Whisper of betrayal as Arafat is shunned

  • From: "Muslim News" <editor_@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: "Muslim News" <submit@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Sat, 4 May 2002 12:14:34 +0100

YASSER ARAFAT, the Palestinian leader, emerged from a month of captivity to 
make a victory tour of Ramallah yesterday. But it was shunned by most of the 
populace, amid whispers of betrayal. 

A small crowd of supporters joined him - only enough to fill the viewfinder of 
a television camera. There was no joy on the streets to celebrate the departure 
of the Israeli army after five months in the north of the city. Schoolchildren 
filled the gap left by volunteers. 

The cause of the muttering among Palestinians was the agreement under which Mr 
Arafat ended the siege of his compound in return for handing over six 
Palestinian militants wanted by Israel into British-supervised custody. 

"Arafat paid a very high price for his freedom," said one shopkeeper. 

"The Israelis lifted the closure around his compound, but it remains imposed on 
all the Palestinians. We cannot move anywhere outside of town. It is an 
incomplete achievement." 

According to British officials, the deal gives Mr Arafat his freedom of 
movement, including foreign travel and return. But the Israeli prime minister, 
Ariel Sharon, was quick to give warning that he would not guarantee his return 
if he stepped outside the Palestinian territories. 

Mr Arafat began his victory tour by visiting the Sheikh Zayed hospital and 
praying over a mass grave in the car park where 16 people who died during the 
Israeli re-occupation are buried. 

He moved on to the Education Ministry to see the damage done by the army. All 
the computer hard disks have been removed, as well as the files and records of 
the past seven years' exam results. 

The Palestinian leader was in an aggressive mood to deflect questions about the 
deal he worked out to end the siege and what he would do next. 

When reporters rushed into his compound after the 
last Israeli tank left, he ordered them: "Go away and investigate what is 
happening in the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem." 

Ten peace activists - including Georgina Reeves, a Briton who lives in the 
Palestinian territories and is organiser of the International Solidarity 
Movement - slipped into the besieged church after colleagues created a 
diversion to distract Israeli soldiers. 

The activists took food into the church, where about 180 Palestinian gunmen, as 
well as priests, monks, nuns and other civilians have been trapped for a month. 

To Palestinians Mr Arafat is guilty of taking part in a deal under which six 
men who are seen as heroes and freedom-fighters are imprisoned in a Palestinian 
jail under the eyes of British and American monitors. 

The attraction from Israel's point of view is that a United Nations 
investigation into the Israeli army assault on the Jenin refugee camp will be 
quietly forgotten. After Israel raised objections to the fact-finding team its 
20 members, who have been waiting in Geneva for almost a week, were going home 

Abla Saadat, wife of Ahmed Saadat, the head of the Popular Front for the 
Liberation of Palestine who is detained in the Jericho prison, said the 
ditching of the Jenin inquiry was a betrayal. "It is not just me who thinks so. 
Ninety per cent of the Palestinians, even some people around Arafat think so," 
she told reporters. 

Mrs Saadat put into words the despair of the Palestinians after 19 months of 
violence. For all Mr Arafat's promises of victory, the Israeli iron fist has 
left city centres in ruins, broken the lives of thousands and ripped the guts 
out of the Palestinian administration, just like the Education Ministry 

"For 50 years Israel never brought us to despair. But seven years of 
Palestinian rule has brought us to the brink," she said. "Did we achieve a 
victory? Did we end the occupation? Only from around Arafat's compound." 

The same negative sentiments were aired for hours on Al-Jazeera, the Arabic 
satellite news channel, though speakers were asked not to use the word 

The message is clear: Mr Arafat was a hero under siege. He began to lose this 
status as soon as the tanks withdrew from his compound. 

Television interviews by candle light are Mr Arafat's forte. But slogans will 
not rebuild the damage to Palestinian homes, offices and infrastructure - 
estimated at £240 million over the past month - and there are ever louder 
demands for a change in leadership style. 

Palestinians still talk of an intifada, or uprising, but it has dawned on them 
that times have changed. 
Source: Telegraph

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