Prepared Statement For The Hearing Entitled, "Are Yasser Arafat And The Palestinian Authority Credible Partners For Peace?"
By Dr. Rachel Ehrenfeld at The House Armed Services Committee's Special Oversight Panel on Terrorism
Thursday, June 6th, 2002 @ 6:43AM
Mr. Chairman, it is my honor to contribute to the Committee’s important deliberations on the question, “Are Yasser Arafat and the Palestinian Authority Credible Partners for Peace?”
The answer is a resounding “No!” The reason for this is found in volumes of evidence documenting an unbroken record of deceit, incitement, corruption and murder. The strategy of Arafat and the Palestinian Authority entails the continuous manipulation of “peace talks” through deliberate use of terrorism, most recently through a campaign of “homicide bombings” of unprecedented magnitude. (See attached documentation).
“When I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean neither more nor less,” Humpty Dumpty tells Alice in Carroll’s Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There. Much the same way, in Arafat’s world the meaning of words depends on language, context and intention, and can mean something entirely different, or nothing at all. Arafat, for example, has publicly claimed that the Al Aqsa Intifada was a popular uprising. But last week, on May 28th to be exact, Mazen Izz Al Din, the Chief of the Palestinian Security Forces’ Political Indoctrination Department, told Palestinian National Television that the uprising was in fact anything but: “We have to be truthful and honest and spell it out,” Mazen said. “One day history will expose the fact that the whole Intifada and its instructions came from Brother Commander Yasser Arafat.”
More egregiously still, Mazen’s statement was made at a rally in Gaza honoring the homicide bombers of the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades – a group directly linked to the Tanzim, the armed wing of Arafat’s FATAH movement.
The real reason behind the Intifada, however, can be found in the almost-daily demonstrations in the West Bank and Gaza against Arafat and the PA’s corruption. Quite simply, igniting another Intifada enabled Arafat to redefine the economic decline in the territories as “sacrifices” necessary in mobilizing against the “Zionist enemy.” (Palestinian, Israeli and AP reports for the summer of the year 2000, also Ehrenfeld, R.”Down and Out in Palestine,” TWT, 3/15/01). Instead of fulfilling his promises to better the welfare of the Palestinian people through the creation of a viable, prosperous state, Arafat has created terror both at home and abroad.
When Arafat returned to the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, in May 1994, as head of the newly-established Palestinian Authority, the Palestinian economy in the territories was on the mend. Surveys by the research center of the Israeli Yad Tabenkin, found the per capita GDP (gross domestic product) before the Oslo accord in 1993 to be approximately $3,500 in the West Bank and $2,800 in Gaza. After years of rule by Arafat and the PLO, however, the Palestinian economy is in shambles. According to the international monitoring institutions, the unemployment rate that before the Intifada was about 10%, is now about 40%. And the per capita income went from around $1,500 – $2,000, down to about $1,000 today. (Enclosed is a graph based on the World Bank and UNSCO estimates that shows how the GDP and the GNP had dropped since Arafat and the PA took over.)
Arafat’s government, nevertheless, remains defiant. When U.S. envoys William Burns and George Tenet were sent to oversee Palestinian “reform” efforts and re-start talks between the PA and Israel, the Official Palestine News Agency, WAFA, had this to say on June 2nd: “Reorganizing our Palestinian affairs is our own free choice, which no one has the right or the permission to intervene or set terms and conditions. The world should realize that these reforms were a result of a self decision led by President Arafat in order to unite the Palestinian factions and according to the demands and interest of the Palestinian street, institutions, and streams, and not according to foreign demands, Israeli or USA, who behave as a vector imposing terms.The Israeli and the USA target is to stall for time to establish new status quos in the Occupied Lands, and our target is to bond our forces to be able to finish the Israeli occupation which is supported and backed by the USA.”
