"Ain't Gonna Study War No More"

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Right-To-Life Party, Christian, Anti-War, Pro-Life, Bible Fundamentalist, Egalitarian, Libertarian Left

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Iraq: The Unthinkable Becomes Normal

Mainstream media speak as if Fallujah were populated only by foreign "insurgents". In fact, women and children are being slaughtered in our name.

11/11/04 "New Statesman" -- Edward S Herman's landmark essay, "The Banality of Evil", has never seemed more apposite. "Doing terrible things in an organised and systematic way rests on 'normalisation'," wrote Herman. "There is usually a division of labour in doing and rationalising the unthinkable, with the direct brutalising and killing done by one set of individuals . . . others working on improving technology (a better crematory gas, a longer burning and more adhesive napalm, bomb fragments that penetrate flesh in hard-to-trace patterns). It is the function of the experts, and the mainstream media, to normalise the unthinkable for the general public."

On Radio 4's Today (6 November), a BBC reporter in Baghdad referred to the coming attack on the city of Fallujah as "dangerous" and "very dangerous" for the Americans. When asked about civilians, he said, reassuringly, that the US marines were "going about with a Tannoy" telling people to get out. He omitted to say that tens of thousands of people would be left in the city. He mentioned in passing the "most intense bombing" of the city with no suggestion of what that meant for people beneath the bombs.

As for the defenders, those Iraqis who resist in a city that heroically defied Saddam Hussein; they were merely "insurgents holed up in the city", as if they were an alien body, a lesser form of life to be "flushed out" (the Guardian): a suitable quarry for "rat-catchers", which is the term another BBC reporter told us the Black Watch use. According to a senior British officer, the Americans view Iraqis as Untermenschen, a term that Hitler used in Mein Kampf to describe Jews, Romanies and Slavs as sub-humans. This is how the Nazi army laid siege to Russian cities, slaughtering combatants and non-combatants alike.

Normalising colonial crimes like the attack on Fallujah requires such racism, linking our imagination to "the other". The thrust of the reporting is that the "insurgents" are led by sinister foreigners of the kind that behead people: for example, by Musab al-Zarqawi, a Jordanian said to be al-Qaeda's "top operative" in Iraq. This is what the Americans say; it is also Blair's latest lie to parliament. Count the times it is parroted at a camera, at us. No irony is noted that the foreigners in Iraq are overwhelmingly American and, by all indications, loathed. These indications come from apparently credible polling organisations, one of which estimates that of 2,700 attacks every month by the resistance, six can be credited to the infamous al-Zarqawi.

In a letter sent on 14 October to Kofi Annan, the Fallujah Shura Council, which administers the city, said: "In Fallujah, [the Americans] have created a new vague target: al-Zarqawi. Almost a year has elapsed since they created this new pretext and whenever they destroy houses, mosques, restaurants, and kill children and women, they said: 'We have launched a successful operation against al-Zarqawi.' The people of Fallujah assure you that this person, if he exists, is not in Fallujah . . . and we have no links to any groups supporting such inhuman behaviour. We appeal to you to urge the UN [to prevent] the new massacre which the Americans and the puppet government are planning to start soon in Fallujah, as well as many parts of the country."

Not a word of this was reported in the mainstream media in Britain and America.

"What does it take to shock them out of their baffling silence?" asked the playwright Ronan Bennett in April after the US marines, in an act of collective vengeance for the killing of four American mercenaries, killed more than 600 people in Fallujah, a figure that was never denied. Then, as now, they used the ferocious firepower of AC-130 gunships and F-16 fighter-bombers and 500lb bombs against slums. They incinerate children; their snipers boast of killing anyone, as snipers did in Sarajevo.

Bennett was referring to the legion of silent Labour backbenchers, with honourable exceptions, and lobotomised junior ministers (remember Chris Mullin?). He might have added those journalists who strain every sinew to protect "our" side, who normalise the unthinkable by not even gesturing at the demonstrable immorality and criminality. Of course, to be shocked by what "we" do is dangerous, because this can lead to a wider understanding of why "we" are there in the first place and of the grief "we" bring not only to Iraq, but to so many parts of the world: that the terrorism of al-Qaeda is puny by comparison with ours.

There is nothing illicit about this cover-up; it happens in daylight. The most striking recent example followed the announcement, on 29 October, by the prestigious scientific journal, the Lancet, of a study estimating that 100,000 Iraqis had died as a result of the Anglo-American invasion. Eighty-four per cent of the deaths were caused by the actions of the Americans and the British, and 95 per cent of these were killed by air attacks and artillery fire, most of whom were women and children.

The editors of the excellent MediaLens observed the rush - no, stampede - to smother this shocking news with "scepticism" and silence. They reported that, by 2 November, the Lancet report had been ignored by the Observer, the Telegraph, the Sunday Telegraph, the Financial Times, the Star, the Sun and many others. The BBC framed the report in terms of the government's "doubts" and Channel 4 News delivered a hatchet job, based on a Downing Street briefing. With one exception, none of the scientists who compiled this rigorously peer-reviewed report was asked to substantiate their work until ten days later when the pro-war Observer published an interview with the editor of the Lancet, slanted so that it appeared he was "answering his critics". David Edwards, a MediaLens editor, asked the researchers to respond to the media criticism; their meticulous demolition can be viewed on the [http://www.medialens.org] alert for 2 November. None of this was published in the mainstream. Thus, the unthinkable that "we" had engaged in such a slaughter was suppressed - normalised. It is reminiscent of the suppression of the death of more than a million Iraqis, including half a million infants under five, as a result of the Anglo-American-driven embargo.

In contrast, there is no media questioning of the methodology of the Iraqi Special Tribune, which has announced that mass graves contain 300,000 victims of Saddam Hussein. The Special Tribune, a product of the quisling regime in Baghdad, is run by the Americans; respected scientists want nothing to do with it. There is no questioning of what the BBC calls "Iraq's first democratic elections". There is no reporting of how the Americans have assumed control over the electoral process with two decrees passed in June that allow an "electoral commission" in effect to eliminate parties Washington does not like. Time magazine reports that the CIA is buying its preferred candidates, which is how the agency has fixed elections over the world. When or if the elections take place, we will be doused in cliches about the nobility of voting, as America's puppets are "democratically" chosen.

The model for this was the "coverage" of the American presidential election, a blizzard of platitudes normalising the unthinkable: that what happened on 2 November was not democracy in action. With one exception, no one in the flock of pundits flown from London described the circus of Bush and Kerry as the contrivance of fewer than 1 per cent of the population, the ultra-rich and powerful who control and manage a permanent war economy. That the losers were not only the Democrats, but the vast majority of Americans, regardless of whom they voted for, was unmentionable.

No one reported that John Kerry, by contrasting the "war on terror" with Bush's disastrous attack on Iraq, merely exploited public distrust of the invasion to build support for American dominance throughout the world. "I'm not talking about leaving [Iraq]," said Kerry. "I'm talking about winning!" In this way, both he and Bush shifted the agenda even further to the right, so that millions of anti-war Democrats might be persuaded that the US has "the responsibility to finish the job" lest there be "chaos". The issue in the presidential campaign was neither Bush nor Kerry, but a war economy aimed at conquest abroad and economic division at home. The silence on this was comprehensive, both in America and here.

