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September 13, 2002

These are the people to whom a second Palestinian-Arab state is offered - cont.

Today [12 Sept 2002], Canada’s Globe and Mail ran an AFP story concerning Arafat and his corrupt cronies. The report reads in part:
Yasser Arafat's leadership was pushed close to the abyss yesterday, not by Israelis or Americans, but by the Palestinian parliament.

In a stunning rebuff, angry legislators forced the resignation of the Palestinian leader's entire cabinet amid fiery accusations of ministerial corruption.

The government "reeks of corruption," Bourhan Jarrar, a member from Hebron, charged. "This cabinet is worse than the [Israeli] occupation!"

"I will tell you simply, I can no longer stand the faces of the cabinet members," another member, Abdel Karim abu Salah, said.

To most of the world the corruption charges hardly come as a surprise, but it is nonetheless noteworthy when such accusations come from Arafat’s colleagues. Following are the appraisals from “a person in the know”, Edward Said himself.

In his recent book,

Edward W. Said. The end of the peace process. NY: Pantheon Books, 2000,

Said writes:
What I find unforgivable is that in all this he [Arafat] has appealed not to his people's best instincts, but to their worst. On the one hand, people are made to feel that their interests can be personally served by attaching themselves to the Authority's large, corrupt, bureaucratic, and repressive apparatus; on the other, people are cowed into silence and apathy. The various beatings, tortures, closures of newspapers, and summary arrests have induced an atmosphere of fear and indifference: everyone now looks out for himself... The cynicism of the Authority, with its thugs, its crooked dealmakers, and its huge army of incompetent bureaucrats, is worse, I think, than its collaboration with the Israelis...

There is no real law under the Authority, there is no due process, there are no real freedoms and democratic rights. Look, for example, at how badly Palestinian women--the real core of the Intifada--have been treated. They have been given no positions to speak of in the Authority, their needs and their aspirations are not part of Mr. Arafat's agenda, and their situation has become worse. There are more child marriages, more killings for "honor," more forcing of women back into the kitchen or field, than ever before. (Pp 18-19)

All the newspapers run advertisements praising Mr. Arafat as a great man, and they express gratitude for the things he has done. Yet no one has any illusions at all that his rule is anything but corrupt, that his police and prisons (there are thirty-five prisons in Gaza alone) are cruel, torture is rife, due process is suspended most of the time, and if you need to get anything done you have to have a connection with someone in the Authority. (P. 65)

When a report issued by his own internal auditors states flatly that 40 percent of the Authority's budget has either been wasted or misused, it would be absurd to blame Israel, or to say that all Middle Eastern governments are corrupt and inefficient and so why should we be different. Nor is it the case that Pales-tinian official malfeasance is an invention of the pro-Zionist Western media. A few weeks ago the Guardian's senior correspondent, David Hirst, a lifelong sympathizer with the Palestinian tragedy and a first-rate reporter who has devoted his life to living in and writing about the Arab world, wrote a devastating report entitled "Shameless in Gaza" in the Guardian on "the open corruption of the Palestinian Authority." He described the enormously ostentatious and expensive villas being built on the coast by Abu Mazen and Um Jihad, the company called "al-Bahr" which, true to its name (the sea), swallows up property and businesses for Mr. Arafat's interests, the nightclubs, the luxurious limousines, the commercial abuses of various high officials, all of them going on at a time of huge unemployment in Gaza, the protracted misery of the thousands of camp dwellers, the total paralysis of the Palestinian economy and the complete breakdown in any sort of advance in Palestinian rights...No one needs to be reminded that Mr. Arafat's word in the Territories is law; he is the Authority and very little can get done without him; he is the sole source of patronage, and only he knows the full scope of the budget.

In the face of virtually no productivity and no public works, Arafat simply inflates the size of his bureaucracy and security forces now totalling about 90,000 people, many of them without real jobs except for a title (750 directors-general of ministries to cite just one example) and a salary. To survive, Palestinians must become servants of a despotic tyrant who has nothing real to offer his unfortunate people except himself, more failure, more corruption, and mediocrity.

The really serious theft is the system of monopolies operated by Arafat and his cronies, including his ministers, their children, wives, uncles, and aunts. There are now monopolies on wheat, cement, petroleum, wood, gravel, cigarettes, cars, gasoline, cattle feed, and a few other commodities; all these compel the ordinary citizen to pay inflated prices several times greater than the price under direct Israeli occupation. (P.178-179).

Here are quotations from another of Edward Said’s books, namely,

Edward W Said. Power Politics and Culture. New York: Pantheon Books, 2001.

I was also unhappy with the mafia-like quality of the PLO [after Madrid], and I thought that Arafat, whom I’ve always been loyal to - he’s a friend - I thought that his tenure had been too long. It’s not been good for us. I began my critique in Arabic about three years ago, in 1989. They don’t know where they’re going. (Pp. 226-227)

I have taken the position, based upon the evidence I have gathered, that the leadership is obdurate and unreformable. They neither listen to each other - Arafat and Abu Mazen (Mahmoud Abbas) and Abu Alaa (Ahmed Qurai), to mention just three, are now no longer on speaking terms with each other - nor are they interested in listening to anyone else. They are simply interested in perpetuating their own positions and their own risible power. (P. 395).

Arafat has not been able to clean the streets of Gaza, but he has been abl4e to establish five intelligence services all spying on each other. I think it’s an outrage. He closes newspapers, people are bullied into silence, and so on. (p.395)

We have only one decision maker, namely Mr Arafat, and he’s a man of no education, he cannot read a foreign language, he’s distracted and he is governing an entire nation... It’s a disgrace. (p. 400)

Do you know what they were negotiating the last night before the signing of the 4 May Agreement, according to the British press and according to a friend who was there? Whether Arafat could put his likeness on the postage stamps! That’s what’s of interest to him. And a friend of mine who was on the PLO Executive Committee at the time told me that dur9ing the negotiations in Oslo between chief Palestinian negotiator Abu Alaa and the Israelis, Arafat only took interest in those sections that had to do with him. (P. 401)

Just two months ago (i.e., March 1997), 19,000 public-sector teachers in secondary and primary schools went on strike. Why? Because they were getting salaries of between $200 and $300, which is half the salary of the driver of a director general in the ministry, of which there are now 750 in only twenty-six ministries. They have of course, no real jobs. They’re simply being paid from the public purse to keep them loyal to Arafat. So what happens? The authority refuses to even talk to them. They pick up twenty-five of the “leaders” of the strike. They jail them. They torture them. None of them - I’m very pro8und of this as a teacher myself - none of them capitulates. Arafat then says; “Bring them to me.” So twenty-five leaders are brought to his office. Arafat curses them fo4r one hour, trying to break them, insulting them in the most obscene and filthy language. (The correspondent of the Guardian/Observer, who is himself not Arab but knows Arabic, rang me from Jerusalem and said: “did you hear what he did to those twenty-five people? Where did he hear that kind of street language?”). They didn’t break. (P. 427-428).

He [Arafat] has an enormous and unproductive bureaucracy. According to the World Bank, he employs in the bureaucracy about 80,000 people, which we don’t need at all. I mean, it’s totally unproductive. But if you add up the security forces and the bureaucracy and multiply them by seven or eight, which is the number of dependents of each person he employs, you’ll find that he, in effect, employs about 700,000 or 800,000 people. And that’s where his support comes from. People who are indebted to him... (. P 433)

The important point to note here is that this criticism comes not from those who support Israel, but from Edward Said, the Palestinian-Arab who was a PNC member and saw the corruption and ineptitude from the inside.

Contributed by Joseph Alexander Norland