Israel Resource Review 15th May, 2002


How Can the White House Describe Arafat's Speech as "Positive"?
Dr Aaron Lerner
Director, IMRA

The White House today said that Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat's speech today in Ramallah was "positive".

In the speech Arafat set the rules for the continuing war against Israel -"We have announced in the past, and we reiterate in our announcement today, our rejection of all kinds of operations that target Israeli civilians " - military targets (and in the past this has included high school students since they are "almost" in the army) and settlers remain fair game. It should be noted that it is typical of nations at war to claim that they do not intend to target the enemy's civilian population - Arafat's "positive" declaration goes no farther than that.

In addition, in the course of discussing the agreement he sought to reach with Israel, Arafat made several references to the Khudaibiya agreement (Israel Television Channel Two broadcast two instances - for some reason most reports of the speech ignored it). The Khudaibiya agreement was a 10-year peace treaty between Mohammed and the tribe of Qureish. After two years, when Mohammed had improved his military position, he tore up the agreement and slaughtered the Qureishites. Salab a-Din was the Muslim leader who, after a cease-fire, declared a jihad against the Crusaders and conquered Jerusalem.

Does Washington really think it is "positive" for Arafat, in gross violation of Oslo, to place restrictions only on attacks against Israeli civilians within the Green Line (and this only because it is bad PR)?

Does Washington think it is "positive" for Arafat to tell his people that he seeks a temporary deal with Israel to be trashed when the opportunity to destroy Israel presents itself?

And finally, when will Washington sit down and study the meaning of what Arafat says before jumping to applaud?

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Speech of Arafat in front of the Palestinian National Council: May 15, 2002
The Full Text

In the name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate. We will, without doubt, help our messengers and those who believe, both in this world's life and on the Day when the witnesses will stand forth. [Koranic verse]

Brother Ahmad Quray, Abu-Ala, honorable speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council [PLC]; honorable brother and sister members of the PLC; ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters: It is a pleasure and an honor to address you today while you are convening this important session of our elected PLC. [Arafat digresses from the written text] Every now and then they say elections.

We too have elections.

[Arafat returns to text]

Our elected PLC carried and continues to carry heavy burdens and historic responsibilities alongside the Palestine National Council. Our steadfast and patient Palestinian people are stubbornly and firmly crossing this interim phase, which has lasted for too long, between the occupation and independence.

[Arafat digresses from the written text]

We were supposed to declare independence in 1999, or have you forgotten this? [Arafat returns to the text] It is an interim phase between slavery and freedom. The destiny of all of us, our generation, and our people has been to suffer this much because our demand, objective, and dream is true freedom and full independence in the independent state of Palestine, with holy Jerusalem as its capital, whether they like it or not. Those who do not like it, they can go down to Sa'ib [Urayqat] and drink from the Dead Sea [Arafat laughs][a voice is heard from among the crowd saying "from the Gaza Sea"] No, it is more bitter there in the Dead Sea [Arafat continues to laugh].

Allow me dear ones, members of the PLC, to remind ourselves today, 15 May, of the anniversary of the Catastrophe [reference to the loss of Palestine in 1948] that afflicted our Palestinian people, who suffered and continue to suffer.

Yet, they are holding fast in the face of all these difficult circumstances and the historic attempts to erase them from the political and geographic map of the Middle East.

Ours are people of exceeding strength. In this land are a people of exceeding strength [part of Koranic verse]. They are defending their holy land and Christian and Islamic sanctities.

They are recording this heroic epic, which our heroic Palestinian people and their struggling forces are waging so as to win freedom and independence and so that our children and generations would live in peace and security in a free and independent homeland, away from occupation, settlement, oppression, assassinations, and arrests. Such practices are unprecedented in the contemporary international community.

Our people are the only people in the world now that are still living under occupation.

Peace has always been and will always remain our strategic option. We will not abandon the option of peace between the Israelis and us, because peace is a mutual interest for the Palestinian and Israeli peoples. All other options employed by the Israeli Government to destroy the option of peace, the peace of the brave, which I signed with my late partner, Rabin, who was assassinated by these extremist forces, have failed.

Despite all the murder, bombardment, displacement of people, and the destruction of infrastructure and our official, educational, health, social, security, and other institutions carried out by the occupation troops, the military solution has not and will not change anything in our determination to attain independence, sovereignty, and freedom. Nor will it change anything in our determination to realize the peace of the brave that was established in the Madrid Conference and the agreements signed to achieve a just, comprehensive, and lasting peace. This is especially the case after the recent Arab summit in Beirut endorsed the Saudi initiative of Saudi Crown Prince Abdallah, and after the recent meeting in Sharm al-Shaykh that grouped President Mubarak, His Royal Highness Crown Prince Abdallah Al Sa'ud, and President Bashar al-Asad.