Bush won by invoking, more skilfully than Kerry, the fear of an ill-defined threat. How was he able to normalise this paranoia? Let's look at the recent past. Following the end of the cold war, the American elite - Republican and Democrat - were having great difficulty convincing the public that the billions of dollars spent on the war economy should not be diverted to a "peace dividend". A majority of Americans refused to believe that there was still a "threat" as potent as the red menace. This did not prevent Bill Clinton sending to Congress the biggest "defence" bill in history in support of a Pentagon strategy called "full-spectrum dominance". On 11 September 2001, the threat was given a name: Islam.

Flying into Philadelphia recently, I spotted the Kean congressional report on 11 September from the 9/11 Commission on sale at the bookstalls. "How many do you sell?" I asked. "One or two," was the reply. "It'll disappear soon." Yet, this modest, blue-covered book is a revelation. Like the Butler report in the UK, which detailed all the incriminating evidence of Blair's massaging of intelligence before the invasion of Iraq, then pulled its punches and concluded nobody was responsible, so the Kean report makes excruciatingly clear what really happened, then fails to draw the conclusions that stare it in the face. It is a supreme act of normalising the unthinkable. This is not surprising, as the conclusions are volcanic.

The most important evidence to the 9/11 Commission came from General Ralph Eberhart, commander of the North American Aerospace Defence Command (Norad). "Air force jet fighters could have intercepted hijacked airliners roaring towards the World Trade Center and Pentagon," he said, "if only air traffic controllers had asked for help 13 minutes sooner . . . We would have been able to shoot down all three . . . all four of them."

Why did this not happen?

The Kean report makes clear that "the defence of US aerospace on 9/11 was not conducted in accord with pre-existing training and protocols . . . If a hijack was confirmed, procedures called for the hijack coordinator on duty to contact the Pentagon's National Military Command Center (NMCC) . . . The NMCC would then seek approval from the office of the Secretary of Defence to provide military assistance . . . "

Uniquely, this did not happen. The commission was told by the deputy administrator of the Federal Aviation Authority that there was no reason the procedure was not operating that morning. "For my 30 years of experience . . ." said Monte Belger, "the NMCC was on the net and hearing everything real-time . . . I can tell you I've lived through dozens of hijackings . . . and they were always listening in with everybody else."

But on this occasion, they were not. The Kean report says the NMCC was never informed. Why? Again, uniquely, all lines of communication failed, the commission was told, to America's top military brass. Donald Rumsfeld, secretary of defence, could not be found; and when he finally spoke to Bush an hour and a half later, it was, says the Kean report, "a brief call in which the subject of shoot-down authority was not discussed". As a result, Norad's commanders were "left in the dark about what their mission was".

The report reveals that the only part of a previously fail-safe command system that worked was in the White House where Vice-President Cheney was in effective control that day, and in close touch with the NMCC. Why did he do nothing about the first two hijacked planes? Why was the NMCC, the vital link, silent for the first time in its existence? Kean ostentatiously refuses to address this. Of course, it could be due to the most extraordinary combination of coincidences. Or it could not.

In July 2001, a top secret briefing paper prepared for Bush read: "We [the CIA and FBI] believe that OBL [Osama Bin Laden] will launch a significant terrorist attack against US and/or Israeli interests in the coming weeks. The attack will be spectacular and designed to inflict mass casualties against US facilities or interests. Attack preparations have been made. Attack will occur with little or no warning."

On the afternoon of 11 September, Donald Rumsfeld, having failed to act against those who had just attacked the United States, told his aides to set in motion an attack on Iraq - when the evidence was non-existent. Eighteen months later, the invasion of Iraq, unprovoked and based on lies now documented, took place. This epic crime is the greatest political scandal of our time, the latest chapter in the long 20th-century history of the west's conquests of other lands and their resources. If we allow it to be normalised, if we refuse to question and probe the hidden agendas and unaccountable secret power structures at the heart of "democratic" governments and if we allow the people of Fallujah to be crushed in our name, we surrender both democracy and humanity.

John Pilger is currently a visiting professor at Cornell University, New York. His latest book, Tell Me No Lies: investigative journalism and its triumphs, is published by Jonathan Cape

This article first appeared in the New Statesman. For the latest in current and cultural affairs subscribe to the New Statesman print edition

Looking in Diebold Source Code is the WRONG Place to look

A couple points:

1) I have been in the computer-programming world for 30 years and have worked on embedded processors like the Touchscreen/Optical Scanners use.

2) I will be writing this for the non-computer geeks out there and will try to make it as simple as I can. While I will be talking about things known to Windows users, the TS/OS machines main operating systems are based other operating systems but the names of things I use are just called different things on the other operating systems.

3) Most people talk about Diebold and it’s CEO that promised Ohio to Bush, but the true facts are that all the major TS/OS makers are heavy Repugs. While I will talk about Diebold in this piece, all TS/OS makers could use this method.

4) While the Flash Memory card “device driver” I will use in this paper is a prime candidate for the vote corruption changes, it is ONLY one of many places the corruption software could be hidden. I have picked the name of the flash memory maker as Lexar, not because I think they had anything to do with this but because I like their products in the digital camera world.

5) While I strongly believe that the vote corruption software has to have been written to change votes only at a select true date and time, I will leave that piece out for this white paper. But this is still an important piece; you would not want the machines changing votes while being tested in a mock election in a county.


In the TS/OS world there are two major pieces of software. The operating system, which I will call Windows TS/OpS and the application, in this case for Touchscreen voting, which I will call, Touch Me.

I would never put the corruption software in the Touch Me application. As Diebold found out this code can get out. Plus a lot of people are “auditing” the software. No I would hide the corruption software in the operating system. Because it is “standard” software, most people would not think to check it for vote corruption changes.

Vote Corruption Software in the Flash Memory Device Driver.

When a maker wants to add a new device to an operating system, they have to write a “device driver” for that device. So when Diebold wanted to use Flash Memory cards to store the records of all votes on, they would have to have a device driver for that card. Well Microsoft is very helpful, they provide you with something call a Device Driver toolkit. In this toolkit are sample programs of other device drivers.

When Lexar was talking to Diebold they probably gave them a working device driver for their flash memory card. The only problem was Diebold wanted to “add” some new functions to the device driver. Those functions were to change the vote’s records being written to flash. After a voter has finished voting and is happy with all their selections the final step would be the saving of the selections in a file to flash memory. Then at the end of the day, all the files are download to a central computer, read and the votes added up, if the flash memory device driver makes the vote corruption changes, the voter would not know it, and no matter how many times the flash memory card is read, it will always show the corrupted votes.

So Diebold came up with this plan. The device driver would be made up of two parts, the program part and a control file part. The device driver program part would never change, only the control file part. This control file would have some funny system name and be encrypted. For each election the control file would be download as part of a “security update” to the Windows TS operating system. Because this would never be updated at the same time as the Touch Me app, most people would not put two and two together.

