In his address to the Knesset earlier this week, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon laid the groundwork for a possible indictment of Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat for war crimes. Let's review the evidence to help US Secretary of State Colin Powell prepare for his meeting with Arafat tomorrow.
Sharon read from two documents confiscated from Arafat's headquarters in Ramallah during IDF operations. The first document, dated January 7, 2002, is a request from Raed Karmi, then head of Fatah-Tanzim in the Tulkarm area, addressed to his chief, Marwan Barghouti, asking for financial assistance for 12 Fatah terrorists serving under his command. Barghouti forwarded the letter to Arafat, with a note, "I request of you to order the allocation of $1,000 for each of the fighter brethren."
At the bottom of the document is a handwritten note signed by Arafat, "Please allocate $350 to each."
The second document, dated September 19, 2001, is a letter to Arafat from senior Fatah leader in the West Bank Hussein al-Sheikh requesting Karmi, Ziad Muhammad Daas, and Amar Qadan receive payments of $2,500 apiece.
Daas is the commander of the Fatah-Tanzim cell which carried out the massacre at Nina Kardashov's bat mitzva party in Hadera this past January, and Amar Qadan is a senior terrorist operative from Force 17 in Ramallah.
At the bottom of the document is a note in Arafat's handwriting over his signature to "Treasury/Ramallah" with the instruction to "allocate $600 to each of them."
A third document confiscated by the IDF, which Sharon refrained from mentioning, is an undated status report regarding Fatah terrorist cells in Tulkarm, and it is nothing less than devastating to anyone wishing to claim the Palestinian Authority is anything other than a terrorist organization.
The document is addressed to Tawfik Tirawi, commander of the General Intelligence Service in the northern West Bank, and written by Hamdi al-Darduch, its Tulkarm district commander.
Praising Ziad Daas and his men, Darduch writes, "This squad has carried out high quality, successful attacks. Their latest operation was the coordination and planning of the operation in Hadera. [That is, the murder of six Israelis at the bat mitzva party.] This squad is the most disciplined, and its men… are very close to us and are continuously coordinated and in contact with us."
At the outset of the document, Darduch explained that three of the M-16 rifles possessed by Fatah-Tanzim gunmen in his district were financed by Tanzim "as well as through donations and financial assistance from the Honorable President [Arafat]." Toward the end of his report, Darduch, bemoans the rivalries among the various terrorist cells and between them and the General Intelligence Directorate, complaining that all the infighting is taking place "at the time when we've finally reached the understanding that Fatah gunmen constitute, first and foremost, a support and auxiliary force for the PA and its security apparatuses."
Darduch, however, takes heart in the fact that "among the Fatah gunmen are brothers who are prominent in their activities, steadfast in their loyalty to the Fatah and in their understanding of the political situation and what is demanded at every one of the political stages." Their activities, he says, are funded by the Tanzim Secretariat in Tulkarm as well as by the "emergency budget" which, the IDF explains, is "apparently the funds transferred by the PA leadership through the 'Emergency Committee' chaired by Hakam Balawi."
In his recommendations to his commander, Darduch writes, "We have to get rid of a number of parasites who have penetrated the ranks of the gunmen but have not shot one bullet at the Israelis."
These three documents constitute direct and indirect evidence of Arafat's command and control over Palestinian terrorism. His signed notes unequivocally implicate him as the direct commander of major terrorist operatives who have planned and coordinated attacks against scores of Israelis. He decides who will get paid and how much.
Darduch's report proves there is no difference between the PA and terrorist cells. Arafat finances weapons procurement down to the individual rifle, and his security apparatuses fund, coordinate, participate in, and oversee the activities of the terrorist cells.
Apologists for Arafat would argue that since the sums he allocated to the various terrorist leaders in the seized documents are small, it cannot possibly follow that he is in charge of them. However, a more likely explanation is that Arafat holds absolute control over everything that happens in the PA, down to the last rifle and penny.
