext. It was the US that forbade it. The Americans feared, quite rightly, that an open assassination would cause the whole Arab and Muslim world to explode in anti-American fury. I cannot prove it, but I am sure that Sharon was told by Washington: “On no condition are you allowed to kill him in a way that can be traced to you. If you can do it without leaving a trace, go ahead.”
(Just as the US Secretary of State told Sharon in 1982 that on no condition was he allowed to attack Lebanon, unless there was a clear and internationally recognized provocation. Which was promptly provided.)
In an eerie coincidence, Sharon himself was felled by a stroke soon after Arafat’s death, and has lived in a coma ever since.)
THE DAY Aljazeera’s conclusions were published this week happened to be the 30th anniversary of my first meeting with Arafat, which for him was the first meeting with an Israeli.
It was at the height of the battle of Beirut. To get to him, I had to cross the lines of four belligerents – the Israeli army, the Christian Lebanese Phalange militia, the Lebanese army and the PLO forces.
I spoke with Arafat for two hours. There, in the middle of a war, when he could expect to find his death at any moment, we talked about Israeli-Palestinian peace, and even a federation of Israel and Palestine, perhaps to be joined by Jordan.
The meeting, which was announced by Arafat’s office, caused a worldwide sensation. My account of the conversation was published in several leading newspapers.
On my way home, I heard on the radio that four cabinet ministers were demanding that I be put on trial for treason. The government of Menachem Begin instructed the Attorney General to open a criminal investigation. However, after several weeks, the AG determined that I had not broken any law. (The law was duly changed soon afterwards.)
IN THE many meetings I held with Arafat since then, I became totally convinced that he was an effective and trustworthy partner for peace.
I slowly began to understand how this father of the modern Palestinian liberation movement, considered an arch-terrorist by Israel and the US, became the leader of the Palestinian peace effort. Few people in history have been privileged to lead two successive revolutions in their lifetime.
When Arafat started his work, Palestine had disappeared from the map and from world consciousness. By using the “armed struggle” (alias “terrorism”)’ he succeeded in putting Palestine back on the world’s agenda.
His change of orientation occurred right after the 1973 war. That war, it will be remembered, started with stunning Arab successes and ended with a rout of the Egyptian and Syrian armies. Arafat, an engineer by profession, drew the logical conclusion: if the Arabs could not win an armed confrontation even in such ideal circumstances, other means had to be found
His decision to start peace negotiations with Israel went totally against the grain of the Palestinian National Movement, which considered Israel as a foreign invader. It took Arafat a full 15 years to convince his own people to accept his line, using all his wiles, tactical deftness and powers of persuasion. In the 1988 meeting of the Palestinian parliament-in-exile, the National Council, his concept was adopted: a Palestinian state side-by-side with Israel in part of the country. This state, with its capital in East Jerusalem and its borders based on the Green Line has been, since then, the fixed and unchangeable goal; the legacy of Arafat to his successors.
Not by accident, my contacts with Arafat, first indirectly through his assistants and then directly, started at the same time: 1974. I helped him to establish contact with the Israeli leadership, and especially with Yitzhak Rabin. This led to the 1993 Oslo agreement – which was killed by the assassination of Rabin.
When asked if he had an Israeli friend, Arafat named me. This was based on his belief that I had risked my life when I went to see him in Beirut. On my part, I was grateful for his trust in me when he met me there, at a time when hundreds of Sharon’s agents were looking for him.
But beyond personal considerations, Arafat was the man who was able to make peace with Israel, willing to do so, and – more important – to get his people, including the Islamists, to accept it. This would have put an end to the settlement enterprise.
That’s why he was poisoned.
It takes someone of the wisdom of Uri Avnery – a great Jewish statesman and peace activist – to help us understand anti-Semitism, and to distinguish what is real from what is manufactured.
March 24, 2012
The Ghetto Within
RACIST HATE crimes are particularly ugly.
If the victims are children, they are even more so.