In my simple control file example it would be made up of one record for each vote you wanted to change. IE

P,10,Kerry, Bush

This would tell the flash memory device driver for the President race, move 10% of the votes from Kerry to Bush. Very simple. This control file could be tailored well in advance for an election. Hopefully Rove would have the needed numbers well in advance of the election, he would not like it if Bush lost.

OK we how have a control file, and when the Touchscreen/Optical Scanner booted up, it reads this control file and is now ready to work.

The next file is the completed ballot file. This is the file that Touch Me “writes” to the flash memory card at the completion of each voter selection. In my simple example this file would look like:


With these two files, the flash memory device driver has all the information it needs to modify the Kerry votes to Bush votes. The control file told it to only change 1 in 10 Kerry votes to Bush votes. If it was time to change the vote in the Presidential race, “P,Kerry” would become “P,Bush”. Very Very Simple.

And if you were auditing the Touch Me application for vote fraud you would NEVER see it. The last thing you would see would be two lines like

write (flashmemory, fileofvotes);
goback to New_Voter;

And because programmers are lazy, Diebold picked for its Optical Scanner hardware the Windows OpS operating system, and gee the flash memory device driver is used on it too. One really special device driver that can be used on both Touchscreens and Optical Scanners. How simple and how cheap.

And how about exposure to being caught, well in this simple example you have ONE programmer. This programmer may not even work for Diebold but could be a “special contractor” brought on to “write” the device driver software. And remember once the “special added functions” was written once, that special contractor would be passed from Touchscreen maker to Touchscreen maker and their “special added functions” could be reused from maker to maker.

Then you would need ONE person to create the “control file” for each election. Once it is created, the normal “update” person would just update the Windows TS/OpS software with this “security update”.

Some ending points:

Sad to say, if the vote corruption software is in fact in the operating system, it would be almost impossible to find. While at the higher levels of the TS/OS companies, they would know what their machines would be used for, 99.9 percent of the people in the company would have no idea. As I have shown, as little as a one to three person programming team could have written the code for all the TS/OS machines out there.

After the hanging chads of the 2000 election, everybody knew that a newer way for people to vote would be used in the 2002 and later elections. You also have to believe the Repug party has many great software types as would the Democratic Party. I believe the vote corruption software was first tested in the 2002 election to help Jeb Bush in Florida and to replace Democratic Senators like Max Cleland in Georgia.

Any election vote that was to be corrupted the race must be close. If the day after the election, the machines showed Alan Keyes the winner over Barack Obama, then nobody would believe the machines.

Maybe the release of the Diebold Touchscreen software was NOT an accident, but done on purpose by Diebold so people were looking at the wrong place and many man-years of programmer’s time were spent going over the WRONG code. Almost all magic acts use miss direction to pull off their “magic”. The release of the Diebold code could have just been miss direction.

In 2001 George Bush’s biggest problem was the Senate. A lot of theories are out there about what happened to Senator Paul Wellstone’s plane. A couple points to think about. Was Paul Wellstone so far ahead of the person he was running against that the machines could not switch enough votes for the Repug candidate to win, and/or what was the state of the Minnesota voting machines and were they the wrong type. So maybe Senator Paul Wellstone’s plane crashed because of pilot error or maybe because they could not control the election, he had to be gotten rid of at any cost.

Remember, the vote corruption would take place in all states not just Florida and Ohio. While some well meaning Democratic leaders point out that Bush got millions more votes than Kerry, in the real world a shift of only 5% or less of the Kerry votes to Bush would account for Bush’s “win”.

And finally a well known saying:

"When you have eliminated the impossible, what remains,
however improbable, must be the truth."

Sherlock Holmes, A Study In Scarlet, 1887 by A.C. Doyle

Note: Feel free to copy, edit my grammar errors, and pass on this white paper.


Gonzales Nomination Angers Abortion Foes

An anti-abortion group Thursday accused President Bush of ignoring his anti-abortion principles in nominating White House counsel Alberto Gonzales for the post of attorney general.

"As a Texas Supreme Court justice, Gonzales' rulings implied he does not view abortion as a heinous crime," said Judie Brown, president of the American Life League, in a written statement.

Bush announced Wednesday that he had chosen his long-time friend to replace Attorney General John Ashcroft, who is stepping down. (Bush picks Gonzales to head Justice Department)

Gonzales has worked with Bush since he was the governor of Texas -- serving as Bush's general counsel, then as Texas Secretary of State before Bush appointed him to the state's highest court. (Gonzales political fortunes tied to Bush's)

As a member of the court, Gonzales ruled with the majority that some teenage girls should not be required to get parental permission for an abortion.

In his opinion on the ruling, Gonzales wrote, "While the ramifications of such a law may be personally troubling to me as a parent, it is my obligation as a judge to impartially apply the laws of this state without imposing my moral view on the decisions of the legislature."

Brown said that "choosing not to rule against abortion, in any situation, is the epitome of denying justice for an entire segment of the American population -- pre-born babies in the womb."

She also cited a 2001 interview with the Los Angeles Times in which Gonzales was asked whether his personal view of abortion would play a role in his vetting of judges.

He responded, "There are no litmus tests for judicial candidates. ... My own personal feelings about (abortion) don't matter. ... The question is, what is the law, what is the precedent, what is binding in rendering your decision. Sometimes, interpreting a statute, you may have to uphold a statute that you may find personally offensive. But as a judge, that's your job."

Said Brown, "Gonzales' position is clear: The personhood of the pre-born human being is secondary to technical points of law, and that is a deadly perspective for anyone to take. ...

"Why is President Bush betraying the babies? Justice begins with protecting the most vulnerable in our midst. Please, Mr. President -- just say no to the unjust views of Alberto Gonzales."

But the stance of anti-abortion groups was not uniform. The president of Operation Rescue, based in Sacramento, California, said he had not yet formed an opinion on the nomination.

"I'm still studying it," said Troy Newman. "I know he's not the strongest advocate for life."

"I'm glad he's not up for Supreme Court justice," said the Rev. Patrick Mahoney, who runs the Christian Defense Coalition in Washington. "His feelings on abortion we're a little concerned about."

Gonzales has also been criticized by civil liberties groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union.

ACLU Executive Director Anthony Romero issued a statement calling for a confirmation process "that scrutinizes Mr. Gonzales' positions on key civil liberties and human rights issues.

"Particular attention should be devoted to exploring Mr.Gonzales' proposed policies on the constitutionality of the Patriot Act, the Guantanamo Bay detentions, the designation of United States citizens as enemy combatants and reproductive rights."

He also called for Gonzales to be asked about a May 16, 2004, memo, written as counsel to the White House, "which described certain legal protections guaranteed in the Geneva Conventions to persons captured during military hostilities as 'obsolete' and 'quaint.' "

Westerners Are Evacuated From Ivory Coast

ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast, Nov. 11 -- The French government began airlifting hundreds of its citizens to Paris on Wednesday as violent mobs continued roaming the streets of this city, long regarded as among the most peaceful and prosperous in Africa.