This latter explanation was reached in another context by the US Council on Foreign Relations in June 1999. At that time, the council published a report on the state of the PA, commissioned by the EU. In its report, authored by Henry Siegman and Terje Larsen (two well-known advocates of Yasser Arafat), the Council found Arafat concentrates decision-making authority in his own hands to the point where "he personally approves all senior officials' vacations and per diem expenses."
Against this backdrop, Arafat's contention to US President George W. Bush, which was wistfully echoed for a time by the US State Department and the EU, that he did not know about the $500,000 spent on the purchase of the Karine A weapons ship – or the $10 million paid to Iran for its cargo of missiles, missile launchers, C4 explosive, mines, mortars, hand grenades, machine guns, and ammunition – becomes patently ridiculous. The contention that Arafat does not control the terrorists is also rendered unsupportable.
To the documented proof of Arafat's direct command over the Fatah-Tanzim terrorist infrastructure must be added his collusion with Islamic Jihad and Hamas. At the outset of the Palestinian terrorist war, Arafat's underling Barghouti formed the "Unified Command of the Intifada," which coordinates attacks with Islamic Jihad and Hamas. The fact the PA itself is part and parcel of the Palestinian terrorist infrastructure was further brought home when the IDF discovered weapons-making workshops inside the Palestinian Security Service's compound in Yatta.
Arafat's operations are not limited to the West Bank and Gaza Strip, but involve at least two members of President Bush's "axis of evil." Last week, the Sunday Telegraph reported that Western intelligence sources claim an Arafat aide met last month with Iraqi intelligence officials and provided them with a list of strategic targets inside Israel and Saudi Arabia. The sources also said Arafat's aide provided Iraqi intelligence with 37 forged passports.
On the subject of forgeries, in their raid of Arafat's headquarters, soldiers uncovered huge sums of counterfeit US dollars and shekels. Arafat is holed up in his compound with Fuad Shubaki, who financed the Karine A operation as he does all of the PA's weapons procurements. Shubaki and Fathi al-Razem, deputy commander of the Palestinian Naval Police, have been, according to American and Israeli intelligence officials, Arafat's point men in developing close ties with the Iranian regime since last May.
Perhaps Arafat gained counterfeiting expertise through his close connections with the Iranian government – which had produced such sophisticated forgeries of the dollar and shekel in the mid-1990s that both countries were forced to design and issue new bills.
Arafat, throughout his long career as a master terrorist, has cultivated "plausible deniability" into an art form. In the 1970s, attacks were carried out by PLO factions in their own name, (Black September, the PFLP, the DFLP, the PFLP Central
Command, and so on). This state of affairs allowed Arafat to simultaneously command terrorist operations and feign innocence, touting himself as a "political leader" much as he does today.
The hard evidence of Arafat's direct command over all aspects of the Palestinian terrorist war against Israel provided by the documents seized by the IDF since the onset of Operation Defensive Shield, together with the indirect evidence provided by intelligence reports, his harboring of wanted terrorists in Ramallah (aside from Shubaki, Arafat is also hosting the murderers of tourism minister Rehavam Ze'evi), the presence of illicit weapons-making workshops in his command posts, and the fact that all Palestinian terrorists name him as their supreme commander, render his deniability implausible.
It could easily be argued the documentary evidence alone provides a more convincing case of Arafat's direct responsibility for terrorism than the US government has presented regarding Osama bin Laden's responsibility for the September 11 attacks. Israel has proven Arafat pays terrorists. The US has not shown direct proof bin Laden personally oversees payments to Al-Qaida terrorists.
In 1989, the Palestinian National Council, the PLO's legislative arm, purported to become a party to the Geneva Conventions. Article 146 of the Fourth Geneva Convention stipulates, "Each high contracting party shall be under the obligation to search for persons alleged to have committed or to have ordered to be committed such grave breaches and shall bring such persons, regardless of their nationality before its own courts." Among the "grave breaches" listed is murder.
Secretary of State Powell has repeatedly and emphatically stated his position that Arafat is a legitimate leader and the road to peace goes through him. Given the evidence here presented, and additional findings that have been streaming in since interrogations of Palestinian prisoners began in earnest this week, perhaps the time has come for him to rethink this position.
Originally published in The Jerusalem Post