We have extended, and continue to extend our hand toward the just peace, the peace of the brave; the peace that can achieve security and justice to the Palestinians and the Israelis, and to the Arab region, the Middle East, and to the entire world. This should be known to the entire world. This land is holy for the entire world and peace should be achieved for this land, the land that is holy to all people.

With all faith and responsibility, I can confirm to you today that the talks we held in Camp David were very difficult, critical, and sensitive. They covered all the important and basic issues. Despite the good, and extra, efforts exerted by President Clinton and his team, we did not reach an agreement over these basic issues. As you know, we continued afterwards at Sharm al-Shaykh. These talks were patronized by His Excellency President Mubarak. We also continued talks in Paris. The last session of these talks was attended by His Excellency President Chirac.

Progress was made at the Taba negotiations, as you all know. It is enough to go back to the news conference that followed Taba where the Palestinian side was represented by brother Abu-Ala [Ahmad Quray] and the Israeli side was represented by Ben-Ami. It clearly shows what we had reached. Every now and then they say that you have not availed yourselves of the opportunities that you have been given.

I am relating some events and facts so that certain people might not lead us here and there. I say this with insistence, firmness, and determination. Progress was made at the Taba talks and we were supposed to implement what was decided after the Israeli elections, as you all know. You lived and suffered with your people and Palestinian Authority because of what happened, before and after that, especially in view of the movements of the Israeli army and the plans it drew up, such as the Israeli Field of Thorns operation against our unarmed people. The required spark that caused the eruption was the storming of the Jerusalem holy mosque [by Ari'el Sharon] in a flagrant action which provoked the worshippers at the Al-Aqsa Mosque.

This provocative violation led to opening fire at the worshippers resulting in martyring and wounding many of our people.

Brother speaker, brother members. In confronting this unjust war of aggression against our people, beginning with the Field of Thorns and continuing with the 100-day battle, the Hell [Oranim], the Rolling, the Colors Journey, and finally to the Defensive Shield, our people in every town, village, and [refugee] camp remained steadfast in facing the occupation, closures, massacres, and aggression.

Our masses and National Authority have offered heavy sacrifices for about two years. About 20-21 months have passed [since the outbreak of the intifadah]. No city, camp, village, town, house, or even a hut have been spared from the Israeli military attacks with tanks, aircraft, and suffocating siege. Occupation roadblocks have been set up everywhere.

Bombs have hurt schoolchildren and mothers, and destroyed homes over the heads of their tenants.

History stands witness to what happened in Janin camp and Janin city. The Israel crime targeted our people in this heroic camp, as well as other camps, such as Balatah, Askar, Nur Shams, A'idah, Al-Fawwar, Al-Duhayshah, Al-Am'ari, and Qaddurah, in addition to Nabulus and old Nabulus. [Arafat digresses from the written text] As you know, brothers, Joseph, may peace be upon him, and his father and brothers lived near old Nabulus, from where they traveled to Egypt. Yet, they [Israelis] came and destroyed it. [Arafat returns to the text] They also destroyed the holiest churches and mosques there. [Arafat digresses from the text] In old Nabulus, our Samarian brothers live. We take pride in the presence of their representative among us here. [Arafat returns to the text] They also targeted Ramallah, Bethlehem, and the holy Church of Nativity, which is held sacred by both Christians and Muslims.

Surat Maryam [Koranic verse of Virgin Mary] is a special verse in our holy Koran. The Church of the Nativity witnessed the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ, peace be upon him. They also targeted Gaza; Jabaliya; Khan Yunus; Dayr al-Balah; Rafah and its camp, which was totally erased; Abasan; Bayt Hanun; Tulkarm; Qalqilyah; Hebron, whose inhabitants cannot enter it except with difficulty and with a permit as curfew is imposed there; and the presidential offices in the various areas and governorates. Total destruction was inflicted on them, in addition to the total destruction inflicted on the Gaza International Airport and the destruction of planes, buildings, ministries, radio and television; and division of the Gaza Strip into separate cantons.

To go from one place to another you need nine hours. Ask your brothers there, who can hear us now? How long does it take you to travel from Khan Yunus to Gaza?

Does it not take nine hours? Never mind. And do thou be patient, for thy patience is but from God; nor grieve over them; and distress not thyself because of their plots. [Koranic verse]

Brothers and sisters: The road to freedom, independence, and dignity has never been strewn with flowers, but with steadfastness, patience, perseverance, and the ability to confront the aggression and aggressors.

The plot against our people and homeland to deprive us of our freedom, independence, and state has not stopped. Its chapters are continuing one after another. Since the night of 29 March, we have been the targets of a comprehensive Israeli aggression, in which all types of weapons are used.