About 700 French nationals left on three jetliners, with more scheduled to depart Thursday, officials said. An estimated 1,500 others, meanwhile, turned a French military base on the outskirts of the airport into a sort of squatter camp.

The U.S. Embassy and other missions sent escorts into the city to retrieve Americans, Canadians, Spaniards and others, the Associated Press reported, calling the evacuation one of the largest of Africa's post-independence era. Spain, Belgium and Italy sent military cargo planes to aid in the evacuations.

At the French military base, men, women and children sprawled on mattresses or stretched out precariously across rows of chairs. Their luggage and countless empty water bottles were strewn about.

Some of the French gave up on sleeping, choosing to chat and smoke away their final hours in Africa in the warm, humid Ivory Coast night. The subject often turned to the sudden upheaval of the last week, as a battle between President Laurent Gbagbo and a rebel group from the north shifted into a struggle between Gbagbo and Ivory Coast's former colonial rulers, the French.

"The president, Mr. Gbagbo, wants to kill all French, all white people," Jean-Luc Vacher, 50, a welding company manager, said as he sat outside with his wife, Christine, and their dog. "We are very, very afraid."

They recalled the gunfire of Saturday, the day that Ivory Coast forces bombed a position of French peacekeepers, killing nine of them as well as an American aid worker, after breaking a cease-fire that had lasted more than a year. Ivorian officials, who had ordered attacks on rebels, called the strike an accident, but the French military retaliated by destroying the tiny Ivory Coast air force and seizing the main airport.

Mobs took to the streets soon after, accusing the French of siding with the rebels from the country's mostly Muslim north and seeking to unseat Gbagbo. Calls for calm by Gbagbo and others have not quelled the unrest, nor has a growing French military presence here.

Vacher and his wife said they did not sleep at all Saturday night as they listened to gunfire. It continued Sunday as they huddled, terrified to leave their home. Their decision Tuesday to leave was especially difficult, they said, because both were born in Africa and have lived much of their lives there.

As the convoys rounded up foreigners from their homes for evacuation, Ivory Coast's state television alternately appealed for calm and for a mass uprising against the French, the Associated Press reported. French citizens darted out to the banks of lagoons, which surround the capital, and were plucked to safety by French soldiers in boats.

Only a few hundred Americans remain in Ivory Coast, many of them missionaries and aid workers.

Craig Timberg
Washington Post Foreign Service
Thursday, November 11, 2004; Page A28

After Accord, Sudan Camp Raided

Shelters Reportedly Destroyed and Residents Beaten

OLD AL-JEER SUREAF, Sudan, Nov. 10 -- Just hours after the government agreed to a peace deal Tuesday aimed at ending violence in Darfur, Sudanese police arrived at this battered camp in the middle of the night, beating residents with wooden poles, bulldozing and burning shelters and firing tear gas into a health clinic, residents and aid workers reported.

The assault capped a series of often violent government raids over the past week, aimed at relocating residents to new camps. It also came despite international condemnation of the raids and requests from the United Nations and the Bush administration that displaced families not be forcibly moved to new locations.

Secretary of State Colin L. Powell said Wednesday in Washington that he had spoken with Sudan's vice president over the weekend and "specifically said that this kind of behavior was unacceptable, we couldn't understand it and it was not helping us reach a solution."

The U.N. Security Council is due to hold a meeting in Nairobi, the Kenyan capital, next week to discuss the crisis in Sudan, where tens of thousands have died and about 1.5 million people have been displaced during 20 months of fighting between African rebels and government troops and their Arab militia allies.

The panel could impose sanctions on the Khartoum government if it finds that serious abuses of civilians have taken place. A U.N. report last week said there was evidence of war crimes and mass abuses by all parties to the conflict.

By midmorning Wednesday, the charred, tattered remains of burned huts at Old al-Jeer Sureaf dotted the once-crammed tent city of about 5,000 people. Fifteen people had been seriously injured, 10 community leaders were under arrest and several mothers said they had lost their children in the chaos.

One local sheik, Taher Hasaballeh, was beaten by 10 police officers and taken to jail, witnesses said. He had refused to leave the camp on Saturday and led a community sit-in at a straw-roofed mosque.

Jan Pronk, the U.N. envoy to Sudan, visited the half-destroyed camp Wednesday afternoon, wading through a jumble of singed blankets, jerrycans, bowls and plastic sandals. Sudan's foreign minister, Mustafa Osman Ismail, and other officials from Khartoum accompanied him. Pronk made no public comment during his visit.

The group toured the health clinic, speaking to women who said they had been raped during the raids and inspecting burn marks on the building from tear gas canisters. One Sudanese official expressed frank skepticism about the accounts of rape, calling the women "very good actresses."

Afterward, Pronk and the officials attended a tense meeting with humanitarian workers in the area. Government representatives said that the land was private property and that residents were being moved to a better location. Last week, officials said the camp was being cleared because people were posing as refugees so they could collect food and blankets.

"They have been taken to a better place," said Ahmed Ali Abdallah, a government employee who runs a new camp 17 miles south of the old camp. "The conditions of life were not suitable for them."

The violence began Nov. 1 when camp residents were told to move to the new al-Jeer Sureaf location but refused to go. Government police and soldiers swept through the old camp twice last week, on Tuesday and Saturday, burning huts and swinging sticks, residents said.

Several hundred families were forcibly relocated, and some aid workers and U.N. officials said they believed the government was moving camp occupants in an effort to root out rebel forces.

At the new camp, large white tents donated by the Saudi Red Crescent Society have been set up in neat rows. But the camp is isolated in an area surrounded by sorghum fields where pro-government militiamen known as the Janjaweed reportedly have set up a base.

"We were so afraid of being moved there. I have been beaten twice for refusing to leave," Zenab Abdulla Rahaman, 26, said as she sat staring numbly at the floor inside the clinic run by the International Medical Corps, an American aid group.
Rahaman said that she was beaten by police during the two previous raids and that early Wednesday she was sleeping in the camp mosque with nearly a hundred other people when she was dragged away by a police officer and raped in a nearby field. A nurse at the clinic taped bandages over cuts around her thighs.

A stream of other patients arrived to seek treatment for spinal injuries, cuts and bruises from beatings. Several mothers said their children had become lost in the violence and confusion. One woman, Khadija Dahiwa Tagal, said two of her six children had run away to hide and had not returned.

Witnesses said the police arrived about midnight but caused little trouble until dawn, when they started moving aggressively through the camp. Some residents said the police were accompanied by Janjaweed militiamen, but it was not clear what role, if any, the fighters played in the events.

On Wednesday morning, aid workers entered the camp in U.N. trucks and kept vigil all day, saying they were there to ensure that more residents would not be attacked. One nurse said she would sleep in the clinic overnight.

All day, groups of police roamed the fields and gathered inside the mosque. They also kept guard over the water supply in case residents tried to rebuild their shelters. Some gestured angrily with their sticks at stragglers who tried to salvage belongings from their crushed shelters.

