Thursday, July 19, 2007
Arafat and AIDS
When I speculated in November 2004 here at NRO and in my column in Canada's National Post that Yasser Arafat had died of AIDS, I was widely scolded for my bad manners The British MP George Galloway wrote in The Mail on Sunday that I had provoked "blood-spitting fury" in the Arab world. (Not available online.) Norman Spector, a former Canadian ambassador to Israel, termed my speculation "repugnant." And when Canadian MP Stockwell Day - then foreign affairs critic, now minister for public security - circulated my column, he was denounccd in the Canadian media and criticized in Parliament.
You can decide for yourself how appalling my words were:
Here's a link to the post in which I first raised the possibility (Oct. 29, 2004 - second item)
Here's the newspaper column in which I discussed the matter at greater length (Nov. 2, 2004).
And here's a post in which I weighed that the evidence pointing to an AIDS diagnosis might be circulated by Arafat's enemies within the Palestinian government in order to discredit him (Nov. 6, 2004).
Now Palestinian sources are themselves confirming the truth of my speculation. And indeed three years later, AIDS remains the most plausible diagnosis of Arafat's cause of death at a comparatively young age. As I wrote at the time:
"We know he has a blood disease that is depressing his immune system. We know that he has suddenly dropped considerable weight — possibly as much as one-third of all his body weight. We know that he is suffering intermittent mental dysfunction. What does this sound like?"
The secrecy in which Arafat's condition was treated, the refusal of either the French medical authorities or Palestinian sources to release final medical reports, all indicate that Arafat died in a way that his friends and supporters expected would cause political embarrassment for the old murderer. They wrapped his financial arrangements in secret for the same reason: to conceal how much money he had stolen, how he had stashed funds in personal accounts, and the size of the payoff that had to be tendered his widow to persuade her to release her matrimonial rights to public funds that Arafat treated as personal wealth.
So how was my speculation offensive? Let one of Stockwell Day's critics explain :
Stockwell Day, the man who once admitted that he believed humans and dinosaurs roamed the earth at the same time, has once again revealed that he is not fit to hold public office. Then it was sort of funny (remember the “Doris” Day petition?) but this time it is just appalling. Press reports revealed recently that Mr. Day, who is the Conservative Party’s foreign affairs critic, refused to send condolences to the Palestinian people on the death of President Yassir Arafat. Why? Because of Mr. Arafat’s support for armed struggle against Israel? No. Because he might have died of AIDS.
In a November 16 email to his Conservative colleagues Mr. Day stated: "Some of you have asked why I have not released a statement of condolence or sympathy. As you know, there are two sides to the Arafat story. You pick...." He then included in the email an article by David Frum, former speech writer for George W. Bush, indulging in unfounded speculation about the cause of Arafat’s death. Frum suggested that Arafat’s symptoms “sounded AIDS-like.”
Clearly, for both these men, anyone who dies of AIDS is to be shunned, not only while they are alive but even after they are dead.
As audacious lies go, this is quite a doozy. The journalist in question had the offending column in front of him on paper. He knew it was readily available to his readers online. He knew both Stockwell Day's views and my own. And yet he still found it possible to declare that Day and I were unbothered by Arafat's "support for armed struggle against Israel" (nice euphemism!) - and only objected to his cause of death.
So let's go to the videotape. Why exactly did I think important to air this piece of truth about Arafat? Here are my own words:
A TERRORIST AT TWILIGHT
As Yasser Arafat reviews his life from his Paris hospital bed, what do you think he thinks? Does he regard himself as a success or not?
In some senses, he must feel he has failed. He has been waging war on Israel for four decades, and yet Israel is still there, richer and stronger than ever. He has personified Palestinian Arab nationalism — and he has led the Palestinian Arabs from one disaster to another.
Yet the old murderer surely also has abundant cause to feel successful. Once a pariah, a killer, a terrorist, he is now a Nobel Peace Prize winner and a billionaire. His agents hijacked planes, massacred civilians, organized the murder of schoolchildren and Olympic athletes — and even the assassinations of American diplomats. Yet he forced the world to recognize him as a legitimate head of government, and hundreds of millions of people worldwide regard him as the leader of a righteous cause. President Bill Clinton met with Yasser Arafat 24 times in eight years, more often than with any other international political figure. And though recent months have gone badly for him, Arafat has good reason to feel confident that he and his movement will in time recover.
Consider just this one fact: the world media's astonishing lack of curiosity about the nature of the disease for which he has sought treatment in France. He has suffered a dramatic weight loss, memory loss and periods of disorientation, loss of muscle control and recurring nausea. His doctors tell us that his blood platelet count has dropped dramatically, but that he does not have leukemia. These symptoms sound remarkably AIDS-like, don't they? An AIDS diagnosis would certainly accord with what is widely known about Arafat's personal way of life. (Some of the lurid, homoerotic details can be found in the memoirs of Lt.-Gen. Ion Pacepa, former head of Romanian intelligence under Nicolae Ceausescu. See page 36.)
And yet, even as the international media reports on Arafat's condition with the kind of attention normally reserved for ailing popes, unwelcome possibilities like an AIDS diagnosis go unmentioned.
Thus Arafat's number one reason for confidence: his command of the world press. Israel may win battle after battle on the ground, but it is losing the battle for global public opinion outside the United States. From the silence concealing Arafat's own personal corruption to the suppression of unwanted images like those of Palestinians celebrating on 9/11, Arafat has cajoled and intimidated much of the world media into covering the Middle East as he wishes it covered.
Likewise, Arafat has enjoyed amazing success in persuading the world's governments to draw a distinction between al-Qaeda terrorism and his own supposedly more acceptable brand. After the 9/11 attacks, the United Nations adopted Resolution 1373 calling on all member states to suppress terrorism. Yet European governments have acquiesced in the demands of Islamic states to exempt terrorist acts carried out during an "armed struggle for liberation and self-determination."
Arafat's diplomatic success has had important and — for him — positive political consequences. Thirty years of Palestinian terrorism have dulled the world's moral outrage. At Nuremberg, the victorious Allies hanged German generals for atrocities against civilian populations. But atrocities against civilians are the only kind of war Arafat knows. Arafat's forces have rarely if ever taken the field against the Israeli military. They have instead waged a war of kidnappings and random murder, very similar to that practiced by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in Iraq. Yet this record has not isolated Arafat. To the contrary, the world has accepted Arafat's terrorism — an acceptance symbolized by the fact that Arafat was allowed to wear a gun on to the rostrum of the United Nations in 1974, the only world leader ever to do so or try to do so.
So will he die content? That depends on how he defines success. To the extent that he was ever concerned about the plight of the Palestinians, ever wished to build institutions to help them, ever cared about their prosperity and freedom — then no, he must be regarded as one of history's pre-eminent losers.
But if one sees him as a man motivated by the spirit of destruction — as someone who hated his enemies without ever much loving his own people — who measured his success in the grief he inflicted on others without much caring what his supporters suffered in return: In that case, Arafat scored success after success.
In the words of his fairest and best informed biographers, Barry Rubin and Judith Colp Rubin: "This was the ultimate irony of his life: Arafat, the man who did more than anyone else to champion and advance the Palestinian cause, also inflicted years of unnecessary suffering on his people, delaying any beneficial redress of their grievances or solutions to their problems."
For those people — for us all — the world will be a better place if he had never lived and will be a cleaner place after he is gone.
-National Post, Nov. 2, 2004.
Through his long life of violence and crime, Arafat cajoled and coerced many of the world's governments and much of the world's press into complicity with his lies. Here was one more. Was it not long past time to refuse to go along?
07/19 06:19 AM