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December 09, 2002

On Arafat and His Lies

In response to Sharon’s accusations about al Qaeda setting up cells in Gaza, Arafat was quick to issue one of his standard denials, as reported by Reuters:
The Palestinian Authority accused Israel's Mossad spy agency on Saturday of setting up a fake al Qaeda cell in Gaza so that Prime Minister Ariel Sharon could justify Israeli attacks in Palestinian areas.

A spokesman for Sharon called the allegation "sheer nonsense."

The Israeli leader said on Thursday that Osama bin Laden's organization had established a presence in Palestinian-ruled areas of Gaza and in Lebanon, aiming to attack Israel. He gave no further details in his comments at an Israeli media lunch.

"It is a big, big, big lie to cover (Sharon's) attacks and his crimes against our people everywhere," Palestinian President Yasser Arafat told reporters at his headquarters in the West Bank city of Ramallah.
In the face of this categorical denial, it is useful to check out Arafat’s denial record. Let’s examine, as an example, the issue of the arms ship, Karine A.

When it was revealed early in 2002, that Israel captured the PA arms ship Karine A on January 3, 2002, Arafat was quick to deny any connection to the ship. The Jerusalem Post reported on February 12,
Retracting earlier comments blaming Hizbullah, Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat said in remarks published today that Israel was behind an arms shipment captured by Israeli commandos last month.

In an interview with Lebanon's An-Nahar newspaper, Arafat said Israel's intelligence service, Mossad, had engineered the arms ship episode as a blow against the Palestinians, Iran and Lebanon's militant Hizbullah group.
Arafat denied Israeli reports that Iran and Hizbullah were aiding the Palestinian uprising against Israel.

"These are invalid Israeli accusations (designed) to provoke the United States against us and against Iran and Hizbullah. Iranian officials and Hizbullah have announced that they do not have any group or activity in Palestinian territories," he said.
The US, using its own intelligence sources, was not buying the Arafat fantasy, as reported by the Jerusalem Post:
US President George W. Bush sent proof to three key Arab leaders that the Palestinian Authority was engaged in a weapons smuggling plot and asked them to put pressure on PA Chairman Yasser Arafat to make arrests, according to senior administration officials.

[M]ost of the evidence Bush included in his letters last week to Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt and King Abdullah II of Jordan was gathered by US intelligence, diplomatic sources said.
This time around, even Arafat’s chief solicitor, Colin Powell, had problems with the denial, as the official site of the US government reported on January 25, 2002:
Secretary of State Colin Powell strongly urged Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat to provide an explanation of the Karine A ship seized by the Israeli navy on January 3 with a cargo of munitions for delivery to the Palestinians.

"It's a pretty big smoking gun," said Powell, speaking January 25 on the Lehrer News Hour. "I can't put it right at [Chairman Arafat] personally, but it is clear from all of the information available to us that the Palestinian Authority was involved."

"I think he ought to acknowledge, as the first step toward moving forward, acknowledge that this has happened and they bear some responsibility for it happening, and give the international community, and especially the Israelis, some assurance that this kind of activity is going to stop. And do it in a way that will be persuasive and convincing and allow us to move forward," said Powell.
The US position did not come easily, nor did it come quickly. Reviewing the developments in the spring of 2002, Robert Satloff notes in an article published in the Washington Institute for Near East Policy:
When Israel announced the interception of the Karine-A, official U.S. reaction ranged between denial and disbelief, with unnamed U.S. intelligence officials suggesting that the boat was really heading to Lebanon to re-stock Hizballah. Within days, that pose was dropped when Israeli intelligence provided what U.S. officials accepted as "compelling evidence" that the weapons originated in Iran and were destined for the Palestinian Authority. Israeli intelligence also provided proof that Mughniyah was a key middleman for the operation. Of course, much of this Washington already knew, because its own agencies had tracked the Karine-A and had even assisted Israel with tactical intelligence about it.

The administration's original reluctance to deal with the strategic implications of Iranian-PLO collusion is not surprising. The Karine-A affair represents the worst nightmare of the Arab-Israeli peace process; namely, that well-meaning diplomacy could have morphed from a means to make peace irreversible into a tool to make war possible.
But in this world, where justice is as rare as scruples and both are as rare as simple logic, all the incriminating evidence was to no avail. Almost a year after the seizure Karine A, Teflon Arafat rules supreme, the EU supports him fully, and Bush waves the sanctions he could have imposed under the non compliance bill. Invigorated, Teflon Arafat was ready for the new accusations, this time that the Palestinian-Al Qaeda connection was an Israeli concoction. Next on Arafat’s agenda: "the Mufti-Hitler connection was actually the work of the ZOA in disguise".

Robert Fisk is sure to believe it, if he doesn't already..

Contributed by Joseph Alexander Norland. This piece is cross-posted on IsraPundit and Dawson Speaks.