“Arafat was a narcissist self-serving, incompetent, corrupt fraud and a lie who did irreparable damage and harm, to the Palestinian people and cause. History will prove me right.”
The months of September and November are and should be “months of infamy” for Palestinians. It was on the 2nd of November 1917, when the infamous Lord Balfour of England gave his “promise” to Zionists leaders to establish a “Jewish Homeland” in Palestine.
It was also September 18, 1982, when Yasser Arafat turned his back on the thousands killed and massacred in Sabra and Shatila and turned his back on the hundreds of thousands of Palestinians refugees in Lebanon. Turning his back on his people is a trademark Arafat excelled in and perfected, from Jordan to Kuwait to Occupied Palestine and to all the millions of Palestinians in refugee camps and in the Diaspora.
Since taking over the Palestine Liberation Organization ” PLO” in 1969, Yasser Arafat insisted to have absolute and unconditional control over all decisions, certainly all-financial issues, accountable to no one. Resulting in the misuse and looting of tens of billions of dollars that remains unaccounted for. According to a CBC 60 Minute segment aired on November 7, 2003, and according to Jim Prince and a team of American accountants hired by Arafat he was able to divert at least $ one billion in public funds ” to ensure his political survival, but a lot more is unaccounted for.”
Yasser Arafat ran the PLO as a” mafia” boss rendered obsolete the establishment of any viable, independent and accountable Palestinian institutions. He rendered the Palestine National Congress “PNC” into a toy, a joke, shameless, and discredited “institution” waiving and forfeiting all of its rights as the representative of the Palestinian people under occupation and in the Diaspora.
He succeeded in doing that using the money to corrupt, to bribe, silence even threatens anyone who dares to challenge him. With no sense of duty, most if not all members of the PLO and PNC, just accepted Arafat dictates without any credible challenge thus setting the stage for the irreparable damage, harm, certainly betrayals, Arafat did to the Palestinian people certainly to the Palestinian cause.
Money and threats were his tools. He shamed all his subordinates by allowing them to loot, to cheat, to misuse of funds, that when they dared to challenge him, he pulls his little “black book” to silence them.
What I could never understand is why with many respectable and financially independent members of the PNC, no one dared to question Arafat and his political and financial management style. Back in 85 in Hotel Richmond in Geneva, I asked two very wealthy Palestinians who were members of the PNC this question and both were unable to give any reasons. Same true of Palestinian intellectuals.
While the financial corruption of Yasser Arafat and the PLO is legendary, the PLO, the claims of “Palestinian institutions” are lie. The incompetence and corruption of Arafat and the PLO will take many volumes; the essay here is about his criminal negligence and derelict of duty, which he promised to fulfill toward the Palestinian people, enough crime to convict him of high treason posthumously.
The prelude to Sabra & Shatila and Oslo was Lebanon when Arafat and the PLO escaped to from Jordan after losing the battle to challenge King Hussein in Jordan.
Arriving in Lebanon, Arafat went ahead creating his banana republic “Fakhani Republic” a state within a state in Lebanon. Arafat once again was the master at corrupting everything he touched, he allowed PLO and Fatah operatives and thugs to misuse and abuse their powers and presence in Lebanon, for which most Lebanese hated the PLO.
Many of his cadre’s senior cadres behaved with reckless disregard to the dignity of the Lebanese, the host country, no different from the way they behaved in Jordan, misusing their power and challenging the authority of the host country. More troubling and disgusting and shameful is the way they treated the citizens of both Jordan and especially Lebanon.
In Lebanon, PLO operative made extensive use of the bars and brothels of Lebanon as a way to “liberate” Palestine. While committed volunteers were stationed in camps in South Lebanon, the leadership, both military, and political made extensive use of the “good life” Lebanon offered, especially to executives of the PLO and Fatah with open expense accounts.
Sabra and Shatila Massacre:
With the tacit approval and green light from both President Reagan and General Alexander Haig, who served both as US Secretary of State and White House Chief of Staff, Menachem Begin, the Israeli prime minister and under then Ariel Sharon, Minister of Defense decide to invade Lebanon with expressed purpose of chasing the PLO out of Lebanon.
In 1982, Israel mobilized its army and within a couple of weeks laid siege of Beirut, the first Arab capital ever invaded by Israel. The siege of Beirut was cruel, savage, and destructive forcing the Reagan administration to interfere to put an end to the relentless crime Israel was committing as an “Occupying Power”.
To facilitate this the Reagan Administration dispatched ambassador Phillip Habib as Middle East Special Envoy. In that, a wider conflict was averted between Syria and Israel and between the Israel and the PLO.
Under the plans worked by ambassador Habib, there was a cease-fire, Arafat, and the PLO to withdraw and vacate Lebanon, and Israel withdraws from Beirut toward international borders. (Israel continued to occupy South Lebanon for 20 years, notwithstanding UNSC calling on its unconditional withdrawal).
