By Sean Durns
“Everyone is entitled to their own opinions, but not their own facts,” the late U.S. Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan famously asserted. This idea — that facts matter — has been sorely challenged in the sphere of the Arab-Israeli conflict. For example, when asked if there was ever a Jewish Temple on Judaism’s most holy site, the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, Ahmad Tibbi, an Arab-Israeli Knesset member, balked. There are but Jewish and Arab narratives, he said, and he was merely subscribing to the Arab narrative, which claimed no Jewish Temple had ever existed.
The rejection of Moynihan’s statement and the embrace of Tibbi’s way of thinking is evident in a Washington Post article on the opening of a new museum about Yasser Arafat in the West Bank (Judea and Samaria) town of Ramallah (“New museum offers a peek into Arafat’s bedroom,” Nov. 9). The hagiographical museum even features a purported replica of the now deceased terror leader’s bedroom.
“The Yasser Arafat Museum displays the Palestinian experience,” museum head Mohammad Halayka tells The Post. “It is the only venue in Palestine that presents the Palestinian narrative of events from the last century.”
Correspondent Ruth Eglash describes Arafat as a “revolutionary and guerilla leader … a diplomat and peacemaker.” She depicts him as someone who, if imperfect and guilty of siphoning off “millions of dollars in aid meant for his people,” was nonetheless a fighter turned peacemaker.
The real Yasser Arafat was a murderer, a terrorist and a consummate liar who rejected numerous U.S. and Israeli offers for peace and a Palestinian state in exchange for recognition of the Jewish state, optinginstead for war, terror and the installation of an authoritarian and kleptocratic regime.
Under Arafat’s leadership, the 1968 Palestine Liberation Organization’s charter called for “armed struggle” as an overall strategy to eliminate Israel. Although Arafat claimed to have amended the document, there is no evidence that it was actually changed.
Nor is there evidence that Arafat’s true goals shifted, despite The Post’s claim that he changed “his politics when he began to engage in diplomacy with the Israelis.”
Arafat called for Israel’s destruction on numerous instances — including in a March 29, 1970 Post interview. Even after participating in the Oslo process that culminated in an accord in 1993, which established limited Palestinian self-rule in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip in exchange for peace with, and recognition of Israel, his pledges were never honored.
In a May 10, 1994 speech in South Africa, and in another one on Aug. 21, 1995 at Al-Azhar University, Arafat compared his decision to participate in the Oslo process to deceptions that Prophet Muhammad engaged in against rival tribes; its purpose was for Arafat and the PLO, severely weakened by the fall of chief sponsor the Soviet Union, to rebuild, consolidate, then resume work towards Israel’s destruction. And that’s precisely what Arafat did. As he stated in a 1996 speech in Stockholm: “We plan to eliminate the State of Israel and establish a purely Palestinian state. We will make life unbearable for Jews by psychological warfare and population explosion. … We Palestinians will take over everything, including all of Jerusalem.”
The Post’s decision to eschew facts is evident in its account of Arafat’s birth. Noting that “Israelis and most historians” believe his birthplace to be Cairo, the paper nonetheless demurs, stating that since the Palestinian narrative asserts that Arafat was born in Jerusalem, the truth is actually a “mystery.”
It’s not. Arafat was born on Aug. 29, 1929 in Cairo, Egypt. As historian Barry Rubin noted in his 2003 biography of Arafat, “even when, years later, he was presented with the irrefutable evidence of his birth certificate from an Egyptian hospital, Arafat continued his denial, insisting that he was born in Jerusalem.”
Similarly mysterious, according to the paper, is Arafat’s death in November 2004. “Many Palestinians … believe he was poisoned by radioactive polonium-210. … Although there has been no conclusive evidence, some Palestinians say he was assassinated by Israel, while others point to an internal Palestinian conspiracy.”
However, The Post failed to inform readers that a 2015 French investigation — conducted at the P.A.’s insistence — found no evidence that Arafat was murdered by polonium-210 poisoning and concluded “there was not sufficient evidence of an intervention by a third party who could have attempted to take his life.”
Elsewhere, The Post fails to provide important context. For example, the paper wrote that two activists associated with the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) were killed in Israel. However, the paper omits that ISM sanctions both violent and nonviolent actions against Israel and, as a 2006 Post column noted, has cooperated with U.S.-designated terror groups Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.
Yasser Arafat may well be, as the museum claims, emblematic of much of the Palestinian experience. But what that experience entails, the museum doesn’t seem interested in disclosing. And The Post seems equally uninterested in reporting.
Sean Durns is a research analyst for CAMERA, the 65,000-member, Boston-based Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America.