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Saturday, April 5, 2003

THE EU APPEASEMENT OF THE CORRUPT, DESPOTIC ARAFAT PA, AND THE BUSH INITIATIVE TO FORCE THE PA TO REFORM

A suggestion: before you read "The Ugly European," you need to look over the previous article on the Palestinians, the Palestinian Authority, Israel, and why the Israelis are a rich advanced democratic country and the 22 Arab countries are the opposite: generally poor, non-industrialized, non-democratic, and lacking an effective rule of law. Quite apart from what it says substantively about the Palestinian Authority, it also illuminates, so the buggy prof hopes, two other central themes of the day:

[1] the bold Bush initiatives to remake the domestic political map of the Middle East, starting with the fascist totalitarian Baath party regime in Iraq, with its dangerous WMD and support for terrorism . . . a mid-term goal about which the administration is becoming more forthright, especially as the war in Iraq draws to a close;

[2] and the very different style of appeasement and fears of altering the diplomatic status quo almost anywhere in the world that characterizes most of the EU . . . not, fortunately, all of it.



Why the EU Countries' Appeasement of the Corrupt, Autocratic Palestinian Authority Was Challenged by the US Last Year: Successfully

As the previous article noted, the PA under Arafat has been a stronghold of autocratic rule, repression of democratic opponents on the PA's administered territories on the West Bank and Gaza, and a cesspool of corruption and nepotism . . . so much so that a Palestinian poll in August of 2002 showed that 69% of the Palestinians viewed the PA in such terms. Arafat himself, it appears, has garnered about $1.3 billion of the $8-9 billion that the US and the EU and some oil-rich Arab states have provided in financial aid to the Palestinians since 1993. As the article linked here shows, that's enough money to feed three million Palestinian children for a year, buy 1000 mobile intensive-care units, and build and support 10 hospitals. Then in early September last year, the Palestinian Council --- the legislature that was set up in 1996 that was supposed to govern the PA-administered territories under the Oslo Agreements, but that Arafat manipulated and repressed until the backlash caused by, as you'll see, a Bush initiative --- became emboldened enough to outrightly criticize the Arafat PA and demand reforms, including the selection of a Prime Minister that would not just be a figurehead for the despot.

For that matter, note in passing, more and more Palestinian leaders --- even some in the PA --- criticized the resort to violence in the fall of 2001 that, as they noted rightly, has been a disaster for the Palestinians. That included, last December, Mahmoud Abbas . . . a top Arafat deputy who has become the new Prime Minister in the changing PA


Why any of that should surprise anyone is itself surprising. Arafat's greed is no different from that of any of the other Arab despots in the 22 independent countries. The surprise would be that he and his PA aides were any different.

But one large group that has been surprised --- to the point of denial by the European Commission in charge of the money that the EU countries give to the PA ostensibly for social, developmental, educational, and health purposes --- was the EU politicos and media pundits. To explain, start with the EU reaction to . . .

 

The Bush Initiative: Force the PA to Reform Along Democratic And Accountable Lines

Starting in the winter of 2002, then culminating in a speech by Bush last June, the administration in Washington decided to stop doing business of any sort with the corrupt, despotic Palestinian Authority . . . a bold initiative denounced by the so-called sophisticates in Europe as another naive, crackpot US unilteral move, so silly and lacking in the ways of the world that disaster would loom in the Middle East. Who, they said, would you deal with if not Chairman Arafat? Look at us? We aren't bothered by his lies, teachery, corruption, and support for terrorism, all part of the worldly nature of diplomacy, mon vieux; and if that means we've been bankrupting the crook for decades with EU funds, why worry old chap?

Plenty to worry about, or so the Bush administration decided. As for who'd we deal with, that's easy to answer.

A reformed PA, that's who . . . which had a leadership that was less corrupt and autocratic and more responsive to the Palestinian legislature, stopped jailing democratic opponents, stopped siphoning off mega-bucks worth of aid for personal use --- Arafat himself a billionaire ("nice work if you can find it . . . and you can find it if you try" as the song goes) --- and stopped supporting terrorism. Arafat himself, recall --- the double-dealing supporter --- shocked! just shocked! when he learned in December 2001 that a shipload of illegal arms was seeking to send those arms to the Palestinian Authority that was run by the Palestinian navy. Not to worry, the congenital fraud said: he would appoint a commission directly accountable to himself to find out the truth. The EU governments, needless to say, were reassured. Not so the Bush administration. Unlike Clinton, President Bush doesn't like to be lied to by those he's negotiating with.

