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Left-wing Monsters: Arafat (Continued II) By: David Meir-Levi
FrontPageMagazine.com | Friday, September 23, 2005

Thus did Arafat’s thugs systematically dismantle the Middle East’s only democracy besides Israel. When Lebanon’s President complained to the UN that the PLO was destroying his country, the call fell on deaf ears. Arafat was able to mount on-going terror operations against Israel without a murmur of objection, much less condemnation, from the West. But when Israel retaliated, its government was condemned for violating the territorial integrity of Lebanon, a sovereign state. 

Arafat’s power and influence grew to such proportions that he was able to build up military strength approximating that of a small but fully equipped army: with tanks, artillery, anti-aircraft and anti-tank weaponry, short and medium ranged rockets, and tens of thousands of men under arms.  He was even working on the acquisition of a small air force.

With this base of operations, his financial support from the Saudis, and his alliance with the Soviet bloc, Arafat’s prestige steadily grew, as did his power in the Arab world. After the humiliating defeat of Egypt and Syria in their aggressive 1973 war against Israel,[1] Arafat was able to claim the honor of being the only Arab leader able to mount a successful military campaign against Israel. The PLO was acknowledged almost world-wide as the Palestinians’ government in exile, and Arafat its de facto leader. The political strategy Arafat had learned from his Communist mentors was bearing fruit. Here was a scruffy, but tenacious and courageous little man leading an oppressed, impoverished, homeless people in their desperate struggle for national self-determination. And in the eyes of the world, this murderer of schoolchildren was standing up to the strongest military force in the Middle East.

The advice that Ho Chi Minh had given to Abu Iyad to turn the terrorist war into a classic leftwing cause, had been put into action and was succeeding better than anyone could have expected. It had achieved its first milestone with Arafat’s appearance at the UN General Assembly on November 13, 1974. Speaking before the entire world, Arafat rattled off a 90-minute speech that set forth the basic themes that would provide the outline for his political pronouncements until his death. 1) Zionism and Israel were evil, imperialist, colonialist, and racist -- in short, too evil to be allowed to exist. 2) The Palestinians were a classic Third World victim of colonialist oppression, racist occupation, Western imperialism, and apartheid discrimination, even though there had never been a Palestinian state and no Palestinian national movement until 1956 – eight years after the creation of Israel. And even though as late as 1967 (until the Arabs’ failed war of aggression against Israel) the West Bank and Gaza were under Arab rule. 3). The PLO was the vanguard of Palestinian freedom fighters not terrorists, a patent falsehood.


Arafat held an olive branch in one hand, and a gun in the other. If he did not get the world’s support in the Palestinian struggle for nationhood, the world would be at fault for the disastrous violence and bloodshed that would ensue. Arafat claimed (falsely) that the Palestinian national identity was an established fact of history (there is no cultural or ethnic or language difference between Palestinians and the Syrians and Jordanians, whose states were created by British and French imperialists). He also asserted the ‘right of return’ for Palestinian refugees, which he claimed was canonized in international law and UN resolutions. But there is no right of return for those defeated in wars of aggression. Millions of Germans for example were displaced from their ancient homes in East Prussia to compensate the Poles for the injuries inflicted on them in World War II. The West Bank and Gaza had been used for three wars against Israel in less than a generation.


Finally, Arafat argued that the PLO, despite the fact that its sole aim was the destruction of a member state of the UN, was a legitimate representative of the Palestinian people and as such deserved a place at the UN and other international forums on a par with other member states.


Arafat was an honored guest at the UN just 18 months after his henchmen had taken Israeli athletes hostage at the Munich Olympic Games and murdered them, and despite the fact that his appearance in military dress and his militaristic message fundamentally contradicted the bylaws, rules, and aims of the institution. He got a standing ovation from the General Assembly, save for the representatives of the United States and Israel. The PLO became an official observer at the UN, and a year later the UN General Assembly voted its most infamous resolution, declaring that “Zionism is Racism,” making the Jews the only people in the world whose national liberation movement the UN had ever condemned. The PLO gained full membership in the Nonaligned Movement, and by the late 1970s, 86 countries recognized the PLO – a terrorist organization -- while only 72 recognized the democratic state of Israel.


With the entry of the Saudi royal family and its limitless funds into the world of mass media in 1974, the surrender of much of the global media to having its Middle East content vetted by Arab propagandists became common. Thus the world’s press came to serve as a main support to the lies that Arafat and the PLO’s enthusiastic academics propagated about their history and agendas.


