Arafat and his nightmare regime must go
George Bush is right to show Yasser Arafat the exit door, argues TomCooney. Through his barbarous mendacity, the Palestinian leader hasshown himself not to be a man of peace.
A Palestinian state is not to be abruptly born. But, for the Palestinians and Israelis, President Bush has a noble dream: "two states, living side by side in peace and security". Realism draws the atlas of the future he envisions: Arafat and his nightmare administration must go.
Kofi Annan, the UN secretary-general, objects: "The issue of who should lead the Palestinian people is one that only the Palestinian people themselves can decide". Annan is wrong and Bush is right. Arafat must go. He has undermined the possibilities of trust between Palestinians and Israelis, and he is soaked in the politics of ultimate evil.
First, mendacity corrupts the heart of Arafat's politics. The Oslo Accords of 1993 promised a gradual withdrawal of Israel from the contested land of the West Bank and Gaza, the creation of a Palestinian state, and a peace treaty between that state and Israel. In breach of this agreement, Arafat set about organising a new terrorist apparatus.
In 2000, under the inspiration of Bill Clinton, Israel offered a two-state solution, giving Arafat almost 96 per cent of the contested lands. Before the negotiations were finished, Arafat triggered off a low-intensity terrorist war against Israel, which continues to this day.
Why did Arafat agree to the Oslo Accords and then commence a war of terror against Israel? A barbarous mendacity resides at the heart of his politics. Arafat plays the role of victim to the western media but incites his own people, and colludes with terror bands like Hamas and Islamic Jihad, to commit genocide against Israelis. He forces Israel to defend itself and then he portrays Israel's legitimate acts of self-defence as colonial aggression. Arafat saw, mistakenly, the Oslo Accords as a sign that Israel had lost the heart to defend itself. A key feature of the agreement was the vesting of security for most of the contested lands in the Palestinian Authority (PA). The fox was entrusted to guard the henhouse. But Arafat's true objective is to drive Israel into the sea. His vision is of a Greater Palestine.
The late Faisal Husseini, who was Arafat's friend, was candid. He pointed out that the idea was to seize the space created by the peace process under the Oslo Accords to create a foothold for a war against Israel. He said the intention was to create a Palestine from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea. Crucially, he said the Oslo Accords comprised a Trojan horse to attack the Israelis who assumed they had achieved a peace process.
Last Monday, Arafat said he would now be prepared to endorse the Camp David proposals.
Second, Arafat is a practitioner of the politics of the ultimate evil. Bush says, with moral clarity: "Today, the Palestinian authorities are encouraging, not opposing, terrorism."
The word terrorist has a determinate meaning in international law, the law the UN is charged to uphold. Take the UN General Assembly's own declaration of 1994: "Criminal acts intended or calculated to provoke a state of terror in the general public, a group of persons or particular persons for political purposes are in any circumstances unjustifiable, whatever the considerations of a political, philosophical, ideological, racial, ethnic, religious or any other nature that may be invoked to justify them."
Atrocities, like those at French Hill, the Egged bus, the Meggido Junction, Park Hotel, constitute terrorism. Three points: The suicide-bomb killer (1) committed the criminal act of murder, (2) with the intention of spreading terror, (3) out of political motivation. In several cases, the terrorist was on the list of terrorists Arafat refused to apprehend. Arafat has funded such terrorist acts.
Arafat and his regime must also stand accused of genocide. Genocide became a distinctive international crime in 1948, when the UN adopted the Genocide Convention.
The crime involves the intentional killing, destruction or extermination of groups or members of a group because of their racial or ethnic identity. The terrorist campaign by Arafat against Israelis, including the suicide-bomb massacres, constitutes genocide. Anyone who orders, solicits or induces another to commit genocide is guilty of genocide. The incitement to kill Jews on Palestinian television, in Palestinian schools and mosques, is evidence of a genocidal motive.
In 1946 the UN General Assembly recognised the concept of crimes against humanity. Crimes against humanity can be committed in either times of peace or armed conflict. Three features of the Palestinian Authority's campaign of terror against Israelis bring it inside the definition of crimes against humanity. First, the shootings and bombings are being committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack. Second, they are directed against a civilian population, Israelis. Third, they are committed under an "organisational policy" on the part of the PA and its associated terrorist bands.
The PA launched a terrorist war against Israel as it was refusing to negotiate a peace treaty with Israel at Camp David in 2000.
It has engaged in serial killings of Israeli civilians. It has used unlawful weapons (e.g. bombs containing nails). It has killed captured Israeli soldiers. It has conscripted children to participate in hostilities. In Jenin, the terrorists used civilians as human shields. They also failed to take proper precautions to protect civilians in Jenin, contrary to the Geneva Convention of 1949.
To their shame, the UN and the EU allow Arafat to conduct his genocidal campaign against Israelis with impunity. Indeed, they have sought to ripen Arafat's fascist rule into a false democratic heat. They failed to exercise due diligence while Arafat organised a terror apparatus comprising anti-Semitic ideology, trained killers, weapons, and money. They failed to hold him to account. They allowed him to mire the Palestinian people in poverty, arbitrary rule, injustice, and corruption.
Israel has no obligation to negotiate with Arafat and his administration. No one since Hitler has more innocent Jewish blood on his hands. Israel and the USA are perfectly entitled to refuse to recognise a leader who acts illegitimately. The demand that Palestinians find an uncontaminated leadership is reasonable.
On this issue, Kofi Annan should be sidelined. He is compromised. Under UN Security Council resolution 1296 (2000) Kofi Annan, as UN secretary-general, is required to inform the UN Security Council when armed elements have entered a UN refugee camp. Indeed, in respect of refugee camps in Africa, Annan wrote that refugee camps "must be kept free from any military presence or equipment" and stressed that the camp's humanitarian character "must be scrupulously maintained". He failed to perform this obligation in respect of the UN camp in Jenin, the suicide bomber capital.
Bravely, Bush has set the benchmarks for the endorsement of "a Palestinian state whose borders and certain aspects of its sovereignty will be provisional until resolved as part of a final settlement in the Middle East". Palestinians must reject terror, build a true constitutional democracy "based on tolerance and liberty", promote economic reform and development, pursue transparent financial reform, organise accountable and responsible security services, and show a willingness to settle disputes by negotiation.
Bush's speech does not pace out the limits of the form, competences and territory of the proposed provisional Palestine. But the message should be clear: The Palestinian Authority must end its terror against Israel, reform its structure, and negotiate in good faith with Israel, on the basis of the land-for-permanent-peace principle.
Tom Cooney teaches law in University College, Dublin