Skip to comments.Learning From Arafat: Terrorism Is Big Business
Posted on 11/15/2004 7:40:37 PM PST by CHARLITE
For a variety of reasons, there is a lot of enthusiasm and optimism surrounding the death of Palestinian Authority (''PA'') leader, Yasser Arafat, and how his demise might advance an expeditious resolution of the Palestinian/Israeli conflict. To be sure, I would love to jump on this bandwagon, and offer another in a litany of cheery op-eds issued internationally since the passing of the former leader of the PLO.
However, though I agree that Arafat has been a huge stumbling block to peace in this region that has now been removed, it is unquestionably much more than just him that has acted to prevent such an outcome. Moreover, as contrarian theory affirms that the majority of people are errant in their predictions the majority of the time, I find myself inclined to take an opposing view of this situation given the unlikelihood that so many journalists will be proved correct in the short term.
Leading me to such a conclusion in this instance is the recent struggle over Arafats millions, nay billions, that likely have been deviously and cynically embezzled from the very people that he was supposed to be championing, as well as the possibility that he might have died of AIDS/HIV. Both of these issues represent a tremendous public relations catastrophe for Palestinians and the sixteen militias that used to be under the PAs control. If Arafat was just as corrupt as everything that these people have been fighting against, what do they now have to fight for?
Certainly, this is not a community that looks well upon the apparent greed that has been rife in Arafat and the people surrounding him. This is also not a population that looks favorably upon wanton and indiscriminant acts of sex, especially homosexual ones. Unfortunately, it now appears that the entire Palestinian Authority was just a corrupt, money and power hungry organization that, in the end, had little interest in actually creating a separate and unified Palestinian state, or advancing the cause of the people that it was supposedly representing. Such a revelation could not possibly be a good thing for the PA, and might act to thoroughly undermine any power that they had prior to Arafats death.
Maybe of much greater importance is how this huge battle over the PAs funds demonstrates that there is a lot of money in terrorism, and, for those that are in this business, peace is actually the last thing on their minds. Lets understand that, according to a recent San Francisco Chronicle article, Arafat has been siphoning money into his own private accounts for at least forty years:
Jean-Claude Robard, a Swiss investment adviser, told Al-Jazeera that Arafat opened his first secret bank account in 1965 with a $50,000 check from the emir of Kuwait. Since then, Robard said, Arafat has set up other accounts in Switzerland, Austria, Luxembourg, and the Cayman Islands. Robard said Arafat also owns a number of hotels and holiday resorts in Spain, Italy, France, Switzerland, and Austria and is the main shareholder in two cellular telephone companies operating in Tunisia and Algeria.
After the Oslo peace accords were finalized in 1994, tax and customs revenues collected by Israel on Palestinian salaries and goods were transferred to a personal account in Arafat's name held at an Israeli bank branch in Tel Aviv. Between 1996 and 2000, Israel paid more than $500 million in tax revenues on oil sales alone into Arafat's personal account, according to a report by the Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth.
In December 2002, an Israeli accountant named Ozrad Lev said in an interview with the Israeli daily Maariv that he was involved in the illegal transfer of $300 million in Palestinian funds to Arafat through a secret Swiss account. The funds were transferred from an official Palestinian account at a branch of the Arab Bank in Ramallah by Arafat and one of his top aides, said Lev.
When folks in this region finally begin to realize just how much money Arafat embezzled from them, and that his wife received a $22 Million per year settlement from an organization that is supposed to be representing THEIR interests, they are likely going to truly understand just how profitable terrorism can be. This could embolden terrorist groups like Hamas and Hezbollah, as well as the leaderless PA militias, who now all have a target rich environment of new recruits, and a plethora of potential financiers with fewer channels for their terrorist investments.
In addition, it now seems quite conceivable that at the top of most terrorist organizations are leaders just as corrupt as Arafat, and, as a result, much more interested in bilking their supporters out of money than advancing their cause. If this is indeed the case, then there is no coherent and logical reason to expect that terrorist groups like Hamas and Hezbollah are going to be any more interested today in advancing peace than they were prior to Arafats death, for, much like the PA, they cant make money if peace breaks out throughout the region.
Now, I realize that such assertions might appear overly cynical. However, has the behavior of Arafat and his supporters ever made sense? Havent they regularly done things that were antagonistic to the creation of a Palestinian state or peace? For instance, many pundits concluded that the reason why Arafat turned down Baraks fabulous offer at Camp David was because it would have signaled his irrelevance and rendered him vestigial. With these recent monetary revelations, isnt it more feasible that his decision was exclusively a financial one, and had little to do with his desire to lead or save the people that were sending him money to do so?
Given this, maybe the true lesson in Arafats passing is that the PA, and, to some extent, its predecessor the PLO, was never involved in the serious advancement of the Palestinian people and a final, peaceful solution in the region. And now that Arafat has created such an outstanding blueprint for terrorist embezzlement, as well as leaving a legacy of sheer chaos resulting from the lack of a planned succession, terrorist organizations and even these PA militias are suddenly in a perfect position to begin cashing in for themselves.
As a result, one has to question why any of the leaders of the various terrorist movements in this region might view Arafats passing as in any way advancing peace. In fact, if these folks indeed have a greater capitalistic component than the West has ever considered, these terrorist leaders might, instead, be viewing Arafats death much like American corporations would assess the bankruptcy of a major competitor. Put another way, this could end up representing a boon for the business activities of groups like Hamas and Hezbollah, and even for the PA militias if they also decide that they want a slice of this corrupt pie--of course, as long as there is no peace.
In the end, it appears that the key to stability in this region might still reside with neither the Palestinian people nor the Israelis, as there has probably been an overwhelming majority of both that have yearned for and been willing to accept a peaceful resolution to this dilemma for decades. Unfortunately, as long as money continues to fund terrorist activities, this seems quite unlikely. Moreover, this announcement concerning Hezbollahs new drone that can deliver a bomb right into the middle of Israel--and its timing coincident with Arafats funeral--should not be lost on us. Does this look like an organization that is trying to advance peace now that Arafat is gone? Or, one that appears short on funds?
This quite suggests that whoever succeeds Arafat, even through an election process, will be just as incapable of controlling terrorism as he was, and, therefore, just as impotent. In fact, it appears the height of naïveté to believe that Arafats passing has in any conceivable fashion altered terrorist modus operandi other than possibly strengthening it. As a result, the only parties who can rein in these terrorist organizations are those who fund, house, train, and support them.
Consequently, the Mideast peace process continues to be much more a function of how our diplomatic efforts proceed with Iran and Syria than anything that is occurring in Israel or within the Palestinian Authority. If Khatami and Assad can be convinced that their economies and societies will thrive as a result of an alliance with America and Great Britain in return for the destruction of the terrorist groups they support, maybe then a real roadmap to peace will emerge.
Sadly, as one terrorists reign finally comes to a close, the people of this region have been taught that there is no profit margin in peace. Regardless of the outpouring of international adulation and sympathy for his passing, this quite appears to be the woeful legacy of Yasser Arafat.
About the Writer: Noel Sheppard is a business owner, economist, and writer residing in Northern California. Noel receives e-mail at email@example.com
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