Although Bill Clinton's private escapades with Monica Lewinsky represent an inexcusably shameful episode of American politics, they pale beside the President's public meetings with Yasir Arafat at the White House. It is Arafat, not Lewinsky, who is responsible for the terrorist murder of many American citizens and it is Arafat - not Lewinsky - who recruits the very same murderers into Palestinian Authority (PA) police forces. During the next several months, as indignation and investigation concerning the President's vulgar personal liasons remain at center stage, it will be the consequences of his vastly more disgraceful diplomatic relationship with Yasir Arafat that threaten renewed violence against the United States.
Yasir Arafat has been an honored guest at the White House on several different occasions. Ironically, under American law, the President was obliged to arrange for the PLO terrorist leader's arrest and prosecution - not to fete him at State dinners and banquets, complete with red carpet and 21-gun salutes. This is because, according to international law, the failure to arrest and prosecute terorists is codified as a specific crime, and because international law is an integral part of the law of the United States.
President Clinton seeks "justice" in the matter of Monica Lewinsky. But where is justice for Leon Klinghoffer, for Alisa Flatow, for Sara Duker, for Matthew Eisenfeld, for Leah Stern, for David Boim, for Nachshon Wachsman, for Joan Davenny, for Yaron Ungar, for Yael Botwin - all American citizens murdered by Palestinian Arab terrorists? How can this President who seeks justice for himelf defend his persistent support for a PLO leader who supports the killers of these Americans and actually integrates them into his U.S.-tax funded "security force?" It is true, of course, that the President's inversion of concern for victims and perpetrators originated in Oslo and Jerusalem - not Washington - but the incomprehensible self-destructiveness of present-day Israel does not excuse egregious presidential violations of American law.
When the victorious allied powers established a military tribunal at Nuremberg on August 8, 1945, they reaffirmed the legal principle of "No crime without a punishment." This principle, with origins in ancient Jewish law, were later formalized by the U.N. General Assembly in 1950: "Offenses against the peace and security of mankind are crimes under international law, for which responsible individuals shall be punished." For the United States, the Nuremberg obligation to bring terrorists to trial are doubly binding. This is because these obligations represent not only current expectations of international law, but also the binding obligations of a Higher Law embedded in this country's basic legal traditions.
All international law is part of the law of the United States. This incorporation is expressed at Article VI of the U.S. Constitution (the "supremacy clause") and by several pertinent decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court. It is time, therefore, for President Clinton to recall the words used by the Court in The Paquete Habana(1900): "International law is part of our law, and must be ascertained and administered by the courts of justice of appropriate jurisdiction...."
But let us return to Yasir Arafat, President Clinton's sometime guest at the White House. Does the PLO leader deny his role in directing terrorist attacks? Not at all. In the exact words of Dr. Ahmad Tibi, his most senior advisor: "The person responsible on behalf of the Palestinian people for everything that is done in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is Yasir Arafat." Lest we forget, this same honored guest of Mr. Clinton also gave his blessings to crimes of war, crimes against peace and crimes against humanity committed by Iraq during the 1991 Gulf War. Perhaps the President should recall as well that units of Arafat's Palestine Liberation Army (PLA) served with Saddam's forces in occupied Kuwait, making the PLO leader a collaborator in multiple mean crimes of unmentionable horror and ferocity.
Yes, indeed, the Lewinsky affair is a nasty blot on the presidency and a defilement of our highest national office. Yet, in comparison with other Clinton wrongdoings, it is a relatively minor transgression. Understood as a matter of justice, the president's persistent embrace of Yasir Arafat - both literally and diplomatically - represents the single most obscene and consequential stain on the White House. While America can probably live with the results of Bill and Monica, it assuredly cannot abide the murderous offspring of Bill and Yasir.
LOUIS RENE BERES (Ph.D., Princeton, 1971) is
Strategic and Military Affairs analyst for THE JEWISH
PRESS and Professor Department of Political Science