The residents of al-Jeer Sureaf are among about 1.5 million Africans who live in squalid tent cities across Darfur after being driven from their farms by the fighting, which broke out in February 2003 when African tribes rebelled against the Arab-led government.

In retaliation, the United Nations has said, the government has bombed villages and armed the Janjaweed militias, while tens of thousands of people have died from hunger, disease and violence; the Bush administration has described the crisis as genocide.

Emily WaxWashington Post Foreign Service
Thursday, November 11, 2004; Page A01

Staff writer Glenn Kessler in Washington contributed to this report.

The Face and Voice of Palestine Dies

A Dreamer Who Forced His Cause Onto World Stage
Goal of Palestinian State Proved Elusive

For virtually his entire adult life, Yasser Arafat had one dream, and he pursued it with such energy and zeal -- some would say fanaticism -- that he came to personify the dream itself.

The dream was of self-determination and statehood for the Palestinian people, and in the end he did not live to see it.

In 1999, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Yasser Arafat clasp hands after signing a land-for-security agreemen. U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright offered applause. (Ruth Fremson - AP)

Such was his devotion to the cause that Arafat, who died early today at age 75 in a military hospital outside Paris, was willing to tolerate and embrace bloody acts of terror that made him an international pariah, and also to sign a peace agreement with Israel that inspired the wrath of some of his closest advisers, who considered it a sellout.

By dint of ruthless violence often directed at civilians, artful manipulation and the sheer theatrical force of his personality, he managed almost single-handedly to elevate the grievances of a few million disenfranchised Palestinians to a prominent place on the world's political agenda.

He was reviled by many Israelis, who saw in him a modern-day Hitler, revered by many Arabs, who loved him for restoring their shattered sense of honor, and lionized by the Norwegian Nobel Committee, which awarded him the Peace Prize in 1994. To the Palestinians, for whom he forged an identity as a distinct people striving for national liberation, he was larger than life -- though hardly universally adored.

"Ironically, his major shortcoming has also been his strength -- the belief that he alone is capable of realizing Palestinian ambitions," wrote Said K. Aburish, one of his biographers.

Until Israeli troops confined him to the ruins of his compound for nearly the last three years of his life, no statesman or leader in the modern era traveled as much, year after year. He once touched down in 45 countries in the space of a month, and it was common for him to alight in 10 countries in a week.

As one of the world's most recognized personalities for more than three decades, Arafat was the subject of at least a half-dozen biographies in English, plus others in French, German, Russian, Arabic and Hebrew. Few public figures granted so many interviews or delivered so many speeches -- and few managed so consistently to be evasive in their public comments. His trademark black-and-white checkered kaffiyeh headdress, folded and draped meticulously to describe the shape of Palestine, became a sartorial symbol not only for the Palestinian cause but for Third World revolutions in the Cold War era. The fascination with his persona was so great that dozens of Western interlocutors felt compelled to ask him why he kept his scruffy salt-and-pepper beard (he liked it) and why he didn't marry (he finally did, at 61).

Yet for all Arafat's public exposure, a sense of mystery remained about his essential nature and some of the basic facts of his life, thanks partly to his own efforts at obscuring them.

He could be charming, courtly and good-humored in private, pouring tea for his visitors and regaling them with amusing (if inflated) accounts of his battlefield exploits, narrow escapes and political travails. Yet he was an unimposing character, 5 feet 4, bald, thick-waisted, bug-eyed, temperamental, ineloquent and modestly educated. People delved into his speeches in search of an ideology, only to come up empty-handed. To this day, there is confusion about his place of birth, controversy about his battlefield exploits and debate about any number of episodes in his spectacularly eventful life.

Still, few doubted his knack for survival, the product of astonishing talent, luck or intuition. Many or most of his closest aides and confidants were murdered in the course of their long guerrilla struggle. But Arafat emerged intact from 40 assassination attempts (by his own, probably exaggerated tally), plus wars and rebellions, car accidents, a plane crash that killed both the pilot and co-pilot, and a stroke. And he managed to keep himself and his Palestine Liberation Organization whole and relevant despite devastating political setbacks and military defeats.

In his late sixties, Arafat attempted to transform himself from an archetypal revolutionary figure into a statesman and chief executive of the first self-ruled Palestinian territories. His handshake on the White House South Lawn with Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin on Sept. 13, 1993, was one of the indelible images of the late 20th century, and the peace agreement they signed -- and for which they won the Nobel Prize -- seemed to hold the promise of a new future for the Middle East.

But his transformation was ultimately incomplete, and in U.S.-brokered negotiations at Camp David and in the Middle East in 2000 he was unwilling or unable to close a deal with Israel to put an end to the two sides' century-long conflict. Many concluded that Arafat had never truly reconciled himself to Israel's existence or the permanent exile of Palestinian refugees expelled from their ancestral homes by Israel. Under his rule, the Palestinian Authority was said by many to be riddled with corruption. When a bloody new Palestinian insurrection erupted in September 2000 -- if not led by Arafat then with his acquiescence -- he became a pariah to Israel and the United States.

By the time of his death, his leadership and legacy were the subjects of harsh debate among his own people.

Politics and Fatah

Mohammed Abdel Raouf Arafat al-Qudwa al-Husseini was born Aug. 4, 1929, the sixth of seven children of a moderately successful merchant from Gaza and his wife, a descendant of a prominent Jerusalem family. He adopted the name Yasser -- Arabic for "easygoing" -- as a college student.

According to his college record, and most of his biographers, Arafat was born in Cairo, two years after his parents had moved there from Jerusalem. Arafat generally insisted he was born in Jerusalem's Old City, though occasionally he said he was born in Gaza -- assertions that underscored his solidarity with the Palestinian cause.

His mother died when he was 4 or 5 years old, and his father, overwhelmed, sent him to live with his married maternal uncle in Jerusalem, in the shadow of the Old City's Western Wall and al-Aqsa mosque. Arafat lived in Jerusalem for a few years, but probably spent most of his youth in Cairo, where he acquired an Egyptian accent. He entered King Fuad I University, later named Cairo University, in 1947 and studied engineering.

He was a born activist, obsessed with Arab politics and the fate of Palestine by the time he was a teenager, and he was endowed with a knack for ingratiating himself with his peers and leading them. While a college student, he plunged further into the cause, and before he was 19, he was helping to buy and ship arms to Arabs in Palestine in the twilight of the British Mandate.

When Britain withdrew from Palestine and Israel declared independence in 1948, Arafat rushed to join the combined Arab forces attacking the Jewish state. His involvement in the fighting was probably limited, but Arafat made the most of it in the retelling. Significantly, the Arab defeat convinced him that the Palestinians would have been better off left to their own devices, without what he considered the corrupt, poorly led armies of Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Iraq. That conviction was reinforced in later years, and his response was to make the PLO the first truly independent, unified Palestinian national movement.