Historically, the PLO had nine major sources of income.  Arafat controlled all of them, directly or indirectly, which meant that he always had hundreds of thousands of dollars at his immediate disposal and hundreds of millions in bank accounts. These funds came from Arab states to support the terror activities; from a tax on Palestinians abroad; from the United Nations and the European Union; protection money from corporations and sovereign states in the Arab world, Asia, and Europe in the hopes of averting terror in their areas; money from illegal arms dealing; money laundering and counterfeiting; drug trafficking and automobile theft. The illegal activities of the PLO ranged across every imaginable area of criminal endeavor, with its victims drawn from local Palestinians, diaspora Palestinians, Arab, European and Israeli businesses. There is no known accounting of the total income from these activities; but sums are estimated to be in the tens of billions of dollars per year.


Another source of income for Arafat and his cronies was money earmarked for Palestinian refugees. Over the years, the UN supplied billions of dollars to Palestinian refugees via UNWRA. Much of this money went to the PLO offices and military training installations in the refugee camps. Since the UN was controlled by the Arab bloc, nothing was done to monitor the funds. The lion’s share of the money that went to UNRWA was provided by the United States and the European Union (the super-rich oil sheikhdoms gave in toto less than 3% per year on average).


With the money he skimmed from these PLO enterprises, Arafat made himself one of the wealthiest individuals in the world, and created several times over the army and the armaments he needed to wage a 40-year terror war against Israel.


Tragically, the West in general, and the EU in particular, turned a blind eye to his criminal activity, even knowing that only through such illegal incomes could he continue his carnage (See Ehrenfeld).


It Was Never About Peace or A State On The West Bank


Abba Eban once quipped that the Palestinians never missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity. From the Western point of view, this seems accurate. But for Arafat, what appeared to the West as opportunities were actually traps to be avoided at all costs. Peace with Israel would mean the end of the dream of a liberated Palestine and the end of Arafat the liberator. Peace was therefore never on the agenda for him or the PLO he had created. Opportunities for peace were regarded as dangerous threats to the goal that Arafat never wavered from: the destruction of Israel. His (self-described) effort to torpedo any chance of peace after the Six-Day War is the first manifestation of his commitment to terrorism until victory, which for him always meant the “liberation” of Palestine from the Jordan to the sea. This was not a sentiment limited to Arafat. When he toyed with accepting the Rogers Plan in 1970, he faced threats of assassination from his own forces within the PLO and el-Fatah (See Rubin and Rubin).


To those who understood his goal, it was no surprise when he rejected the invitation from Anwar Sadat to join him and Menahem Begin at Camp David I in 1979 to negotiate an Arab-Israeli peace. He could have been the President of a new Palestinian state on the West Bank and Gaza Strip had he chosen to participate. Sadat’s invitation had great appeal to local West Bank leaders. But Arafat intimidated them into silence, assassinating several, including the Mayor of Nablus, as frustrated US and Egyptian officials tried to coax them into joining in the peace talks.


Arafat did everything possible to torpedo the plan. His stand may have been influenced at least in part by the success of the Islamic radical, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini who had just overthrown the Shah of Iran. If that obscure Iranian cleric could unseat the Shah and hold American officials hostage for 444 days, then Arafat could have his cake in Palestine and eat it too (See Rubin and Rubin, Aburish).


Two years later, Arafat successfully lobbied for the defeat of the Saudi peace plan proposed at the Arab conference in Fez, October 1981. Even though the plan called for the entire West Bank and Gaza Strip to be administered by Arafat and the PLO under UN tutelage, Arafat rejected it and convinced the other 20 Arab states to do so as well. In his view, Palestine could only be redeemed in “fire and blood.”


This posture was to become his hallmark in the future, as he found one excuse after another to explain to his frustrated sponsors and supporters in the West why he rejected every peace plan offered him. To him these plans were not opportunities…..they were threats.


As Arafat built his terror army in southern Lebanon, Israel watched with apprehension. 


Finally, in 1978, Israeli forces invaded Lebanon and drove the PLO from its bases in the south. Two months later the Israeli forces withdrew, handing over control to the UN. But almost immediately the PLO forces re-infiltrated. The UN troops did nothing to stop them, which was hardly surprising since the UN itself had embraced the terrorist and his cause five years earlier. Soon the PLO renewed attacks on Israel with up-graded weapons and larger forces. With PLO terror bases built intentionally alongside of UN emplacements and inside of Lebanese villages, Israel was limited in its retaliation options. It did not want to bomb those bases and run the risk of creating UN or civilian casualties. As a result, Israeli reprisals were largely ineffectual.


In July, 1981, the US brokered a cease-fire, gaining grudging agreement from Arafat to stop the attacks. When the attacks stopped, Israeli reprisals stopped too. But the PLO soon violated the cease-fire with more than 270 attacks over the next 11 months. Twenty-nine Israelis died, and more than 300 were injured.


