Jewish World Review Nov. 12, 2004/ 28 Mar-Cheshvan, 5765

Wesley Pruden

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A scoundrel gone, and good riddance | The beast is dead, and the world can only be glad he'll stay that way.

Pope John Paul II promised to pray "to the Prince of Peace that the star of harmony will soon shine on the Holy Land" and Palestinians and Israelis "may live reconciled among themselves as two independent and sovereign states."

The pontiff set his usual example of Christian charity — charity of a sort that Yasser Arafat never showed to anyone in a life that was only too long — and now, as John Paul suggests, the way may be clear for progress toward settling ancient feuds in that miserable part of the world.

But it won't be easy. It won't be possible until the men of good will (a small club, indeed) get serious about recognizing who wants peace and who only wants to talk about peace while wholesaling death, dismemberment and destruction to the innocent, and mostly innocent women and children. Even as John Paul was crafting his message of hope his spokesman, eager to improve on the boss' message, called Arafat "a leader of great charisma who loved his people and sought to guide them toward national independence." Well-meant bunk, but bunk.

What everyone is really talking about is the death of a particularly brutal and greedy mafia don (no disrespect intended here to the authentic mafia), and the grim comedy surrounding the Arafat deathbed in Paris gave eloquent voice to the real story. The bereaved widow who hadn't bothered to see her beloved in the four years prior to his final illness was no doubt crushed, crushed, by grief, and raced the angel of death (and a covey of panicky Palestinian money-grubbers) to the bedside in hopes of extracting the Swiss bank codes from the comatose Arafat before he flew off to Islamist paradise to collect his 72 virgins (or 72 raisins, depending on the translation of the Koran). More than a billion dollars stolen from the Palestinian people, including several hundred million dollars donated by the United States, is believed to be locked up in bank vaults in Geneva and the Cayman Islands. If the secret codes go to the grave with Arafat the bankers will be richer than they are this morning. It's not often that we get a legitimate opportunity to root for bankers.

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The usual suspects are saying the usual absurd things. President Hu Jintao of China called Arafat "an outstanding leader of the Palestinian cause." Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi of Japan praised Arafat for his efforts on behalf of "peace and his people." Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder of Germany wept mournful Teutonic tears that "it was not granted to Yasser Arafat to complete his life's work." President Jacques Chirac of France, the chief European water boy for the Palestinian death merchants, was naturally the most effusive of all. He had visited Arafat's deathbed, too, perhaps straining along with the aspiring widow to hear the last words in the hopes that the words might be numbers. He called Arafat "a man of courage and conviction who, for 40 years, has incarnated the Palestinians' combat for recognition of their national rights."

These "national rights" as incarnated by Arafat mostly had to do with killing Jews; looting and killing comprised the "life's work" that Chancellor Schroeder paid tearful tribute to. But even Tony Blair, who is in Washington today to talk to President Bush about processing more peace, couldn't resist saying things he knows are not true. Arafat, he said yesterday in London, "led his people to a historic acceptance and the need for a two-state solution."

That is precisely what Yasser Arafat could have done and willfully would not do. The Palestinians could have been out of their wretched refugee camps to which Arab indifference consigned them for these many years, and would now be at work building a prosperous and peaceful nation with the eager assistance of Israelis who more than any other people of the world have a stake in Palestinian success. If Messrs Blair and Bush hope to succeed now they must persuade the emerging successors to Arafat to deal with reality, and abandon his lurid fantasies of death to the Jews which Arafat lavished on his credulous followers over a lifetime of perverted stewardship of their interests.

He has gone where there are no more Jews to slay, and praise of any kind only because he is dead is an indecent betrayal of the thousands who were blown apart at his whim. A murderous scoundrel is gone, and good riddance.

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JWR contributor Wesley Pruden is editor in chief of The Washington Times. Comment by clicking here.

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