The Sacramento Union stands by its criticism of Arafat

November 30, 2004

[Note by Tom Gross]

Correction: In my introductory note in some editions of yesterday's dispatch I referred to the CABU. The organization holding the celebration of Yasser Arafat's life next week is in fact the CAABU – The Council for the Advancement of Arab-British Understanding.



1. Attacking those papers which criticized Arafat
2. "A word about Arafat"
3. "Finishing what Hitler started"
4. "Yasir Arafat gets the Che Guevara treatment" (an article from Harvard Law School)


I have very occasionally made reference on this list to the leading pro-Israel media watchdog groups, such as HonestReporting.

However, the anti-Israel "activist" groups online are far greater in numbers.

Below is an example of how one small U.S. newspaper, "The Sacramento Union," replied having been bombarded with complaints after they printed an article criticizing Yasser Arafat.

In a published response, "The Sacramento Union" says it will not be intimidated from its position that it was fair to allow Arafat to be described as "the father of modern terrorism," and its criticism of "Western diplomats [that] painted over Arafat's sordid nature."

The paper writes: "The plain truth: The font of so much hatred in the Middle East was none other than Yassir Arafat, who made a peaceful settlement impossible, who justified the slaughter of innocents."

Admittedly that comment piece, "Finishing What Hitler Started" (By Mark Williams, Sacramento Union, November 12, 2004 – which is also attached in full below), contained harsh and occasionally offensive language (which I for one do not approve of), but no more so than the language regularly used about Israel in the so-called mainstream media.

[Thanks to David Steinmann for drawing this to my attention.]




At the end of this email I also attach one further comment piece on Arafat unrelated to the Sacramento Union (Yasir Arafat gets the Che Guevara treatment, By Mitch Webber, The Record – which is an independent newspaper published by students at Harvard Law School, November 18, 2004.)

Webber writes: "Try finding mention of Black September in Arafat obituaries... In its official obituary, The New York Times poeticizes Arafat's "once-taut stomach" and his "trademark checkered head scarf, carefully folded in the elongated diamond shape of what was once Palestine." If you didn't know any better, you might think Palestine was a sovereign state before Israel existed. At any rate, it can't be long before Arafat's kafiyah becomes as ubiquitous on college dorm walls and t-shirts as Che Guevara's single-starred beret.

... If only our own President were more like Arafat, maybe The New York Times would publish the occasional kind word about him as well. But I seriously doubt the UN will fly its flag at half-mast upon Bush's passing..."



A word about Arafat
The Sacramento Union
November 24, 2004

The Sacramento Union has been targeted by an orchestrated letters-to-the-editor campaign, unmistakable because of the extreme repetitiousness of content and tone. The campaign takes us to task – understandably – for publishing a column by Sacramento talk show host Mark Williams, to whom Yassir Arafat’s death occasioned some potent invective.

When much of the mainstream media was euphemistically describing the Palestinian leader’s life in terms reserved for a great statesman, Williams cleared his throat and reminded readers that the man was, ahem, a terrorist. Indeed, some call him the father of modern terrorism, though the roots of terror as an instrument of political change go back at least a century. But Arafat was quintessentially a terrorist, one who inspired so many others over the past three decades that he needn't have been directly linked to them to have been in real ways responsible for them.

Western diplomats painted over Arafat's sordid nature, largely because they claimed the search for more legitimate Palestinian leaders was futile – a debatable proposition – and because late 20th-century culture, ever sinking into moral relativism, increasingly countenanced terrorism as a laudable form of political expression.

Arafat's growing stature was appalling for several reasons, not least because his swagger prohibited the emergence of moderate Palestinian leaders – many of whom were assassinated by agents connected to Arafat himself. Moreover, his detestable anti-Semitism was barely concealed. When President Bill Clinton and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak offered him more than even he could imagine, he could not bring himself to accept a deal. The reason: He did not want a deal; he wanted an end to the state of Israel.

