In his press conference last Thursday, President Bush said people who don't believe in the applicability of democracy to the Arab world cannot really believe in a two-state solution to the Palestinian conflict with Israel. That is, as long as the Palestinians remain governed by terrorists, there is no way they will be willing to live at peace with Israel.
With Palestine Liberation Organization chieftain Yasser Arafat, the godfather of Islamic terrorism, now dead or dying in France, is there at last a real chance the Palestinians will achieve a democratic transformation that will enable peace to emerge?
In answering this question, we should take an example from one of Mr. Arafat's guiding lights: Adolf Hitler. Hitler's suicide in his bunker in Berlin in May 1945 was not what enabled Konrad Adenauer to lead a democratic West Germany. Adenauer could not have led, and certainly would never have been a democrat, if all he did was replace Hitler in May 1945. Before Adenauer was brought in to lead West Germany, aside from Hitler passing from the scene, the Nazi regime he created was militarily defeated and Nazi leaders — both political and military — were brought before war crimes tribunals.
Adenauer presided over a German democracy whose truncated borders were determined by the Allies; where Nazi propaganda was expunged from the schoolbooks; where Nazis were barred from positions of power and influence; and where Germans educators were made to teach their pupils the evil Germany had wrought in the war. Adenauer's ascension was only possible after the total destruction of the Nazi power apparatus.
The analogy of Hitler's death is pertinent in the case of Mr. Arafat not merely because of his ideological affinity with Hitler, but because Mr. Arafat, like Hitler, has built the Palestinian power apparatus in his own murderous image. All of Mr. Arafat's presumed heirs — from Mahmud Abbas to Ahmed Qureia to Muhammed Dahlan and their colleagues in the Palestinian Authority are terrorists.
Mr. Abbas and Mr. Qureia owe their prominence to their having co-founded the Fatah terror group with Mr. Arafat. Mr. Abbas, who has been upheld by the United States and Israel alike as a "reformer," wrote his Ph.D. dissertation and later a best-selling book "explaining" the Holocaust is a hoax. Mr. Abbas has overseen terrorist attacks for the past several decades and has outspokenly conditioned peace on the destruction of Israel as a Jewish state through the so-called "right of return" of millions of foreign born Arabs to Israel.
Mr. Qureia, who also has a rich history of terror involvement, has been the PLO's chief money man for the past three decades. From Tunis to Lebanon to the Gulf States to the West Bank and Gaza Strip, Mr. Qureia has overseen a confidence operation that puts the Sicilian Mafia to shame. Mr. Qureia overtly supports terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians and in recent months has openly called for terrorists to murder Israeli civilians.
Muhammed Dahlan, who with his charismatic smile won the hearts of Israeli and American policymakers alike, is one of the architects of the current terror war. In 1994, Mr. Arafat put him in charge of coordinating with Hamas. Mr. Dahlan's militia in Gaza has actively carried out attacks against Israelis, including an Israeli school-bus bombing in November 2000, in which three persons were murdered and a half-dozen children lost legs and arms. Since then, Mr. Dahlan's forces have retained their leadership role in terror attacks, as well as in the weapons smuggling and development in Gaza.
And so on, down the line. Today there is no Palestinian political party that is not a terrorist organization. Of the 12 militias Mr. Arafat formed in the West Bank and Gaza since 1994, every one is deeply involved in terror activities. Documents seized by the Israeli army during major combat operations in the West Bank have shown Mr. Arafat's generals ordering suicide bombings and authorizing payments to terrorists.
Under Mr. Arafat's leadership, Palestinian society has been indoctrinated to jihad in a manner unmatched throughout the Arab world, perhaps with the exception of al Qaeda training camps. Children have been brainwashed to believe their life goal should be to die carrying out acts of genocidal mass murder of Jews. Women have been inculcated with the inhuman belief their wombs are bomb factories, rather than the sources of life.
Through the Palestinian media, school system, religious institutions, sports teams and iconographers, Palestinians over the past decade have been brought to believe their sole purpose as a people is to liquidate the Jewish people. Suicide bombings in Israel are greeted with carnival-like celebrations in the West Bank and Gaza. There is no remorse, no regret, no shame and no guilt over the wanton brutality and barbarity of suicide bombings.
And so, in light of the current derangement of Palestinian society, does Mr. Arafat's passing have any significance for policymakers?
On a basic level, the death of an evil man is always a cause for hope. Yet Mr. Arafat's death will provide an opportunity for building a better future only if the Bush administration uses his disappearance as a catalyst for a true overhaul of Palestinian society. This requires more than just pressuring Israel to meet with and make concessions to a new PLO warlord, raised on Mr. Arafat's knee.
There is no doubt there are Palestinians alive today who have the potential to be Palestinian Adenauers. But for these leaders to come forward, the apparatus of genocide and terror that Mr. Arafat has wrought over the past four decades must first be dismantled. Mr. Arafat's heirs have no more chance of bringing peace and democracy to the Palestinians than Hitler's heirs could have done in Germany. For peace to arise, Palestinians must cleanly break not only with Mr. Arafat but with his legacy.
Originally published in The Washington Times.