Thursday, December 13, 2001

I'm shedding no tears for Yasser Arafat, much less Hamas, but consider for a minute Israel's last demand to Arafat, the one which he became "irrelevant" by failing to implement; according to the New York Times,

After the attacks Wednesday night, Mr. Arafat ordered the closing of all offices of Hamas and Islamic Jihad. The order appeared to apply to Hamas's extensive network of schools and health clinics.

To stop the bombings, the Israelis were demanding that Arafat shut down schools and clinics. And the horror (and absurdity) of the situation is that they were right to do so.

This is one of the more underreported aspects of Islamic fundamentalism; these movements gain credibility and converts by providing effective social services to people whose governments just don't care. (And not just among the Palestinians; the Egyptian terrorist networks, Gama'a al Islamiya and Islamic Jihad, set up clinics, schools, and mosques while trying to violently overthrow Mubarak; Islamic Jihad, FWIW, spawned bin Laden's lieutenant, al-Zawahiri).

Which is, in a way, the most damning possible indictment of Arafat; with American and European governments lined up to give him the aid he would need to provide these services himself, he either wouldn't or couldn't, leaving the field instead to groups who were determined to block his diplomacy, scuttle his treaties, and undermine his authority.

The nastiest diatribe I ever heard about the PLO was from a graduate student at MIT who asserted, on the basis of his family's personal experience, that Arafat's PLO was hopelessly corrupt, that its leadership was a den of thieves, that foreign aid donors had learned the hard way to distribute even shipments of flour themselves, lest it be diverted and sold to line the pockets of some thug, and that there was no hope for improving the Palestinians' lot until Arafat was out of the way.

The guy was a Palestinian.


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