|1974 Arafat at the UN in his freedom-fighter period.|
That's a pistol famously poking out from
under his jacket [Image Source]
Ten years ago this week, an American television journalist offered up a solemn tribute to the death that day of the kleptocratic mass-murderer Yasser Arafat:
"There may not be any other man in history who better embodies the saying that one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter... For most Israelis, many Jews, he was a bloody terrorist and nothing more. Yet elsewhere in the world, even among Arabs who questioned his leadership, he was treated as a hero, freedom fighter, revolutionary. A diminutive man who became a larger than life symbol of the Palestinian dream..." Diane Sawyer reporting Arafat's death on Good Morning America, November 11, 2004 [Source]We wish Ms Sawyer understood - and hope the past decade has shown - that one does not have to be Israeli to see this as one of the most galling aphorisms of our time.
More than that: convincing other people that "One man's terrorist is another's freedom fighter" is an essential part of ensuring moral confusion will reign. A thoughtful friend of ours puts it this way: it makes people stupid.
The United Nations which does not have, perhaps never will have, an agreed definition of terrorism, is the world's most important shrine to the consequences of not grappling effectively with terrorism and terrorists. In 1999, the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 1269 (full-text version here). It's not a long document - the entire text could fit on a single sheet. Broadly what it does is:
- Condemns all acts of terror around the world, calling them criminal and unjustifiable regardless of the circumstances (important words)
- Asks all countries to adopt anti-terrorist conventions and co-operate with each another in their enforcement as well as share information
- Stop the financing of terrorist acts via "all possible legal means" and decline to give refugee asylum to terrorists.
Sadly - perhaps inevitably, given what the UN is and how it works -
the CTC has never named a single terrorist, terrorist organization or state sponsor of terrorism... The four state sponsors of terrorism Cuba, Iran, Sudan and Syria have written reports to the CTC about their compliance with Security Council Resolution 1373. In the absence of any UN definition of terrorism, all of these states have readily proclaimed that they are engaged in a vigorous campaign to combat terrorism... The CTC has been empowered to conduct country visits -- with the consent of the state concerned. The countries selected for a visit have to first be approved by the CTC (Security Council). The Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate (CTED) has conducted some 70 country visits since 2005 – and claims to transparency notwithstanding – has never made the reports of those visits public either... It is also known that the CTC has visited another 13 countries. The identity of the other 13 states visited is not publicly available. No reports on any visits have been made available to the public. And the central state sponsors of terrorism are not known to have been visited... [From the website of Human Rights Voices, an NGO dedicated to exposing "the UN's record on its fundamental promise -- to identify, condemn, and protect against human rights violations and confront and respond to threats to international peace and security"]
"The difference between the revolutionary and the terrorist lies in the reason for which each fights. For whoever stands by a just cause and fights for the freedom and liberation of his land from the invaders, the settlers and the colonialists cannot possibly be called terrorist, otherwise the American people in their struggle for liberation from the British colonialists would have been terrorists; the European resistance against the Nazis would be terrorism, the struggle of the Asian, African and Latin American peoples would also be terrorism, and many of you who are in this Assembly hall were considered terrorists... As to those who fight against the just causes, those who wage war to occupy, colonize and oppress other people, those are the terrorists. Those are the people whose actions should be condemned, who should be called war criminals: for the justice of the cause determines the right to struggle." From Arafat's speech to the UN General Assembly, November 13, 1974 (full text here)
|2002: Arafat's cultivation|
of a culture of hatred and terror meant that
his followers were - and are - more
boxed in than he
It would take an encyclopedia to catalog all of the evil Arafat committed. But that is no excuse for not trying to recall at least some of it. 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? 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. ["Arafat the monster", November 11, 2004]
Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms While Countering TerrorismThat's a job title to get a person thinking. (It featured in a speech Arnold Roth delivered in Paris in September 2007.)
What contortions must the members of the UN's CTC have devoted to coming up with a name like that? Certainly it mentions terrorism; the rising global evil that lacks an agreed definition at the UN. But only after cramming in those weasel words that sound like Arafat's speechwriters at work again.
It's clearly more than just semantics. The lack of an agreed legal definition of terrorism has always had serious practical and operational consequences:
Without answering the question of “what is terrorism,” no responsibility can be imposed on countries supporting terrorism, nor can steps be taken to combat terrorist organizations and their allies... Although many countries have signed bilateral and multilateral agreements concerning a variety of crimes, extradition for political offenses [just one example among many - TOW] is often explicitly excluded, and the background of terrorism is always political. This loophole allows many countries to shirk their obligation to extradite individuals wanted for terrorist activities. [Dr Boaz Ganor, ICT]Ten years after Arafat died, the resort to terror of those running the two Palestinian Arab regimes is unmistakable. So too is the vicious schism:
President Mahmud Abbas, Arafat's successor and the head of Fatah, accused the Islamist movement whose stronghold is in Gaza of trying "to destroy" efforts to broker national unity. Hamas hit back, accusing Abbas of uttering "lies, insults and disinformation"... In the West Bank city of Ramallah, a band paid musical tributes as thousands waved the yellow flag of Fatah at the Muqataa presidential compound where Arafat was buried after dying, aged 75, at a hospital near Paris on November 11, 2004... But in Gaza City, Arafat's portrait was nowhere to be seen and the stage where the tribute was to have taken place bore the marks of an explosion last Friday. [AFP, yesterday]
|Father Georgios Tsibouktzakis,|
one of the innocents murdered
in 2001 by gunmen led by the
"political prisoner" Barghouti
It's worth focusing for a moment on one of his victims, a non-Jew whose beard (we think) - plus the yellow license plate on his vehicle - may have been a factor in the lethal fire directed at him as he drove near the Israeli desert community of Maale Adumim.
