Absolute and entire ugliness is rare, observed the Victorian author John Ruskin. He did not have the pleasure of meeting Yasser Arafat.
In his last photo opportunity, Arafat, whose soul reflected his countenance, wore pajamas and a fur hat. As he clasped the hands of members of his entourage, sporting a syphilitic grin, he made an obscene attempt to raise an aide's hand to his grotesque, giant lips. The Arab on whose hand Arafat had orally fixated pulled away persistently, embarrassed, as though a hound had mounted his leg.
But Arafat's mug and manners were the least of his obscenities. The Egyptian-born representative of the Palestinian People began his campaign of violence against Israel well before the 1967 war -- his official pretext.
One of his first acts of terror within Israel was in 1965 -- a failed attempt by the Fatah to bomb the National Water Carrier, the country's irrigation and reservoir system. One of the last atrocities to have been carried out by Arafat's Fatah and Al Aqsa Martyrs occurred in March. Fatah and Hamas collaborated in a double-suicide bombing in the port of Ashdod. Ten Israelis were killed and 16 wounded.
OFFICIALLY, ARAFAT STOPPED claiming responsibility for acts of terror in 1988. The West ignored the body count and took him at his word--his English word.
In Arabic, however, Arafat persistently promised to maintain the struggle to "eliminate the state of Israel and establish a purely Palestinian state," in the words of a 1996 speech delivered in Stockholm. It was a vow he repeated often, most notably in the same year at a rally near Bethlehem: "We know only one word -- jihad. jihad, jihad, jihad. Whoever does not like it can drink from the Dead Sea or from the Sea of Gaza."
Or, as he prated to Al-Hayat Al-Jadeeda, newspaper of the Palestinian Authority (PA): "O my dear ones on the occupied lands, relatives and friends throughout Palestine and the diaspora, my colleagues in struggle and in arms, my colleagues in struggle and in jihad ... Intensify the revolution and the blessed intifada ... We must burn the ground under the feet of the invaders."
My fear and loathing of Yasser Arafat was born of personal experience as an Israeli. In 1974 Arafat sent the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP), an offshoot of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), into northern Israel. They infiltrated a high school in Maalot, killing 26 people; 21 were children only a little older than I was.
In April of that year, PLO terrorists attacked Kiryat Shmona, murdering 18, including eight children. The pathologist who performed the autopsies on the Maalot and Kiryat Shmona children was a close family friend. He arrived at my father's home distraught and later suffered a nervous breakdown.
In March 1978, Fatah terrorists took over a bus on the Coastal Haifa-Tel-Aviv highway (on which I traveled daily -- in a bus -- to school and back), killing 21 Israelis.
THE COMMITTEE FOR ACCURACY in Middle East Reporting in America has provided a potted historyof Arafat's mass murders from 1965 until 2004. Some of the most ghastly acts on his rap sheet are the slayings of 47 people on a Swissair flight in 1970; nine pupils and three teachers in an attack on a school bus from Moshav Avivim, also in 1970; 27 religious pilgrims at Lod Airport; 11 Israeli athletes in the 1972 Munich Massacre.
Also bearing Arafat's signature were the hijacking of an Air France plane that ended with the Entebbe rescue and the pirating of the Italian cruise ship Achille Lauro, during which a wheelchair-bound elderly man, Leon Klinghoffer, was shot and thrown overboard. This cold-blooded killing Arafat coordinated from his headquarters in Tunis, to which he had been expelled from Lebanon. And before that from Jordan.
That the Left grieves over Yasser Arafat is not surprising. This is another manifestation of the coffeehouse humanitarianism of the folks at CNN, the New York Times, and the U.N. and its terrorist arm, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).
A correspondent (and a writer in his own right) puts it better than I ever could: "Theirs is a seeming Rousseauian sympathy for the Symbolic Savage, any savage, wherever he may be, whom they fantasize as fighting nobly against the stifling strictures of Civil (and civilizing) Authority."
Indeed, what does one say about a commentariat, and for that matter, about kings and heads of state, whose "notion of 'freedom,'" as my correspondent points out, "is better symbolized by alienated rebel figures, such as Arafat and other terrorists -- stateless malcontents answerable to no one, whose chief enemies are soap and razors"?
ESPECIALLY MISGUIDED WERE the debates over Arafat's wealth -- an estimated $1.3 billion in personal holdings. The proverbial man from Mars would be forgiven for thinking Arafat was an entrepreneur, rather than a grubby thief.
Fortunately, Forbes's Nathan Vardi audited Arafat, discovering that he used this vast fortune, including "the $5.5 billion in international aid that has flowed into the PA since 1994," to maintain an "elaborate patronage system" -- corruption was the byword of Arafat's administration. The Palestinian Legislator Hannan Ashrawi, however, preferred to characterize such nepotism as "being fatherly" -- a characterization MSNBC's Joe Scarborough failed to challenge.
Joe Scarborough, who usually likes to dish it straight up, also claimed that Father Arafat walked away from Ehud Barak's two-state solution, brokered by President Bill Clinton, because he feared assassination by the extremists who had -- and still have -- the run of the Palestinian Authority (PA).
Wrong. Arafat believed that by resorting to violence, he could achieve a one-state solution. How else, asks writer Maurice Ostroff, does one explain the dramatic rise in terror attacks during 1993 and 1994 while peace talks were still in progress?
As a master of triangulation, Arafat was able to string the Israeli and American camps along while working diligently to reach agreements with the most extreme Arab leaders and factions in the PA and beyond. If anything, it was Arafat and his Fatah and Al-Aqsa Martyrs' close contacts with Damascus and Tehran, Hamas, and Islamic Jihad that secured his safety for so long.
CONSIDERING THEIR NEWLY FOUND, elections-spurred affinity for faith, Arafat's liberal fans ought to acquaint themselves with some facts. Particularly pertinent is the Palestinian fabrication about Islam's -- and Arafat's -- attachment to Jerusalem.
"Yerushalaim" is the Hebrew biblical name for the city that was sacred to Jews for nearly two thousand years before Muhammad. Not once is Jerusalem mentioned in the Koran. Muhammad was said to have departed to the heavens from the Al Aksa Mosque, but there was no mosque in Jerusalem. The Dome of the Rock and the Al Aksa Mosque were built on the Jewish Temple Mount. This usurpation was subsequently justified by Muslim theologians by superimposing their relatively recent fondness for Jerusalem upon the existing, ancient sanctity of the place to Jews.
Samuel Katz, in Battleground: Fact & Fantasy In Palestine, poses this question: What would the Christian reaction be if the same Muslim theologians had chosen to appropriate the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, re-name it, declare it Muslim property (which means killing for it), and demand Arafat be buried in it?
Israel's justice minister Yosef Lapid provided a wonderfully apposite response: "Jerusalem is the city where Jewish kings are buried and not Arab terrorists."