Arafat’s Undeserved Honor: The West’s Shame
ALL
Why Trump Should Disrupt the Scandalous US-Saudi Relationship
by Elan Journo | May 21, 2017
Trump Should Break the American Tradition of Ignoring Egypt’s Abuse of Its People
by Elan Journo | April 03, 2017
After This Jordanian Criticized ISIS He Was Thrown In Jail Then Murdered
by Elan Journo | November 17, 2016
Understanding the Jihadist Menace
by The Editors | June 16, 2016
We Can’t Beat Jihadists Unless We’re Real About Their Motivations
by Elan Journo | April 21, 2016
The Misunderstood Mullahs
by Elan Journo | March 31, 2016
Iran’s Faux Multiple Personality Disorder
by Elan Journo | August 10, 2015
Paving the Way for a Nuclear Iran
by Elan Journo | July 14, 2015
After 9/11, Lessons Unlearned
by Elan Journo | September 11, 2014
The Israel-Palestinian War
by Elan Journo | July 28, 2014
With or Without Nukes, Iran Is a Mortal Threat
by Elan Journo | November 21, 2013
Twenty Years after Oslo: Where Next for U.S. Policy?
by Elan Journo | September 10, 2013
Islamist Winter
by Elan Journo | Fall/Winter 2013
World Upside Down
by Elan Journo | November 27, 2012
The Islamist Threat: From AfPak to Jyllands-Posten and Times Square
by John David Lewis | September 08, 2011
Upheavals in the Middle East: Assessing the political landscape
by Yaron Brook | September 08, 2011
Iran, Israel and the West
by Elan Journo | September 08, 2011
Our Self-Crippled War
by Elan Journo | September 10, 2009
An Unwinnable War?
by Elan Journo | Fall 2009
Obama Whitewashes Iran
by Elan Journo | March 03, 2009
The Price of Bush’s Commitment to Palestinian Statehood
by Elan Journo | March 28, 2008
How to Stop Iran?
by Elan Journo | June 26, 2007
The “Forward Strategy” for Failure
by Yaron Brook | Spring 2007
Washington’s Make-Believe Policy on Iran
by Elan Journo | February 12, 2007
What Real War Looks Like
by Elan Journo | December 07, 2006
The Jihad on America
by Elan Journo | Fall 2006
Why We Are Losing Hearts and Minds
by Keith Lockitch | September 06, 2006
The Indispensable Condition of Peace
by Onkar Ghate | July 21, 2006
The U.S.-Israeli Suicide Pact
by Elan Journo | July 20, 2006
Washington’s Pro-Hamas Foreign Policy
by Elan Journo | May 17, 2006
Death to “Diplomacy” with Iran
by Elan Journo | October 27, 2005
The Advent of Freedom?
by Onkar Ghate | October 12, 2005
The Perversity of U.S. Backing for the Gaza Retreat
by Elan Journo | August 30, 2005
Bush’s Betrayal of America: The Iraqi Elections
by Elan Journo | February 01, 2005
Arafat’s Undeserved Honor: The West’s Shame
by Elan Journo | November 16, 2004
The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict . . . What Is the Solution?
by Yaron Brook | December 12, 2002
America Is Not Winning the War
by Onkar Ghate | August 29, 2002
Bush’s Vision for Peace: Prelude to War
by Onkar Ghate | July 01, 2002
Israel Has a Moral Right to Its Life
by Yaron Brook | June 24, 2002

MORE FROM THE BLOG:

Foreign Policy in Voice for Reason
Foreign PolicyMiddle East

Arafat’s Undeserved Honor: The West’s Shame

by Elan Journo | November 16, 2004

What made Yasir Arafat’s final days appalling was not the farcical prevarications about whether he were dead or alive, nor the soap-opera quarrel between his wife and his political cronies; it was that so evil a man commanded so much respect.

Since his airlift to a Paris hospital, as the welcomed guest of the French government and with throngs of journalists on the scene, Arafat’s death has been presented as the heartbreaking end of a noble man. Reacting to a premature report of Arafat’s death, President Bush wished that “God bless his soul.” Upon Arafat’s death, Jacques Chirac lauded him as “a man of courage and conviction.” The French gave him a military salute as Arafat’s coffin was sent to his funeral in Egypt, which many heads of state are expected to attend.

