Frontpage Interview’s guest today is Arlene Kushner, the author of the new book Disclosed: Inside the Palestinian Authority and the PLO.
FP: Ms. Kushner, welcome to Frontpage Interview.
Kushner: Thank you, it's a pleasure to participate.
FP: In Disclosed, you explore the inner workings of the Palestine Liberation Organization and its outgrowth, the Palestinian National Authority. Tell our readers some of the disturbing things you found.
Kushner: The PLO (which plays the role of "negotiating partner" with Israel) is duplicitous to its core. It is not even a matter of hedging on commitments when it's convenient: Islamic law permits breaking of treaties with non-Muslims when it brings advantage, and Arafat has openly alluded to this. The PLO leadership was well schooled in its early days by revolutionary movements, in places such as N. Vietnam, Algeria, on ways to present themselves as more moderate than they are in order to disguise their true intentions.
One needs to look no further than the incitement that prevails in the Palestinian Authority to understand precisely what their intentions are. It is ubiquitous and it is vile. Of course I knew about the incitement before researching the book. But when one confronts this material -- from the pulpit, on TV, on radio, in the newspapers, in textbooks, in crossword puzzles, etc. etc., and recognizes the amount of venom that is being spewed, it is still a shock.
And then there is the degree to which the PLO is simply evil. I know of no other word to express what I've discovered. Fomenting of terrorism within Israel, first and foremost, of course. As well as the fostering of terrorism internationally, training and giving shelter to terrorists from other places. The promotion of Nazi-style anti-Semitism, with Mein Kampf on sale in the Palestinian Authority. But there is also corruption that allows them to rob their own people blind. And there is involvement with criminal activities over the years, from drug trade to gun running to counterfeiting. I encountered sources that indicated that the PLO was more a mafia-type operation than a revolutionary movement.
FP: What do you think is really behind the Palestinians’ hatred of Jews? Is this really over land, or about something else? There is every indication in this culture that hatred of someone else, the other, is crucial.
Kushner: "The other" -- specifically the Jewish and Christian other -- within Islamic society is given second-class, dhimitude, status. But dhimis do not automatically invite hatred so much as repression and condescension. There is more going on here. And yes, I think to a large degree it's a matter of land. But not land in the sense of where the borders should lie or whether there should be a Palestinian entity of some sort. It is, rather, with regard to the view that we are illegitimate interlopers, occupying land that is Muslim. We are an offense to them: They resent our very presence. The Palestinian Authority, which is merely an outgrowth of the PLO, is committed to our being gone. Since the onset of Oslo, ten years ago, the PA has established a campaign of vilification against us as part of the effort to delegitimize our presence. All of this is reinforced by a direct connection to Nazi anti-Semitism. Yasser Arafat learned at the feet of his uncle and mentor, the former Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, who consorted with the Nazis; Mein Kamp is sold in PA stores today. The PA is the first entity since Nazi Germany to advocate the killing of people simply because they are Jews. Listen to their incitement, especially from their pulpits, and you can hear it -- Allah is pleased when Jews are killed.
FP: From all my studies and observations of Islamic fundamentalism and Palestinian culture, I can tell you that if Israel disappeared tomorrow and there were no Jews left in the world, and then all the infidels disappeared as well, that the Palestinians, and militant Muslims in general, would still desperately yearn to hate and kill someone and to blow themselves up. It is connected to the lack of freedom and free will in their cultures, combined with the demonization of women and pleasure. There is ultimately so little freedom to engage in so many wonderful and beautiful things in life that, ultimately, the only freedom that exists is the freedom to wage war and to blow yourself up. Wherever there is a pathological misogyny on a massive scale, a suicidal behaviour in a culture always emerges. Do you agree with any of these themes?
Kushner: Quite a series of propositions, really, and I must say that --while repression generally will certain foster violence -- I do not agree with the main thrust of what you are saying: I do not think pathological misogyny leads to suicidal behavior. It leads to killing woman, first, and general insensitivity to all humans and other living things, second. But we can look at several fundamentalist Muslim societies that repress and mistreat their women without finding a tendency for the men to blow themselves up. Additionally, any theory of the sort you propound should take into account other (often concomitant) violent or dehumanizing tendencies in addition to misogyny, such as a predeliction for incest and sexual abuse of children, including boys.
Palestinian society is unique, I think. Such that it has evolved from a more general Arab culture, it has become one of the most extraordinarily negative societies found anywhere. The focus is not on building themselves, but rather on destroying us. When you look at the incitement, which has been rife within the culture for 10 years now, you see that it promotes jihad and becoming a shahid ("martyr"). The Palestinians have been taught that blowing themselves up, in the service of killing Jews, is something that Allah seeks and praises. This behavior is learned, religious/political behavior, not something generated from within the culture.
FP: Shed some light for us on the events in Gaza right now.
Kushner: I would make two comments at this point. The first is to not count Arafat out yet, no matter what "rebellion" seems to be taking place against him and his "old guard" cronies. Arafat is particularly adept at playing one group against the other in order to maintain the upper hand. Nor should too much credence be given to the idea that "reformers" within the PA are trying to gain ascendancy. The leader of the reform element is Muhammad Dahlan. What many people don't know is that the CIA has a tape recording of orders he gave to bomb a school bus in Gaza in 2000, while Israeli Intelligence has documents indicating he had complicity in all stages of the Karine-A weapons ship fiasco.
FP: Give us a brief profile of Yasser Arafat – the terrorist.
