Skip to comments.ANALYSIS: ARAFAT S POLICY SPEECH SUCCESSFULLY CONS WESTERN MEDIA AND BUSH ADMINISTRATION
Posted on 05/19/2002 9:27:37 AM PDT by l33t
Yasser Arafats major policy speech this week was greeted by the White House as a positive step in re-starting the Arab-Israeli peace process, but it was anything but that.
An in-depth examination of the prepared speech in Arabic as well as video footage of the 40-minute address show that the speech was actually part of an elaborate and successful confidence game played by the Palestinian Authority on Western media and the Bush Administration..
President Arafat: Peace was and will remain our strategic choice and we will not give up the choice of peace," read the headline on the English language summary of Arafats speech distributed by WAFA, the official Palestinian news service.
But the Arabic language text sent a different message: Our national struggle will continue in all its forms to fulfill the dream of our people to establish an independent Palestinian state, said Arafat. His emphasis on all forms of struggle was a signal to his listeners that armed struggle was still an option that would be employed.
The English language summary, that may have been the basis of the positive treatment of Arafats speech highlighted three points:
*--Arafats continuing commitment to peace;
*--Arafats commitment to internal Palestinian reform;
*--And Arafats call for new Palestinian elections.
But the examination of the prepared speech in Arabic as well as the television footage on Arab television shows that the speech itself actually emphasized three entirely different points:
*--All forms of the struggle against Israel will continue, combining armed struggle with diplomatic efforts;
*--Palestinian elections and reform efforts were promised, but will be put off for a while said Arafat with a smile;
*--Israel, particularly its prime minister Ariel Sharon, and not Arafat, was responsible for all the violence and carnage.
In addition, there were several sentences in the speech talking about resuming the national dialoguea reference to the quasi-official agreement between Arafat and the Islamic terror group known as HAMAS.
Some Western media reports of Arafats speech spoke of a chastened Arafat taking responsibility for policies that have wreaked havoc on both the Palestinians and Israel, but an examination of the video footage and the Arabic text shows a different tone and content entirely.
The New York Times (May 16) lead report on the speech said, , for example, that Arafat responded today to growing Palestinian and international pressure for reform by acknowledging mistakes and promising changes to his administration and new elections, though he presented scant details.
What Arafat acknowledged and what he promised were considerably different.
I take full responsibility for what has happened, said Arafat at one point in his speech, but he was referring to the deals lifting the Israeli siege on his own headquarters and the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem.
Arafat has been criticized by many Arabs because in both deals, he agreed that armed Palestinians were to be put in jail (from Ramallah to British custody in Jericho) or expelled from the country (from the Church to Europe via Gaza).
Many minutes of the speech were spent in Arafats rendition of the history of the current Palestinian-Israeli war of attrition.
Arafats version of the history of the current Palestinian-Israeli war stressed three points:
*--Israel started the war when Sharon trespassed on holy Islamic sites and Israeli forces fired on defenseless Muslim worshipers;
*--The war was part of a series of Israeli plots to thwart Palestinian independence;
*--And the latest Israeli military operation was launched without provocation.
Since the night of 29 March, we have been the targets of a comprehensive Israeli aggression, said Arafat referring to the Israeli operation that began after a Palestinian terrorist blew himself up inside a public Passover celebration in Netanya.
Arafat did not use the occasion to condemn the terror attack, and he did not even mention it.
Only once in his speech Arafat made a somewhat critical comment about Palestinian operations (i.e. terror attacks) was done in what has become standard Arafat style:
*--the word terror was not mentioned in the context of any Arab actions;
*--the criticism was done in the most indirect way possible;
*--And Israeli itself was ultimately held to blame for the acts of Palestinian terror.
In this regard, said Arafat, we announced some time ago and we announce today our rejection of the operations targeting Israeli civilians as well as Palestinian civilians, as was the case in Jenin, or rather in Jenin-grad.
What Arafat did not say was that Jenin was a stronghold for the suicide bombers from his own FATAH organization who were responsible for the murder of most of the 120 Israelis killed during March. (Note: Palestnian documents captured by Israel in Arafats headquarters in Ramallah as well as inside the Orient House in Jerusalem show a clear channel of command and financing between Arafat and various terror operations. See link at www.themedialine.org)
Arafat lionized the Palestinian fighters in Jenin, comparing them to the Russians who withstood the Nazi siege of Stalingrad in World War II.
We no longer talk about Stalingrad, but Jenin-grad. Let the entire world hear this, thumped Arafat as he departed from his prepared text.
We are talking here about something even uglier than Stalingrad, we are talking about Jenin-grad, repeating the theme several times for added effect.
Indeed, it was clear from Arafats comments that he was ethically or morally opposed to terror attacks on Israeli civilians, but concerned only that they hurt Palestinian interests.
The Palestinian public opinion and the Arab public opinion have become convinced that these operations do not serve our goals, but incite many large portions of the international community against us, he said, adding even though it was this community which created Israel and provided it with funds, weapons, protection, and so on and so forth.
Arafat referred to the terror attacks as these operations, never using the Arabic word for terrorirhaabwhich he frequently uses to describe Israeli actions.
These operations are causing a controversy, stated Arafat.
Apart from Arafats rhetorical approach, the ideological heart of his speech was an Islamic-based defense of his own strategy combining armed struggle and diplomacy.
Let us remember the truce of Hudabiyya. Let us remember the truce of Hudabiyya, said Arafat referring to a seemingly humiliating agreement signed by Islams prophet, Muhammad in 628 at Hudabiyya, near Mecca.
The Sulh of Hudabiyya, as Arafat repeated, came after some inconclusive fighting between Muhammad and his foes in Mecca, chiefly the Quraish tribe, and the terms of the agreementwhere Muhammad title of prophet was erased-- were criticized by some of Muhammads followers.
Muhammad, however, Arafat reminded his listeners, had the last laugh.
Two years after signing the agreement and gaining strength, Muhammad used a pretext to break the truce and to enter Mecca victorious.
And do thou be patient, for thy patience is but from God, said Arafat quoting from the Quran, Islams holy book, several times in his speech.
Arafat was clearly casting himself in the shoes of Islams prophet, Muhammad, who was also a brilliant strategist and field commander.
He thus made several points familiar to all Muslims aware of Muhammads career as a politician and general:
*--truces of today can and will be broken tomorrow when the opportunity rises; *--diplomacy and warfare will be used interchangeably; *--and time is on the side of the Palestinians.
At several points in his speech, Arafat, with a tone of longing, referred to or strongly hinted at unilateral Palestinian national decisions taken during the pre-peace period, before Israel and the Palestinians signed their Declaration of Principles in 1993.
One was the 1988 Declaration of Palestinian Independence in Algiers, and the other, hinted at in broad terms, was the Strategy of Stages from 1974 where the Palestinian National Council (February) and later the whole Arab League (October summit that year in Rabat) backed a battle of stages under which any territory liberated from Israel would be incorporated in a Palestinian state.
The new stage in confronting the (Israeli) aggressive attack (on us) goes on unabated, concluded Arafat.
© 2002 Michael Widlanski
Michael Widlanski is senior analyst at The Media Line and lecturer at The Rothberg School of the Hebrew University
Seems to me the establishment is tiring of all this, and are eager to run with any superficial statement as if it were the gospel truth.
Another suicide/homicide attack today, killing 3.
Recent events make it eminently clear that it is how Israel reacts to such rubbish that matters, not the "establishment". The Israeli government has real influence over what happens, unlike, say, the New York Times or its tabloid equivalents in England. And it's pretty obvious by now that the Bush Administration may blow smoke in one direction while moving in another.
We'll see how it goes.
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