Friday, November 12, 2004
The fall of Jimmy Carter: When the American people narrowly elected Jimmy Carter president in 1976, his victory was attributed to widespread outrage at the illegal behavior of former President Richard Nixon. Carter was seen as an honest man -- and that was what mattered. After four years of malaise and general incompetence, he was turned out of office. He spent the early years of his retirement doing noble work with Habitat for Humanity.
But then he decided to stick his nose back into world politics and brought the United States the "Agreed Framework" with North Korea -- a boondoggle. Carter has used his diminished stature in recent years to assail the Bush administration as it has tried to fight the war on terror, going so far as to accept the Nobel Peace Prize for nothing in particular except that it made George W. Bush look bad.
With the death of the father of modern terrorism, "palestinian" "leader" Yasser Arafat, Carter has once again seize the opportunity to demonstrate his complete lack of common sense and disdain for the Middle East's only democracy.
First, early yesterday, was a statement from the Carter Center on Arafat's death:
Yasser Arafat's death marks the end of an era and will no doubt be painfully felt by Palestinians throughout the Middle East and elsewhere in the world.
He was the father of the modern Palestinian nationalist movement. A powerful human symbol and forceful advocate, Palestinians united behind him in their pursuit of a homeland. While he provided indispensable leadership to a revolutionary movement and was instrumental in forging a peace agreement with Israel in 1993, he was excluded from the negotiating role in more recent years.
My hope is that an emerging Palestinian leadership can benefit from Arafat's experiences, be welcomed to the peace process by Prime Minister Sharon and President Bush, and be successful in helping to forge a Palestinian state living in harmony with their Israeli neighbors.
Maybe a sledgehammer and a chisel might enable someone to get through Carter's thick skull the fact that Arafat was a terrorist. His "indispensible leadership to a revolutionary movement" was the idea of hijacking planes, murdering Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics and, as Jeff Jacoby reminds us, the murder of schoolchildren in Ma'alot.
Perhaps his signal contribution to the practice of political terror was the introduction of warfare against children. On one black date in May 1974, three PLO terrorists slipped from Lebanon into the northern Israeli town of Ma'alot. They murdered two parents and a child whom they found at home, then seized a local school, taking more than 100 boys and girls hostage and threatening to kill them unless a number of imprisoned terrorists were released. When Israeli troops attempted a rescue, the terrorists exploded hand grenades and opened fire on the students. By the time the horror ended, 25 people were dead; 21 of them were children.
Thirty years later, no one speaks of Ma'alot anymore. The dead children have been forgotten. Everyone knows Arafat's name, but who ever recalls the names of his victims?
So let us recall them: Ilana Turgeman. Rachel Aputa. Yocheved Mazoz. Sarah Ben-Shim'on. Yona Sabag. Yafa Cohen. Shoshana Cohen. Michal Sitrok. Malka Amrosy. Aviva Saada. Yocheved Diyi. Yaakov Levi. Yaakov Kabla. Rina Cohen. Ilana Ne'eman. Sarah Madar. Tamar Dahan. Sarah Soper. Lili Morad. David Madar. Yehudit Madar. The 21 dead children of Ma'alot -- 21 of the thousands of who died at Arafat's command.
But Carter chooses not to remember that Arafat. Instead, he sees him as a "revolutionary leader" along the lines of George Washington. There is no condemnation from Carter for anything Arafat did in his life.
In today's New York Times Carter elaborates on his earlier statement, demonstrating just how completely divorced from reality he is.
For more than 40 years, Yasir Arafat was the undisputed leader of the fragmented and widely dispersed Palestinian community and the symbol of its cause. His pre-eminent role was not perpetuated by his boldness or clarity of purpose, but was protected from challenge by his status as the only common denominator around which the disparate factions could find a rallying point.
It was very frustrating to deal with Mr. Arafat in seeking a clear position of the Palestinians, because he was very careful to avoid making a final decision that, when revealed, might arouse intense opposition or rebellion from one of the many competing groups that accepted him as its spokesman. At the same time, his sensitive political antennas endowed him with the ability to enunciate a consensus with reasonable accuracy.
Translation: Arafat was a thug who knew how to play one group against another and maintain his power over the Palestinian people, without regard to their welfare.
When given a chance by Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin of Israel, Mr. Arafat responded well by concluding the Oslo Agreement of 1993, which spelled out a mutually satisfactory relationship on geographical boundaries between Israel and the Palestinians. The resulting absence of serious violence by either side was broken when a Jewish nationalist assassinated Mr. Rabin.
Everyone just got along fine in the Middle East until one of those Jews got uppity. This second intifada was all a Jew's fault. Palestinians were angry because one Jew killed another Jew and that's why they started blowing up buses and pizzarias and anywhere else where they might find a Jew. I'd hesitate to call President Carter anti-semitic, but just how out of whack does your perception of reality have to be to blame the Jews for the failure of the peace process?
Mr. Arafat later rejected a proposal devised by President Bill Clinton and Prime Minister Ehud Barak of Israel, but its basic terms have led to positive initiatives between private groups of Israelis and Palestinians, in particular one known as the Geneva Accords. This proposal addresses the major issues that must be resolved through further official negotiations before a permanent peace can be realized.