They include tanks, planes, missiles, and internationally banned weapons. We had no alternative to patience and steadfastness under this military siege of our cities, camps, the presidential headquarters in Ramallah, the holy Church of the Nativity, the Umar Bin-al-Khattab Mosque in Bethlehem. Despite the lifting of the siege on the presidential headquarters and the Church of the Nativity under the toughest of conditions, the Israeli Government continues its daily incursions and attacks on all areas, unconcerned about the growing international denunciation of its attacks and crimes. It went so far as to prevent the international inquiry commission from investigating the occupation army's crime against our people in the Janin camp.

It also set impossible Israeli conditions for the convening of the international conference, which was called for by President Bush and which was supported by the international four-party committee. I salute President Bush, who called for establishing an independent Palestinian state [in a speech] at the UN General Assembly session, which we both attended. He was the first US President to say this at the UN General Assembly. I would like to remind you here that the agreement reached with the US and British envoys, who visited me under the siege, was that we should first begin by lifting the siege on the Church of the Nativity, a holy place for both Muslims and Christians. Regrettably, two incidents occurred the day the siege was supposed to be lifted. Sorry, Mr. Ahmad [Quray], for digressing. Had it not been for the efforts of the monks and those besieged, the fire could not have been extinguished after three and a half hours. Part of the Franciscan and Greek Orthodox quarters, including the part in which you used to visit me, were burned down and destroyed. That was the part where I slept at Christmas.

Brothers and sisters, I know that there are some observations about what was agreed upon. [Arafat digresses from the text] We hear all kinds of talk and we observe all kinds of one-upmanship. May God help us. [Arafat returns to the text]

It was agreed to lift the blockade and withdraw the occupation troops.

However, I say it in front of you: I assume full responsibility for everything. Do not blame Abu-Ala, Ahmad Abd-al-Rahman, Hanan [Ashrawi], or anybody else. Blame it on me. I am responsible for all that has happened, especially since what happened was in the form of US, European, Russian, and UN proposals and guarantees. You are aware of those critical and difficult circumstances, so I am not going into the details. I leave it to you to assess those developments sincerely, faithfully, and openly. [Arafat digresses from the written text] We fear nothing. I tell you that if there was any mistake, I would be responsible for it. No march anywhere in the world can be void of mistakes. Did not one of Adam's children kill his brother? [Voice from the audience says "correct them"] We will therefore correct them. We will correct them. If you just gave me time, you would have heard this word. This should be done away from emotions and outside influences. Let us be faithful in dealing with what is facing our people and issues at all levels.

Brother speaker, sister and brother members: The Israeli aggression against our people is continuing and escalating as long as the occupation and settlements are imposed on our land and people, who are firmly and persistently clinging to their land. It suffices to look at Faris Awdah and other children at his age standing with Palestinian stones confronting the most sophisticated Israeli tank, the Merkava. These are the Palestinian people, the people of exceeding strength.

At this time, we badly need to reassess our plans, policies, and correct-so that you might not speak ahead of me-and amend our march toward national independence with complete honesty, sincerity, faith, and firmness. Be sure we shall test you with something of fear and hunger, some loss in goods, lives, and the fruits of your toil, but give glad tidings to those who patiently persevere-who say, when afflicted with calamity: "To Allah we belong, and to Him is our return." [Koranic verse]

In this regard, we announced some time ago and we announce today our rejection of the [terrorist] operations targeting Israeli civilians as well as Palestinian civilians, as was the case in Janin, or rather in "Janingrad." We no longer talk about Stalingrad, but "Janingrad." Let the entire world hear this. We are talking here about something even uglier than Stalingrad, we are talking about "Janingrad."

The Palestinian public opinion and the Arab public opinion have reached the conviction that these operations do not serve our goals, but incite many large sectors of the international community against us, although it was this community which created Israel and provided it with funds, weapons, protection, and so on and so forth. You know better than me. These operations are causing a controversy. I call on your esteemed Council to discuss this issue, which is controversial in our Palestinian and Arab arenas.

Let us remember the Truce of al-Hudaybiyah [between Prophet Muhammad and Mecca infidels in the year 628 AD]. Our Lord Ali [Bin-Abi Talib] refused to erase the word Prophet when the infidels insisted that the prophet be identified only by his name. Prophet Muhammad asked Ali to erase it and identify him only as Muhammad Bin-Abdallah. Ali refused. The prophet then asked where this word was in the document and he erased it himself. So I am only reminding you of these stories. [Addressing an unidentified individual] You should remind me.

Opposition is legitimate if it observes the rational limits and if it faces, with patience, wisdom, and forbearance everything that confronts us within the framework of the general direction, in which we take pride. I say this based on concern for the national and pan-Arab interest of our people and nation, and out of our keenness to strengthen world solidarity with your people and cause.

