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January 14, 2003

Elections, Arafat Style

On January 20, 1996, Arafat held the first and only PA elections. Another round, scheduled initially for January, 2003, has been postponed, as reported by Reuters (via Ha’Aretz) on December 23, 2002:
PA ballot postponed

Earlier Sunday [December 22, 2002], PA cabinet minister Saeb Erekat announced that the Palestinian general elections scheduled for January have been postponed indefinitely because of Israel's reoccupation of West Bank cities.

"Due to the Israeli reoccupation, obstruction and closures, it is impossible to convene the election on January 20," Erekat, told Reuters after a Palestinian cabinet meeting on the vote.
To see how much the world has "lost" by the cancellation of the PA elections, suffice it to review the 1996 elections, which is the object of this article. The following is quoted from Arafat’s admirer and biographer, Said K Aburish [more on this point, below]. The citation is extracted from pp. 294-296 of:

Said K Aburish. Arafat. New York: Bloomsbury, 1998.

Although international observers, including former President Jimmy Carter, monitored the elections on 20 January 1996 and reported that they were fair, the scope of their observation covered the possibility of coercion and ballot rigging and nothing else. In December 1995, a month before the actual voting, Arafat had delayed the registration of voters in the cities of Jerusalem, Gaza, Hebron and Khan Yunis. This illegal move was followed by massive registration of loyalists to guard against an anti-PLO outcome in these cities. During the campaign, airtime on Palestinian radio and television was denied to candidates opposed to Oslo. Both actions gave the PNA candidates a substantial advantage...

Fatah received 30 per cent of the vote which somehow guaranteed it 51 seats in the 88-seat legislative council, 58 per cent of the total...

The mushrooming PNA bureaucracy, including the security forces, numbered over eighty thousand with an average of five dependants each and was also used effectively...

The elections, slated to be held 'in keeping with democratic principles... no later than nine months after the DoP [Declaration of Principles]', were a failure. Arafat took the oath of office on 12 February 1996... But his dictatorial inclinations showed very early when the Legislative Council held a meeting in Bethlehem in March 1996. When some members questioned the powers vested in the office of the president, he stomped out shouting, 'Dogs and sons of bitches!' and threatening to 'get rid of the whole lot of them'.
It is important to underscore that the foregoing citation comes from Said Aburish, a Palestinian journalist and author who lives in London. His Arafat biography consists of ten chapters, the first eight lauding Arafat to the sky. The titles of last two chapters reflect what Aburish considers the “recent” Arafat: Chapter 9 - “Ten thousand goons and a gaolie”; and Chapter 10 - “L’etat Arafat”. The latter includes the text cited above concerning the 1996 election.

The most instructive parts of Aburish’ biography of Arafat follow the assessment of the elections, as quoted above. One finds a documented litany of corruption, human rights abuses, dictatorial conduct. In a word this work is a must read, precisely because it comes from a Palestinian who basically admires Arafat (to a point).

What I fail to understand is the perverse nature of the EU-niks, the US State Department and the leftist supporters of Arafat everywhere: how can they possibly continue to support Arafat and the PA after being confronted with the documented evidence provided by such people as Aburish? But then, again, didn't many sane, erudite people support the Soviet Union and its ideology after being confronted with equally compelling evidence?

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