If they are committed by an Arab against Jewish children, they are also incredibly stupid.
This was demonstrated this week again.
IF INDEED an Arab al-Qaeda sympathizer is guilty of shooting three Jewish children and an adult in Toulouse, after killing three non-white French soldiers nearby, he caused not only extreme grief to their families, but also extreme harm to the Palestinian people, whose cause he claims to support.
The world-wide shock found its expression in a demonstration of solidarity with the French Jewish community, and indirectly with the State of Israel.
The French foreign minister flew to Jerusalem, where the Jewish victims were buried. President Nicolas Sarkozy, in the middle of the fight for his political life, appeared everywhere where an ounce of political capital could be extracted from the tragedy. So, even more shamelessly, did Binyamin Netanyahu.
Just when calls for boycotting Israel were heard in many places, this act reminded the world of the ravages of anti-Semitism. One had to be very brave to demand the boycott of the “Jewish State” at such a time. It is easy for advocates of Israel to recall the Nazi battle-cry “Kauft nicht bei Juden!” (“Don’t buy from Jews”).
Lately, Netanyahu has been mentioning the Holocaust in every speech he makes in which he calls for an attack on Iran. He prophesies a Second Holocaust if Iran’s nuclear installations are not bombed to smithereens. This has been criticized inside Israel as cynical exploitation of the Holocaust, but in the atmosphere created by the Toulouse outrage this criticism has been muted.
SOME MAY think that these responses are overreactions. After all, the outrage was committed by a single 24-year old deranged individual. The victims were not only Jews, but also Muslims. Has this act not been blown out of proportion?
Those who say so do not understand the background of the Jewish reaction.
Yeshayahu Leibowitz, an observant Jew, said years ago that the Jewish religion had practically died 200 years ago, and that the only thing that unites all Jews now is the Holocaust. There is much truth in this, but the Holocaust must be understood in this context as the culmination of centuries of persecution.
Almost every Jewish child around the world is brought up on the narrative of Jewish victimhood. “In every generation, they stand up to annihilate us,” says the sacred text that will be read in every Jewish home around the world in two weeks on Passover eve, “They”, as is well understood, are the “goyim”, all goyim.
Jews, according to our generally accepted narrative, have been persecuted everywhere, all the time, with few exceptions. Jews had to be ready to be attacked in every place at any moment. It is a continuous story of massacres, mass expulsions, the butchery of the Crusaders, the Spanish inquisition, the Russian and Ukrainian pogroms. The Holocaust was only one link in that chain, and probably not the last one.
In Jewish historiography, the story of victimhood doesn’t even start with European Christian Jew-hatred, but goes back to the (mythical) story of Israelite slavery in Egypt, the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem by the Babylonians and again by the Romans. A few weeks ago the jolly feast of Purim was celebrated, in memory of the Biblical (and mythical) story of the plan to annihilate all Jews in Persia, today’s Iran, which was foiled by a pretty and unscrupulous young woman named Esther. (In the end, it was the Jews who killed all their enemies, women and children included.)
The narrative of unending victimhood is so deeply embedded in the conscious and unconscious mind of every Jew, that the smallest incident triggers an orgy of self-pity that may seem quite out of proportion. Every Jew knows that we have to stand together against an antagonistic world, that the attack on one Jew is an attack against all, that a pogrom in far-away Kishinev must arouse the Jews of England, that an attack on Jews in Toulouse must arouse the Jews in Israel.
What the assassin of Toulouse has succeeded in doing by his disgusting act is to bind French – and world – Jewry even tighter to the State of Israel. Already these ties have become very close in the last few years. A large proportion of French Jews are immigrants from North Africa who chose to go to France instead of Israel, and are therefore fiercer Israeli nationalists then most Israelis. They invest money and buy houses in Israel. In the month of August, one hears more French than Hebrew on Tel Aviv’s sea shore. Now many of them may decide to come to Israel for good.
