From the end of the caliphate era at the dawn of Islam, specifically the first four ruling caliphs after Muhammad's death, dubbed the Righteous Caliphate, all the way up to the assassination of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in 2005, political murders were a pleasant and acceptable way to accelerate the process of changing ruling coalitions and resolving political differences in the Arab world. This method is still used today as a shortcut to save weak coalitions, avoid expensive election campaigns, deal with pressures and bypass compromises or threats of resignation. Such nuisances, we know well, are part of the cumbersome system we call democracy. Intrigues to bypass the system are rejected by Israel. Democracy, we know, is also the system that young people in the Arab world have been trying to emulate in the past year, which arouses both curiosity and hope.
On the backdrop of the "Arab Spring", which these days involves a horrific massacre by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime, the roving news channel Al-Jazeera has invoked the spirit of late Palestinian leader Yassir Arafat, on television screens in various Arab nations. What is so new in the story of this terrorist's death, which has recently re-entered the public discourse in the living rooms and tents of Arab nations? Indeed, claims that Israel poisoned him with radioactive materials have been pulverized over the years. So what's new here, and why now?
Any political assassination immediately raises a question of motive. When the Palestinians accuse Israel of assassinating Arafat, they must also know that he deserved to die. They are right. This was a man with blood on his hands, who Israel preferred to bring to our territory from Tunisia rather than hold direct elections among the Palestinians; he was equivalent to death.
Indeed, Arafat was brought here out of the false perception that it would bring with it the peace that awaited us. This man, who narrowly escaped from us in Lebanon, was crowned by Israel to lead the Palestinians, rather than allow elections in the territories from which authentic leadership might grow. Arafat, until his death, motivated terrorist attacks against Israel by his citizens, creating a flood of "martyrs". He referred to any agreement with Israel as an exercise in deception, similar to the Treaty of Hudaybiyyah in the sixth century, between Muhammad, representing the state of Medina, and the Quraish tribe of Mecca, which Muhammad unexpectedly violated in a one-sided move.
If Israel had wanted Arafat, who spent his final days in the ruins of his office, dead, Israel would have done so in another way. He deserved to die, and Israel was justified by law to kill him openly and categorically, as an appropriate end to his life of murderous antics. But Israel was actually interested, both on the international and local levels, that Arafat remain in his torment forever.
Al-Jazeera is trying to conjure up Arafat's soul and bring Israel back onto center stage. Suha's recent somnambulant testimony about his death raises more charges of this widow's stealing of the Palestinian people's money and questions of whether Arafat actually fathered their daughter. Testimony from Tawfik Tirawi, head of the Palestinian Authority General Intelligence Service in the West Bank, points to the fact that Palestinian leadership is stuck in the murk of blame and self-incrimination. In his defense, his claim that the Qatar-based Al-Jazeera channel has preferable methods of investigation to those of Arafat's bodyguards, who were by his side, eating, drinking and sleeping with him before his death, is ridiculous. Today, more than in the past, we know that there were plenty of factions in the Palestinian hornet's nest who were sick of the "rais" ("leader") and wanted him dead, including, for example, Hamas factions. They are all ready to blame Israel, however, and also implicate Palestinian Authority officials. It's always good to blame the Jews for everything.
Even reports from Ion Mihai Pacepa, formerly head of the formidable intelligence apparatus of Romanian President Nicolae Ceausescu, could shed light on the circumstances of Arafat's death. Pacepa fled to the west; in his book "Red Horizons: Programmed to Kill," he tells how Arafat was a frequent guest of Ceausescu in Bucharest. He was lodged in a villa with a network of cameras and microphones. Pacepa writes, "At this very moment, the 'fedaye' [Arafat] is in his bedroom making love to his head bodyguard. I knew that this was his current lover." From Pacepa's report, it seems clear that Arafat had unsafe sex and may have died from AIDS. Arafat's physician, Dr. Ashraf al-Kurdi, also claimed this at the time. History will be the judge of whether the Jews are at fault for this as well.