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Hebräische Buchstaben im Spiel
Zeitung in einfachem Hebräisch
Jüdische Weisheit
Translation of an article to be published
in Ma'ariv on March 07, 2000

by Uri Avnery / o3.o3.o1


I met Yassir Arafat for the first time in besieged Beirut, on July 3, 1982. The city was completely surrounded, hundreds of Mossad and Phalangist agents were searching for Arafat in order to kill him. Few believed that he would come out alive.

At the beginning of that war he could have left the city easily. Everyone would have understood that a national leader must save himself. During the 1948 war, Ben Gurion did not remain in besieged Jerusalem. But Arafat remained with his fighters. When I met him, he was in high spirits, the near-euphoric mood peculiar to fighters who believe that they are going to die. But he got out of Beirut alive, at the head of his fighters.

A year later, I met Arafat in Geneva, at the session of the UN general assembly held there especially for him. We talked, and again I noticed his high spirits. The next day I understood why: immediately after our conversation he went to Lebanon and then somehow managed to steal into Tripoli.

The PLO forces in Tripoli where at that time besieged by the Syrians and their agents. Hafez al-Assad was determined to get rid of Arafat once and for all by killing him off. Arafat’s voluntary entrance into this trap looked like an act of madness. But on that occasion, too, he got out alive, at the head of his fighters.

Now he is staying in besieged Gaza, which is completely surrounded, and in Israel there is a public debate about whether to kill him. The settlers demand this openly. The Chief-of-Staff and his helpless generals utter threats publicly. When General Mofaz declared that the Palestinian Authority is a "terrorist entity", he was preparing the ground for the assassination of Arafat and the destruction of the Authority.

If anyone is hoping that Arafat will flee in order to save his life, he can forget about it. Arafat will remain with his fighters in Gaza. Mofaz and his new partners – Sharon, Peres and Ben-Eliezer – will have to decide whether to kill him (by helicopters, collaborators or under-cover death-squads disguised as Arabs) or not. Arafat looks as if he is in high spirits.

Israel is perhaps the only state in the world where there is a public debate about the assassination of the President of another nation, who was chosen by an overwhelming majority in democratic elections held under international supervision. In the United Sates, a law specifically forbids any agency to engage in the assassination of a foreign leader. Under international law, it is a war crime.

(It should be pointed out that after the adoption of the international convention against war crimes and the establishment of the international criminal court, the leaders of our state and the army would be well advised to heed this new situation when they make decisions and execute them. Burundian, Serb and Croat officers are already standing trial in international courts, and Milosewic, who was supported by Sharon, will probably suffer the same fate.)

But let’s put aside for a moment the moral and legal issues, important as they are. Let’s focus on the political and military considerations.

The murder of Arafat will put him into the world pantheon of liberation fighters who led their peoples for tens of years and sacrificed their lives on the altar of freedom. He will be remembered for hundreds of years after Shaul Mofaz is forgotten. His personal example will steel his people and energize its uprising against the occupation. The dead Arafat will be even more dangerous to the occupation regime than the living one.

Together with Arafat, all chances of peace will be buried. Arafat has no heir who would be able the put his people on the track towards compromise and conciliation, even if that was his wish. No nation forgives the murder of its leader, and after such an act no Palestinian leader will dare to utter the word "salaam". The war with the Palestinian people will intensify, and in the end it will engulf all the Arab countries and lead to international intervention.

Behind the proposal to murder Arafat lies a much more serious design: to create anarchy as a pretext for the re-conquest of the Palestinian territories, coupled this time with the eviction of the masses of the Palestinian people. That is the "transfer" of which Rehavam Ze’evi speaks openly, and about which the members of the new government think secretly.

I feel as if I am watching a recorded television program rolling backwards. Sharon is taking us back to pre-Oslo times. Mofaz is rolling us back to 1948. The media already speak about "gangs" in the style of 1936.

But we do not live in 1936. We are a powerful country. Facing us is a nation fighting for its freedom. Not gangs. Not terrorists. A nation united in this fight as never before, whose leader and symbol is Yassir Arafat, even while the fight is decentralized.

When you murder a symbol, it becomes greater and stronger.

Get this article in Hebrew

Gush Shalom

ua / hagalil.com / 15-o2-2001



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