During a telephone interview with Al-Jazeera television on Wednesday afternoon, Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat rejected Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's offer of a “one-way ticket” out of the area by retorting, "Why? Is this my homeland or his?"
Arafat went on to explain "the Palestinian people has been rooted to this land since before the time of Abraham, the prophet," and to proclaim the way to victory is through continued suicide bombings by calling out "shahid, shahid, shahid!" before hanging up his cellphone – which the IDF has allowed him to recharge.
In these remarks, Nobel Laureate Arafat laid bare the twin causes of the Palestinian terrorist war against Israel. Simply put, the PA under Arafat denies Israel has any right to exist and is completely committed to using terrorism as its method for destroying it. For Arafat, this is not a question of how to divide up disputed territory between two nations with legitimate rights to it, but an "us against them" struggle in which only one side will emerge victorious.
For Israelis, although Arafat's remarks are unsettling, they are far from shocking. Israelis, who in the wake of three massacres in the space of a few days saw some 31,000 of their fathers, sons, and husbands called up in an emergency reserve mobilization, know who Arafat is and understand what this war is about and what must be done. As OC Air Force Maj.-Gen. Dan Halutz explained in an interview this week, "This war is one of our most important wars – certainly the second most important after the War of Independence," and "it must be decided – in a sharp and clear way, that will not be open for interpretation."
Israelis get it. The international diplomatic community doesn’t. As Arafat was underlining the need for continuous jihad on Al-Jazeera, the EU's chief diplomat, Javier Solana, was on Spanish television explaining that this war is nothing but an old grudge between two aging leaders – Sharon and Arafat – and could end if they would kindly step aside for younger, less antagonistic leadership. For Solana then, there is no difference between Sharon, who has alienated his own political base to seek a cease-fire, and Arafat, who calls for his "political base" to die murdering Jews.
US Secretary of State Colin Powell also refuses to understand. As husbands and breadwinners quietly don their uniforms and take up arms to bring about the decisive victory required, Powell declares that "Chairman Arafat is the legitimate leader of the Palestinian people," and explains that contrary to what Sharon claims, and the Israeli people know in their gut to be true, "it would not serve our purpose right now to brand [Arafat] individually as a terrorist."
The international press corps also refuses to get it. The New York Times, for instance, reported Wednesday, "While President [George W.] Bush endorsed this week the continued relevance of Yasser Arafat, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon of Israel called today for exiling the Palestinian leader."
From this, one could understand Sharon was acting not against Arafat, but against the US government. The newspaper of record, which brought the Saudi plan to the world, devoted more than 1,000 words last Sunday to rhapsodizing the female Palestinian bomber who murdered two and wounded 30 in Jerusalem last week. The 18-year-old killer, who is deeply mourned by her father, was a "straight-A high school senior," we are told. Somehow, the Times doesn't see fit to print a word about Rahel Levy, the murderess’s 17-year-old victim. Rahel was a good student, a gifted photographer, but a victim, not a murderer, and therefore, apparently unworthy of note.
The Times and others characterize this murderer, like the hundreds before her, as a desperate and lost youth. The fact that suicide bombers are not "lost youth" but rather, by and large, middle class, well-educated, the flowers of their society, goes unreported.
How is this situation to be understood? How is it possible that after the Palestinian Red Crescent ambulances have been used to transfer suicide bombers and explosive belts, Phillip Reeker, the State Department’s spokesman demanded this week that Israel provide "unfettered access for ambulances and emergency medical personnel at Israeli checkpoints?"
Part of the problem, no doubt is Israel’s spokesmen are, quite simply, not up to the task. Ambassador to the UN Yehuda Lancry, for instance, does not seem to understand what is going on back home. When asked earlier this week by a CNN reporter if Arafat is responsible for terrorism, rather than answering with a simple "yes," the honorable ambassador fumbled and mumbled that Arafat can do more to rein in the terrorists.
Clearly, Israel is in dire need of a new team of spokesmen who, when given the opportunity, will actually be able to tell the world the truth it so desperately wishes not to hear.
However, not all the blame lies with our diplomats. The foreign press corps, from the Arabs to the Europeans to the Americans, obstinately refuses to cover the story. Part of this refusal stems from the fact that telling the truth can be hazardous to one’s health.
We recall, for instance, the abject apology issued to the PA by Italian television journalist Ricardo Christiani for the temerity of his Italian rivals who filmed and broadcast scenes from the lynching of two IDF reservists at the Ramallah police station in October 2000. Embarrassed by the disclosure of the apology, which was printed in the PA’s official newspaper, Christiani was sent home.
Part of the foreign media’s refusal to cover the fact that the PA is waging a terrorist war aimed at Israel’s destruction is deliberate. That is, foreign reporters understand the situation and callously refuse to report it.
Take roadside shootings. For the past year and a half, Palestinian forces have regularly stationed themselves on roads to shoot at Israeli motorists and lynch any Israeli who strays into their towns and cities. Understanding the situation, foreign correspondents have found a method to protect themselves. Every one of their vehicles is covered in duct tape spelling out TV to signal to the gunmen they are not their intended Israeli victims. The journalists are protected and the story of road terror goes chronically underreported.
The Unified Palestinian Command, which coordinates the Palestinian terrorist war among the various militias, declared days ago that it is widening its war to include attacks on American targets. The story went largely unreported, so that when the State Department subsequently decided to encourage dependents of US diplomatic personnel to leave Israel, it seemed as though the move was more a reaction to the IDF’s actions than to the fact that the Palestinians have just declared war on the US.
Back in September 1995, at the height of the Oslo process, as prime minister Yitzhak Rabin signed the Interim Agreement on the White House lawn, extending PLO control to the major cities in Judea and Samaria, he warned Arafat, "If all the partners to peace-making do not unite against the evil angels of death by terrorism, all that will remain of this ceremony are color snapshots, empty mementos. If we do not have partners in this bitter, difficult war, we will fight it alone. We know how to fight. We know how to win."
Well, the PA terrorist war against Israel, which began after prime minister Ehud Barak offered Arafat concessions that, according to Leah Rabin, would have made her husband’s stomach churn, has proven beyond doubt that Israel has no Palestinian partner “in this bitter, difficult war.”
Unfortunately, and contrary pe
rhaps to Rabin’s greatest nightmare, not only does Israel have no Palestinian partner; because of the deliberate refusal of the international diplomatic community to grasp the fact the Palestinians are waging a zero sum game war against Israel, and because of the international press corps refusal to report the facts, Israel is forced to fight this decisive battle for its national survival alone.
Oringinally published in The Jerusalem Post