 

Enter Dennis Ross

The Bush initiative, it should be added, was in part prodded by the severe criticisms offered of the autocratic double-dealing Arafat PA by our former chief Mideast Envoy, Dennis Ross --- who shepherded the Oslo Peace Accords in the Clintion era for 7 years, only to find that Arafat was, as he said later in the winter of 2001, a "revolutionary nationalist" uninterested in a compromise peace with the Israelis. Ross was particularly stinging when he talked about Arafat's veto of the peace accord worked out in the aftermath of the Clinton Camp David meeting in July 2000 that Prime Minister Barak of Israel signed. It would have given the PA total control of Gaza and 97% of the West Bank, with a corridor carved out from Israeli territory to link the two parts so that the new Palestinian state would have had a contiguous territory to govern; shared rule over Jerusalem; the demolition of all the Israeli settlements on the West Bank save those contiguous to Jerusalem itself; and partial compensation for the Arab refugees of 1948 that occurred when 5 Arab states invaded the new state of Israel. As Ross noted, it was not only the best deal the Palestinians would ever get, it was also something that some of the PA negotiators urged Arafat to accept. The autocrat refused to sign, and never explained the terms to his people . . . though, remember, one of his critics, Mahmoud Abbas --- now the new Palestinian Prime Minister --- criticized the autocrat in December 2002 for rejecting the offer.

As Ross noted just about the time of the Bush initiative last summer, in an article he wrote for Foreign Policy entitled "Arafat's Goal Is a Lasting Peace With the State of Israel",

I doubt it. Throughout the Oslo peace process, everyone involved—Palestinians, Israelis, Americans, Egyptians, Saudis, and other Arab leaders—shared the belief that Arafat wanted peace with Israel. It seemed logical. After all, Arafat had crossed the threshold and recognized Israel, incurring the wrath of secular and religious rejectionists. And he had authorized five limited or interim agreements with the Israelis. Although Arafat held out until the last possible minute and strived for the best deal, he eventually made the compromises necessary to reach those interim agreements.

Unfortunately, such short-term progress masked some disquieting signals about the Palestinian leader's intentions. Every agreement he made was limited and contained nothing he regarded as irrevocable. He was not, in his eyes, required to surrender any claims. Worse, notwithstanding his commitment to renounce violence, he has never relinquished the terror card. Moreover, he is always quick to exaggerate his achievements, even while maintaining an ongoing sense of grievance. During the Oslo peace process, he never prepared his public for compromise. Instead, he led the Palestinians to believe the peace process would produce everything they ever wanted—and he implicitly suggested a return to armed struggle if negotiations fell short of those unattainable goals. Even in good times, Arafat spoke to Palestinian groups about how the struggle, the jihad, would lead them to Jerusalem. Too often his partners in the peace process dismissed this behavior as Arafat being caught up in rhetorical flourishes in front of his "party" faithful. I myself pressed him when his language went too far or provoked an angry Israeli response, but his stock answer was that he was just talking about the importance of struggling for rights through the negotiation process.

But from the start of the Oslo negotiations in 1993, Arafat focused only on what he was going to receive, not what he had to give. He found it difficult to live without a cause, a struggle, a grievance, and a conflict to define him. Arafat never faced up to what he would have to do—even though we tried repeatedly to condition him. As a result, when he was finally put to the test with former President Bill Clinton's proposal in December 2000, Arafat failed miserably.

Is there any sign that Arafat has changed and is ready to make historic decisions for peace? I see no indication of it. Even his sudden readiness to seize the mantle of reform is the result of intense pressure from Palestinians and the international community. He is maneuvering now to avoid real reform, not to implement it. And on peace, he does not appear ready to acknowledge the opportunity that existed with Clinton's plan, nor does he seem willing to confront the myths of the Palestinian movement.

"Arafat Missed a Historic Opportunity When He Turned Down the Clinton Proposal"

Yes. It is true that Arafat did not "reject" the ideas the Clinton administration offered in December 2000. Instead, he pulled a classic Arafat: He did not say yes or no. He wanted it both ways. He wanted to keep talking as if the Clinton proposal was the opening gambit in a negotiation, but he knew otherwise. Arafat knew Clinton's plan represented the culmination of the American effort. He also knew these ideas were offered as the best judgment of what each side could live with and that the proposal would be withdrawn if not accepted.

To this day, Arafat has never honestly admitted what was offered to the Palestinians—a deal that would have resulted in a Palestinian state, with territory in over 97 percent of the West Bank, Gaza, and Jerusalem; with Arab East Jerusalem as the capital of that state (including the holy place of the Haram al-Sharif, the Noble Sanctuary); with an international presence in place of the Israeli Defense Force in the Jordan Valley; and with the unlimited right of return for Palestinian refugees to their state but not to Israel. Nonetheless, Arafat continues to hide behind the canard that he was offered Bantustans—a reference to the geographically isolated black homelands created by the apartheid-era South African government. Yet with 97 percent of the territory in Palestinian hands, there would have been no cantons. Palestinian areas would not have been isolated or surrounded. There would have been territorial integrity and contiguity in both the West Bank and Gaza, and there would have been independent borders with Egypt and Jordan.

