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Arafat, Palestine and Hamas: A Surprising Relationship

David Bedein

More often than not, when you hear a
news report of an Arab terror attack in
Israel, the news reporter will say that this
attack was the result of Islamic extremists,
whether they are from the Hamas or the
Islamic Jihad. The announcer usually
declares – deadpan – that Arafat’s agencies,
the PLO (Palestine Liberation Orgarnation)
and Arafat’s administrative arm, the PNA
(Palestinian National Authority), are
simply not involved. The rationale, after
all, for Israel and Western countries to arm
Arafat’s security forces was that he would
use such arms to crush Islamic terror
organizations. Almost eight years ago,
when Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin
shook hands with Yassir Arafat on the
White House lawn, most people in Israel
and abroad expected that Arafat would
form a new Arab entity to restrain the
violent Moslem movements known as
Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

That was the rationale behind what later
become known as the Oslo Peace Process,
wherein Israel was expected to cede land
for a new Palestinian Arab entity, while
Arafat’s PLO was expected to fight
Hamas/Islamic Jihad and other Arab terror
groups that continued to threaten the lives
of Jews in Israel

Yet, from day one, the opposite has
occurred instead of cracking down an
Hamas, Arafat has created an alliance with
them. When I asked him about Hamas at
his press conference in Oslo where he was
about to receive the Nobel Peace Prize in
December, 1994, Arafat answered,
“Hamas are my brothers. I will handle
them in my own way “.

And when the PLO celebrated its
thirtieth aaniversary in January 1995,
Arafat delivered a series of lectures to
his own people in Gaza and in Jericho,
praising suicide bombers and refusing
to condemn the spate of Hamas terror
attacks which had taken place at the
time Arafat’s speeches of praise for
Hamas were televised by the new
Palestinian TV network, the Palestinian
Broadcasting Corporation, that is owned,
controlled and operated by Arafat himself.
Video cassettes of Arafat’s harangues
became popular in the Palestinian Arab
open market.

Arafat’s strategy was best summed up
by U.S. Ambassador to Israel and
presidential confidante Martin Indyk, who
told the Los Angeles Times on March 1,
1996, that Arafat had decided to co-opt,
rather than to fight, the Hamas. Arafat’s co-ooption of the Hamas was not only in words
but in deeds.

On May 9, 1995, our news agency
dispatched a Palestinian correspondent to
cover the Gaza press conference held by
Arafat’s local Palestine Liberation army
police chief Ghazzi Jabal, in which the
representatives of Arafat’s Palestine
Authority officially announced that they
would license weapons for the Hamas –
dits, only one month after Hamas had
carried out an attack on an Israeli civilian
bus near Gaza, killing six young Israelis
and one American student, Aliza Flatow.
Two days after that attack, the Voice of
Israel carried a news item that the PA would
indeed licence weapons for the Hamas.
That news item was soon changed from
“license” to “confiscate”. At Jabali’s
packed press conference, carried live on
PBC radio, Jabali announced that Hamas
Leaders such as Dr. Mohammed Zahar –
who was present at the meeting – would be
allowed and even encouraged to own
weapons under the protection of the
Palestine Authority. On the same day, our
Palestinian TV crew filmed an armed
Zahar standing in front of a skull and
crossbones imposed on a map of Israel, as
he addressed an angry mob in Gaza and
called for the bloody overthrow of the State
of Israel. PA police chief Jabali would later
assure the Associated Press on May 14,
1995 that he was expecting Hamas and
Islamic Jihad to “keep their licensed
weapons at home”.

In late October, 1995, shortly before,
Prime Minister Rabin’s assassination, I
asked him at a public forum about Arafat’s
decision to provide weapons to the Hamas.
Rabin acknowledged that this practice
existed and quipped, “Maybe they’re for
peace, too”. For the past six years both
Hamas and Islamic Jihad have openly
operated with weapons licensed by the P.A.
Meanwhile all levels of Arafat’s military
forces acknowledge that they have
recruited radical Islamics to join forces
with them.

Arafat’s alliance with Hamas was
exposed when the semi-official Egyptian
newspaper Al Aharam broke the story of
the formal PLO-Hamas accord, signed
between the two organizations on
December 15,1995, in Cairo.

That accord allowed Hamas to carry out
attacks in “areas of Palestine that had not
yet been liberated”. PLO General
Secretary Marwan Bargomi, justifying a
Hamas attack at a bus stop on the outskirts
of Netanya, appeared on Saudi Arabia’s
MBC TV and explained that the PLO could
not condemn such an act since the territory
“was not yet liberated” by the PLO.

And on each occasion when Arafat was
asked to “crack down” on these Islamic
groups that took credit for fatal terror
bombs againist Israel, he ordered the mass
roundups that resulted in mass confessions
followed by mass release of prisoners.

In thirty-seven documented instances
since 1994, the Palestine Authority has
offered asylum to Hamas and Islamic Jihad
members who murdered Israelis and took
refuge in the now safe havens of Palestinian
Arab cities that were protected by Arafat’s
armed forces.

Under pressure from Israel and Western
countries, Arafat eventually did arrest
twenty-two Hamas members who had been
involved in bus bombings throughout
Israel between 1994 and 1996 – all of whom
were released at the latest round of riots that
broke out in September, 2000.

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