Testimony At The Hearing Entitled, "Are Yasser Arafat And The Palestinian Authority Credible Partners For Peace?"

By The House Armed Services Committee's Special Oversight Panel on Terrorism | by Dr. Rachel Ehrenfeld, ACD Director
Thursday, June 6th, 2002 @ 6:44AM

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Thank you, 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; and today, unfortunately, there are 17 more dead young men and women to demonstrate again why the answer is no. And there is more. Arafat, for example, has repeatedly 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’ Brigade, a group directly related to the Tanzim, the armed wing of Arafat’s Fatah movement.

The real reason behind the Intifada, however, can be found in almost daily demonstrations in the West Bank and Gaza against Arafat and the PA’s corruption. Igniting another Intifada enabled Arafat to redefine economic decline in the territories.

When Arafat took over the cities in the West Bank and Gaza Strip in May 1994, the economy was improving. According to surveys in Israel that were supported by the World Bank and UNESCO, the West Bank, their capital gross domestic product before the Oslo Accord in 1993 was approximately $3,500 and in Gaza about $2,800. Now the Palestinian economy is in shambles. According to the national monetary institutions, the unemployment rate before the Intifada was about 10 percent and is now about 40 percent; and per capita income went from $1,500, $2,000 down to $1,000 today.

This graph, based on the World Bank and UNESCO estimates, shows how the GDP and GNP had dropped since Arafat and the PA took over. I think it is quite telling.

Arafat’s government, nevertheless, was and remains defiant. He was supposed to enact some reforms in 1997 and did nothing. When U.S. Envoys William Burns and George Tenet were sent to oversee Palestinian reform efforts and restart 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 by President Arafat and not according to foreign demands, Israeli or U.S.A., who behave as a vector imposing terms. The Israeli and the U.S. 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 U.S.

Make no mistake. Arafat’s so-called reforms are aimed at creating a coalition between elements of the 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 U.S. Department of State, and the new partnership is already emerging in the form of cooperation with the Hezbollah to introduce chemical homicidal bombings. Arafat’s terrorist coalition has long-term, dangerous implications for both Israel and the U.S.

Israel is just the testing ground. 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 institutionalized rhetoric of incitement—against both Israel and the U.S.—which has become endemic to the Palestinian press.

On August 30, 2001, only days before the World Trade Center attack, the Palestinian paper Al-Ayyam relayed the following message: The Palestinians—this is a quote—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.

Pictures of Palestinian mobs burning American flags demonstrate the sentiment all the time.

On September 11, the day the World Trade Center and the Pentagon were attacked, the official daily of Arafat’s PA, Al Hayat Al Jadida, said 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.

Pictures of Palestinians celebrating following the World Trade Center attack were carried by CNN and seen all over the world. Here are a few pictures of Palestinian rallies praising the suicide bombers and burning the American flag, as well as pictures carried in similar rallies praising Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein.

Two weeks ago, while visiting Israel, I watched with dismay Palestinian national television programs where members of the PA praised the suicide bombers and called for more volunteers to continue the war, including Chairman Arafat. Several programs ended with footage showing people who had been allegedly corroborating with Israel being lynched. These were 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, and to watch it is horrifying.

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 fuel depot located north of Tel Aviv, exploded 2 weeks ago. Had the terrorist bomb succeeded to ignite the tank farm, 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 Fatah’s Tanzim has claimed responsibility for the failed attack.

The documents recently captured by the IDF at Arafat’s compound in Ramallah provided a wealth of clear evidence—we saw some of it here—that Arafat and the Palestinian Authority are involved in the systematic, institutionalized and ongoing financing of the Fatah’s Tanzim and the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades. Each month Arafat distributes, through the PA Finance Ministry, large sums of money and funds terrorist infrastructure and activities.

The Bush administration and Congress need to recognize that the Palestinian leadership’s verbal attacks on the U.S. Are not just propaganda for internal consumption. There is ample evidence that they really mean what they say. We saw the same message after the terrible attacks on the U.S., and we continue to hear it today. Let us recognize that Arafat and his cadre are meeting the definition of terrorists using President Bush’s own definition.

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 in lawless regimes we do not create a problem, we reveal a problem; and we will lead the world in opposing it.

The U.S. Must match these words with actions to demonstrate forcefully and unequivocally that Arafat and his corrupt and lawless regime are part of the problem, not part of the solution in our war on terrorism.

I just want to reiterate, the support—alleged support of the Palestinian people to Arafat. There were demonstrations—Arafat didn’t go to Jenin, and he is not wandering around too much because the people don’t like him and demonstrate against him, even under these conditions. However, we see some—if you watch CNN, you can see that there are some people there—I guess they come when CNN is around. But if you are there and if you see it for yourself, you see that there are very few people, and the support is small and that the people are suffering, and they don’t want him there, and we should do something in order to call him what he is, evil, and get rid of him.

Thank you.

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