Here is a short news story that says it all:
On November 28, 1996, Thanksgiving eve in the US, I covered a delegation of 10 Israeli residents from Judea and Samaria who met with Yasser Arafat at his domicile in Bethlehem.
To summarize the purpose of the meeting in two words, one participant described it as “reality testing.” Arafat had maintained a consistent policy of saying one thing in English, advocating peace and coexistence, while conveying quite another message in Arabic, as he continued to incite the Palestinian Arab people to war with the Jewish state. Arafat had yet to deliver even one message that calls for peace with the state of Israel in the Arabic language.
Indeed, our agency had become known as the “Arafat tape” agency, because of our editing and distribution of Arafat’s numerous appearances on the official media of the PBC, the Palestinian Broadcasting Corporation TV, which belied any hint of peace.
What the delegation wanted to know was with whom they are dealing with – a neighbor of peace or an antagonist at war?
This unofficial “settler delegation” asked Arafat very specific and pointed questions as to whether Arafat would indeed embark on a policy of peace or war.
The idea was to look to the future, not to the past. Would Arafat finally make a speech in Arabic in which he would call for peace with the state of Israel? Would the PBC “Voice of Palestine” Radio, which is under the direct control of Arafat, stop its invective against Israelis, especially against the Israeli residents of Judea and Samaria? Would Arafat encourage teachers and other officials of the Palestine Authority to participate in programs that encourage tolerance and co-existence?
Arafat was all smiles throughout our two-hour sessions delivering long-winded speeches in which he professed to be a man of tolerance and understanding, well deserving of the Nobel Peace Prize, at a ceremony that I had covered in Oslo two years before.
I asked Arafat a pointed question: Would he get on the airwaves of the Voice of Palestine and proclaim reconciliation with Israel in the Arabic language to his own people, and would Arafat denounce any and all murders of Jews on that same station, if future murders occur. Arafat nodded his head and said that he “speaks about peace all the time”, to which I responded that we have no record of such. “You will see”, Arafat said, and finished the meeting in a cordial manner.
What the participants thought and felt after the meeting was that Arafat would deliver his answer though actions, not with words.
Arafat’s “answer” was not long in coming. Exactly two weeks later, on the seventh night of Chanukah, on a dimly lit drizzly evening, near the community of Beit El, three Palestinians shot up the car of the Tzur family of Beit El, killing a mother and child in the car. The killers’ smoldering vehicle was found in one of the “safe havens” of the Palestinian autonomy.
We called Arafat after the attack. So did all major media. He was nowhere to be found.
Meanwhile, the next morning, Arafat’s PBC radio newsreel broadcast that an “incident occurred on the settler road” where “two criminal settlers were killed.” “WAFA,” Arafat’s Palestinian press agency, issued a statement that such killings do not serve the interest of the Palestinians at this time.
The next day, our news agency dispatched a TV crew to Gaza to give Arafat the direct opportunity to say something about the attack. And I had the opportunity to see Arafat once more.
Smiling widely again, Arafat smiled at the reporters and waved away the question about the murders in Beit El. A picture is worth a thousand words.
A few hours later, however, Arafat then issued a public order that if the killers at Beit El are caught, they would not be turned over.
Meanwhile, the Palestinian Authority confirmed that 10 recent killers of Israeli civilians had been hired as officers in the Palestinian Liberation Army police force.
Arafat had delivered his answer loud and clear to the delegation that came to see him.
In the topsy-turvey Orwellian world in which we live, Yasser Arafat, the leader of the Palestinian Liberation Organization, defined under Israeli law as a terrorist organization, was a Nobel Peace Laureate, while Israeli residents of Judea, Samaria and Katif (in Gaza) are often thought of portrayed as warmongers.
And when Arafat made his first visit to the UN in 1974, the PLO leader grasped an olive branch in one hand and a pistol in the other.
Epilogue: Two years later, on December 1sth, 1998, Arafat appeared at a US State Department briefing which I covered. US Sec’y of State Madalyn Albright gave me the opportunity to ask a question of Arafat. I asked Arafat if he would stand by the commitment to preach reconciliation in the Arabic language that he had given two years before, and I presented Arafat with the records of his speeches from the previous few weeks, in which, among other things, Arafat had called the Jews “the Sons of Satan”.
Arafat’s response was to foam from the mouth and pound on the State Department platform and scream that “I love the Jews, I love the Jews!!”