Arafat's Oxymoron: Jihad for Peace

By Charles Krauthammer Copyright Washington Post Writers Group | St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), May 22, 1994 | Go to article overview
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Arafat's Oxymoron: Jihad for Peace

Charles Krauthammer Copyright Washington Post Writers Group, St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

While in South Africa last week, Yasser Arafat called for "a jihad (holy war) to liberate Jerusalem." Since Arafat had pledged himself to peace, not war, at the great White House handshake, tthis sent American and Israeli officials into a tizzy.

Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres called it "shocking and unacceptable." Secretary of State Warren Christopher asked for "an immediate clarification." Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin complained that this was a "serious violation" of the letter Arafat had sent him pledging an end to violence.

Rabin's trust in the written word is touching and no doubt sincere. But his faith in Arafat's word is comically misplaced. End violence? Last month, Arafat refused even to condemn the terror bombing of a civilian Israeli bus within Israel proper, not in the occupied territories, that killed eight and wounded 44.

As Arab leaders from Beirut to Amman to Cairo can testify, Arafat's actions bear no relation to his commitments. He has violated so many agreements with Jordan's King Hussein, for example, that Hussein barely bothers talking to him anymore.

What is happening in the territories now is not a peace process. It is a retreat. The letters and documents, the signings and ceremonies, the handshakes and benedictions are there mainly to give retreat the appearance of orderliness and mutuality.

But it is a one-way street. What has Israel gotten in return for granting the Palestinians self-government for the first time - something the Jordanians, Egyptians and Turks, all fellow Muslims, never granted?

They were supposed to get an end to terrorism - that letter, remember, that Arafat sent to Rabin last September. But when the terrorism continues and Arafat is silent, Israel issues a few feeble protests, then moves on lest the "peace process" be disrupted - by its violation by Arafat.

Take that call for jihad. Arafat has now "clarified" it by saying that by "jihad" he meant a peaceful crusade. He added: "I will continue my jihad for peace," a smarmy oxymoron that Shimon Peres - the human punching bag, the planet's most easily mollified negotiator - meekly bought. He expressed happiness that Arafat had reaffirmed his commitment to peaceful means.

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