Arafat rejected the proposal for a Palestinian state, but good has come out of it because of "positive initiatives" between "private groups"? Are you completely insane President Carter? Does the word "intifada" mean nothing to you? What about all of the murdered jews? Men, women, children. Have you heard about any of this? It's on the news all of the time!
In effect, peace efforts of a long line of previous administrations have been abandoned by President Bush and Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. For the last three years of his life, Mr. Arafat was incapacitated and held as a prisoner, humiliated by his physical incarceration and excluded by the other two leaders from any recognition as the legitimate head of the Palestinian community.
Nope, obviously he didn't see any of the dead Israeli children on TV. Do they get cable TV in Georgia? You'd think they would, CNN being based there and everything. Bush and Sharon are to blame for all of those dead Jews, huh?
Recognizing Mr. Arafat's failure to control violence among his people or to initiate helpful peace proposals, I use the word "legitimate" based on his victory in January 1996 by a strong majority of votes in an election monitored by the Carter Center and approved by the occupying Israelis.
Yeah, he's as legitimate as any dictator. Would Carter think that President Bush was legitimately elected if the only sources of news leading up to the election were Fox News, The Washington Times and talk radio? Would Carter think President Bush was legitimately elected if he had all the Democrats tossed in easliy-forgotten holes in the ground and ran only against Ralph Nader? Arafat's election was as legitimate as Saddam Hussein's. The trustworthiness of the Carter Center isn't worth a bucket of warm spit.
Lately, with Mr. Arafat politically and physically debilitated, the resulting leadership vacuum has been filled by factions, some of which have resorted to unconscionable acts of terrorism. The Israelis have used this political interregnum to impose their will unilaterally throughout Palestinian territories, with undeviating support from Washington.
So, Arafat had nothing to do with the violence? The unconscionable murders? It was all of these "factions" over which he had no control? Are you completely nuts? [At this point I would like to point out that it is incredibly difficult to avoid using certain expletives to describe President Carter's idiocy.] Does the Karine A ring a bell Mr. President? Or did Arafat have nothing to do with it?
When the widely respected leader Mahmoud Abbas was chosen by the Palestinian governing authority to act as its alternative peace negotiator, his effectiveness was undermined by both Mr. Arafat (who saw his authority threatened) and by Mr. Sharon (who preferred to make decisions without considering a strong Palestinian voice).
Who was more responsible for Abbas' failure as prime minister, Sharon or Arafat? Correct answer: Arafat. Mr. Carter, do you remember Aqaba? Israel deserves none of the blame for Abbas' failure.
If a respected successor to Mr. Arafat can be chosen by the Palestinians (not by the Israelis or Americans), then there is a new opportunity to initiate peace negotiations. While Mr. Abbas was elected by the organization yesterday as the chairman, it is unlikely that he or any other leader can achieve political legitimacy unless chosen through a democratic process.
Geez, that sure didn't stop you from handing Arafat political legitimacy. Or Venezuela's Hugo Chavez either.
Moreover, serious obstacles exist now that were not present in 1996. At that time, Palestinians were permitted to move freely, to campaign and to vote throughout Gaza and the West Bank. This included East Jerusalem, despite a last-minute altercation about whether votes were being "cast in" or "mailed from" voting places in post offices. Now, many more illegal Israeli settlements have been built throughout the West Bank, a road system connects them like a spider web, and a wall is being constructed that encroaches in substantial ways into Palestinian territory from the internationally accepted boundary.
Ptooey! Carter really has been asleep at the switch. Palestinians aren't allowed to move freely because they've been using that freedom to murder innocent Israelis. Someone should find out what Carter's skull is made of and see if we can form it for use as body armor for our troops over in Iraq -- nothing would get through it and it would save countless American lives.
Another deeply disturbing change is the decision by Hamas and other militant factions to resort to suicide bombings and other acts of terrorism, whereas the hope for peace and justice discouraged such violence eight years ago. After that election, Hamas representatives rejected my efforts to have them accept Mr. Arafat as their political leader, and they continue to act independently.
Change? There's been no change. Hamas has always called for the destruction of Israel. Hamas hasn't changed at all. Hamas can only be destroyed, it can't be bargained with.
Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain has stated recently that peace in the Middle East is the most important international issue. It is to be hoped that, in Washington and Jerusalem, there is also recognition that a bold and balanced move to achieve this goal will help to attenuate the Middle East tension and hatred that exacerbates the global threat of terrorism.
Only liberal loonies think that "solving" the Palestinian-Israeli conflict will somehow stop Hezbollah, Hamas, al Qaeda and all of the rest from hating the United States or other western nations. Remember that the Oslo Accords hadn't failed at the time of the African embassy bombings or the USS Cole attack. You could remove every single Jew from the Middle East, living and dead, and we'd still have terrorism -- probably more of it.
Throughout Carter's piece, terrorism is mentioned three times, but never in connection with Arafat. President Carter is a disgrace. His effusive praise of a terrorist is sickening. His failure to acknowledge the thousands of murders for which Arafat is responsible is unconscionable.
I used to have some small measure of respect for President Carter and his work with Habitat for Humanity. No longer. That little bit of good work has been overshadowed and overtaken by his embrace of anti-Americanism and praise of a unrepentant terrorist.