More important of all, and recognizing the very volatile atmosphere between the Lebanese especial Israel’s allies the Lebanese Phalange, ambassador Habib gave US assurance that no harm will come to remaining hundreds of thousands of Palestinians and their families. Well, the US never kept its promise and Arafat never took the cause of the thousands who were massacred.
As soon as the ships carrying Arafat and his fighters, the Lebanese Phalange under the command of Elie Hobieka surrounded the Palestinian camps of Sabra and Shatila. The Israelis provide the needed security for the 300-400 members of the Lebanese militia, making sure there is no way out, the Lebanese Phalange under the supervision and floodlights went ahead, massacring over 3,500 Palestinians women, children, young and old, using both bullets and knives.
It was only a few days later the world woke up to the most heinous crime committed in Lebanon. The horror pictures they saw shocked the UN and the world.
Sean MacBride, assistant secretary general and president of the UN General Assembly indicted Israel “as the occupying power was responsible for the violence- the massacre was a form of genocide.”
Israel, on the other hand, was in shock and after a massive demonstration of 400,000 in Tel-Aviv, Begin and his government decided to appoint a “special commission” to look into what happened.
Israel’s Kahan Commission after 4 months of deliberation released its finding on 8 February 1983 and “concluded that direct responsibility rested with Gemayel Phalangists led by Fadi Frem and that no Israelis were deemed directly responsible, although Israel was held to be directly responsible”.
The Kahan report continued to state ” the decision on the entry of the Phalangists into the refugee camps was taken without consideration of the danger-which the makers and the executors of the decision were obligated to foresee as probable- The Phalangists would commit massacres and pogroms against the inhabitants of the camps, and without examination of the means for presenting this danger. Similarly, it is clear from the course of events that when the reports began to arrive about the actions of the Phalangists in the camps, no proper heed was taken of these reports, the correct conclusions were not drawn from them, and no energetic and immediate action were taken to restrain the Phalangists and put stop to their actions.”
As a result of the Kahan report, Ariel Sharon as defense minister was forced to resign, later to become prime minister and Menachem Begin resigned and retired from Israeli politics.
In contrast, Yasser Arafat, the PLO Executive Committee, and the PNC did not take any action or hold a formal hearing or called for and set up an international board of inquiry into the massacre. They all walked away, happy to escape with their lives and their bank accounts.
Unlike the Israelis who took to the streets forcing Begin and Sharon to resign, no Palestinian credible action was taken to hold Yasser Arafat, the PLO Executive Committee and the PNC liable or at least accountable for not only for the massacres that took place, for failing to hold the US, the Phalange and Israeli accountable, they all simply did nothing that anyone can one day pursue the criminals. Worst yet to come when Suha Arafat took on one of the senior Phalange security officers as her trusted financial advisor and who also happened to come to Washington on Arafat private plane when Arafat came to sign Oslo. No Palestinian organization cared or challenged Arafat, or called on him to resign.
Oslo was yet another criminal undertaking by Arafat, the PLO Executive Committee, and the PNC. All three are guilty as charged.
Arafat, the narcissists and the clown he was always cared about he appeared to the world with his headdress, his pistol on his side, his military fatigues, thinking of himself the likes of Ho Chi Minh, Che Guevara, and Fidel Castro. None of who looted billions and has extensive use of private jets traveling the world.
Arafat, never caring for those under Israeli Occupation, was too busy to keep himself in the limelight, was so surprised and was caught off guard when the First Intifada broke out. He and the PLO Executive Committee were at loss.
The First Intifada put Israel and its then prime minister Yitzhak Rabin on the front pages and on the prime news as the Israeli army faced protesting Palestinians using stone with guns and tanks and policy of “broken bones.”
Arafat having sided with the criminal Saddam Hussein, and having lost support from the Gulf countries, his chief financial support, saw the First Intifada as a golden opportunity to be in the driver seats. Arafat did Rabin the biggest favor of his political career, ending and aborting the First Intifada. Rabin them must reciprocate the favor.
He opened secret channels with Israel and using the money he was able to undermine the First Intifada, by purchasing “agents” from the inside who were able and after two years of truly popular resistance to abort the First Intifada. The agents later became the heads of Arafat security forces. Israel and its image were saved, though it continued to use iron fists in the Occupied Territories.
President George Bush and his secretary of state James Baker took the opportunity of the successful Desert Storm campaign to try and open direct negotiations between Israel and the Arab countries, into what became as the Madrid Peace Conference.
Arafat and the PLO were not official members of the Madrid Conference, however, members of the Palestinians delegations were associated with the PLO, and were included as part of the joint delegation with Jordan.
The negotiations continued in Washington with the late Dr. Haider Abdul-Shafi, a very well respected Gaza physician lead the delegation. Arafat always worries about anyone who may pose a challenge to his leadership was leery of the independence and integrity of Dr. Abdul-Shafi and sent in one of his close associates Dr. Nabil Shaath to keep an eye on Dr. Abdul-Shafi and the negotiations.
Sensing that Dr. Abdul-Shafi was taking an independent line from the PLO, Yasser Arafat collecting on the favor he did to Rabin open a ‘secrete channel” with Israel sponsored and hosted by Norway’s Fafo Institute.
