Michael Widlanski: ARAFAT ATTACKS U.S. AND MOSSAD IN TV INTERVIEW
Monday, December 10, 2001
The United States and Israel are jointly responsible for the rampant
terrorism in the Middle East, declared Yasser Arafat in a long and highly
unusual Arabic-language interview with Israel television broadcast over the
last three nights.
Arafat and his fellow Palestinians, not Israelis, were the victims of
suicide bombers, said the PA chairman at the start of the 40-minute
interview, conducted by Oded Granot of Israel State Television's Channel
Question (Granot): " Can you look straight at the camera and tell the
Israeli people 'no more suicide bombers, no more terror attacks in Israel?'"
Answer (Arafat): "Let me tell you something. We can work together because
these suicides are not against you. They are against the Palestinian
Throughout the interview Arafat declined Granot's invitation to call
directly on the Palestinians to stop violence, but he repeatedly cited his
own "mass arrests" of members of terror organizations.
Arafat exploded in anger when challenged by the interviewer about Israeli
and American experts' views that Arafat was only putting up a show rather
than making a real effort to end terror.
"Good God. Who cares about the Americans?!! The Americans are on your side.
Haven't they given you everything?!! Who gave you the planes?! The
Americans. Who gave you the tanks?! The Americans."
At times during the interview, the sometimes-trembling head of the
Palestinian Authority seemed disoriented, and he relied on whispered advice
from nearby advisors on several occasions, as when, for example, one said:
"Say I am stretching my hand out in peace to the Israeli people."
Arafat immediately followed the cue from his off-screen advisor.
The 70-plus-year-old Arafat (the date of his birth is also a source of
controversy) suffers from facial tremors and trembling. His advisors say it
is the result of sub-cranial bleeding from the crash of his own plane more
than ten years ago in the Libyan Desert-a crash which he, but not his
pilots, survived. But intelligence experts say Arafat is suffering from
Parkinson's Disease and other ailments.
In another portion of the interview that was edited out, Arafat apparently
said that the Israeli Mossad (external intelligence service) was behind the
assassination in Jerusalem of Israeli cabinet minister Rehav'am Ze'evi.
Arafat and his own cabinet ministers, as well as his state-run tv and radio,
frequently suggest that Israeli government agencies or Israeli citizens have
been part of secret conspiracies committing acts of terror against Israelis
in order to have blame affixed on the Palestinians.
Indeed, at another point in the long interview, Arafat said that Ariel
Sharon (the current prime minister) and Ehud Barak (the former Israeli prime
minister) had conspired together in September 2000 to allow Sharon (then
head of the Israeli opposition) to "provoke" the Palestinians into violence
that would provide an excuse for Israel to attack the Palestinians.
The long interview immediately became the source of a political storm in
Israel as many politicians and journalists criticized Israel Television's
decision to provide a platform for the head of the Palestinian Authority
which has been directing a 14-month war of attrition and terror against
Mr. Granot, who was contacted by this reporter, declined to be interviewed
on the record for this story.
Michael Widlanski, senior analyst at The Media Line, lectures at The Hebrew
University's Rothberg School.