We can sympathize with Arab-Americans who, owing to the lack of other Palestinian leaders and to the build-up of Arafat in Western culture, are outraged by Mark Williams’s remarks. Some of the remarks, not untypical of talk radio, were jarring when seen in print. Tombstones, for example, are not urinals. If we could retroactively excise that comment, for one example, we would.

And yet, there is a through-the-looking-glass aspect to the perspective of many of those who joined the letter-writing campaign (a few samples of which, not all of them, we'll publish). George Orwell once said the intellectual’s duty is to state the plain truth, especially when so many other intellectuals instinctively spread confusion.

By printing Mark Williams’s comments, we have been accused of spewing "hate speech," that politically correct phrase that insinuates itself, not as a thought-stimulator, but as a thought-stopper. The plain truth: The font of so much hatred in the Middle East was none other than Yassir Arafat, who made a peaceful settlement impossible, who justified the slaughter of innocents.

An inelegant truth, that, sometimes inelegantly stated. We may only pray, with President Bush, that Arafat's death brings new opportunities for peace and, yes, Palestinian self-determination.



Finishing What Hitler Started
By Mark Williams
Sacramento Union
November 12, 2004

The media in this county have gone nuts. I actually heard one TV anchorette – with nice teeth but no brains or sense of history past her first Barbie Doll – refer to Yasser Arafat as "the George Washington of Palestine."

Get this straight: Yasser Arafat was a blood-soaked, sub-human, vile, reprehensible, murderous animal. Its (his) savagery was unmatched in the latter half of the 20th Century and the fires of Hell are burning that much more brightly for his having been spawned.

This sociopathic reptile’s terrorist history dates to his founding of Fatah – designed to liberate Israel from the Jews, by way of extermination, in the 1950s. By 1969 he was big dog on the Middle Eastern block, head of a conglomeration of Islamic terrorist organizations unified under a single committee on which each is represented.

The Executive Committee of the PLO becomes the Arab equivalent of the Mob commission founded by Joseph "Joe Bananas" Bonnano, Lucky Luciano, Tommy Lucchese, Frank Costello, and Vito Genovese. Joe was a humanitarian compared to Arafat, the five families were only killing each other at the time, united to stop that and direct their efforts toward the business at hand. In Arafat's case, the goal of unification was to improve and coordinate a more effective offensive against innocents.

And what a record Arafat accumulated!

February 21, 1970. Swissair flight 330 blown out of the sky inbound to Tel Aviv. All passengers and crew lost.

May 8, 1970. Nine school kids and three of their teachers blown to bits when Arafat orders their school bus obliterated by bazooka fire

September 5, 1972. Also under Arafat's direct command, terrorists murder 11 Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics (FYI; Mahmood Abbas, who tops a short list of successors to Arafat today was the creep who worked out the logistics for that slaughter)

March 1, 1973. The US Ambassador to the Sudan is among those killed when Arafat's animals take over the Saudi embassy in Khartoum.

May 15 1974. This is one of Arafat’s best pieces of work. Under orders from the soon-to-be Nobel Peace Prize winner, a group of PLO tosses grenades into a group of schoolchildren being held hostage and try to mow down the survivors with machine guns. Twenty-one children and two adults killed in the school. A child, home from school sick, is murdered – along with both parents – when Arafat's guys make a quick stop by the house to see if they missed anybody.

October 7, 1985. An oldie but goodie. American Leon Klinghoffer is shot in his wheelchair, which is then rolled off of the Achille Lauro’s deck and to a watery grave in the Mediterranean.

January 17, 2002. Six killed, 35 wounded when Arafat’s “freedom fighters” machinegun a bat mitzvah. Two dead, 40 injured five days later when commuters are machine-gunned by Arafat’s animals at a bus stop. A week later they burst into a private home to murder an 11-year-old and her mother

May 27, 2002. The "George Washington of Palestine" orders an infant and her grandmother blown to pieces at an ice cream parlor. The next day they mow down a group of kids playing basketball. Three dead; ages 17, 17 and 14. The next month’s high point for Yasser comes with three more dead kids: 16, 12 and 5 in a home invasion, along with their mother and a neighbor who tried to help the other victims.

