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Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Chirac on Arafat
From ttc.org:

French President Jacques Chirac early Thursday expressed his emotion at the news of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's death....

Chirac said: "I have learned with emotion of the death of President Yasser Arafat, first president of the Palestinian Authority. With him disappears a man of courage and conviction who for 40 years incarnated the Palestinians' fight for recognition of their national rights."

The French president presented his "very sincere condolences."

"To the Palestinian people, at this moment of mourning I want to express the friendship of France and of the French people. May the loss they have experienced unite all Palestinians. It is by remaining united that they will remain faithful to Yasser Arafat's memory and bring about the ideal to which he had devoted his existence."

The president went on: "France, like its European Union partners, will maintain with firmness and conviction his commitment in favour of two states -- a viable, peaceful and democratic Palestinian state, and the state of Israel -- living side by side in peace and security...."

In an August 2004 article about the anticipated rehabilitation of Arafat, the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs noted the Chirac felt Arafat was indispensable to the conclusion of a Mideast peace agreement. Emphasis mine.

The internal crisis in the Palestinian Authority over the leadership of Yasser Arafat has resulted in renewed efforts on his part to present himself at the end of the day as the only realistic partner for moving forward in the peace process....

However, what emerges from a careful analysis of his statements since the outbreak of Palestinian violence in September 2000 is that Arafat has not abandoned his aspirations to bring about the destruction of the State of Israel....

Already at the NATO summit at the end of June 2004, French President Jacques Chirac noted: "People can have whatever opinion they like of President Arafat or any other president, but legitimacy cannot be contested if a different legitimacy is not proposed." Chirac said it was normal for France to have contacts with the Palestinian leader who was "probably the only person who could impose compromise on the Palestinian people."

Furthermore, former President Bill Clinton told the Guardian on 20 June 2004 that Arafat is so influential in the Palestinian territories that America and Israel have no choice but to work with him if they want Mideast peace. "Unless they just want to wait for him to become incapacitated or pass away or unless they seriously believe they can find a better negotiating partner in Hamas...then they need to keep working to make a deal," he said.

In addition, the debate among members of Israel's intelligence and research community over Arafat's suitability as an interlocutor has sharpened in recent months. There are those who still believe, despite the results of the failed 2000 Camp David Summit, that Arafat is prepared to reach an historic compromise and to recognize the State of Israel as the Jewish homeland. However, others argue that Arafat has not abandoned his aspirations to bring about the destruction of the State of Israel, and he continues to view demographics as a prime vehicle for achieving this goal....

Arafat is driven by a well-defined worldview regarding the causes of the Arab-Israeli conflict and the roots of the historic conflict between the Palestinian national movement and Zionism, on what he views as Palestinian soil. In his view, the awakening of Jewish nationalism, which crystallized at the close of the nineteenth century into the creation of the Zionist movement which viewed "Palestine" as the historic homeland of the Jewish people, is akin to an "original sin."

In his view, Zionism drew its power from its ties to Western imperialism, which allowed Zionists to successfully garner the international support that served as the foundation for a Zionist takeover of parts of the Palestinian homeland. The Palestinian people, according to Arafat, found itself facing an overarching "Zionist-imperialist plot" that threatens "the existence, homeland, and holy places of Christianity and Islam, [and the] life, history, and future of the Palestinian people" - a plot to which they "will never acquiesce."

Arafat perceives the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948 on portions of Palestinian territory as the embodiment and fulfillment of this plot - a "black" and "cursed" day in the annals of the Palestinian people, whose right to Palestine was plundered and overcome by force of arms and its Palestinian inhabitants expelled from the "land of their forefathers." Arafat calls the establishment of the State of Israel a "national calamity" (nakba in Arabic) for the Palestinian people. He vehemently rejects any historic or religious claims of the Jewish People to the Land of Israel and demonstrates a total lack of understanding of the role of Israel in solving the "Jewish problem."

Furthermore, Arafat insists on the total and exclusive rights of the Palestinian people to historic Palestine, basing such claims first and foremost on religious grounds....In Arafat's eyes, the rights of the Palestinian people to historic Palestine are a holy "trust from the hands of Allah," passed from generation to generation "until judgment day." Beyond this, Arafat claims that the Palestinian people hold a birthright to Palestine as a legacy from their forefathers who resided in Palestine before the period of modern Jewish settlement (ignoring evidence that there was a Jewish majority in Jerusalem by 1854). "We are the unquestionable title-holders to this land throughout history," Arafat has declared.

