President Bush is right: Yasser Arafat’s death presents the ideal opportunity for the Bush administration to help establish a democratic, viable Palestinian state. This opening has a chance to succeed only when the Palestinian leadership no longer calls for the destruction of Israel, and when the U.S. no longer attempts to appease the Muslim/Arab world and the European Union by forcing a premature “peace in the Middle East.”
Pressuring Israel to negotiate with Palestinian terrorists and risking its national security would indicate that the Bush administration is accepting the Arab/Muslim/European propaganda that Israel is practicing “apartheid” against the Palestinians. Twisting the Israelis’ arm to agree to dangerous concessions, the U.S. might hope that the Arab/Muslim world and its European allies would support the U.S. war on terror and its war in Iraq. But when one reads the Arab and Muslim media, one realizes that their hatred for the U.S. has deepened with the war in Iraq because the U.S. has conquered Mesopotamia, considered the cradle of Muslim civilization. Israel has nothing to do with it.
Muslim fundamentalists’ growing hatred toward the U.S. was not and is not caused by U.S. policy toward Israel. On the contrary: Arabs and Muslims view Israel as the “illegitimate offspring of the Great Satan”–and the “Great Satan” is the U.S. Israel is under attack because it represents American values and democracy in the Middle East.
If President Bush is serious about the war on terror, he should follow his doctrine of not negotiating with terrorists and withstand, as he seems to do, British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s efforts to hastily solve the Palestinian problem. The president should not fall into the trap of prematurely creating an independent Palestinian state. What Arafat left behind is not a functioning, viable democratic society but an utterly corrupt terrorist entity. A change of leadership alone is not enough to undo decades of indoctrination in hate; it will take several generations to reverse the culture of death, destruction, and corruption that Arafat has so successfully established with the generous help of the Arab League and the European Union.
Although British Prime Minister Tony Blair has proven himself to be Bush’s good ally in Europe, he now has his own agenda (getting reelected); and since the British public resents the U.S. war in Iraq and supports the Palestinians, Blair’s mission is to convince Bush to force Israel to give in. Blair rightly said, “President Arafat came to symbolize the Palestinian national movement.” But he was wrong to say that Arafat “led his people to an historic acceptance of the need for a two-state solution.” Arafat strived to eliminate the Jewish state, and that is what he left as a legacy to his people. He set the trend for other terrorist organizations to use hijacking, mass murder of civilians, homicide bombing, and the exploitation of “charities” to raise funds for terrorism; he also co-opted the media to spread his propaganda. His methods were adopted by all Islamist terrorist organizations, including his biggest challenger, Hamas.
While the Bush administration is shutting down charitable organizations that support terrorism and has designated as a terrorist group the Hamas front the Palestinian Relief and Development Fund (Interpal), Britain keeps its branch of Interpal in business. As the central fundraising organization for Hamas not only in western Europe but “worldwide” (so says its own 2002 annual report), Interpal collects and transfers funds to well-known Hamas groups in the West Bank and Gaza. Amounting to at least $20 million a year, these funds strengthen Hamas and enable it to challenge the Palestinian Authority. Interpal’s activities have been documented at length by the Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center.
Interpal claims that the money it sends to the Palestinians is used to fund schools and health clinics. But its critics argue that these projects are in turn being used by Hamas to provide much-needed services that the Palestinian Authority does not provide, thus inflating its popularity among the Palestinians and helping to recruit new members to its ranks. In addition, the money that Interpal sends is used for Hamas terror activities as well as to oil its propaganda machine. Despite all this, the British allow Interpal’s activities to continue.
In addition, Hamas’s major publication Filastin al-Muslimah, continues to be distributed from England to the rest of the world, and its far-reaching influence is seen in such terror acts as the April 2003 bombing of Michael’s Place by two terrorists who were avid readers of the monthly journal.
Given these facts, President Bush should remind the British prime minister that to bring about a lasting peace in the Middle East, and to fight terrorism successfully, Britain must first stop the fundraising and propaganda campaign of Hamas. Cutting off Hamas’s cash flow would prevent it from subverting the authority of the emerging Palestinian secular leadership, as well as its fueling further Muslim fundamentalism and anti-Americanism in the Middle East.
–Rachel Ehrenfeld is the author of Funding Evil: How Terrorism is Financed–and How to Stop It and director of the Manhattan-based American Center for Democracy. She is a member of Benador Associates.