AN EICHMANN TRIAL FOR ARAFAT
by Ariel Natan Pasko
June 14, 2002
What's all this debate about expelling or not expelling Yasser Arafat? Have we all gone mad? How will expelling him solve the problem (him). As I recall, Arafat was in 'exile' until 1993, where he was able to lead a terrorist organization and plan attacks on Jews, Israelis and others, around the world and in Israel. Oh yes, he also managed to hobnob with the rich, famous and powerful, lobbying for a 'Palestinian State' in his spare time. Can someone tell me what expelling Arafat will accomplish, other than turning him into a 'victim' again? It is a role he plays very well.
The debate shouldn't be about expelling or not expelling him, either way we're still stuck with his 'leadership' of the Palestinians. The real debate, that has yet to begin in earnest in Israel, is over trying him for crimes against humanity, i.e. the Jewish People and others. The only question for decent people to debate is whether he should receive life in prison or the death penalty.
I believe an Eichmann-like trial would educate a generation here in Israel and abroad about Arafat's murderous criminal activities. It would teach the world how to deal lawfully with terrorism and how not to appease it. Some might say that Arafat, as head of state, is immune to prosecution. Well, guess what? He's not the head of any state yet. Besides, that didn't seem to stop Belgium when they contemplated prosecuting Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.
Let us say that since 1993, as head of the Palestinian Authority, he's wanted peace and he just hasn't been able to stop those nasty Hamas, Islamic Jihad, PFLP, Tanzim and al-Aksa Brigade terrorists (regardless of the fact that he's officially the leader of those last two groups). Do you believe that? If so, why should we negotiate with him? Either he's in charge, in which case he is culpable for their crimes, or he's not in charge, in which case we should start discussing who is and talk to them.
If he's not responsible for all those bombings and killings since coming here in 1993, on what basis could we try him? How about, for starters, trying him for the death of Americans. For example, a diplomat in Khartoum (1974) and Leon Klinghoffer at high sea (1986). The world might not care about Israelis and Jews killed around the world from the 1960's through 1993 (when his 'immunity' began), but Americans care about the murder of their citizens overseas. We should care about those Jews and Israelis killed, even if others don't, and try him for those crimes as well. Bringing that murderous leader to justice for their deaths would teach the world a moral lesson for years to come. In most democracies, there is no statue of limitations on the crime of murder, or complicity in murder. Just recently, a Connecticut court found the nephew of Ethel Kennedy (RFK's widow) guilty of a murder he committed in 1975 at the age of 15. He's facing life in prison. Why should a serial murderer of the worst kind, be allowed to escape justice just because he's become a 'respectable politician'?
What of the issue of 'world outcry'? We seemed to deal with world criticism during the Eichmann trial, the Demanjiuk trial and with the cries of massacre in Jenin. One lesson to learn is no matter how much the world condemns us, in two weeks there are new headlines. Israel only needs the political strength to stand up for itself. Ariel Sharon and others showed a glimmer of that recently, with regard to the United Nations Jenin inquiry. Besides, fighting terrorism is 'in', and a strong Israel leading the way, would revive our image, one that others looked up to in the past. "We don't compromise with terrorists," was a phrase that previously earned us respect in many quarters. It also set an example that others followed. In contrast to the 'cowboy-style' of carpet bombing that the United States used in Afghanistan (which has raised many muted complaints globally), Israel would, in the full light of day and through a legitimate judicial process, try and execute a mass murderer of innocent men, women, and children.
What comes after Arafat? Won't Hamas or who knows what take over? With over 500 killed and 1,000's injured since the Oslo Accords of 1993, tell me how it could get worse. Either Arafat is in charge and encouraging the terror, or he's in charge but not doing anything to stop the murder, or he's not really in charge and can't control the terrorist groups. Either way he's politically irrelevant, as the Israeli government declared recently. We just need to follow through with the next logical step. Try Arafat and execute him. As I said earlier, educationally, trying Arafat is a great opportunity of which we should take advantage. What many need to begin to understand is that beyond Arafat, the PA and its leaders are Sheikh Yassin, Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the others. Maybe we should start thinking of negotiating with Sheikh Yassin already. Or, maybe, we have other ways to deal with them, as well.
The real debate over what to do with Yasser Arafat hasn't yet begun in Israel. The only question for decent people to debate is whether he should receive life in prison or the death penalty? If there's a referendum, you know my vote.
Ariel Natan Pasko is an independent analyst and consultant.