Make no mistake. Arafat’s so called “reforms” are aimed at creating a coalition between elements of his FATAH party (the Tanzim and the al-Aqsa Martyr’s Brigade) and the Palestinian Islamist opposition led by Hamas. All are identified as terrorist organizations by the United States Department of State. The new partnership that will emerge, should Arafat be successful, is a long- term political coalition with dangerous implications for both Israel and the U.S.
Quite simply, as long as Arafat controls the Palestinian Authority’s funds, and his current, corrupt leadership remains in power, no real reform is possible. This is clear in the institututionalized rhetoric of incitement – against both Israel and the United States – that has become endemic to the Palestinian press.
On August 30th, 2001, only days before the attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center, the Palestinian paper Al-Ayyam relayed the following message: “The Palestinians must harm American interests in the Arab world, with all possible means, in all places, at all levels, because the U.S. does not understand the language of logic and wisdom, but only the language of interests and force.”
On September 11th, the day the WTC and the Pentagon were attacked, the Palestinian Authority’s official daily, Al Hayat Al Jadida, lauded suicide bombings, declaring that: “the suicide bombers of today, are the noble successors of their noble predecessors – the Lebanese suicide bombers, who taught the U.S. Marines a tough lesson [in Lebanon]. These suicide bombers are the salt of the earth, the engines of history. They are the most honorable [people] among us.”
Pictures of Palestinians celebrating following the WTC and Pentagon attacks were carried by CNN and seen all over the world.
Two weeks ago, while visiting Israel, I watched with dismay as Palestinian National Television broadcast programs where Palestinian religious leaders and members of the Palestinian Authority praised suicide bombers and called for more volunteers to continue their war on Israel. Several programs ended with footage showing the lynching of alleged Palestinian collaborators with Israel – gruesome pictures showing human beings being tortured, stabbed, shot and dismembered in public, while 5 and 10 year old children cheered. These are the terrorists of tomorrow, being trained today. Back in January, Arafat declared in an op-ed in the New York Times that he opposes the killing of innocent civilians. Since then, with his approval and funding, the Intifada has steadily escalated. Every week sees at least 2 to 3 suicide bombings in Israel, with additional attacks on civilians in between.
On a personal note, I would have not been able to be here today, had the tanker-truck which was loading in Pi Glilot, the above-ground gas tank facility located north of Tel Aviv, exploded two weeks ago. Had the terrorist bomb succeeded in igniting the facility, tens of thousands of innocent civilians – including me – would have evaporated in a fireball similar to the one we saw consume the World Trade Center. Yasser Arafat’s Fata’s Tanzim has claimed responsibility for the attack on Pi Glilot.
The documents recently captured by the IDF at Arfat’s compound in Ramala provided a wealth of clear evidence that Arafat and the Palestinian Authority’s apparatus are involved in the systematic, institutionalized and ongoing financing of the Tanzim and the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades. Each month Arafat, through the PA Finance Ministry, disburses large sums of money that go to fund the infrastructure and activities of terrorists.
The Bush Administration and the U.S. Congress need to recognize that the Palestinian leadership’s verbal attacks on the United States are not just “propaganda” for internal consumption. There is ample evidence that the Palestinian leaders really mean what they say. We saw the same message emanating from the PA immediately after the terrible attacks of September 11th, and we continue to hear it today. Let us recognize that Arafat and his cadre meet the definition of terrorists as used by President Bush. The failure of the “peace process” thus far, and the compromises the United States has made to maintain momentum on the road to an Israeli-Palestinian settlement, has only added to the perception within the Palestinian Authority of America as naive and vulnerable.
Addressing the graduates at West Point, last week, President Bush said: “Targeting innocent civilians for murder is always and everywhere wrong. … We are in a conflict between good and evil, and America will call evil by its name. By confronting evil and lawless regimes, we do not create a problem, we reveal a problem. And we will lead the world in opposing it.” The United States must match these words with actions to demonstrate – forcefully and unequivocally – that Arafat and his lawless, corrupt regime are part of the problem, not part of the solution, in our war on terrorism.