Like every anti-Semitic act, this one in Toulouse contributes to the strength of Israel, and especially to the strength of the Israeli anti-Arab right.
I BELIEVE that the Palestinian Prime Minister, Salam Fayad, was quite sincere when he condemned the outrage, and especially the declaration attributed to the assassin, that he wanted to avenge the death of children in Gaza. No one should utter the name of Palestine when carrying out such a dastardly act, he said.
I was reminded of my late friend, Issam Sartawi, the Palestinian “terrorist” who became an outstanding peace activist and was murdered for it. He once told me that a French anti-Semitic leader came to his office in Paris and offered an alliance. “I threw him out,” he told me, “I know that the anti-Semites are the greatest enemies of the Palestinian people”
As has been pointed out many times, modern Zionism is the step-daughter of modern European anti-Semitism. Indeed, the name “Zionism” was invented only a few years after the term “anti-Semitism” was coined by a German ideologue.
Without anti-Semitism, which engulfed Europe from the “Black Hundreds” in Czarist Russia to the Dreyfus affair in republican France, Jews would have yearned for Zion comfortably for another 2000 years. It was anti-Semitism, with the threat of dreadful things to come, that drove them out and lent credibility to the idea that Jews must have a state of their own, where they would be masters of their own fate.
The original Zionists did not intend to build a state that would be a kind of General Staff for World Jewry. Indeed, they thought that there would be no World Jewry. In their vision, all the Jews would congregate in Palestine, and the Jewish Diaspora would disappear. That’s what Theodor Herzl wrote, and that’s what David Ben-Gurion and Vladimir Jabotinsky believed.
If they had had their way, there would have been no anti-Semitic murders in Toulouse, because there would have been no Jews in Toulouse.
Ben Gurion was narrowly restrained from telling American Jewish Zionists what he thought of them. He held them in utter contempt. A Zionist, he believed, had no business to be anywhere but in Zion. If he had listened to Binyamin Netanyahu sucking up to the thousands of Jewish “leaders” in the AIPAC conference, he would have thrown up. And understandably, because these Jews, who were clapping and jumping up and down like mad, egging Netanyahu on to start a disastrous war against Iran, then went back to their comfortable homes and lucrative occupations in America.
Their English-speaking children attend colleges and dream about future riches while their contemporaries in Israel go to the army and worry about what would happen to their defenseless families if the promised war with Iran really comes about. How not to vomit?
BY THE way, the symbiosis between American politicians and the Zionist lobby produced another weird curiosity this week. The US Congress unanimously adopted a law that makes it easy for Israelis to immigrate to the US for good. All we have to do now is to buy a small business in America – say a little delicatessen shop in a corner of Brooklyn, for half the price of an apartment in Jerusalem – to automatically become American residents, and eventually citizens.
Can one imagine a more anti-Zionist act than this plot to empty Israel? All out of love for Israel and Jewish votes?
The Israeli media applauded, of course, this astounding new evidence of American friendship for Israel.
So here we have a murderous anti-Semite in Toulouse driving the Jews towards Israel, and a cravenly Zionist US Congress enticing the Israelis back into “exile”.
WHEN ISRAEL was founded, we thought that that was the end of Jewish victimhood, and especially of the mentality of Jewish victimhood.
Here we were, Hebrews of a new kind, able to defend ourselves, with all the strength of a sovereign state.
Cry-baby victimhood belonged to the despised and detested Diaspora, to the dispersed and defenseless Jewish communities.
But victimhood has come back with a vengeance, both as an all-purpose political ploy and as a mental attitude. The Iranian nukes, real or imagined, give it a big boost. As long as Israel is in a state of fear, the Second Holocaust mentality will not loosen its grip.
From day to day, Israel becomes more Jewish and less Israeli. As has been said, it is easier to get the Jews out of the ghetto than to get the ghetto out of the Jews. Especially in a permanent war.
So in the end we come to the same conclusion as in all other matters: Peace is the Answer.
Read more of Avnery’s wisdom on the Gush-Shalom website