He returned to college and student politics, graduated in 1956, toyed with the idea of graduate studies in the United States and eventually worked for the government of Kuwait, where he started a contracting company. With a handful of friends who became his top lieutenants, he also started Fatah -- Arabic for "victory" or "conquest" -- a national liberation movement dedicated to Israel's obliteration. "Violence is the only solution," Arafat declared. The liberation of Palestine, he said, could be accomplished only "through the barrel of a gun." Arafat dominated Fatah his whole life, and Fatah, in later years, came to dominate not only the PLO but also the Palestinian Authority.

Gradually, Arafat marshaled a small, amateurish group of Palestinian guerrillas, most of them exiles who had lost their homes in Israel's war of independence in 1948. He seemed an odd choice to lead them; his family lived in Cairo, and unlike the men he commanded, he had not been driven from his home by Zionists. Yet none was as dedicated as Arafat. He neither smoked nor drank, cared little for restaurants or European travel, had no family and made little time for women. The Palestinian cause was his life.

In the mid-1960s, he led and organized sabotage raids into Israel, alarming the Israelis and annoying the Syrians, Jordanians and Lebanese, from whose territory he operated. Ignoring Arafat and his small band of armed men, Arab countries created the PLO in 1964 as an umbrella group for a hodgepodge of Palestinian factions bent on Israel's destruction. The Arab states' idea was to keep the Palestinians on a short leash; few thought them capable of recovering Palestine on their own.

Arafat had other ideas. Following Israel's stunning triumph over combined Arab armies in the Middle East war of 1967, he put them into practice.

Heroism and Terrorism

The speed and dimensions of Israel's victory left the Arab world reeling and demoralized. Instead of recapturing Palestine, the Arabs had lost what was left of it in the West Bank and Jerusalem, as well as the Gaza Strip and Golan Heights. The heads of the Arab regimes, who had insisted on representing Palestinian interests, were discredited. The road was open for a new leader.

Into this opening stepped Arafat. Just weeks after the Israelis took the West Bank and East Jerusalem, destroying his uncle's house in the Old City in the process, Arafat slipped into the newly occupied territory, donning a variety of disguises -- a country doctor, a shepherd, a woman with a baby -- to elude detection. His efforts to organize secret cells of Palestinian armed resistance amounted to little. But his weeks in the West Bank gave birth to his nickname -- "al-Khityar," or "the old man" -- and helped nurture his reputation for daring.

His fame grew. Operating from refugee camps just across the Jordan River from Israel, Arafat's men launched a number of raids, some aimed at civilians and children. Enraged, Israel struck back at the guerrilla encampment in a barren place called Karameh, just over the Jordan River, on March 21, 1968. In a major battle, Arafat, backed by a Jordanian armored battalion, held his ground against a vastly superior force of Israeli tanks, warplanes, paratroops and artillery. Palestinian casualties were heavy, but at the end of the day the Israelis withdrew.

Overnight, Karameh made Arafat the hero of a victory-starved Arab world, thanks largely to the Fatah propaganda machine. Thousands of young men volunteered to be Fatah fighters. Financial contributions from Arab states poured in. By the end of the year, Arafat had appeared on the cover of Time magazine. In early 1969, he took over the PLO and became the unquestioned Palestinian leader. Vowing to reject any attempt at political settlement, he pledged a "full-fledged war of liberation" against Israel.

"Peace for us means Israel's destruction, and nothing else," he told the Italian journalist Oriana Fallaci in 1970.

Instead, Arafat was soon engaged in a full-fledged power struggle in Jordan, instigated largely by the PLO's lawless attempts to overthrow King Hussein. Mindful that Palestinians were a majority of Jordan's population, Arafat reasoned that the king would never attack him.
It was a miscalculation. Arafat's showdown with the king came after months of skirmishes, intrigue and, in September 1970, a series of airplane hijackings by Palestinians who forced the planes to land in Jordan and then blew them up. His authority thus challenged directly, Hussein ordered his Bedouin army to attack Arafat's forces. The ensuing civil war stunned Arafat and dealt him a crushing defeat. His life in danger, he fled Jordan with an Arab peace delegation, disguised in long robes as a Kuwaiti official.

Following its expulsion from Jordan, the PLO embarked on a campaign of terror. After attacks on Jordanian officials in Cairo and London, a Palestinian front group calling itself Black September -- for the humiliation in Jordan -- infiltrated the Munich Olympics on Sept. 5, 1972, and massacred 11 Israeli athletes in a horrifying day-long ordeal. The following March, Palestinian gunmen murdered two senior U.S. diplomats in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum; some American officials believed Arafat ordered the killings, although the evidence was inconclusive.

When Arafat was invited to address the United Nations in 1974, he appeared wearing his gun belt and holster, only reluctantly agreeing to remove his pistol before taking the rostrum.

There is debate about the extent to which Arafat was involved in the violence carried out by Black September. Within the PLO, factions more radical than Fatah were generally identified as responsible for some of the worst carnage; his entourage insisted he had not been involved in Black September's activities. Certainly, though, he did little to stop it, and Israel said Arafat personally gave the green light to at least some of the terrorist strikes, while leaving it to others to handle the details.

The Palestinian violence, which played out not only in the Middle East but on the world stage, cemented Arafat's reputation in much of the West as the world's number one terrorist. The violence had the effect of further raising the profile of the PLO and of Palestinian grievances -- the plight of refugees and the subjugation of residents of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. In that sense, many in Arafat's entourage regarded terror as effective and the murderous attack on the Israeli compound in Munich as a triumph.

Exile and Decline

For most of the 1970s, Arafat and his burgeoning army of PLO fighters, bureaucrats and hangers-on based themselves in Beirut, the Lebanese capital. Arafat, running what amounted to a powerful mini-state inside Lebanon, became the unofficial mayor of West Beirut and ruled some southern parts of the country. Gradually, he and the PLO became involved in the Lebanese civil war.

Corrupt, cosmopolitan and swanky, Beirut made a pleasant base of operations for a time. The PLO conducted cross-border raids into northern Israel, sometimes taking civilian lives, and engaged in artillery duels and battles with Israeli forces. But Arafat made little progress toward his stated objective of national liberation. He seemed caught between the expectations of his radicalized refugee supporters, who could countenance no deal with Israel, and the reality of Israel's military superiority, which precluded any serious PLO challenge.

Meanwhile, Egypt, the most powerful Arab country, stunned Arafat and the Palestinians by making a separate peace with Israel in 1979. The deal, brokered at Camp David by President Jimmy Carter, left the Palestinians out while offering assurances that their grievances with Israel would be addressed subsequently. In the West Bank and Gaza Strip, expressions of Palestinian nationalism -- flags, images of Arafat -- were prohibited by Israeli troops. And Israeli settlements in the Palestinian territories, begun as scattered and often remote outposts, grew steadily into villages, towns and eventually cities.

