Jewish World Review May 11, 2001/ 18 Iyar 5761
Richard Z. Chesnoff
Isn't that terrific talk for the wife of the man who still claims he's the Palestinian "partner for peace" with Israel and urges renewed talks even while Palestinian gunmen fire on Israeli soldiers, and civilians and Islamic terrorists set off suicide bombs?
Of course, Suha Arafat is no stranger to ridiculous statements. Back in 1999, she set off a major international controversy by welcoming then-First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton to the West Bank with a fiery speech claiming Israeli troops were using "poison gas" on Palestinians and causing "an increase in cancer cases among Palestinian women and children."
Clinton spent many months trying to distance herself from that vicious statement. But Suha Arafat never recanted.
Now comes another foot-in-mouther — Syrian President Bashar Assad, who stirred a storm in March by saying Israelis are "more racist than the Nazis." This weekend, the British-educated, supposedly reform-minded Bashar went even further. Welcoming Pope John Paul on his historic pilgrimage to Syria, Assad said the suffering of Palestinians under Israeli occupation is similar to "the suffering of Jesus Christ at the hands of the Jews."
Moreover, added Assad, evil Jews "tried to kill principles of all religions with the same mentality in which they betrayed Jesus Christ and the same way they tried to betray and kill the Prophet Muhammed." Now, claims Assad, bringing his anti-Semitic diatribe up to date, the Jews are killing Palestinians, violating justice, occupying Arab land and attacking Muslim and Christian religious sites.
The frail Pope, whose message is always one of peace, understanding and brotherhood among all peoples and religions, tried to steer host Assad toward moderation, but to little avail. After all, Syria, which for decades sheltered leading Nazi perpetrators of the Holocaust, has always mixed anti-Israel policies with virulent anti- Jewish propaganda.
Western diplomats always try to downplay the hyperbole of Arab political rhetoric. But as Arab analyst Barry Rubin explains, disgusting talk can become a major factor in setting national policy. "This kind of demagoguery heightens popular support for hatred and anti-Israel violence that inhibits rulers from making peace for many years to come," Rubin says. "After all, a leader who makes peace with anti-Christian, anti-Muslim, Nazi-facist, genocidal Jews must be a traitor. And, of course, peace with such a repugnant people could not possibly last."
As for Suha Arafat, maybe someone should feed Yasser
that old Henny Youngman line: "Take my wife ...