05 August '15..
The PLO recently marked what would’ve been Yasser Arafat’s 86th birthday with a tweet that must have left the late Palestinian leader spinning in his grave.
It’s not just about framing Arafat’s legacy as a heroic freedom fighter instead of as an murderous terrorist (I’ll come back to that).
As the founding father of Palestinian nationalism, the PLO has a lot riding on the Arafat narrative.
To set the record straight, Arafat was born in Cairo. But even the ardent Obama birther conspiracy theorists will drop their jaws at this:
On August 4 was born President Yasser Arafat (Jerusalem 1929 – Paris 2004) “I am a rebel and freedom is my cause“
So how did he come to be associated with Jerusalem?
The answer starts with a Communist-era Romanian intelligence official, Ion Mihai Pacepa. He explained in a Wall St. Journal mea culpa that the Arafat-Jerusalem tie was a product of deliberate Soviet misinformation.
KGB chairman Yuri Andropov in February 1972 laughed to me about the Yankee gullibility for celebrities. We’d outgrown Stalinist cults of personality, but those crazy Americans were still naive enough to revere national leaders. We would make Arafat into just such a figurehead and gradually move the PLO closer to power and statehood. Andropov thought that Vietnam-weary Americans would snatch at the smallest sign of conciliation to promote Arafat from terrorist to statesman in their hopes for peace.
Right after that meeting, I was given the KGB’s “personal file” on Arafat. He was an Egyptian bourgeois turned into a devoted Marxist by KGB foreign intelligence. The KGB had trained him at its Balashikha special-ops school east of Moscow and in the mid-1960s decided to groom him as the future PLO leader. First, the KGB destroyed the official records of Arafat’s birth in Cairo, replacing them with fictitious documents saying that he had been born in Jerusalem and was therefore a Palestinian by birth.
As for the PLO’s freedom fighter spin, it’s a tired old game. For years, the Palestinians and their apologists have compared him to leaders of the American Revolution. such as George Washington and Thomas Paine, and, of more recent history, Nelson Mandela. (Marwan Barghouti, the leader of the Fatah-affiliated Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades who was convicted on five counts of murder, has inherited the “Palestinian Mandela” mantle.)
The parallels between Arafat and the likes of Washington and Mandela don’t wash. There’s no historical evidence that Washington deliberately attacked civilians loyal to Britain. As Slate‘s Timothy Noah wrote in 2002:
In the Americans’ struggle for freedom, a radical was someone who dumped tea in Boston Harbor. In the Palestinians’ struggle for freedom, a radical is someone who straps on a bomb and blows up Israeli children.
Arafat was the grandfather of modern terror. His followers perfected the practice of hijacking airplanes. His wife, Suha,confirmed that the murderous second intifada was pre-meditated by her Nobel laureate husband. He always found ways to disassociate himself from the very terror attacks he bankrolled, authorized, or simply allowed to happen.
You can sum up Yasser Arafat’s legacy in a nine-character word: Terrorist.
Featured image: Public domain images of Yasser Arafat and Emanuel Gottlieb Leutze’s painting “Washington Crossing the Delaware” via Wikimedia Commons, remixed by HonestReporting