Unlike David Ben-Gurion who was all about establishing the State of Israel with its running institutions from day one, Yasser Arafat was never about having governing institutions, it was all about himself. Having surrounded himself with flunkies and “yes men” waiting for the handout. When it came to Oslo, Arafat could not count on anyone within the PLO or his office to organize a competent team of professionals to lead the negotiation.
With literally hundreds of thousands of professional Palestinians around the world with the highest professional degrees, lawyers and professors, and successful professionals Arafat chose to do it alone. Here I must fault the so-called ” Palestinian intellectuals” a closed circuit club of professors” who were part or close the PLO and Arafat who never took, certainly chose not take the cause of people and Palestine and challenge Yasser Arafat and his management style and his failing to establish sound credible accountable governing institutions. This failure also became clear after Oslo when Western powers felt sorry for the state of affairs of the Palestinians under Arafat that Adam Smith Institute decided to hire top-quality professionals to help the PLO to negotiate with Israel after the establishment of the Palestinian Authority.
What became clear is the criminal negligence and derelict of duty by Yasser Arafat and the PLO delegation to the negotiations, Mahmoud Abbas and Ahmed Qurai.
All three at best are intellectually incompetent, professionally unfit and unqualified, and are no match to the Israeli delegation of Yossi Beilin, Yair Hirschfeld, Simon Peres, Ron Pundak, Yitzhak Rabin and Uri Savir.
While Israel gathered the best brains to lead the negotiations, Arafat chose the most stupid incompetent, unqualified team to lead the negotiations, PLO senior members with hardly any or no legal experience worst hardly competent in the English language certainly with no knowledge of the Norwegian language.
Norway was no innocent bystander and was not the honest broker it pretended to be as was seen later when the Norway’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs commissioned the well-respected Norwegian academician Hilde Henriksen Waage to do a full study of the role Norway played in the secret negotiations. Professor Waage was surprised to discover that all the records and notes of the secret negotiations were missing or destroyed, concluding that the ” missing documents would have shown the extent to which Oslo Process was conducted on Israeli premises, with Norway acting as Israeli helpful errand boy”. Oslo was not the honest broker everyone thinks it was, accepting Israel’s red line and accepting the Palestinians were desperate for a deal at any costs.
Oslo Accord as negotiated and signed was nothing about ending the Israeli Occupation or reaching a final peace that takes into consideration the rights of return and the rights to stolen and confiscated properties.
Oslo was nothing more than a commercial and security business agreement between the State of Israel and Arafat and the PLO.
Arafat as a favor to Israel and desperate to conclude a deal that “saves his ass” left out all the important issues of concerns to the Palestinians; Jerusalem, Palestinian refugees, Israeli settlements, security and safety for the Palestinians and borders.
The “Letters of mutual recognition” between the PLO and Israel, Arafat signed on to an unconditional recognition of the State of Israel (with open borders and Jerusalem as its capital” and pledged to put an end to “violence” deeming all these years of his claim of “liberation” as violence and terrorism against the State of Israel. In exchange, Israel gave its recognition to the PLO as “representative of the Palestinian people and the partner to of the negotiations” thus securing for itself a stupid politically, professional, illegitimate reckless negotiating partner and making sure it excludes any future organization from ever sitting at the table to negotiate with Israel a final peace. Simply put there was never a promise of a Palestinian Statehood, all of this is nothing but “bullshit” the Palestinian leaders gives the people as morphine.
In these 24 years, the PLO/PA saved Israel over $50 billion in operational costs of the Israeli Occupation, saving Israeli billions to put to good use of providing every settler with $28,000 bonus, benefiting from the 80,000 strong Palestinian Security Forces that provide auxiliary security to the IDF and the settlers while never providing any security for the Palestinians from the daily attacks of the IDF and Settler’s. Oslo was and is a windfall for the senior members of the PLO and members of Fatah, certainly a windfall for the Palestinian Oligarchs. It is but a disaster for All of Palestinians, under Occupation and those in the Diaspora.
Concluding with a quote from one of the senior executive of the PLO Executive Committee. ” Oslo was the greatest idea Israel ever had, it let them continue with the occupation, without paying the costs- Dr. Mustafa Bargouthi. The question to Dr. Bargouthi is if this is your opinion why did join and became part of this management team?
Sami, a Palestinian-American and a US Army Veteran (66-68), recipient of the “soldier of the month award and leadership award from the 6th Army NCO Academy, is an international legal and business consultant with over 40 years of international experience, in construction, hospitality services, conservation and defense, in the Middle East, Europe and North Africa. Sami is a holder of BA, MPA in Public and Environmental Affairs, Jurist Doctor from Indiana University. While at IU he was elected class president, student government president and chairman of the Indiana Students Association,
Active in peace movement as a co-author of the pre-amble for the One State for All of its people and voluntary service program SalamNation. A frequent contributor on national and international affairs. He resides in the United States.