"The offer was never written" is a refrain uttered time and again by apologists for Chairman Arafat as a way of suggesting that no real offer existed and that therefore Arafat did not miss a historic opportunity. Nothing could be more ridiculous or misleading. President Clinton himself presented both sides with his proposal word by word. I stayed behind to be certain both sides had recorded each word accurately. Given Arafat's negotiating style, Clinton was not about to formalize the proposal, making it easier for Arafat to use the final offer as just a jumping-off point for more ceaseless bargaining in the future.

However, it is worth pondering how Palestinians would have reacted to a public presentation of Clinton's plan. Had Palestinians honestly known what Arafat was unwilling to accept, would they have supported violence against the Israelis, particularly given the suffering imposed on them? Would Arafat have remained the "only Palestinian" capable of making peace? Perhaps such domestic pressure would have convinced Arafat, the quintessential survivor, that the political costs of intransigence would be higher than the costs of making difficult concessions to Israel . . . ..
 

The EU Reaction

When the EU parliament finally got wind of all the changes going on, it demanded that Chris Patton, the Commission in charge of the EU funds allocated for the PA, give an accounting. In typical EUnik speech, Patton denied the funds were being misused and defended the PA as an "indispensable negotiating partner."

Once again, as events have shown, West European governments displayed a reluctance to move away from any status quo, however dangerous or counter-productive, out of fear that change itself is bound to be disastrous. It's a style ingrained on the Continent and in the British diplomatic service (not its military or with certain politicians like Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair), and the euphemistic way of describing this inveterate clinging to a status-quo at home or abroad is "damage-limitation." A more straightforward term? Appeasement. For another of his hilarious hard-jabbing demolition-jobs of European arrogance and idiocy, as the media-pundits and politicians there line up to take turns pinning the tail on the moronic Texan-Toxin's tush, see Mark Steyn on the EU clinging to Arafat the way Arab suicide-bombers strap their bombs onto their torsos. Steyn

And for even more giggles, see Steyn's "The Ugly European" -- at attack on the ignorant, redneck Europeans who have been flirting with right-wing extremists like Jean-Marie Le Pen, Juergen Haider, and their ilk, even as they wake up, slowly, to find that the EU countries are generally much more violent than the US --- the US ranked 13th among 22 industrial countries in violent crime by the UN studies, and for about 12 years now, with your chances of being mugged in London six times greater than on the streets of New York --- and as they find that their cherished avant-garde post-modernist secularism is being challenged more and more strenuously by ill-educated, rapidly growing Islamic communities that are increasingly attracked to revivalist Isalmist fundamentalism . . . not to mention a wave of crime that has also clear racist overtones. Who's Ugly Now?

 

As it happens, French behavior toward the PA is doubly instructive.

Yes, doubly so.

For one thing, the government's support for Arafat and the Palestinian Authority for all its rot and corruption, for decades on end now, is in line with the mores that prevail in French politics itself. After all, half the French electorate last May held their noses and voted for Chirac instead of his round-off candidate, the brutal Le Pen, on the slogan, "Votez l'escroc, pas le facho" . . . Vote for the theif, not the fascist." Just before the first round of the presidential election, recall, the three magistrates who had been investigating Chirac's multitudinous chicaneries and corruption --- the man owning a 16th century chateau and a very luxurious apartment in Paris, not easy to do on a government salary all his life --- gave up in disgust, resigned, and signed a public letter denouncing all the obstacles of justice they had encountered. Their end judgment? There are two laws in France --- one for the rich and powerful, the other for ordinary Frenchmen.

Nothing new in French politics; uh-uh.

Chirac's first Prime Minister, Juppe of Bordeaux, was ultimately found guilty of taking bribes, and was penalized with a fine of . . . $20,000, a burden so overwhelming that it took at least 20 seconds for him to fill out the check. Juppe, by the way, remained mayor of Bordeaux and is now trying to ease his way back into control of the Gaullist party. Then there was the egregious Francois Mitterand, who was the socialist president for 14 years before Chirac. Somehow, thogh coming from a modest family, he not only engaged in 14 years of an orgy of bribery and corruption that made him rich, but his son became a billionaire --- yes, a billionaire --- selling French arms to dictatorial French client states. Nor is that all. Socialists are as guilty of corruption and nepotism as all the rest. One of Mitterand's socialist Premiers, Edith Cresson, is now being arraigned in Belgium for extensive corruption when she subsequently served on the EU Commission --- the chief administrative and governing body of the EU . . . the entire Commission found, after some investigations in the late 1990s, to be guilty of malfeasance and corruption and hence dismissed in entirety too. More recently, Roland Dumas, the former head of the Conseil Constitutionel (roughly the French Supreme Court) and then a defense minister --- who, among other things, arranged to have his mistress employed at a huge salary for doing nothing with a giant French company --- was let off by a court (three judges, no jury) for his machinations in the affair, thus vindicating the double-standard of justice in the French system . . . some of the executives of the company accused and found guilty, as was the mistress who did the inexcusable and went public with all the fraud when Dumas tried to cut ties with her.

