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Jewish World Review /Feb 3, 1999 /17 Shevat, 5759

Cal Thomas

Cal Thomas Guess who's coming to breakfast

(JWR) --- (http://www.jewishworldreview.com) SINCE CONGRESS INVITED PRESIDENT DWIGHT EISENHOWER to the first National Prayer Breakfast in 1953, national and world leaders have assembled annually in Washington to ask God to bless our nation and to encourage bridge-building across political, economic, racial, national and even religious divides. Generally this gathering, which now numbers more than 3,000 people, lacks controversy and attracts little attention from the press. This year it is making news in advance because one of the guests will be Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat.

Some conservative Christian groups are protesting Arafat's presence at the Feb. 4 breakfast. He will reportedly read from the Koran at a luncheon later in the day, while his wife will read from the New Testament, and Leah Rabin, wife of the late Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, will read from the Torah. Defenders of the invitation to Arafat note that other less-than-pristine leaders have been invited in the past, including some from China and North Korea.

They also note that "Jesus dined with publicans and sinners.'' True enough, but this ultimate Jewish leader went to their houses, and his message was about repentance, a changed life and changed behavior. So far, Arafat has not demonstrated any interest in coexisting with Israel.

My concern is less with Arafat's presence at the breakfast and luncheon than the effect his attendance will have on those unfamiliar with the unique dynamics of the Middle East.

People who don't know the full history of the region might be persuaded to confer legitimacy on this lifelong terrorist who will say and do anything to achieve his often-stated objective of occupying all of the land, including pre-1967 Israel, and seizing Jerusalem to be the capital of a Palestinian state.

So, rather than protest Arafat's invitation, conservative Christian and Jewish groups should educate other guests who may not have all the facts about him.

In the past few weeks, Arafat has released 60 terrorists from prisons he controls -- including five who were involved in the murder of Americans -- in violation of the Oslo Accords and the agreement signed last year at Wye, Md. One was Jihad Suwiti, a senior Hamas terrorist who masterminded a wave of suicide bombings in February and March 1996, which killed 60 people. Among the dead were three Americans: Matthew Eisenfeld and Sara Duker, who were students at New York's Jewish Theological Seminary, and Ira Weinstein. Suwiti's accessory in an attack on bus 18 in Jerusalem was Arafat Kawasmeh, another senior Hamas terrorist who was also released.

Hassam Alimani, who was behind a July 1997 bombing in Jerusalem that killed 16 people, including Leah Stern, an American-Israeli from New Jersey, was let go. Talal al-Baz, who was involved in the same attack, was released. Also freed was Bashir Daher-Yaseed, a Hamas terrorist, who was linked to a bombing in Jerusalem in September 1997. It killed 14-year-old Yael Botwin, an American-Israeli originally from California. Daher-Yaseed was involved in the attack that killed Leah Stern.

Last week, the PA released Abdallah Shami, one of Islamic Jihad's most prominent figures in Gaza. Shami was detained by the PA on the eve of President Clinton's December visit for the sham "revocation'' of the Palestinian Covenant that calls for the destruction of Israel. Shami had publicly announced "Clinton should get a bullet in his head when he arrives here.''

A total of 15 Palestinian Arab terrorists have been identified by the Israeli government as having murdered nine Americans since the Oslo Accords were signed in September 1993.

The Palestinian Authority and Yasser Arafat have consistently supported Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. During Operation Desert Storm, Arafat encouraged Saddam to launch missiles on Israel. Arafat and other PA officials and Muslim clergy regularly denounce the United States for its "criminal'' attacks on Iraq. Some call for violent retaliation against the United States.

Numerous press reports allege persecution by the Palestinian Authority of those who convert to Christianity or who otherwise stop practicing the Muslim faith. The London Daily Telegraph reported on Dec. 21, 1997, that the PA was waging a "campaign of intimidation and harassment to push Muslims who have converted to Christianity to renounce their new faith.'' The campaign reportedly has included threats, beatings and jail. The PA has denied the charges.

This is the type of man who is coming to breakfast. One hopes he will change. But given the realities of Arafat's "fruit,'' that may take more than the collective faith of those assembled for a prayer breakfast.


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