Arafat's Corruption

By | by Dr. Rachel Ehrenfeld, ACD Director
Tuesday, April 16th, 2002 @ 3:32AM

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We all know that the Palestinians deserve better. But there is no chance until the world confronts a major problem: the immense corruption of Arafat and the Palestinian Authority. Overlooked is the fact that Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza demonstrated against Arafat and his cronies just before the intifada began. And as many now realize, Arafat launched the intifada to distract everyone’s attention from these very demonstrations.

Imad Faluji, the Palestinian Authority’s communications minister, told a PLO rally in the Ein Hilwe refugee camp in South Lebanon on March 9, 2001, that Arafat and PA had planned the current intifada during July 2000. Al-Faluji’s statement was backed by Fatah Central Committee member Sakhr Habash, who told the PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, “In accordance with what brother Abu Ammar [Arafat] said, it became clear to the Fatah movement that the next stage necessitates preparation for confrontation.”

Shortly after the current intifada began, Arab donor countries pledged to give $1 billion to the Palestinian Authority to ease the economic hardship of the Palestinian people. However, the Arab donors’ past experience with money given to Arafat prompted them to demand in a letter to Arafat that was leaked to Ha’aretz, the Israeli daily, that “Chairman Arafat show complete transparency in the funds” and a detailed report on how it was spent. Arafat and the Palestinian Authority declined to comply, and the Arab donors suspended the transfer of the money “for fear that the money will end up in the wrong pockets.”

Now that Arafat became the lightning rod for both radical Muslim terrorists and Arab/Muslim corrupt and dictatorial regimes, hundred of millions of dollars, especially from the Saudis and Saddam Hussein, is pouring in – not to alleviate the suffering of the Palestinian people, but to go to Arafat, thereby ensuring that the Palestinians continue to kill themselves and as many Israelis as possible.

Igniting the latest intifada has enabled Arafat to portray the economic decline in the territories as “sacrifices” needed to mobilize against the “Zionist enemy.” To further hide the misuse of funds and corruption, Arafat ordered the kidnapping of Jawar al-Rusien, the PLO’s former trusted accountant, who had had a falling out with Arafat. On April 20, 2001, according to British and Israeli media reports, al-Rusien was kidnapped by armed men from his home in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates and flown handcuffed on Arafat’s plane to Gaza. His whereabouts were unknown until Arafat’s aides admitted holding him “because he failed to return money he borrowed.”

Arafat pleads poverty, yet he controls billions of dollars in assets. For him, the access to his fortune is a cellphone call away. For his people, the only way to receive money is to respond to Arafat’s urging and strap a bomb-belt over their belly and, with his blessing, blow themselves up.

Before the Oslo accord, in 1990, the CIA estimated that the PLO had between $8 billion and $14 billion worth of assets generated from a 5 percent tax on every Palestinian working in Arab countries. However, according to a 1993 British National Criminal Intelligence Service report published on the eve of the famous “handshake” on the White House lawn, most of the PLO’s assets originated from “donations, extortion, payoffs, illegal arms dealing, drug trafficking, money laundering, fraud, etc.”

The London Daily Telegraph on Dec. 6, 1999, revealed that computer hackers had broken the security code of the PLO’s computer system. The hackers discovered records of about $8 billion the PLO held in numbered bank accounts in New York City, Geneva and Zurich. In addition, it held smaller secret accounts in North Africa, Europe and Asia.

The records obtained showed the PLO secretly owned shares in the Tokyo and Paris stock exchanges and expensive real estate in London, Paris and other European capitals. They listed companies that fronted for the PLO, stocks the PLO held in Mercedes-Benz, shares in the national airlines of the Maldives and Guinea-Bissau and other holdings of about $50 billion for the year 2000 (up from $32 billion in 1998).

Arafat has successfully claimed that Israel causes the economic hardship suffered by the Palestinian people. But before Yasser Arafat and the PLO took control over the refugee camps and the territories in May of 1994, the Palestinian per capita GDP in the West Bank was about 40 percent of the $8,000 Israeli per capita GDP for the same period, and in the 1990s, the economic development of the West Bank exceeded that of Israel. If that trend would have been allowed to continue, the West Bank’s GDP would have reached at least $7,000 by now, similar to Saudi Arabia, and 700 percent higher than the average in other oil-devoid Arab states such as Egypt, Syria, Jordan and Morocco.

According to surveys by the research center of the Israeli Yad Tabenkin, the West Bank per capita gross domestic product before the Oslo accord in 1993 was approximately $3,500, and in Gaza, about $2,800. Now, the per capita GDP for both territories is around $1,300. Soon after the current intifada began, U.N. Envoy Terje Roed-Larsen said that 30 percent of the Palestinian people live on less than $2.10 a day. Now, they have much less, unless one of them blows himself up to kill more Israelis.

Arafat’s past promises that he will continue to use terror and corruption to stay in power. He does not want to give peace a chance because in peacetime the Palestinians working in Israel will earn many times over those working under Mr. Arafat’s corrupt leadership in the West Bank, and especially in Gaza, where they will continue to earn a pittance. This will lead, as it already has, to demands to end corruption, thus, threatening Arafat’s regime.

Until Arafat is gone, the Palestinian people have no hope for a better future, and the world has no hope for any peace in the Middle East.

Dr. Rachel Ehrenfeld , the director of the Manhattan-based Center for the Study of Corruption and The Rule of Law, is the author of “Narco Terrorism” and “Evil Money,” and is working on a new book, “Funding Evil: Follow the Money Trail.”

Categories: ACD/EWI Blog, Anti-Corruption, Articles and Presentations on Economic Warfare

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