Meanwhile, contrary to the terms of the cease-fire agreement, Arafat increased his terrorist forces to almost 20,000 men, with enough weapons to equip five brigades; along with hundreds of Russian tanks, anti-aircraft guns, mortars, Katyusha rockets, and sophisticated surface-to-air missiles. It was clear to Israel that Arafat was gearing up for a major escalation. And that was clear to the local Lebanese as well. By the end of 1981, they were fleeing by the tens of thousands, many of them finding refuge in Israel.


On June 2, 1982, the Abu Nidal group attempted the assassination of Israel’s Ambassador to Great Britain. Israel launched a reprisal raid on June 4, but two days later when the PLO responded with massive artillery attacks on Israeli civilians, Israel launched its full-scale invasion of southern Lebanon, Operation “Peace for Galilee.” The time had come to clear the invading PLO army out.


But while no one took Arafat to task for invading and destroying Lebanon, Israel was immediately criticized for its retaliatory strike. But as Henry Kissinger observed, “No sovereign state can tolerate indefinitely the buildup along its borders of a military force dedicated to its destruction…(and implementing)…periodic shelling and raids”.  Israel’s invasion was pre-emptive, but defensive; and its cause was the escalating threat posed by Arafat and the PLO. If someone has a gun pointed at your head, you don’t wait until he shoots before you take defensive action.


The Syrian dictatorship quickly entered the war. It increased its occupation army from 25,000 to 40,000 men, and committed air and anti-aircraft forces against Israel. Syria quickly lost 100 planes in air combat. Israel lost none. Israeli planes destroyed all Syrian anti-aircraft emplacements. Thereafter, Syria kept its forces out of future fighting; but remained in eastern Lebanon.


Surviving PLO terrorists fled to Beirut, leaving Israel in complete control of the southern part of the country. Lebanese returned to their homes, farms and villages, and openly celebrated the departure of the PLO. They greeted the Israeli soldiers with flowers and champagne. They saw the Israelis as liberators rather than as invaders.


The Israeli strike in Lebanon enjoyed lightning success. PLO forces, although numbering in the tens of thousands, fully armed, and in possession of armor and artillery, were ineffectual against the Israelis. While Syria still retained an occupying force of 40,000 in Eastern Lebanon, its stinging defeat in air and ground engagements made it unwilling to interfere with the Israeli advance.


After a week of war, the IDF was in control of all southern Lebanon. Its tanks and artillery surrounded Beirut, trapping Arafat and about 15,000 Palestinian terrorists along with some 500,000 Lebanese. At this point, the Israeli high command made a fateful decision. The invasion bore the code name “Pine Trees.” There were two phases: “little pines” and “big pines”. The objectives of “little pines”, the expulsion of the PLO from southern Lebanon, had been achieved. Now the military began “big pines” --  the complete expulsion of the PLO from Lebanon, and the creation of a Lebanese government that would make peace with Israel.


To that end, Ariel Sharon, then Minister of Defense, worked secretly with Bashir Gemayel, the leader of the Lebanese Christian Maronite Phalangist forces. Gemayel agreed to spearhead the attack on the PLO in Beirut provided that he would have support for the creation of a Christian dominated government with himself as its leader. Gemayel was enthused about the political part of the plan. However, when it came time to make a military move, he refused to commit his troops. He was apparently content to let Israel do the fighting, knowing that even without his military participation, Israel would still support him as leader of the first Lebanese government willing to make peace with Israel. So Sharon was left with an unexpected predicament. To implement “big pines,” the Israeli army would need to mount its own offensive against the PLO in western Beirut. Since the PLO systematically used civilians as human shields, such an offensive would be costly in both Israeli and Lebanese lives.


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[1] Attacking on Yom Kippur, the High Holy Day of the Jews, the attacking armies took Israel by surprise and inflicted horrendous casualties against Israeli personnel, air and armored forces. Syria stood within a few dozen kilometers of cutting Israel in half with a drive toward Haifa, while Egypt captured the eastern bank of the Suez and was poised for an unstoppable thrust across the Sinai straight up to Tel Aviv. And perhaps most important of all, thanks to Anwar es-Saddat’s “special relationship” with Henry Kissinger, Kissinger stonewalled for days as Israel ineffectually demanded that Nixon live up to the American commitment to re-supply the IDF in case of a prolonged war. Nonetheless, Israel defeated both countries and came within artillery range of their capitols, thanks in part to Alexander Haig’s secret end run around Kissinger.

David Meir-Levi lectures in English, Hebrew, and Spanish and is a contributor to Frontpagemag.com.

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