In numerous speeches in recent years, Arafat has never alluded to a willingness to make any religious or historic concessions or compromises with the Jews over any part of Palestine. The opposite is true. He views the restoration of all of Palestine to its legitimate owners as akin to a "burning torch lighting the arduous path of generations of Palestinians, generation after generation."...

Arafat labels the Palestinian struggle a "jihad, a holy war against the infidels," and the military wings of Palestinian organizations that carry out terrorist attacks against Israel, including those that perpetrate suicide bombings and their handlers, are all, without exception, described by Arafat as "jihad warriors," as "heroes," as "brave," and as those who "by their arms" will realize the Palestinian vision. Moreover, Arafat has declared more than once that "we are all prepared to sacrifice our lives" for national objectives, stressing that the Palestinian people will die [i.e., martyr itself] to protect the holy places of Islam and Christianity on the soil of Palestine."

Parallel to this intransigent and bellicose stance, Arafat seeks to present a political perspective that leaves an impression of flexibility and realpolitik in the search for a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He repeatedly raises the banner of a "peace of the brave" as a strategic choice he has chosen willingly, stressing his arduous devotion to reaching a "comprehensive and just peace" that "will ensure security and stability" and "a two-state solution" based on "good neighborly relations" between peoples, for "the future of Palestinian and Israeli children."

However...Arafat's "peace of the brave" means peace based on the "Stages Plan" adopted by the PLO in 1974 (i.e., to destroy Israel in stages), and on decisions of the Palestinian National Council in 1988 that were the basis for negotiations of interim agreements.

Thus, Arafat declared: "We have chosen this strategic path on the basis of a peace of the brave and security in the future as it is expressed in the decisions of the Palestinian National Council in Cairo [1974], in Algiers [1988], in Gaza and other conventions." In a meeting with intellectuals and journalists in January 2001, Arafat clarified his intent: "The Palestinian Authority was established in keeping with what we summed up in Algiers [1988] to establish our Palestinian state on all parts of Palestinian land that will be liberated or from which Israel will withdraw and we are marching [forward] in accordance to what we agreed upon, step-by-step, kilometer by kilometer, mile by mile, sea by sea."

Many times Arafat disclosed his ideology through proxy speakers. Thus, the official Palestinian Authority newspaper al-Hayat al-Jadida reported on 1 January 2001 on a speech given by Fatah leader Sakher Habash in the name of Yasser Arafat, in which he stressed: "Experience proves that without the establishment of the democratic state on all the land, peace will not be realized....The Jews must get rid of Zionism....They must be citizens in the state of the future, the State of Democratic Palestine."

In May 2001, Arafat underscored that "Our people clings to its land, holy Jerusalem and the holy places. It will not surrender one grain of that soil of its homeland, or on even one of the legitimate international resolutions. It will not surrender the right of the Palestinian refugees to return according to Resolution 194 that stipulated the right of refugees to return to their homeland and their places of residence"....

Giving a religious foundation to the conflict, Arafat argues that the authority of Muslim rights to Palestine emanates from the Covenant of Omar and the special status it accorded to Christians and Jews. The Covenant of Omar is named for the second caliph Omar (634-664), who according to Islamic tradition set forth the status of "protected communities" (ahl al-dimmah) under Muslim rule. Jews and Christians were allowed to keep their respective faiths but were relegated to second-class status, forced to pay special taxes such as the capitation tax (jizya) and land tax (kharaj), required to wear a yellow badge on their clothing, and faced other discriminatory measures such as a prohibition on building houses higher than those of Muslims....

Arafat is employing doubletalk when discussing the right of return....In principle, Arafat adopts the ideological position of Hamas, which does not recognize UN resolutions as the supreme source of authority regarding a solution of the conflict, although he differs from Hamas in striving to appear in the public arena as if he accepts the ground rules of international politics, assuming that the most effective vehicle for forcing Israel to implement the right of return is pressure from the international community.

Nevertheless, Arafat maintains the option of returning to violence, armed struggle, and terrorism if Israel should refuse to allow Palestinians to fully realize their right of return...."Any initiative that will renounce the rights of the Palestinian people and that will not answer their expectations and national aspirations will never be acceptable to it. On the contrary, [the Palestinian people] will perpetuate and enflame the conflict and serve as the agent who will restore [the conflict] to a state of violence, struggle, [and] lack of security and stability in the region."...

This modus operandi is not Arafat's position alone. It has been a matter of national consensus for years among the majority of factions in Palestinian society and among the Palestinian leadership....Moreover, this ideological doctrine has been adopted by the Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades as part of their formal political agenda, so that even those rebelling against the Palestinian Authority's system of governance do not question the ideological legacy that Arafat has left for future generations.

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