Yasir Arafat is still dead. True, he was once alive. I sat across from him in his Gaza office, for example. And he even had a copy of my history of the PLO on his bookshelf so he must have been of sound mind at the time. It’s not my fault. I told him to start jogging and cut down on sweets. But he didn’t listen. On November 4, 2004, he died, a fate he had previously imposed on thousands of far more innocent people.
The effort now by various Palestinian factions to imply Israel killed him is the funniest thing in the Middle East since the U.S. director of national intelligence said in a congressional briefing that the Muslim Brotherhood was a secular democratic organization. What’s dismaying is how much play Western media are giving this charge as if it should be taken seriously. When the West behaves in this way it signals at the least a dangerously naive credulousness and at worst a profound anti-Jewish and anti-Israel complex. The New York Times and Washington Post take this nonsense seriously.
But there’s something else in this story, something very chilling indeed. Revolutionary Islamists especially, but many Muslims otherwise, believe that Jews tried to murder Muhammad, the founder of Islam, and even if they failed that the poison shortened his life. The accusation that Jews are the murderers of prophets — with Muslims throwing in the founder of Christianity also — is a phrase that derives from this story. It is frequently heard from Hamas and others. This is a blood libel, an alleged crime that then leads to the view that Jews are absolutely evil and should be wiped out. In short, it is a rationale for genocide. When Iran, Hamas, Hizballah, and the Muslim Brotherhood say that Israel should be wiped off the map and Jews generally should be murdered, that incitement is the inevitable consequence of this line of thinking.
That Western observers are unaware of all of this history — repeated daily in inciteful sermons found in Middle East mosques — is quite evident. Such a lack of knowledge leads them to believe that the conflicts they say are easily resolvable, quickly settled by more Israeli concessions or still continuing because of Israeli actions when the causes are much deeper and the solutions far more remote. Western societies today are obsessed with searching everywhere for racism and hate speech. Well, the idea that the Jews murdered Arafat (rather than that Arafat spent most of his career murdering Jews) falls into that category.
As for the specific claims in the Arafat case, they are easily disposed of:
First of all, anyone who saw Arafat during the last year of his life knew he was seriously ill and steadily worsening. His lips trembled, he looked disoriented, and he wasn’t as articulate as usual. Even on television you couldn’t possibly miss his distress. Parkinson’s disease was a likely diagnosis though Crohn’s disease was said to be another probable medical problem for the dictator.