Jewish World Review April 19, 2002 / 7 Iyar, 5762

Jack Kelly

Jack Kelly
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Consumer Reports

What the Arabs of Gaza and the West Bank gained from the "peace accords" | Much has been written about the deleterious effect the Oslo "peace process" has had upon Israel. Not enough attention has been given to the harm it has done to Palestinians.

Arguably, the worst thing that has happened to the Palestinians since the Six Day War in June, 1967, was the creation of the Palestinian Authority in 1993.

Before Oslo, Arabs in Israel/Palestine lived in circumstances comparable to those of blacks in the segregated American South of half a century ago. They were second-class citizens, frozen out of the best jobs, each day having to endure slights which burned and rankled. But there were jobs, a good deal of personal freedom, and some hope for the future.

With the creation of the Palestinian Authority, Palestinians moved, figuratively speaking, from 1950s Alabama to Haiti. This was not an improvement. More than 95 percent of Palestinians are now ruled by fellow Arabs. But they are ruled harshly and incompetently.

JWR's Michael Kelly (regrettably, no relation) was in the West Bank in 1994 when Arafat arrived to take charge of the quasi-country the Israelis had given him:

"He arrived from the Sinai in a long caravan of Chevrolet Blazers and Mercedes-Benzes and BMWs, 70 or 80 cars packed to the rooflines with men with guns. The caravan roared up the thronged roads and down the mobbed streets, with the overfed, leather-jacketed, sunglassed thugs of Arafat's bodyguard detail all the time screaming and shooting off their Kalashnikovs to make their beloved people scurry out of their beloved leader's way."

"This was the whole of the Palestinian Authority from the beginning, an ugly little cartoon of Middle East despotism," Kelly said. "There was never any pretense of democracy, of rule of law, of a free press, of a working system of taxes or courts or hospitals...No one ever bothered to build an economy or create jobs or even pick up the trash or pave the streets."

According to the CIA World Factbook, the economy in the West Bank had by 1996 declined 36 percent from what it had been in 1992, the year before Arafat's triumphal entry.

By 2000, per capita income had clawed its way back to almost what it had been when the Palestinian Authority was created. But then the current intifada started, and the economy went back into the toilet. The World Bank reported last year that Arafat's government was bankrupt, and the Palestinian economy on the verge of collapse. Almost half of Palestinians had less than $2 a day on which to live.

Those times were good times compared to now.

Yasser Arafat has been a terrorist since his youth. His overriding goal is the destruction of Israel. Most of his attention and resources have been devoted to this end. He has little interest in economic development, and no expertise in it. He and his entourage are notoriously corrupt, even by the abysmally low standards of other Arab regimes.

But the impoverishment of ordinary Palestinians may be more than the accidental consequence of Arafat's war with Israel.

Arafat's principal weapon has been the suicide bomber. There are two important ingredients in the manufacture of a suicide bomber:

The first is hopelessness. If you are a young person in the West Bank or the Gaza Strip today, you haven't much to look forward to. There is little likelihood you can get a job, and if you do, the odds are it won't pay much. You look into your future, and see a black hole.

Such desperation can make a cash payment of up to $30,000 for a suicide bomber seem attractive. You get your 15 minutes of fame, a release from a dead-end life, and the knowledge your family will be provided for.

The second is zealous hatred. Arafat has turned schools into weapons factories, designed to turn children into bomb carriers. Reading, writing and arithmetic are subordinated to teaching hate. From the time they are toddlers, Palestinian children are taught that Paradise awaits them if they die killing Jews.

Yasser Arafat's hands are covered with Israeli and American blood. But his greatest crime may be "weaponizing" Palestinian children, and robbing them of their futures.

Comment on JWR contributor Jack Kelly's column by clicking here.

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© 2002, Jack Kelly