The Beirut idyll came to an end in June 1982 when Israeli forces, directed by Ariel Sharon, then the defense minister, launched a full-scale invasion of Lebanon, sweeping north and subjecting Beirut to a three-month siege. The aim, said Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin, was to rid Lebanon once and for all of the "malevolent criminal terrorists," as he referred to the PLO. In the course of the fighting, Arafat was a priority target of Israeli warplanes and artillery, which narrowly missed him on several occasions. The Arab states did little to help the PLO, confirming Arafat's long-held suspicions of their perfidy.

In the end, Arafat was forced "from one exile to another," as he put it, this time to Tunis, the Tunisian capital, in a deal brokered by the United States. Embittered, his fighting force decimated, Arafat sailed away from Beirut under protection of French troops. In 1983, the Fatah fighters he had left in Lebanon split into factions loyal to Arafat and renegades instigated by President Hafez Assad of Syria, a longtime rival. Arafat slipped back into Lebanon but could not stop the fighting, which took many lives. His leadership and future in doubt, he returned to Tunis.

His profile declined along with that of the PLO, and in Tunis, Arafat maneuvered to maintain his primacy as leader and spokesman of the Palestinian cause. "We are in the last quarter-hour of our struggle," he liked to say. But his guerrilla army was scattered throughout seven Arab countries, and he feuded constantly with Hussein and Assad. In his remote North African outpost, farther removed from the mass of his people than ever before, Arafat found himself increasingly irrelevant.

For a leader famed for his political agility and hyperactivity on the world stage, it was curious that his fortunes were revived by an event that took place hundreds of miles away -- neither led, inspired nor foreseen by Arafat but conducted by thousands of Palestinian children and teenagers who scarcely knew him.

Uprising and Negotiation

The first Palestinian intifada, or uprising against Israel's occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, began in December 1987, triggered by a road accident in which an Israeli truck driver killed four Palestinians. Suddenly, the world's TV screens were alive with young Palestinians pelting Israeli troops with stones and the Israelis responding with bullets.

The uprising caught Arafat and the PLO in Tunis by surprise, but gradually they were able to harness it somewhat and use it to reassert their leadership. As the street battles raged, the Israelis, convinced the uprising was organized by the PLO, sent a commando team to Tunis to assassinate Arafat's military commander and closest aide, Khalil Wazir, known as Abu Jihad.

In December 1988, a year after the uprising began, Arafat reversed PLO policy of almost 25 years and, in a speech to a special session of the U.N. General Assembly in Geneva, recognized Israel's right to exist. In so doing, he bowed to the interests of those in the West Bank and Gaza who were pressing for the PLO's recognition of Israel as a way toward peace talks. At the same time, he said the PLO "totally and absolutely" renounces "all forms of terrorism." The shift opened the way for the first official dialogue between the United States and the PLO. Israel, however, was less impressed, and many Israelis doubted Arafat had really changed. Their doubts were confirmed during the 1991 Persian Gulf War, when Arafat openly sided with Iraqi President Saddam Hussein even as Iraq fired Scud missiles at Tel Aviv.

The United States seized on its victory in the Gulf War to launch a diplomatic push for peace in the Middle East. At Israel's insistence, Arafat and the PLO were excluded from a major peace conference convened at U.S. initiative in Madrid in October 1991. But Arafat pulled the strings from behind the scenes, instructing the Palestinian delegation and using the talks to ingratiate himself with the Americans, whom he regarded as a lever to move Israel.

On April 7, 1992, Arafat had his closest of many brushes with death. His small plane ran into a sandstorm over the Libyan desert, lost its way and was forced to crash-land. Arafat, alerted by the pilot, had time to change from a jogging suit into his customary military garb, and to don his signature checkered headdress. His bodyguards wrapped him in blankets and pillows and strapped him in. The crash killed those in the cockpit, but Arafat survived with minor injuries.

Encouraged by the new, moderate Israeli government of Prime Minister Rabin, Arafat authorized a secret negotiating channel with the Israelis. Under Norwegian auspices, the secret talks intensified in 1993 in and around Oslo and culminated in a peace deal and a dramatic signing ceremony in September at the White House, with President Bill Clinton presiding and former presidents George H.W. Bush, Carter and much of the world as witnesses.

"My people are hoping that this agreement which we are signing today marks the beginning of the end of a chapter of pain and suffering that has lasted throughout this century," Arafat said. The Declaration of Principles, as the agreement was known, cleared the way for the return of Arafat and the PLO to the occupied territories, the creation of a Palestinian police force and the election of the first self-ruled Palestinian government.

Israel pulled some troops back from the Gaza Strip and the sleepy West Bank town of Jericho, turning over power there to the newly created Palestinian Authority.

When Arafat set foot in Gaza on July 1, 1994 -- his first return in 27 years to what had been Israeli-occupied territory -- he knelt and kissed the ground. Hundreds of thousands of delirious Palestinians wept and danced in the streets, greeting him as a conquering hero.

His relations with the United States warmed for a time, and some Israelis began to view him as a pragmatist. In 1994, the man once regarded in the West as a master terrorist -- widely photographed in the early 1970s with his thick mustache, dark glasses, AK-47 assault rifle and pearl-handled pistol -- shared the Nobel Peace Prize with Rabin and Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres.

Still, some Palestinians, including some of Arafat's oldest comrades-in-arms, viewed the accord as a sellout that did nothing to recover what had been Palestinian homes, villages and towns before Israel's founding in 1948. Others, hopeful at first, soured over time as the promise of the peace agreement was only partly fulfilled.

Israeli troops did pull back from additional, disconnected chunks of the West Bank, including large Palestinian population centers. But in many ways the Jewish state continued to control the daily lives of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, whose travel, work and movements were still subject to Israeli permission. The fate of a couple of million Palestinian refugees, and the ultimate disposition of Jerusalem, which both sides claimed as their rightful capital, remained uncertain.

In the Palestinian-controlled territories, an ascendant group called the Islamic Resistance Movement, or Hamas, denounced the peace deal and carried out terror attacks and suicide bombings against Israelis. In Israel, a right-wing Israeli fanatic opposed to the peace accord assassinated Rabin. And the election of a new, hard-line Israeli prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, ushered in a period of stagnation in the peace process.

'Yes-Men and Mediocrities'

Arafat, by now not only PLO chairman but also president of the self-governing Palestinian Authority, began to lose some of his appeal. Within a couple of years of his return to Gaza, it was apparent that his gifts as a revolutionary and political magician were not matched by a talent for administration. His government, beset by cronyism, corruption and mismanagement, was widely disdained by its own people. Its shadowy, ever-multiplying security services acted brutally toward Palestinians and were despised. Disorganized, erratic and heavy-handed, Arafat surrounded himself with aides described by the late Palestinian scholar Edward Said as "sycophants, yes-men and mediocrities." Even his wife, Suha -- a tall, blond, aristocratic, French-educated Palestinian Christian 34 years his junior, whom Arafat had married quietly in 1990 -- became the subject of derisive jokes.