His name is Georgios Tsibouktzakis. He was a Greek Orthodox monk, living and working in St. George's Monastery in Wadi Kelt near Jericho, and was 34 when Barghouti's henchmen shot him dead. Born near Thessaloniki, Greece's second-largest city, a majority of whose residents were Jews - almost all of whom were murdered by the occupying Nazi Germans in 1943 and 1944 - he was sent to Jerusalem by Patriarch Deodoros I in 1990 for religious training. He became a monk in 1993 and was appointed to the priesthood by the Greek Orthodox Church in Jerusalem in 2000.
Father Georgios Tsibouktzakis was well known to residents of the district and to veteran hikers. The Ma'ale Adumim police told yesterday of how the monk used his jeep last year to help retrieve the body of a tourist killed after falling into the wadi. He also helped the police when two Israeli youths were killed in the wadi three years ago by Palestinians. People who knew Tsibouktzakis said that he was a lover of peace and always glad to help others. He was buried at St. George's Monastery. [From the website of Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs]
|Garbage, graffiti, aimless Palestinian Arab youths: |
Free Barghouti For the Peace [Image Source]
"I am proud to associate myself with the global campaign for the freedom of Marwan Barghouti and other Palestinian political prisoners... When we call for Marwan Barghouti’s freedom, we are calling for the freedom of all political prisoners and resolution of all injustice in Palestine and Israel. I would particularly like to welcome Mrs Fadwa Barghouti’s presence in the campaign. It reminds us of the brave role Winnie Mandela played in keeping the memory of Mr Mandela and the struggle alive... We are all sisters and brothers in God’s family. All of us: Black, white, pink, green, gay, straight, Jew, Muslim, American, Palestinian, Israeli... Our humanity, our well-being, our security, our prosperity, our love is bound up with yours." [From the Kairos Southern Africa website, October 2013]How very proud Mr Tutu must be to hear Barghouti's most recent call, this week from his cell, for love, prosperity and security. MEMRI's Arabic-to-English translation of the original, published in yesterday's edition of the Al-Quds newspaper, gives a taste:
These days we are marking the tenth anniversary of the martyrdom of the founding commander, the great national leader, the late president and the wonder of the contemporary Palestinian revolution, the shahid [martyr] Yasser Arafat... Adherence to the legacy of Yasser Arafat and the principles for which he died as a martyr, as did thousands of others, will be obtained by continuing the national reconciliation process on the basis of correct principles, [and] by completing the national unity, supporting the national accord government and adhering to the option of comprehensive resistance and of the gun, just as Yasser Arafat, Abu Jihad, Ahmad Yassin, [Fathi] Shqaqi, Abu Mustafa Al-Karmi, and Al-Ja'bari were martyred with [a gun] in their hands. [Marwan Barghouti, Al-Quds, November 11, 2014, via MEMRI]
|Arafat, Barghouti and more resorting to violence|
in the guise of freedom
Mandela’s and Barghouti’s approaches were worlds apart. The two main bombings that hurt whites in South Africa were blips while property was the main target, he said, adding that a deep “personal morality” guided Mandela. “Whites didn’t have to worry about suicide bombings and drive-by shootings...” [Forward, "Is Imprisoned Fatah Leader Marwan Barghouti the Mandela of the Palestinians?", December 12, 2013]
Military figures who encountered him in the course of their duty often say that his record speaks for itself. “He is not a person of peace and is not a person of compromise,” said Jonathan D. Halevi, a retired lieutenant colonel who had dealings with Barghouti in the 1990s when serving in the military body that governs the West Bank. Halevi, today a senior researcher at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, “cannot find anything that supports the assumption that he may be ready for any concession.” [Forward]Understanding terrorists, who they are, what they mean, how to defeat them, is hardly an exercise in mere semantics or philosophy. In the truest sense, the lives of innocent people depend on getting this right. And to a great extent this means weaning political figures and institutions off their dangerous susceptibility to the dishonest rhetoric of terrorism dressed up in the language of resistance, freedom, liberation and human rights.
Even without a universal definition of terrorism, it's something everyone needs to recognize when they see it.