I call on your Council to patronize a comprehensive and thorough national dialogue to discuss all our political issues that top the national, pan-Arab, and international priorities. All forms of our national struggle must be strengthened and must focus on the need to achieve our people's dream to establish the independent Palestinian state with Holy Jerusalem as its capital on our land that was occupied in 1967. This was decided by our Palestinian National Council (PNC) when it declared independence and the independent state in Algiers in 1988.

Brother speaker of the Legislative Council, sisters and brothers: Following this Israeli aggression, our domestic situation and political system require a comprehensive review. There is no other way. We must review our situation. We must review what is correct and what is wrong in all aspects of our national life. You know that we set our political system on the basis of democracy and free elections, which were supervised by leaders from all over the world. Was this not the case? We established security agencies and national security and police services as part of a pre-concept that the interim phase cited in the Oslo accords would end in 1999. The political, administrative, and security structure of our state would then be reconsidered. However, matters went in a completely different direction after the Israeli Government's failure to respect or implement agreements. Since then, it has embarked on this unjust war against us, against our land, against our people, and against our Christian and Islamic holy places. Allow me, sisters and brothers, to ask you very sincerely and responsibly to quickly prepare for elections and to implement what is possible in this regard. [applause]

[Arafat then digresses from written text] I do not want Sa'ib [Urayqat] to come and tell me they should take place tomorrow.

Be patient, Sa'ib. [Arafat laughs]

Free elections should be adopted as a basic method to choose leaders to the national society bodies or the organizations, trade unions, and popular institutions, which are basic tools in building the civic society. [applause]

The principle of separation among the judicial, legislative, and executive branches of power should be observed. [applause] National unity [Arafat reads preceding two words three times] and human rights should be maintained. Out of my experience in administration and authority, I call for reconsidering all of our administrative and ministerial formations as well as the security agencies after deficiencies have emerged here and there. These cannot be concealed from the people, who are suffering under the Israeli occupation. We should not let these people endure more suffering. [applause]

We all have made efforts in the field of work and construction. We should not forget that we took land in which everything was destroyed. We lived on this land with all pride, firmness, and dignity. The foe admitted this before the friend. The international institutions, including the World Bank and the IMF, also admitted this.

We have all exerted efforts in building and working. We might have been wrong some times and right during other occasions. We might have been wrong or right in pursuing this or that responsibility. But, we have preserved the trust and national goals, led by the goal of gaining independence and freedom, and establishing the Palestinian state with holy Jerusalem as its capital.

And to enter your temple as they had entered it before. And to enter your temple as they had entered it before. Never does Allah fail from His promise. Never does Allah fail from His promise. [Koranic verses]

Of course brothers, by this we mean all the 1967-occupied Palestinian and Arab territories as outlined in the Madrid Conference, which we, the entire world, and all Arab forces attended. As you know, we barely attended this conference with them. However, we regained this firm land to the people of the mighty.

Brother PLC Speaker; sisters and brothers:

This holy land is a trust in our care. We will remain faithful to the blood of our martyrs and to our prisoners and wounded. May God aid them and grant them patience.

Now as we face this stifling siege, continuous aggression, and these crucial, historical, and hard circumstances, the goal and the dream draw closer in spite of all suffering, sacrifices, and pains. I insist on the drafting of a new, complete formula for our national condition and for the Authority and its administrations, ministries, and security agencies to rebuild them on stronger, firmer, and more correct foundations in a manner that would enable us to achieve our national ambition of gaining independence and freedom and establishing the independent Palestinian state. Brothers and sisters: This is the hour for work and building, for change and reform in spite of all attempts to hinder the national reconstruction process.

[Arafat digresses from written text]

As you see, we can barely convene the cabinet. We cannot convene the Legislative Council. As you can see, we are meeting via television screens. I proudly say that we will not only convene via television, but also via telephone or fax. No one can stop us.

[Repeating earlier statement]

Brothers . . . This is the hour for work and building, for change and reform in spite of all attempts to hinder the national reconstruction process and the establishment of our independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital.

Our elected Palestinian Legislative Council should turn into a workshop to review the march and its positive and negative elements in order to rebuild our political system on firmer foundations of democracy, supremacy of law, and independence of the judiciary. This would also enable us to reconstruct our various economic and financial establishments and to reconstruct our infrastructure to provide a strong foundation for our people on the path toward independence and freedom.

In the name of God the merciful the compassionate: He said: "O my people! See ye whether I have a clear sign from my Lord, and he hath given me sustenance pure and good as from himself? I wish not, in opposition to you, to do that which I forbid you to do. I only desire you betterment to the best of my power;

And my success, my task can only come from Allah. In Him I trust, And unto Him I return. [Koranic verse].

Glory to God in the highest, peace on earth, and goodwill to all men.

I greet you. Peace, God's mercy, and blessings on you. Thank you for bearing with me.

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