May 2004. Arafat dispatches four more kids: 11, 9, 7, 2, and mom when he RPGs their car.

Those are just a few highlights – a partial list, abbreviated because to publish a complete list of the accomplishments of the founding father of terrorism would take up this entire publication. There are literally hundreds of attacks on innocents, hundreds more on mostly off-duty IDF and ordinary street cops walking their beats. The death toll in the thousands. But you won’t hear this from the American media whose motto is: “Warm up the box cars, we found a nest of ‘em!”

Folks, this emperor is as naked as they come:

* Item: There is not, never has been, never will be a nation Called "Palestine." It is a myth. Atlantis has more validity. "Palestine" exists only as a vehicle for the extermination of an entire people and a major goal of Islamic Jihad in its war against civilization.

* Item: If there is a crueler pile of camel manure than Palestine, then it has got to be the total fiction of a Palestinian "people" as a group distinct from Jews, Arabs or the other peoples indigenous to the area. They have "homelands." What they do not have is a Jew-less Israel. This nonsense about a homeland is just that – nonsense. But dangerous nonsense. These freaks of some twisted politically correct nightmare are furiously scratching matches over a gas jet trying to relight Auschwitz.

Is there anything holy to our contemptible media? They are celebrating a monster that did more to advance toward the Final Solution than anybody since Schickelgrueber – Arafat was the bin Laden of his day and now he is dead. Good, I am glad. I hope it was painful. The appropriate headstone over the stiff would be a working urinal.



Yasir Arafat gets the Che Guevara treatment
By Mitch Webber
The Record
November 18, 2004

Can one write an obituary or eulogize Yasir Arafat without betraying a bias in the Israel-Palestine conflict? It doesn't seem possible. But I'll do my best, making only a single, modest point before heading to the highlight reel of the all-important World Opinion to see what our erstwhile allies have said about the recently deceased Chairman.

My one point is this: for Yasir Arafat, it was never about the occupation.

In 1957, pursuant to the Israeli Independence War armistice lines (or as the war is more succinctly known in the Arab world: al-Nakba, The Catastrophe), Jordan held East Jerusalem and the West Bank, and Egypt controlled the Gaza Strip. It was in that year, 1957, a full decade before the 1967 Six-Day War, that Yasir Arafat founded al Fatah ("The Conquest") to fight a guerrilla war against Israel. (To be fair, Arafat did eventually go to war against Jordan, but only after Jordan no longer occupied the West Bank. Arafat's belief that Palestinians were entitled to all of Jordan, as well as all of Israel, culminated in 1970's Black September – the utter defeat and expulsion of the Palestinians from Jordan. Try finding mention of Black September in Arafat obituaries.)

But don't take my word for what Arafat meant to Palestinian nationalism. Take Nelson Mandela, best known of late for calling America's war against Iraq "racist" and accusing the United States of committing "unspeakable atrocities." Last week Mandela called Arafat "an icon in the proper sense of the word... one of the outstanding freedom fighters of this generation."

Now I question Mandela's sense of perspective and proportion on the topic of Arafat. After all, Mandela has spent much of the last few years on an Anti-Israel World Speaking Tour. Exhibiting the moral maturity of a child, Mr. Mandela trots the globe insisting that if Israel gets to retain its arsenal, America has no right preventing Iran and North Korea from developing nukes. Analogously, I imagine Mr. Mandela is equally befuddled as to why cops, and not outlaws, get to carry unconcealed pistols in public. That is, unless the outlaw in question is Arafat, and he's speaking before the General Assembly.