Pressed by Clinton, Arafat agreed to meet his Israeli counterpart, Prime Minister Ehud Barak, Netanyahu's successor, in a U.S.-brokered summit at Camp David in July 2000, an event that represented not only the climax of the Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts begun in 1993 but also the denouement of Arafat's own national aspirations. In talks that began there and ended months later in the Egyptian resort at Taba, the Israelis dangled before Arafat what seemed like a stunning deal: the return of all of Gaza and about 95 percent of the West Bank; control of Arab sectors of East Jerusalem; and sovereignty at the most contested spot of all -- the elevated plaza in Jerusalem's Old City, holy to Israelis and Palestinians alike, known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Arabs as Haram Sharif, or the Noble Sanctuary. As for Palestinian refugees, they would be allowed to return to the West Bank and Gaza, but not to Israel itself.

It was a moment of truth, and Arafat, who deeply distrusted Barak and the Israeli negotiators, appeared to balk. Arafat and his lieutenants said later that the Israelis had never placed a firm written offer on the table, that the summit had been poorly prepared and forced prematurely by Clinton, that the deal itself was fatally flawed and that the broader Arab world would not support it. He even told Clinton that to agree to the Israeli ideas would be to invite his own assassination, just as Anwar Sadat, the Egyptian president, had done by making peace with Israel a generation earlier at Camp David.

But whatever Arafat's protestations, he never presented a clear counterproposal. To Israel and the United States, he had proved himself incapable of making a historic compromise for peace, of redefining himself from militant to statesman. Arafat, said Clinton at Camp David, has "been here 14 days and said no to everything."

Even as the negotiations sputtered on after Camp David, in September 2000 a bloody new Palestinian insurrection erupted at the very site that had been central to the talks -- the Temple Mount -- following a visit there by Arafat's longtime nemesis, Sharon, then the Israeli opposition leader. The new intifada spread, with Arafat's blessing or consent, and in the process it destroyed his dreams of self-determination in the near term for his people.

Provoked by Palestinian suicide bombers and other attacks, Israel reoccupied large swaths of the West Bank, inflicted thousands of casualties, destroyed much of the Palestinian economy and started building a security barrier intended to deter the suicide bombers from entering the country -- even as it separated thousands of Palestinians from their own land.

Declared officially "irrelevant" by Sharon, who had by then become prime minister, Arafat was shunned by the Bush administration and confined by Israeli troops to the bomb-blasted rubble of his once-grandiose presidential compound in Ramallah, the West Bank's main city. His globe-trotting days finished, his health in decline, his aspirations shattered, Arafat had become a prisoner in his own land.

Risking an Israeli assassination attempt or forced exile if he left the compound, he passed his days in isolation, receiving foreign diplomats and issuing pronouncements that seemed increasingly divorced from events. His influence waning and his profile at home and abroad in decline, he lived on more as a symbol than an actor in Palestinian affairs. And his lifelong dream -- self-determination for the Palestinian people -- remained elusive.

Lee Hockstader
Washington Post Foreign Service
Thursday, November 11, 2004; Page A22

Arafat’s Legacy: Understanding What We Are Fighting For

November 10th, 2004

The Steering Committee of the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation extends its sympathy to the Palestinian people on the death of President Yasser Arafat. The international focus on his last days reminded the world that he has his place in Middle East history and politics, in spite of attempts by Israel and the United States to marginalize him by confining him to his destroyed office compound and to demonize him as an obstacle to peace.

While the spotlight focuses on Arafat, the daily lives of Palestinians living in the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem remains defined by Israel's illegal military occupation. Over the course of a two-week period in September and October, Israel killed more than 130 Palestinians in the Jebalya refugee camp and partially or completely destroyed hundreds of houses there.

Arafat will be remembered as the leader who forged a unified Palestinian people from the despair of dispossession and put the question of Palestine back on the map after the creation of Israel in 1948.

He will also be remembered as the leader who signed peace agreements with Israel but was powerless to challenge Israel’s expanded pace of settlement-building and refusal to recognize or realize Palestinian rights. In the end, he served as a convenient scapegoat for a peace process bankrupted by Israeli policies of colonization.

Our movement can draw lessons from Arafat’s legacy in the endeavor to end the Israeli occupation of Palestine and to achieve justice for the Palestinian people and peace, security and human rights for all.

We are right to remain focused on the occupation and to build a national and international movement to end it. The balance of power remains heavily weighted on Israel’s side. Since the Oslo Accords of 1993, Israel, under both the Labor and Likud governments, has set the pace, timing, and nature of its withdrawals from occupied territory – culminating in the Sharon plan for unilateral disengagement from Gaza, which will maintain an Israeli siege around the territory and consolidate Israel’s hold on the West Bank. Without a national and international movement against the occupation we cannot shift the balance of power.

We are right to remain focused on challenging those U.S. policies that sustain the occupation. Israel could not keep up the occupation without U.S. aid worth over $3 billion a year, loan guarantees of $9 billion, and the latest military weaponry and equipment. Israeli violations of international law are protected by the U.S. veto at the United Nations that prevents the implementation of international laws applicable to this conflict and the dispatch of an international protection force to protect the Palestinians. We must educate people and mobilize to change these facts so they can hold their elected officials accountable.

We are right to frame our work using human rights and international law. The principles of international law have just been eloquently restated by the International Court of Justice in its ruling on the illegality of the Wall in July 2004. The ICJ has also reminded the international community that international law must underpin the efforts to resolve this conflict, and we are acutely aware of its absence from the Oslo Accords, the Camp David talks, and the Road Map.

Israel, as a member of the state system, is protected by the same set of laws that we are working to uphold for Palestine. However, Israel cannot demand the protection of international law while undermining it.

The powerful principles of international law not only show us what we are fighting against – the occupation – but also what we are fighting for: freedom and self-determination. As the ICJ itself declared, there is a Palestinian people and it has a right to self-determination, and we must support that right.

Through exercising their right to self-determination, Palestinians can decide – as the occupation is ended – whether they want to live in one state alongside Israel or in a binational state, or in some other arrangement.

We work too for the right of Palestinian refugees to make their individual choice to return or compensation as guaranteed by international law and U.N. Resolution 194.

The Palestinian people face serious challenges ahead: maintaining national unity; avoiding the trap of endless negotiations about occupation while Israel colonizes the last pieces of Palestine; and articulating a strategy to guide their struggle to a just and lasting peace.

We in the international movement can already draw our guidance from the clear principles of international law as we mobilize to hold our representatives accountable for the law in U.S. policies towards this conflict and in the U.S. position at the U.N.

More than ever, the Palestinian people need our solidarity in their quest for freedom, democracy, statehood, and self-determination. November 29th is the international day of solidarity with the Palestinian people, an annual commemoration marking the U.N. plan to partition historical Palestine into two states. The US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation has joined an international call for action on November 29th, and we urge you to take part in this day of solidarity.

Together, we will help achieve Palestinian human rights - we will hasten the day when Palestinians will no longer die so far away from home and know not where they may be laid to rest.

In solidarity

The Steering Committee of the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation


The US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation is a diverse, two-year old national coalition of more than 170 member organizations. The US Campaign aims to change US policy toward Israel and Palestine to support peace, justice, human rights and international law rather than military occupation.