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The question does not hit the mark: The problem was not Arafat; nor is his successor Abu Mazen the problem. Both of them must be seen as exponents, or symbol figures, of the Arabs' war against Israel. What would Arafat, or now Abu Mazen, count for without the massive support from the Arab/Muslim world?
Depicting Arafat or Abu Mazen as key figures is as misleading as speaking of an Israel/Palestine conflict. The conflict has been an Arab-Israel war from its start approximately 85 years ago. The Arab-Israeli War began with Amin Husseini's reaction against the Balfour Declaration (1). And it continues.
Early in the second intifada, Arafat on television stated, "Terrorism is a symptom, not a disease." That is to say, he defended terrorism as a means of curing the disease. In the ideology and propaganda of the Jihad fanatics, Israel and the Jewish people are depicted as the disease, even as an embodiment of the "Cosmic Evil" of which the earth should be purged.
Already in 1943, Mufti Amin el-Husseini, ally and friend of Nazi Germany, said in a broadcast from Radio Berlin: "Kill the Jews wherever you find them - this is pleasing to Allah"; and called upon the Muslim world to wage a Jihad against the Jews. (2)
He issued this call several years before the establishment of the State of Israel. The establishment of Israel in 1948 and the refugee problem resulting from the Arabs' war against Israel are the result of Arab enmity, not the cause.
Arafat's statement that "terrorism is a symptom, not a disease", describes precisely the situation: The Jihadists' anti-Jewish, anti-Israel, anti-Zionist stance is an awful disease, sheer madness, a sickness of soul, that goads them into actions perceived in the civilized world as terror.
They present this insanity of theirs as pleasing to Allah, as the crowning glory of Islam; they promise their suicide bombers (with their minced bodies!) unlimited sex with 70 (or 72) virgins in Paradise, ill-using their victims' death (of Jews; and also of others) as a kind of entrance ticket to this paradise.
Arafat - and now abu Mazen - served as the figurehead for that Jihad:
"Oslo" did not change the wolf into a lamb - on the contrary. As Feisal el-Husseini, a close relative of the Mufti, said shortly before he passed away:
"In Oslo we did not get everything we wanted, but at least we succeeded in getting Arafat into Israel's house as Trojan horse ... First we accept what they [Israel] give us, and the rest we will take." (3)
This was not merely the private opinion of that Israel-hater; from the very first day of "implementing" the Oslo Agreements, Arafat transgressed and violated them by:
a) acquiring far more weapons than conceded by the Agreement
b) building up an armed force much bigger than conceded
c) introducing into the PA territories a malicious anti-Jewish and anti-Israel curriculum and propaganda unparalleled so far
d) "de-Judaizing" the Temple Mount
e) dubbing the armed uproar as "El-Aqsa intifada", a term which exposes more clearly than anything else the Jihad-against-Israel core of this struggle, in which the Palestinian Arabs and their sufferings are simply exploited to that end.
The war against Israel (or "Zionism") is double-faced: For home-consumption it is depicted as a religious duty for every Moslem to remove the "Zionist State" from the realm of the Dar-es-Salaam - the territory ruled by, and belonging to, the Islam - but for PR reasons it is handed out as a national struggle to liberate the homeland of the Palestinians.
Thence the two names for Arafat's - and now Abu Mazen's - group: One, the term El-Fatah, derived from the name of the first Sura of the Koran, meaning "The Opening", shows the religious component of their effort to open the way for regaining the land now "occupied" by Israel. The other term, PLO - Palestine Liberation Organization - depicts the national aspect, and suits better the taste of the "enlightened" western world.
But the PLO as well as all the other groups (Hamas, Islamic Jihad, etc.) do not stand on their own: they are tools in the hands of the Arab nations, similar to a pawn on the chessboard.
Can one make peace with a pawn?
All we give up in such a "peace process" is nothing else but a partial and encouraging victory for those Jihadists on their way to achieve their final goal. In fact, they are putting into practice Gromyko's advice to the Arabs at the Geneve Conference of 1974: "Try by all means to regain the territories you lost in 1967 - the rest will be easy."
In that vein, they try - so far quite successfully - to reverse Clausewitz' dictum in which he described "war as the continuation of politics by other means." We are now in a situation in which "peace" becomes the continuation of war by other means. Schemes like "Oslo"; Road Map; Beilin's "Geneve Accord", and the pressuring of Israel in the latest resurrected peace process come under that category (known as Hutnah) (4)
Abu Mazen has made that abundantly clear, by setting three conditions for "peace":
* Israel refrain from all military actions
* Jerusalem be made the capital of Palestine
* the Arab refugees' right of return
He and the rest of the Arabs know very well that these three conditions, if accepted, would be the death blow for Israel.
In addition, Abu Mazen has reached an agreement with Hamas and Islamic Jihad, and these two organizations have put conditions very hard for Israel to accept. In case Israel accepts them - with whatever modification - the real danger and test will come a few weeks later. The PLO/El-Fatah - with or without Hamas and Islamic Jihad - can and most likely will build up a para-military infrastructure in Gaza which will become a threat more lethal to Israel than the partisan one of the past with its primitive Kasam rockets, etc. All that will be done under the cover of "peace" and of Arab and European support for the poor "State of Palestine".
Abu Mazen is not the key figure in that scheme. He and his PLO simply serve as spearhead.
We have to make the picture very clear to ourselves as well as to the rest of the world in order to avoid as much as possible to be blamed for the failure of the "peace process" - and it is too structurally distorted to last long. The first condition is never to speak of an Israeli/Palestine conflict but to call it what it is: an Arab/Israel war - a war the Arabs waged before the founding of Israel and again and again after Israel became a state.
This raises the question: is Islam as such anti-Jewish, anti-Israel, anti-Zion? In other words: are we, and the rest of the world, engaged in a basically religious confrontation in which only one side can be right before the Almighty? A confrontation in which, consequently, one of the two opponents would have to vanish?
While the Jihadists claim just that, it is not so, at least not according to Koran and Torah (5). The Jihadists' hatred and hostility are a willful mis-interpretation of these Scriptures, forged for their ends. Their armed struggle against Israel is a crime against Islam and - from the legal point of view - a crime by all standards against international law. From the psychological point of view, it is a terrible disease, terrorism being its symptom. Arafat, however inadvertently, described the situation correctly.
(1) See Asher Eder, "Naqba: The Self-Inflicted Catastrophe,"
(http://www.think-israel.org/eder.naqba.html). For more about Mufti el-Husseini and his later affiliation with the Nazis, see, for example, Elliott A. Green, "Arabs and Nazis - Can It be True?" and David Storobin, "Nazi Roots of Palestinian Nationalism" in the January-February issue of Think-Israel. Use the Search Box on the Think-Israel Home page to click on articles on the Balfour Declaration by Meir Abelson, Alex Rose, Lewis Lipkin, etc.
(2) Radio Broadcast from Berlin, March 1, 1944.
(3) His last interview, given to Egypt's Al-Arabi newspaper, before his heart attack, May 2001. He was the PA Minister of Jerusalem.
(4) Any agreement falling short of full and irrevocable recognition of Israel based upon Tanakh (Hebrew Bible) and Koran would at best be a Hutnah, a temporary agreement or armistice to be done away with when the situation for doing so seems to be favorable.
(5) "Peace is possible between Ishmael and Israel according to Koran and Torah" is available from http://www.rb.org.il or by email from firstname.lastname@example.org
Dr. Asher Eder is Jewish Co-Chairman, Islam-Israel Fellowship, a Division of the Root&Branch Association, Ltd., Yerushalayim.
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