I have yet to hear a eulogist mention the fact that most estimates have Arafat personally pocketing between four and five billion dollars in foreign humanitarian aid earmarked for his own people. Again, to be fair to Arafat, $4 billion is nowhere near the $11 billion mark Kofi Annan's UN skimmed in its oil-for-food scandal. So we shouldn't be surprised to find Annan overlooking a fellow Peace Prize laureate's criminal corruption.

The Secretary-General does not disappoint. Annan was "deeply moved" by the passing of Arafat. In his press release, Annan praised Arafat for, in 1988, "accept[ing] the principle of peaceful coexistence between Israel and a future Palestinian state." 1988? It seems Annan missed the headlines, say, in 1996, when Arafat remarked, as he often did in the years following Oslo, "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." That doesn't sound like the two-state solution our enlightened Western friends pretend to advocate.

Coming to Arafat's defense one final time, I'm certain the Chairman meant to say that he hoped to make life unbearable for Israelis or Zionists, not Jews, because – say it with me now – "anti-Zionism is NOT anti-Semitism."

Speaking of Iraqi sanction profiteers, French President Jacques Chirac mourned the death of a man "of courage and conviction." Mr. Chirac diplomatically omitted any mention of which convictions, precisely, Arafat embodied. We're left with the impression that the content of a man's convictions is of no moment, so long as he had some. Which makes me wonder: why is it that Mr. Chirac never speaks highly of our own President Bush, who, if nothing else, is certainly a man of convictions?

Likewise, the Pope reportedly felt "pain" for the "illustrious deceased," and Vladimir Putin hailed Arafat for dedicating his life to "an independent state, which would coexist with Israel within recognised and secure borders." I find the latter's remarks particularly touching; if there's one world leader sensitive to Muslim self-determination, it's Vlad Putin.

Don't let me give the impression that Americans haven't shed our own tears for Mr. Arafat. Model ex-president and sometime-Arafat-speechwriter Jimmy Carter must have felt a true loss of consortium last week at the news of Arafat's death. According to Carter biographer Douglas Brinkley, "There was no world leader Jimmy Carter was more eager to know than Yasir Arafat." Last Friday, Carter defended Arafat as the "legitimate," democratically elected Palestinian leader. Carter is apparently employing an idiosyncratic, mechanical definition of democracy, in which a dictator gets to delete all true opposition from the ballot and then "indefinitely postpone" all subsequent elections. Carter's op-ed several times scolds the "occupying Israelis," but never says a disparaging comment about Arafat. No mention of the Munich Olympics, no Ma'alot, no Moshav Avivim, no Achille Lauro, no assassinated American ambassador, no airline hijackings. No thousands and thousands of dead civilians. No need to sweat the details.

In its official obituary, The New York Times poeticizes Arafat's "once-taut stomach" and his "trademark checkered head scarf, carefully folded in the elongated diamond shape of what was once Palestine." If you didn't know any better, you might think Palestine was a sovereign state before Israel existed. At any rate, it can't be long before Arafat's kafiyah becomes as ubiquitous on college dorm walls and t-shirts as Che Guevara's single-starred beret.

If only our own President were more like Arafat, maybe The New York Times would publish the occasional kind word about him as well. But I seriously doubt the UN will fly its flag at half-mast upon Bush's passing.

I'm afraid I've fallen into my own trap and interjected my own views into what was supposed to be a dispassionate discussion of Chairman Arafat. So back to my original, indisputable point, so glaringly forgotten by a world smitten by the father of modern terrorism. Yasir Arafat, a man whose steel resolve was matched only by his six-pack abs, began his war for conquest a decade before Israel occupied East Jerusalem, the West Bank, and Gaza.

Unless the Occupied Territories include all of Israel proper – Tel Aviv, Haifa, Eilat – it was never about the occupation.

(Mitch Webber is a 2L from Rochester, NY.)

All notes and summaries copyright © Tom Gross. All rights reserved.