Kushner: There is, of course, Arafat the historical terrorist: the one who improvised and promoted new forms of terrorism in the early years of the PLO. Then there is the Arafat who has promoted terrorism internationally via support for other groups. Over the years the PLO has harbored terrorists, armed them, and trained them. I myself did not realize, until I researched this for my book, how extensive Arafat's reach has been. The IRA, the Red Army of Germany, FALN -- the Puerto Rican nationalists, the Red Army of Italy, and the Tamil Tigers of Sri Lanka all received PLO training.
Most significantly now, however, is the way in which Arafat continues to promote terrorism here in Israel as he pretends to either be helpless to prevent it or opposed to it.
In 1995, an agreement was struck between Hamas, as represented by Sheikh Yassin, and the PA, as represented by Yasser Arafat, which called for Hamas and the PA to "become united behind major issues of concern to the homeland" and which stated that the PA "is responsible for the protection of individuals who performed their duties during the years of struggle, from any faction or group." In the years since, the PA, and Arafat specifically, have supported terrorism directly. Arafat clearly was playing the violence option after Camp David fell apart in 2000, when he promoted the Second Intifada. A considerable amount of documentation regarding his connection to terrorism was uncovered during Operation Defensive Shield in 2002: He has personally signed off on payments to terrorists. PA security personnel, with his sanction, have participated in terrorist attacks; the PA has been involved in securing of illicit weapons, and in building weapons and bomb factories. The PA, headed by Arafat, is not peripheral to terrorist activity, it is a constituent part of it.
FP: I think it would have been a constructive thing if the Israelis had assassinated Arafat a long time ago. I think it would have taught a profound lesson to the leadership of the Palestinians and that the lives of thousands of innocent people, Palestinians and Jews, would have been saved. Is my view too hawkish and extreme?
Kushner: Here, too, I must disagree. I don't think it's a matter of your being too hawkish. From a purely personal perspective I too would love to see Arafat blown away. But the repercussions must be considered. Because I am totally unable to perceive Arafat's "charisma," the phenomenon tends to bewilder me. Yet it is an empirical fact that when he has been attacked from the outside his popularity has increased. Though it may be waning now, he has had an almost mythic hold on the Palestinian street -- he has personified the Palestinian nationalist movement. To have assassinated him would have been risking making a martyr out of him and actually motivating Palestinians to rally with increased fervor in his memory.
Then too, it has been clear to me for some time that he has an entire entourage that has absorbed his lessons and values. I suspect the "revolution," that is, the violence, would have gone on anyway in the name of the PLO. We are going to have to eradicate a great deal more than the person of Yasser Arafat before this changes.
FP: You are an expert in how American tax dollars fund terrorism via UNRWA (the United Nations Relief and Work Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Middle East). Could you give our readers a highlight of this outrage?
Kushner: The US, via USAID, is the single largest contributor to UNRWA, supplying over 30% of its regular budget annually. By US law, none of these funds should go to UNRWA unless UNRWA has taken all possible measures to assure that no part of the funds shall go to any benefactor who has an association with terrorism.
UNRWA, however, turns a blind eye towards terrorism. Hamas controls its teachers union. UNRWA employees -- who are not vetted in the West Bank and Gaza -- have been convicted of terrorist activities in Israeli military court. (The fact that all but a handful of UNRWA's 23,000 employees are themselves Palestinian Arab refugees is a good part of the problem here.) And it is without question that some of the 4 million beneficiaries on the UNRWA rolls are associated with terrorism, for the core of terrorist activity is within the camps and extensive documentation was found by the IDF in 2002. Yet, UNRWA has never removed a single beneficiary from its rolls because of association with terrorism. They are said to be afraid of repercussions if they do and thus maintain a "don't ask, don't tell" policy.
FP: So what can we do to stop this UNRWA fiasco?
Kushner: I am a firm believer in public education. The Center for Near East Policy Research has underwritten my work on two reports on this issue, which are being widely disseminated. Journalists and policy makers in particular need to be apprised of the situation.
Ultimately, money talks, and it is those counties (the US, Canada, the EU) most directly connected to large scale funding for UNRWA who must take an active role here. Fully dismantling UNRWA as a humanitarian agency is not the goal -- a serious adjustment in UNRWA operations is.
UNRWA has politicized its role inappropriately, and extended itself beyond its humanitarian mandate. A return to that originally envisioned mandate would be most appropriate. This means it would be dedicated to assisting the needy within the Palestinian refugee population, and would do so within the norms of customary international law. There is no justification UNRWA to be permitted to operate at variance with practices and policies concerning refugees that are otherwise universally accepted. For example: Arabs who lived in what became Israel before 1948, fled in 1948, went to Jordan and became citizens there, are not refugees and should not be counted as such. UNRWA does count them for purely political reasons. Just as UNRWA, alone in all the world, counts successive generations of the descendants of refugees as also refugees.
At the heart of this issue is the “right of return,” which UNRWA has assiduously promoted and, in truth, relied upon as its raison d’être: Refugees remain refugees until they “return,” and UNRWA must continue to provide for them, as transients, until this time. The original mandate for UNRWA envisioned the agency to be only temporary. GA resolution 194, to which the mandate refers, alludes to solution to the refugee problem via resettlement, as well as via repatriation. It is time to return to this and to deal with realistic ways for the refugees to get on with their lives, with permanence.
Yet another major concern is the degree to which UNRWA dissembles on the association of its staff, facilities, and beneficiaries with terrorism. A confrontation of the major proportions of this problem is essential. Part of the problem, of course, is that the refugees constitute the vast majority of the staff. It is possible to adopt other models and still provide humanitarian assistance. Indeed, it is essential to do so.
FP: Thank you Ms. Kushner, we are out of time. We’ll see you again soon.
Kushner: It's been fun. I thank you for the opportunity and would be delighted to do this again.
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