Yeah, "nice work if you can get it, and you can get it if you try."

 

For another thing, the French politicos have been catering to an increasingly violent, crime-ridden Islamic population full of unruly young men who, along with home-boy French gangsters, have made most French cities dangerous places to walk in at night or in the metros, especially for any woman. Last year, and on into this year, hundreds of violent anti-semitic attacks on Jews and Jewish cultural centers were also carried out, almost all by Arab gangs. Recently, a Jewish female student who appeared on a local radio show in a French city that took issue with the other guests about the Middle East was attacked on her way home from the studio, a star of David carved onto her forearm. Just last week, a French judge fined a French Jewish family for going public about a racist attack on a daughter at a French school: the judge had wanted to hush up the affair, while the principal of the school had told the girl to quit griping. Not long afterwards, a small group of Jews who joined the larger protest movement against the Iraqi war that took to the streets in Paris two weeks ago was attacked by frenzied Arab protestors. Earlier, a Jewish rabbi was stabbed. Earlier than that, a wave of bombings --- a favorite, apparently, of Arab fanatics even in France --- against Jewish houses of worship and cultural centers last April.

A brief but intelligent overview of French anti-semitism is in the Guardian More recently, a tough-minded Interior Minister in the Conservative-coalition government has promised to crack down on anti-semitism, and it's now necessary to have special police guarding synagogues and Jewish cultural centers in all of France's major cities.

Despite this, the French government -- which promised powerful verbal and other actions against the wave of anti-semitism that has been going on for years now -- continues to give the soft-soap treatment to the Islamic communities in the country, rather than demand that the religious and political leaders in those communities take the lead in curbing the new virulent racism. And it won't escape American observers that one reason, among others, for the repeated efforts of our ally in Paris to go out of its way to frustrate and oppose American and British policies toward Iraq --- something unheard of among allies, who otherwise would have abstained from active opposition of this sort --- is to create a nationalist unity in France. It's a tactic that General de Gaulle employed repeatedly too vis-a-vis the US. And apparently, then as now, always with telling effect. Cozying up to the corrupt, autocratic, terrorist-supporting Arafat is part of that tactic . . . itself, however, only part of the larger French policy toward the Arab world, where the French elites --- operating in a dreamland-factory of make-believe global power --- see France as the inevitable intermediary between not just the 22 Arab countries but all the developing countries and the industrial world, with the US and the British shoved to the side.

Meanwhile, no one less than Villepin, the French Foreign Minister, voiced the propaganda line recently with a code-word that the reason the US doesn't line up with the French is that Jews control American foreign policy.

 

Anti-Semitism: A Big Revival in the EU

More generally, it's worth noting in passing, anti-semitism has revived strongly throughout most of the EU. As a recent ADL survey (carried out by European pollsters) showed,

More than one-third of the people in Belgium, Germany, France and Spain hold strongly anti-Semitic views, according to two surveys conducted for the Anti-Defamation League. The figures show that "all of Europe is infected" with anti-Semitism, said Abraham Foxman, the ADL's national director.

Some 39 percent of Belgians and 37 percent of Germans harbor strongly anti-Semitic views, according to the ADL's index of anti-Semitism.

In France, 35 percent were strongly anti-Semitic, and in Spain 34 percent. The figure fell to 23 percent in Italy, 22 percent in Switzerland, 21 percent in Denmark, 19 percent in Austria, 18 percent in the United Kingdom and 7 percent in the Netherlands. . . . Anti-Semitic attitudes in France, Germany, Denmark, the United Kingdom and Belgium were surveyed in June 2002. Attitudes in Spain, Switzerland, Austria, Italy and the Netherlands were measured in September and are being released this week.

The ADL calculates attitudes based on an "anti-Semitism index" that monitors responses to 11 statements deemed by University of California researchers in 1964 to indicate anti-Semitism. Respondents who agree with six or more of the statements are considered "most anti-Semitic."

It's not a faultless survey, though few survey polls are. They are prone to tap only attitudes, not deep beliefs, and attitudes can alter with changes in dramatic events. All the same, the findings more or less chime with what first-hand observers have noted for years now, with more and more EU citizens convinced, among other things, that Jews control American foreign and security policies.