Why do the West’s politicians hold in such high esteem a man who unleashed a ferocious campaign of international terrorism that, across a span of forty years, has claimed the lives of thousands of Israeli, Lebanese, Jordanian, Palestinian, and American civilians?

Arafat specialized in high-profile attacks targeting civilians, in order to inflict the severest psychological devastation. The slaughter of Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics; the assassination of American diplomats in Sudan; the massacre of school children in Maalot, Israel (a model for the recent mass murder at a high school in Beslan, Russia); the hijacking of the cruise ship Achille Lauro, in which wheelchair-bound American Leon Klinghoffer was tossed overboard — Arafat was responsible for these and hundreds of other kidnappings, car-bombings, hijackings, and brutal murders. Also, during the 1970s he fomented bloody civil wars in Jordan and Lebanon.

But did he not renounce his terrorist ways later in life (as though this would be enough to earn forgiveness)?

Certainly in the 1990s European and American politicians embraced Arafat as a peacemaker, granting him recognition as a statesman. President Clinton met with him more often than with any other international leader (24 times in eight years). And in 1994 Arafat co-won the Nobel Peace Prize. But his willingness to make peace with Israel was a transparent lie. Though he publicly renounced terrorism in words addressed to Western audiences, he never did so in action (nor even in words, when speaking to the Arab world).

From the outset Arafat flouted practically every provision of a 1993 peace accord — most notably the provision to quell terrorism against Israel. The vast armed “police force” he created actually conspired with and often actively supported terrorists. And, calling for “martyrs by the millions,” Arafat fostered the deployment of suicide bombers. In 2001 he told the family of one bomber: “The heroic martyrdom operation [of the man] who turned his body into a bomb [is] the model of manhood and sacrifice for the sake of Allah and the homeland.”

None of this dissuaded Western leaders (including President Bush, who sought to marginalize Arafat somewhat) from supporting the establishment of a sovereign Palestinian state in areas governed by Arafat’s provisional Palestinian Authority. And this was so even though the evidence was abundant that such a state would become a sponsor of terrorism. In 2002, for example, Arafat’s forces were caught trying to smuggle into the Gaza Strip 50 tons of weapons and ammunitions, including one ton of C-4 explosives, and more than 60 Katyusha rockets, capable of hitting most cities in Israel.

Politicians eager to regard Arafat as a heroic “liberator” of Palestinians were also undaunted by his dictatorial rule over the Palestinian Authority. That governing body systematically violates the rights of its citizens. Arafat’s “police” force — eight or so competing gangs of thugs — arbitrarily arrests citizens, confiscates property, and murders his political opponents. (The victims were denounced under the catch-all charge of “collaborating” with Israel.) The PA’s chaotic judiciary made a mockery of the rule of law; its judges served not justice, but Arafat.

But far from condemning Arafat’s vicious rule, the European Union and America supported it with hundreds of millions of dollars in aid.

This extravagant tolerance of Arafat, given his blood-soaked record, is not due to ignorance on the part of our politicians. It comes from the precept that moral judgment is an obstacle to action. This is the view that moral principles are an impediment to achieving practical aims, such as peace. One should, on this view, remain morally neutral — even though one side may be clearly in the right — and try to engage both sides in gentlemanly negotiation — even though one side may be a murderous thug.

Because moral neutrality is such an obviously immoral policy, its perpetrators must blacken the good while whitewashing the evil. Hence, world leaders condemn Israel, the innocent victim who refuses to submit, and lionize Arafat, the ruthless killer.

Arafat’s elevation to the dignity of a peace-seeking statesman is due to our politicians’ moral corruption. Were he judged properly, Arafat would long ago have been dealt the punishment he deserved. By sustaining him and perpetuating the delusion that Arafat was really a well-meaning statesman, politicians committed treason to his innocent victims.

About The Author

Elan Journo

Director and Senior Fellow, Ayn Rand Institute